Second half effort keys Mainliners to fourth district title
GAME TWELVE — DISTRICT 6 FINAL B-A Blue Devils: 22 Juniata Valley Green Hornets: 8 Saturday, November 25, 2006 • Mansion Park • Altoona, Pennsylvania
By Bob Miller | Daily Herald Sports Editor
— Big plays and long drives were the norm on Saturday afternoon in the District 6-A championship tilt between three-time defending finalist Bellwood-Antis and Juniata Valley. The Blue Devils were able to punch in three long scores to win their second 6-A title in three years with a 22-8 triumph at Mansion Park, after falling short in last year’s final to Bishop Carroll.
— Bellwood-Antis got a huge performance from someone they weren’t sure would even be in the lineup at midweek. Senior wingback Devon Clapper was injured and taken to the hospital in the third quarter of the Blue Devils’ semifinal win over Southern Huntingdon, and didn’t practice until Thursday.
— “Admittedly, Devon had it pretty easy last week,” acknowledged Bellwood-Antis coach John Hayes. “We didn’t want to rush him into practice too soon, but we felt he was 100 percent for the game. We expected 100 percent out of him, and he gave 100 percent both ways, offense and defense.”
— Juniata Valley opened the game by taking the kickoff and driving to the BA-18, before coughing up the ball on a fumble which the Blue Devils recovered. A 16-yard completion from Valley quarterback Zach Boyd to Nate Patterson was the key play, moving the ball to the BA-19.
— Clapper first worked his magic on the Blue Devils first series turning a twice-tipped pass, from Evan Hughes, into a 17-yard gain for a first down, although B-A ended up punting the ball.
— The Blue Devil defense held the Hornets to a three-and-out and then got down to business, striking quickly. Josh Kleinfelter banged through the line and rambled 37 yards on the first call, and on the next play Clapper bolted over the left side on a double reverse for the 20-yard touchdown. Bellwood-Antis caught the Hornets napping on the PAT, snapping the ball to senior fullback Jon Davila who waltzed in for the two-point conversion and an 8-0 B-A lead with just 0:26 left in the opening quarter.
— Juniata Valley then mounted their own long march to knot the score 8-8, with just 1:23 to play in the first half. The Hornets took six and half minutes off the second-quarter clock, driving 85 yards in 13 plays for the score. A Boyd to 6-foot-2, 200-pound tight end Cody Shook accounting for 43 yards and a Shawn McCrum seven-yard blast on fourth-and-four were the key plays. McCrum, just a freshman, smashed two yards for the score. Senior halfback Joey Basil gave Juniata Valley the tie running in the two-point PAT.
— Bellwood-Antis temporarily took a two-touchdown lead on a 22-yard score by Kleinfelter, but the TD was called back by a holding penalty. B-A senior quarterback Evan Hughes then completed a 26-yard strike to Davila to the JV-6, but a second holding penalty also nullified that gain and the Blue Devils ended up punting the ball from the Valley-43. Juniata Valley took advantage of the Blue Devils mistakes to turn the momentum and tie the score on the next series.
— “They (Juniata Valley) have presented problems for us every time we have played them,” explained Hayes. “I think a lot of times, you look at teams in every sport where matchups just don’t seem to work in your favor. Some people never have any problems with certain teams, and others have all kinds of problems. We thought we had them down, but they really had us perplexed at the perimeter. They weren’t killing us, but they were nickeling and diming us up and down the field. That is frustrating. At the end of the first half, we were playing tentative because of it. We weren’t coming up the field, our line wasn’t coming off well. We told our kids at halftime, they have to play this game to win, not play it not to lose.”
— Taking the second-half kick, Bellwood-Antis drove the distance for the go-ahead score, covering 65 yards in 11 plays. Clapper broke a tackle and picked up an extra 10 yards for a 19-yard gain on a second and 15 pass play from Hughes to begin the series and capped it by taking a wide-receiver screen 21 yards for the TD behind blocks from Kleinfelter and Alan Wertz. Evan Celmo booted the PAT for a 15-8 lead the Blue Devils would never surrender.
