Special teams, passing key Bellwood-Antis over defending champion Bishop Carroll
GAME TWELVE — District 6A Championship
B-A Blue Devils: 23
Bishop Carroll Huskies:14
Saturday, November 20, 2004 • Mansion Park • Altoona, Pennsylvania
By Bob Miller | Daily Herald Sports Editor
— Nobody was predicting that Bellwood-Antis would win 11 straight games and claim a district championship when preseason football practice began in mid-August. Even less people would have bet on the Blue Devils going all the way after Tyrone humbled them in the season opener 40-13.
— Bellwood-Antis did regroup following the loss to the Golden Eagles. Using a stout defense and an offense that improved each week, B-A fought back. Beginning with a 27-0 win over Penns Valley in game two, Bellwood-Antis (11-1) completed their mission Saturday night at a foggy Mansion Park with a 23-14 triumph over Bishop Carroll to win their third district title.
— It wasn’t a typical Blue Devil victory with a lot of running and a few passes when absolutely nothing else would work, but key passes from a junior quarterback who sat on the bench for much of the first seven ballgames and a special teams effort that bordered on the unbelievable. And when it came down to crunch time, the offense was able to rise to the occasion to march down the field for a field goal to ice the victory. Bellwood-Antis rushed for only 103 yards on 38 carries, half the 210 yards rushing they had averaged over the first 11 games of the season. Only the talented Tyrone defense did better than a super-quick Bishop Carroll Husky team that cut the Blue Devils’ ability to get to the outside for much of the contest.
— Bellwood-Antis put the first points on the board when an alert Josh Kleinfelter fell on the ball in the end zone, after Jonathan Davila fumbled at the Carroll-3. Special teams set up the Blue Devils when sophomore kick returner Devon Clapper fielded a Carroll punt at his own 35 and rambled 60 yards to the BC-5. Evan Celmo’s PAT kick was wide right, but Bellwood-Antis had a 6-0 lead with 6:18 to play in the opening quarter.
— Bishop Carroll came right back with an 83-yard march of their own to tie the score and then kick the extra point to take a 7-6 lead with just over a minute to play in the first period. BC quarterback Joel Takacs completed his only pass of the game to Adam Crookshank for 11 yards and junior running back Paul Forcellini, who single-handedly outgained the Blue Devils with 30 carried for 155 yards, had gains of 18 and 17 and classmate Luke Jensen powered into the end zone for a three-yard TD. Gary Sanderson kicked the PAT to put Carroll in the lead.
— “I was disappointed in the way they marched down the field on us so easily,” explained Bellwood-Antis head coach John Hayes. “But that is a championship team. We absorbed it and responded.”
— Kleinfelter, who has rushed for a B-A sophomore record of 1,418 yards coming into the district final, was held to 77 yards on 19 carries, but was able to make his presence known in other ways, including numerous tackles and at least two pass breakups from his cornerback position on defense. On the kickoff following the BC score, Kleinfelter returned the kick 38 yards to get the Blue Devils starting position at the BC-47. With the field cut in half, Bellwood-Antis marched for a score covering the distance in five plays. Travis Ehredt gained 11 yards in two plays to pick up a first down. Then Kyle Drost threaded the needle to get a pass just through the Bishop Carroll defense to Kleinfelter, out of the backfield down the left sideline, and the B-A speedster raced 34 yards for the TD. Drost, who completed four of nine passes for 117 yards with no interceptions, passed to junior tight end Troy Brunner for the two-point conversion and a 14-7 B-A lead at half-time.
— Bishop Carroll had several opportunities in the second quarter, but had one 33-yard TD pass from Takacs to Jensen called back on an ineligible receiver penalty, after which a quarterback sack by Brunner and Davila for a three-yard loss ended the threat. Bishop Carroll got to midfield on the final series of the half, but tackles by Adam Martin and Brandon Cherry and a quarterback sack by Tyler Narehood stopped that drive cold as time ran out.
— Each team started the third quarter out of sync and had to punt on their first offensive series.
— With the ball at the BA-39 after an two-yard gain by Ehredt, Drost found Ehredt on the right side for a pickup of 17 and then came back three plays later to find Dan Kovac behind the Huskies’ defense for a 39-yard touchdown pass. Celmo pushed the PAT try right again, but B-A led 20-7 with 6:11 left in the third quarter.
— Bishop Carroll scored with 9:05 remaining in the fourth quarter on a Forcellini two-yard plunge and Sanderson cut the Blue Devils’ margin to 20-14 with lots of time still on the clock. Key plays in the Huskies drive were 12 and 15-yard scampers by Forcellini.
— With the momentum in their favor, BC kicked off and after a Blue Devil penalty had Bellwood-Antis pinned down at their own seven-yard line. Although the offense hadn’t been able to move the ball much for most of the game, the Blue Devils put together their longest drive of the game to clinch the victory. Derrick Hoffer went around the left side for nine yards and Kleinfelter scooted for 18 two plays later to move the sticks for a pair of first downs. Drost hooked up with Kovac for a 27-yard gain and Kleinfelter found nothing off left tackle, but bounced outside and raced 22 yards to the BC-5. A holding penalty cost the Blue Devils 10 yards back to the Huskies-15, but Kleinfelter went straight up the middle for seven yards to place the ball in the middle of the field at the BC-8.
— Coach Hayes called in Celmo for the field goal try with 2:37 to play in the game. Although he had been wide right on his two PAT attempts, Celmo confidently booted the 25-yard field goal through the uprights to give Bellwood-Antis a 23-14 advantage. Bellwood-Antis had 65 of their total of 103 yards rushing and Kleinfelter had 50 of his 77 yards in the one drive, the Blue Devils needed most, both to force Bishop Carroll into a two-score game to win it and to erase a lot of time off the clock as well.
— “We wanted to chew up as much time as we could,” said Hayes. “We were having a lot of difficulty running wide. Their pursuit was really good. That’s what a really good team is made of. So, we made a calculated effort to go right at them to see if we could push them a little bit. We did, we made some big plays. Obviously, the pass play got us down there. Josh bouncing outside on the run got us down deep. To their credit, we couldn’t get it in. Evan Celmo had a great day kicking when we came up here to practice this week. I think the anxiety of the playoff affected his first couple kicks. We had faith in him, we tried to get the ball in the middle of the field. This is a great life story, for Evan to come back out here and make that kick, which put us up nine. He made it when it counted.”
— Bishop Carroll got one last shot at the Blue Devils, marching from their own-42 to the BA-13, with the help of a 15-yard Bellwood-Antis penalty. Dwayne Cherry sacked Takacs for an eight yard loss however, Forcellini was able to pick up just one yard and the B-A defense forced two incompletions by Takacs to take over the ball at the BA-20.
— One kneel-down by Drost and the Blue Devils were the champions breaking Bishop Carroll’s string of three straight district crowns.
— “I can’t say enough about these kids,” said Hayes. “Team, coaches, everyone involved has given their all. It has really been rewarding and fun in the process.
— “We now start our third season. Everything from here on in gravy, although we are not counting ourselves short. We want to prove ourselves again. We had very few believers at the beginning of the season. We probably picked up a few more believers tonight.”