Blue Devils capture back-to-back District 6-A championships
GAME THIRTEEN — DISTRICT 6 CLASS A CHAMPIONSHIP B-A Blue Devils: 27 Purchase Line Dragons: 7 Saturday, November 24, 2007 • Mansion Park • Altoona, Pennsylvania
By Bob Miller | Daily Herald Sports Editor
— Bellwood-Antis rode their own momentum to their fifth straight victory and captured their second straight District 6-A championship and third in the last four seasons on Saturday night at Mansion Park. The Blue Devils used an offense that pounded out one TD a period and a defense that allowed just a token touchdown in a dominating 27-7 triumph over Purchase Line. — Peaking at exactly the right time, Bellwood-Antis didn’t play a perfect game, with a pass interception, two lost fumbles and several penalties at just the wrong times, but was clearly the better football team at Mansion Park in wrapping up a win that was not as close as the 20-point final margin might indicate. — Playing with the adversity of the sudden death of their beloved coach John Hayes’ 26-year old son over the past weekend, just after the Blue Devils defeated Bishop Guilfoyle to earn the right to play the Red Dragons in the district final game, the Blue Devils combined a two-pronged offense with a very stingy defense that with the exception of two big plays on Purchase Line’s one scoring drive, limited an offense that had been averaging over 200 yards rushing per game to 70 yards rushing and one pass completion for 16 yards. During the first half, the B-A defense held Purchase Line to 47 yards total offense on 17 runs and four passes. — Purchase Line began the game on offense, but was forced to punt after three runs netted five yards. — After B-A tailback Brandon Humphreys was stopped for no gain on the first play from scrimmage for Bellwood-Antis, junior quarterback Nate Gray hit his fullback Bruno DeGol for a 14 yard completion. Two plays later, motion man Justin Manning took a handoff from Gray on a jet-sweep. Manning got around the left corner and raced 51 yards for the first score of the game. Tyler Geis booted the PAT for a 7-0 B-A lead with 8:38 to play in the opening quarter. — The B-A defense then held Purchase Line twice, first for one yard in three runs, and then when B-A muffed the punt and the Red Dragons recovered at the BA-49. The defense gave a little, but took the ball over on downs at the BA-26. — Bellwood-Antis drove to the PL-33 before stalling with Humphreys having his number called six times for 45 yards. On their following series from scrimmage the Blue Devils drove from the BA-34 before DeGol fumbled at the end of a 13-yard gain with the Dragons recovering at their own 9. Gray completed a 10-yard connection to Justin Miller to move the sticks for a first down during the series. — Gray and Miller were just two of six Blue Devils who were also members of the Bellwood-Antis based Martin Oil team, who played up and down during the regular season, just the way the B-A football team did, and like the Blue Devils turned it on in the George B. Kelley Federation playoffs to win the league championship. — “The first eight games of our year was one of ups and downs,” explained Coach Hayes. “None of those eight games did we really feel good about, even the four that we won. But the kids really accepted the challenge and a lot of leadership and a lot of maturation took place. They have really risen to the beat.” — Purchase Line moved out to the Dragons-21, before they returned the favor with B-A senior lineman Anthony Jenkins latching on to a Joe Doland fumble at the PL-24. — With time running out in the half, B-A took advantage of the miscue to put another score on the board just before halftime. Gray connected with Alan Wertz for a 10-yard pickup and Humphreys took care of the rest, including the three-yard touchdown run and Geis added the PAT kick for a 14-0 lead with 23 ticks left on the second quarter clock. — All of the scoring in the second half came in a flurry of activity, beginning midway through the third quarter. — First, Bellwood-Antis senior linebacker Chuck Tomchick recovered a Dragon fumble at the PL-17. A penalty immediately knocked the Blue Devils back to the Purchase Line-28. On a third down-and-seven, Gray tossed a pass over a pair of defenders to Wertz in the end zone for a 26-yard TD pass. Wertz has caught fire in the playoffs with 10 catches for 237 yards, after having seven receptions for 138 yards through the first nine games. The extra point kick by Geis was wide right, but the Blue Devils led 20-0. — On the following series from scrimmage, Purchase Line struck quickly with big plays to get on the scoreboard. Although the Red Dragons hadn’t completed any of their first five pass attempts, senior quarterback Aaron Limrick went deep and connected with running back Cody Engle out of the backfield for a gain of 31 yards. Three plays later, junior Doland went up the middle, splitting a pair of B-A defenders, cut to his right and raced 42 yards down the sideline for a score. With 1:44 left in the quarter, Justin Matko added the PAT kick to cut the B-A margin to 20-7. — That score didn’t stay very long, however. Bellwood-Antis marched from the BA-39 to the Dragons-30 to turn the third quarter into the fourth, when Gray, in his first year as a starter, fired a 30-yard pass to Manning, who also played for the Martin Oil team, for the final touchdown of the evening. — “Alan Wertz brought his hands to the playoffs. He could catch anything I threw at him,” said Gray in describing his receiving mates. “And Justin Manning has more moves than a can of worms, let me tell you that. It feels great (to win the championship). I’m so happy for the team. I’m so happy for the seniors, they got two in a row.” — Geis booted his third extra point to set the final score at 27-7. — “I am extremely proud of the way we have responded, and very happy for the whole team, especially the seniors,” said Coach Hayes, who came back to the team on Thursday. “This (2007 district championship) is the first thing that they can really hang their hats on, a rock-hard achievement there. They really responded. We carried well the last five weeks. I don’t think you could have asked the kids to do anything better for you. They played hard, they practiced hard, they’ve really focused and they have grown a lot in those five weeks.”
BLUE DEVIL NOTES: Humphreys rushed 30 times for 132 yards to push his season total to 1,479 yards and has scored 25 total touchdowns. Humphreys has rushed for 689 yards in the playoffs. His 1,479 rushing yards are seventh on the all-time B-A list and he is the 21st Blue Devil runner to accumulate 1,000 yards rushing in a single season… Gray has completed 28 of 52 passes in the four playoff games for 529 yards to reach the 1,000-yard passing mark, with a total of 1,004 yards. Gray also is seventh in completions for a season with 62, and tied for fourth in TD passes with 10… As a team, the 2007 Blue Devils are the 20th squad in school history to score 300 points in a season and are ninth in both passing (1,023 yards) and total offense (3,731 yards)… The Humphreys score was the 10th time this year that Bellwood-Antis has scored in the final two minutes of a half… Wertz (375) and Manning (313) give B-A two receivers with over 300 yards in receptions for only the third time in the history of the program… In a rematch of the Blue Devils first PIAA victory last year, Bellwood-Antis (9-4) will travel to Hershey Stadium on Saturday afternoon, Dec. 1, to play Steelton-Highspire (10-3) at 1 p.m. The Steamrollers edged Millersburg 24-21 on Friday night, to win their third-straight District 3-A title. In 2006, Bellwood-Antis won their first PIAA victory 28-8 at Mansion Park.