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Bellwood-Antis benefits from Bald Eagles turnovers in 15-12 win

GAME SIX B-A Blue Devils: 15 Bald Eagle: 12 Friday, October 5, 2007 • Memorial Field • Bellwood, Pennsylvania

By Bob Miller | Daily Herald Sports Editor

— It wasn’t pretty by any means, but Bellwood-Antis finally has a win at home in 2007. After losses to Tyrone and Philipsburg-Osceola at Bellwood Memorial Stadium, the Blue Devils struggled mightily, but with a big assist from the visitors, edged Bald Eagle Area 15-12 to improve to 4-2. — With senior tailback Brandon Humphreys limited to three carries before sustaining an injury and never returning after halftime, and Bellwood-Antis down 12-0 after the first quarter, the Blue Devils were forced to regroup. — Junior tailback Randy Pfahler stepped in and was the Blue Devils’ leading ball carrier with a tough 86 yards on 23 carries. — Holding the ball for much of the third quarter, Bellwood-Antis took advantage of turnovers on four straight second-half possessions by the Bald Eagles to drive to the BEA-3 and five on back-to-back series, only to come away without any points. — With Bald Eagle Area turning the ball over on the next four series, Bellwood-Antis finally was able to work some magic. Cody Smith recovered a fumble at the BEA-25. Pfahler lost a yard on the first call and was held to no gain, before junior quarterback Nate Gray threw an incomplete pass. On fourth down-and-11, Gray found Justin Manning, who beat the safety with a juke and just barely was able to dive into the end zone for the 26-yard touchdown that put the Blue Devils in the lead for the first time at the 11:48 mark of the fourth quarter. — Lining up for the extra point, Bellwood-Antis went to the trick book, with a direct snap back to Gray, the holder, who ran to his right and tossed a pass over the defense to 6-foot-5 wide receiver Alan Wertz for a two-point conversion and a three-point advantage 15-12. — Bald Eagle Area won the toss and chose to receive the kick to start the game, but that move backfired when they had to start at their own-5. They marched out to the BEA-30, but stalled and had to punt. Bellwood-Antis drove the ball down to the BEA-11 before a big sack and penalty finally left the ball at the 33. — BEA scored on the next series, refusing to be stopped by a pair of penalties, that only temporarily slowed them down. Gary Sowash, who has had some big games against the Blue Devils in his high school career did most of the damage, including a two-yard touchdown at the 2:08 mark of the opening quarter. The Bald Eagles went for two points on the PAT and the B-A defense stopped Sowash, who rushed for 142 yards on 30 carries, short. — With BEA up by six points, Bellwood-Antis went to work. Pfahler returned the kickoff 33 yards to the BEA-43. On the second play however, Gray was picked off by Gary Clark, who raced untouched for a 72-yard Td on the interception. Again the Eagles tried for two points, and again the B-A defense prevented it. — The two missed PATs would prove invaluable later in the game. — “Both sides made a lot of mistakes out there, a lot of penalties, mistakes, turnovers, things that hurt them,” said Hayes. “I guess they kind of balanced out and we happened to have the ball last. I think Bald Eagle Area was pretty good team coming in talent-wise. One of their better players didn’t even play tonight. They are a pretty competent football team that made some mistakes that really hurt them. Of course, we also made a ton of mistakes. They gave us a lot of problems with the blitzes, we weren’t able to pick them up. We weren’t able to pick them up. It negated what could have been a lot of big plays, but we didn’t have the time to execute.” — The Blue Devils were able to get big plays and move the football in the first half, but couldn’t put together a drive that reached the end zone. Penalties, mistakes and a Bald Eagle defense that blitzed on every play, always seeming to be in the right place at the right time to stop Bellwood-Antis, before they could get started, kept them plugging away without any reward. — Near the end of the half, Pfahler started with a nine-yard gain, then first Bruno DeGol, and then Pfahler matched 15-yard pick-ups. A 15-yard penalty by BEA moved the ball to the Eagles-31. Manning took an inside reverse over the left side for the 31-yard TD, but the play was nullified by a penalty. With the clock counting down, Bellwood-Antis took over at the BEA-42. Gray picked up a first down on a third and long with a 10-yard pass completion to Justin Miller, then ran a keeper around the right side for 17 yards and another first down. Finally, Gray found Manning for a 14-yard TD pass to put the Blue Devils on the scoreboard. Tyler Geis lined the PAT kick just high enough to get over the crossbar for the extra point to slice the Bald Eagle Area lead to 12-7. — “The bottom line is the resiliency of the kids. After getting down there to the goal line two times and not getting in, it would have been pretty easy just to drop their heads a little bit,” said Bellwood-Antis coach John Hayes. “But to make the play and get the ball and get another chance and then to make a real big play on fourth down to get the score to go ahead says a lot about the intestinal makeup of our kids. We have some physical deficiencies that are there, but the kids played with an awful lot of heart. That is something to build on.” — Justin Manning and Nate Gray both had huge nights for the Blue Devils. Manning carried the ball three times and had 26 yards, despite having his long TD run called back on a penalty, caught three passes for 48 yards, teaming up with Gray for a pair of TD passes, and had a great game on defense from his defensive backfield spot. Gray was hurried by the BEA blitzes and had several passes that should have been caught, dropped, but completed six of 17 passes for a career-best 115 yards with two TDs. — Gray was under tremendous pressure most of the time,” said Hayes. He made a couple big plays prior to that second TD pass. The fourth down pass was right there. Justin Manning had a big night. He played well on both sides of the ball and had they not had such great penetration, he might have had several more. The combination at the end (Gray to Manning) was really pretty. To see that run after the catch, see him make a move and beat the safety and get in. That took away the tenseness, the pressure of wondering what are we going to do on the one-yard line.”

BLUE DEVIL NOTES: In addition to Smith, Tyler Geis recovered a BEA fumble that was forced by Anthony Jenkins, Justin Miller recovered a fumble and another was fumbled into the end zone after BEA had marched to the BA-2 and recovered by the Blue Devils… Randy Pfahler and Justin Manning had interceptions… The two teams combined for 17 penalties for a total of 144 yards… Sowash, replacing Justin Koleno, who was injured last week, after rushing for 542 yards this season, carried the ball 30 times, after having his number called just 26 times in the Bald Eagles first five games.

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