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Clapper helps Bellwood-Antis reach district final with 28-14 triumph over Portage

GAME ELEVENDistrict 6A Semifinal Playoff B-A Blue Devils: 28 Portage Mustangs: 14 Saturday, November 12, 2005 • Portage, PA

By Bob Miller | Daily Herald Sports Editor

— Using an offense that the Portage Mustangs found almost impossible to stop and a defense that bent but wouldn’t break, Bellwood-Antis punched their ticket to return to the District 6-A championship game by disposing of Portage 28-14 on Saturday night at Portage Area Stadium.

— With Portage playing in just their second semifinal ever, Bellwood-Antis scored the first three times they touched the football to take a 21-7 lead and never looked back in earning their 10th district final appearance in the 21-year history of the event.

— Portage began the game on offense and moved to near midfield, but the Blue Devil defense forced a punt to take over at the BA-15.

— Senior quarterback Kyle Drost, who enjoyed a perfect four-for-four passing performance for 86 yards, hit senior wide out Dan Kovac for a gain of 24 on the first play from scrimmage for Bellwood-Antis as B-A coach John Hayes crossed up the Mustangs. Then it was junior tailback Josh Kleinfelter getting loose around right end for 43 yards, and classmate Jon Davila going around left end for 17 more to the one-inch mark. Kleinfelter crashed through for the touchdown on the next play. The Blue Devils had sliced through the Portage defense, which had given up just an average of 8.8 points per game through an undefeated season and 22-14 win over United in the first playoff round, like a hot knife through butter.

— Evan Celmo booted the first of four perfect placements to give B-A a quick 7-0 lead with 7:12 to play in the opening quarter.

— Portage got it going on the following series, marching 74 yards in a time-consuming 18-play drive to score a TD on a three-yard run by senior fullback Wayne Gathers. Brad Rousell’s PAT tied the game with just 15 seconds left in the quarter.

— Then, for the second week in a row, Bellwood-Antis struck a lightening-like blow to take the momentum away from their opponents. A week earlier, it was Kleinfelter taking a kick following a Juniata Valley score to tie the first-round contest, racing for an 82-yard TD to put the Blue Devils up a score in the second quarter.

— This time, it was junior wingback Devon Clapper fielding the ball at the BA-18, catching a seam up the middle, faking out one defender and then outracing everybody 82 yards for the score. The distance and the effect were the same as the kickoff return a week earlier. The quick score and Celmo’s kick gave the lead and the momentum back to the Blue Devils.

— “That play was very big, very big,” emphasized Bellwood-Antis coach John Hayes. “We got out to that lead and they drove down and scored. We had them a couple of times fourth down and they made the big plays. They are a fine team, their record speaks to that. Tying it up was a big concern, but we have some playmakers and Devon has done this before. He just had a big game tonight. He made some big plays, we got out of a hole with his big catch and run. The kickoff return was just one of many of the big things he made happen tonight.”

— The Devil defense, led by Tony DelGrosso, Adam Martin, Anthony Jenkins, Troy Brunner, Tyler Narehood and the rest of the B-A “D”, forced the Mustangs to punt following a three-and-out and put the Bellwood-Antis offense back in motion again.

— Kleinfelter, who rushed 22 times for 161 yards to raise his season total to 1,932 yards, bolted for 13 yards on the first call. Drost found Clapper for a 10-yard pass play, and Davila took it around end for six more. Kleinfelter picked up another first down with an 11-yard scamper. Three more runs by Kleinfelter, the last for his second one-yard TD as he followed left tackle Adam Martin through the hole, and Celmo’s PAT boot lifted Bellwood-Antis into a 21-7 advantage.

— “A big early lead gives you a lot of confidence,” explained coach Hayes. “A lot of the guys play both ways, so it is important to get some excitement going. We were able to get out early and drive the ball down. Obviously, when you are playing from that situation, the guys are feeling better. Portage did a great job, they kept coming back, coming back. They stretched us pretty far.”