— “They were overplaying Josh (Kleinfelter)—I would too, if I were defending against him,” explained Hayes. “We tried, without being too out of line, to get other people involved. They stepped up. Devon Clapper stepped up big. That catch and run for the score was a big play. The blocks that sprung him, all of our kids stepped up. We could keep naming kids. Brandon Humphreys got a couple opportunities and got a couple first downs. He’s just earning his wings, I guess, for next year. He’s a good kid. Jon Davila had a big first down, coming out of the blocks. That got us momentum and got the fans excited. Other kids stepped in and made some big plays and really helped the offense out.”
— Juniata Valley would not go away, however, taking the ball following the B-A score and marching from the JV-30 to the BA-16, using 12 plays in the drive. However, senior B-A lineman Tyler Narehood came up with the Hornets’ second lost fumble to stall the threat.
— The Blue Devils turned around and moved 84 yards in 12 plays, all on the ground to ice the victory with a 13-yard TD run by Kleinfelter, who led all runners with 125 yards on 21 carries. Davila opened the series with a 10-yard pickup. Kleinfelter got loose for 24 yards to pick up one first down, and junior tailback Brandon Humphreys carried twice for 12 yards to highlight the drive. Celmo’s PAT kick gave the Blue Devils a 22-8 lead at the 6:08 mark of the fourth quarter.
— Valley still wasn’t done yet. The Hornets took the ball at their own-34 following the Kleinfelter score, driving the ball to the BA-10 with a first-and-goal. A 22-yard jaunt by Basil and two rushes for 29 yards by Jared Johnson highlighted the series. Juniata Valley gained 210 yards in the game, the best effort this season (Tyrone had 178 yards rushing to lead all other 2006 opponents) against a Blue Devil defense that had been giving up an average of only 124 yards per game, and had been pushing the B-A line back five yards on many plays. At this crucial point, however, the Bellwood-Antis “D” rose up when they had to and stuffed Juniata Valley to cement the victory.
— First, Davila tackled Johnson for a four-yard loss, Narehood stopped McCrum after a one-yard gain and then Chad Coho tackled Basil, who ends his senior year with 1,043 yards rushing and had 90 yards on 20 carries in the championship game, for a two-yard loss. With Juniata Valley facing a fourth-and-goal at the BA-15, B-A defensive end Blaze Winterstein broke up a fourth down pass attempt and the Blue Devils ran out the clock.
— “It kind of worked out to the script that we talked about at halftime,” said Hayes. “But until the very last fourth down incompletion, Juniata Valley played hard and was in the ball game. My hat is off to them, they had a very good year. To win two playoff games on the road and to get in here, and then to play well. It was a very competitive game, their kids have nothing to be ashamed of.
— “I’m really proud of our kids. I think there was a little extra burden coming in. They were supposed to be here. It’s a lot harder when you have that expectation that you should win. When the other team plays well, you have what we had today.”
BLUE DEVIL NOTES: Clapper touched the ball seven times, scored two touchdowns, totaled 89 yards and five first downs… Hughes was only one-for-four passing in the first half, but completed three straight on the Blue Devils scoring drive to begin the second half… Kleinfelter has rushed for 1,965 yards this season and 5,483 yards in his three-years at Bellwood-Antis. Kleinfelter has scored 30 touchdowns, matching his school record set last year, but is still two points behind Albert “Chub” Dillen for the B-A career points record with 452 points… B-A has played in 11 of the 22 district championships since playoffs began in District 6 in 1985. Bellwood-Antis also won titles in 1988, 1997, and 2004… B-A will play District 3 champ Steelton-Highspire on Friday at 7 p.m. at Mansion Park in one of two PIAA Eastern semifinals.