GAME ONE B-A Blue Devils: 31 Tyrone Golden Eagles: 16 Friday, September 4, 2009 • Memorial Field • Bellwood, Pennsylvania
By Bob Miller | Daily Herald Sports Editor
— It was a real knock down, backyard brawl. One that started slowly and then picked up momentum as the contest went on. — It was Tyrone versus Bellwood-Antis football at its finest, or its worst, depending on where you were sitting and who you were cheering for. It was a game that saw plenty of mistakes and plenty of penalties on both side. As first games go, there were tremendous individual plays, and countless team efforts as the two small-school powerhouses went on the rampage, each trying their hardest to dispose of the other. — It was, in short, high school football at its best on a night that was perfect for football. The game began in warm sunlight with just the slightest of breezes and continued on into the night, overlooked by a full round yellow moon. In the 71st edition of the Backyard Brawl, Bellwood-Antis broke out of a slumber to win the annual bragging rights for the next year 31-16, the first Blue Devil win in the series since 2002. — Each team served up its catalysts, plays and players that changed the complexion of the evening. — Bellwood-Antis took the lead with the only score of the first quarter, moving 69 yards in six plays after holding Tyrone to one first down on the first series of the game. Senior quarterback Nate Plummer, starting his first varsity game, took the initiative to step up into a hole and pick up five yards on a third-down and four. On the following call, senior tailback Zack McCaulley raced down the right sideline, swirled around to avoid one would-be tackler and dove into the end zone for a 32-yard touchdown. When the snap from center for the extra point was high, holder Lucas Evans, a junior quarterback, pulled the ball down and drilled a pass to Trey Campbell who picked it out of a host of defenders just over the goal line for two points and an 8-0 lead. — “Against good football teams, against strong football teams, you have to have some diversity and we had some things we thought would work against their what we thought they were doing defensively,” said Bellwood-Antis coach John Hayes. “It turned out they opened up for us, the line did a good job blocking, Nate got the ball and the receivers got open and the results were great. It was a good balanced game. We ran hard and we ran enough to keep them honest.” — The Eagles came alive two series later. Faced with a third and seven, senior Levi Reihart couldn’t find any open receivers, tucked the ball under his arm and took off, first going left, then cutting back to his right and dashing 50 yards. A touchdown-saving effort by Zack McCaulley pushed Reihart out of bounds at the BA-1. The Blue Devils defense, which was led all night by Bobby DeArmitt, Tyler Beech, McCaulley, Zach Doyle and Jared Minori among others, knocked the Eagles back to the BA-8 on three straight downs. Junior two-way lineman Jared Templeton stepped back and booted a 26-yard field goal to slice the Bellwood-Antis lead to 8-3. — B-A went nowhere on the next series and Tyrone quickly got back in business on their next offensive series. — Reihart got loose again, this time patrolling all over the field, to finish a 62-yard touchdown run, only to have it called back on a holding penalty. Another penalty, this time by the Blue Devils, gave Tyrone a first down at the BA-10. Although hit with penalties on two consecutive plays, Tyrone (11 penalties for 90 yards overall), ended up facing a third-and-goal back at the 22. Eric Desch then found a big hole in the Bellwood-Antis coverage to score a 22-yard TD on a pass from Reihart. The PAT kick by Templeton moved the Orange and Black into their first and only lead at 10-8. — “That was the bend-but-not-break defense. Reihart was unbelievable out there. It was like he had eight legs, we couldn’t get a good hit on him,” explained Hayes. “In this kind of a game, with the emotion, they lost a little bit of their discipline and he made them look foolish out there several times. On some of those option plays, our guys were so gunned up they didn’t read, and the option went for big yards. Coming into the game, I thought if we could get through the first half in good shape we’d be okay. Those two picks at the end of the first half were super, along with making the big play to get the lead. Getting that second touchdown was super. The game wasn’t over, but it gave us a little cushion.” — “We lost this game the way we usually win them,” said Tyrone coach John Franco. “We had too many penalties, too many turnovers. We didn’t run the ball very well. When that happens, you’re not going to do very well. I thought our kids played hard, I thought they prepared well. If they are turning the ball over too much and making too many penalties, that’s my fault, not theirs. I need to figure a way out to prevent that. We have always prided ourselves on that.” The clock still registered 7:51 after the score by Desch, however, and the Blue Devils took advantage. The B-A defense intercepted Reihart on two successive plays. After each team failed to move the ball, Bellwood-Antis took over at the T-49. Nick DeGol intercepted and ran the pick back 43 yards to midfield after Tyrone had marched to the BA-19. — Plummer stepped up inside and ran for 14 yards and a first down and two plays later hit McCaulley deep down the left sideline. “That was something Nate did on his own,” said Hayes about his quarterback taking off and running. “We had another play called. We don’t work that a lot. It comes from having a good, smart field general.” The Tyrone defender went for the ball, missed, and McCaulley waltzed into the end zone for a 32-yard TD catch. Plummer booted the extra point kick to give Bellwood-Antis a 15-10 advantage before the break. — “I thought Bellwood played a great game,” said Franco. “I thought they were very well prepared. Their kids made great plays, Their kids did a great job, their coaching staff, John Hayes did a super job preparing the kids. It was a really good football game, a heck-of-a game. It was just one of those ones where they outplayed us and it wasn’t our night.” — The second interception, by Evans, enabled Bellwood-Antis to run out the first half clock. — The Blue Devils took the second half kick and DeGol raced up the left sideline 22 yards to the BA-33. On the first play Plummer, who completed seven of 14 tosses for 174 yards, spotted junior tight end Jared Minori on a pop pass over the middle alone for a 44-yard pick-up. McCaulley bulled for three and then Beech went up the middle through a huge hole practically untouched for the 20-yard TD. Plummer’s PAT kick pushed the B-A lead to 22-10. — Tyrone came right back on their first possession of the second half. With Reihart cramping up due to the heat and humidity, sophomore quarterback Steve Franco entered the game. Franco tossed passes to Desch for eight and 34 yards, and rushed for 23 yards on his only carry of the game before finishing the march with a five-yard TD pass to Desch. Although the PAT was blocked, the Eagles had crept back to trail just 22-16 after three quarters. — That would be all for the Tyrone offense, however, while Bellwood-Antis added a 30-yard field goal by Plummer that was set up by a 47-yard pass to Danny Noye. Plummer actually scored on a 10-yard run, but the play was nullified by a Blue Devil penalty. Then a series later, Plummer found DeGol with a touch pass at the Tyrone-2 for a 20-yard hook-up and finally got his touchdown this time on a two-yard keeper to cap the scoring. — “The first line guys, Zack McCaulley and Nick DeGol played hard, but Danny Noye and Buddy Shaw, with the attrition going on out there, those backups made some really big plays in the second half. We’re deep there. They call them ‘backups’, but they could all start.” — Both teams had trouble with players cramping up, particularly Tyrone. Both Golden Eagle QBs had to take plays on the sideline several occasions. “It’s strange. I have researched, talked to every doctor I could. We have tried everything and we still get it,” admonished Coach Franco regarding the cramping.