— Although Portage ran 37 plays from scrimmage in the first half, to just 15 for Bellwood-Antis, the Blue Devils took a 21-7 lead into the locker room at halftime.

— “We were able to cash in on our Red Zone opportunities,” said coach Hayes, whose Blue Devils are now a perfect 10-for-10 in district semifinals. “We work hard at doing that and fortunately tonight were able to get it in when we had the opportunity. That’s what it’s all about. When you get it to this level, mistakes are the key, probably, to the outcome. Other than the one fumble down there, we were pretty error-free moving the football.”

— Bellwood-Antis took the second-half kick and marched for another touchdown to put the game out of reach, but Kleinfelter fumbled into the end zone at the Portage-2 and the Mustangs recovered for a touchback to set up their offense at their own 20.

— Clapper scooted for gains of 14 and 17 and Kleinfelter added an 11-yard pickup on the drive as B-A moved from their own 32 to the Portage-2, but came away with no points.

— Hoping to get back into the game, Portage drove 74 yards to the BA-6, where, with the help of a five-yard Mustang penalty, the Bellwood-Antis defense stopped the scoring threat. Runs of 20 and 21 by Gathers highlighted the march.

— The Blue Devils then turned around, beginning at the BA-11, and drove 89 yards for their final score of the game.

— After a motion penalty moved the ball back to the Blue Devils-5, Drost found Clapper on a third-and-five from the BA-10. Clapper took the perfect pass on his fingertips for a 37 yards gain to near midfield and a huge first down. On the next play, following another five-yard penalty walk-off against B-A, Drost connected with Kovac for 15 more to the P-43. Kleinfelter added romps of 13 and 12 on consecutive plays and then capped the drive with his third short-yardage score, bulling two yards for his 30th TD of the year.

— Portage managed a touchdown late in the game, marching 70 yards in 20 plays to cut the lead to 28-14, but with just 2:15 remaining in the game. The Mustangs did hold Bellwood-Antis after an on-side kick attempt went out of bounds, but Clapper iced the victory with a pass interception and Drost took a knee to run out the clock.

— “Our line on offense made it possible for us to push the ball the way we like to,” said Hayes. “Next week will be another challenge. We never get satisfied, we have a lot of work to do. Hopefully we’ll be able to play up to it next week.”

Blue Devil Notes: Bellwood-Antis will face Bishop Carroll Saturday at Mansion park in a rematch of the 2004 District 6-A championship final. Game time is set for 7 p.m… Dan Kovac becomes the third B-A receiver to accumulate 500 yards receiving in a season, moving past Mike DelGrosso (520 in 1984), trailing only Jason Lamertina who holds the single season record with 581 yards receiving in 1985. Kovac already holds the career records with a current 836 yards and 11 touchdowns, as well as the season mark of nine TDs… Celmo has now kicked 42 of 44 PATs this season, after being successful on all of his first 38 kicks. The junior needs two more PATs to tie Dave Miller (2000) for second on the season PAT list and with a total of 75 career PATs, trails only Miller (88) and Dan Graham (85) on the career PAT chart… Kleinfelter continued his assault on the B-A record book, taking over the TD mark for a season with 30 passing Don “Booker” Moore’s total of 28 TDs and the season points record with 180. The old mark had been First Team All-State running back Albert “Chub” Dillen’s total of 173 points in 1954. Josh became the only Blue Devil with over 2,000 yards of total offense (rushing, passing, receiving) in a season (2,127). Kleinfelter (3,993) needs just seven yards to become the first B-A player to pass the 4,000-yard career total offense mark. Kleinfelter also takes over the top spot in carries for a season with an 11-game total of 281 carries, passing the old mark of 274 by Moore in 1985… Kyle Drost has now moved into fourth place on the B-A season passing yardage ladder with 1,123 yards… The 2005 Blue Devils moved into the top five in team scoring with a current fifth place showing of 384 points.

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