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Tyrone dominates Bellwood-Antis in annual “Backyard Brawl” 27-0


Tyrone Golden Eagles: 27

B-A Blue Devils: 0

Friday, August 29, 2003 • Bellwood-Antis Memorial Field • Bellwood, Pennsylvania

By BOB MILLER | Daily Herald Sports Editor

—Tyrone showed their strength early in the annual Backyard Brawl with archrival Bellwood-Antis, then never allowed the Blue devils to get anything going in a 27-0 victory that was the first regular-season win over B-A since 1999, when the Eagles used the season-opening 24-0 win over Bellwood-Antis to catapult them on the way to a state championship.

—On Friday night, Tyrone showed the strength of their offensive line to exploit a young and inexperienced Bellwood-Antis team that has just two returning starters from the Blue Devils 8-2 season last year.

—The Tyrone line with Terry Tate at center, Justin Clark and Ralph VanAllman on the left side and Jake Houck and Ron Miller on the right, along with tight ends Max Soellner and Tad Chamberlain opened huge holes all night long for Tyrone junior tailback Brice Mertiff to run through.

—Mertiff finished the evening with 156 yards on 27 carries and a pair of one-yard touchdowns. Junior classmate Ben Gummo added 62 yards on 11 totes including an 11-yard score. The Eagles were so dominating on the ground they did not have to complete a single pass, attempting only three.

—Field possession played directly into the hands of the Eagles with a strong and experienced line and away from Bellwood-Antis who were young, inexperienced and badly in need of a spark that thanks to the Tyrone defense, never came. Of 10 possessions, Tyrone started in Bellwood-Antis territory five times and began at the Tyrone-49 on another occasion. The Blue Devils were able to begin operating outside of their own 30-yard line just twice in 10 series on offense.

—“We started with the three and out in the first series,” said B-A coach John Hayes. “I think Tyrone pretty much planned this game out that they knew just how it was going to work. They kicked off thinking they could stop us and get good field position and with the long punt return they were able to do just that. With the nice punt return, we had an early chance to get him and missed. He got to the wall of blockers and gave them good field position to start.”

—Tyrone forced a B-A punt on the first offensive series of the game, which Tom Crowl returned left for a 36-yard scamper that gave the Eagles excellent field position at the BA-27. Mertiff picked up nine yards on the first call and 10 more on two plays later to set up a quarterback draw over the left side by Brandon Maceno for the one-yard touchdown. With 4:07 played Ben Gummo’s perfect placement gave Tyrone the 7-0 lead.

—Bellwood-Antis was able to move on a a rollout by senior quarterback Shawn Weiand that went for eight yards, but the Blue Devils couldn’t get two positive plays in a row when they needed them and punted to Tyrone.

—A series later, Weiand ran for 10 yards and completed a 13-yard pass to Derrick Hoffer, the only pass caught by friendly hands for either team all night. Tyrone intercepted a pair of Zach Tomchick passes and Bellwood-Antis had one pick of a Maceno aerial.

—Maceno returned his interception 34 yards following Weiand’s 10-yard scamper and two yard gains by Dan Houser, who led B-A with 31 yards on 11 carries and Mark Rogers, to take the ball out of harm’s way after the Blue Devils had marched to the T-28.

—Following an exchange of punts in the second quarter, Tyrone put together the longest drive of the evening, going 63 yards for their second score. Ben Gummo carried for a pair of identical four-yard pickups and Mertiff added five in between. Gummo bulled for 10 yards and several plays later, Mertiff had his number called for an 11-yarder. Freshman Brinton Mingle carried twice for eight yards sandwiched around an eight-yard jaunt for Mertiff, before Brice bulled one yard for the TD. Gummo added the PAT and with 2:28 left in the second quarter Tyrone had a 14-0 advantage. Mertiff actually was caught in the backfield, but dragged two B-A defenders into the endzone with him for the six-pointer.

—Disaster struck on the following kick, when the Blue Devils fumbled the kickoff and Shane Christine alertly fell on the football for Tyrone at the BA-24. It took just three plays with Mertiff having his number called on all three, including his second one-yard TD smash. The extra point was no good, but the Eagles had stretched their lead to 20-0 at the half.

—Tyrone did attempt to score again with less than a minute to play in the first half, but Dan Houser intercepted a Maceno pass in the endzone to thwart the Tyrone try for more second quarter points.

—Tyrone would get it together one more time in the third quarter for the final score of the contest. Mertiff romped for eight yards on the first rush of the series to go over the 100-yard mark, then got seven more tries for an additional 34 yards to set the ball just outside the BA-10. Gummo bulled over the right side to cover the distance for the 11-yard TD and then stepped back and added the PAT kick.

—B-A was able to run just four plays during the entire third quarter, when if they were to attempt a comeback try, it would have had to be during that quarter. The Eagles only scored once, but hammered the ball at the inexperienced Blue Devils for 20 plays, all on the ground to keep the clock running.

—“We did play in our half of the field a lot of the time,” said Hayes, “and that makes it tough. Especially when you are a team that is struggling to get an identity. We needed a spark, something to happen. We got a couple shots at it, but we just couldn’t follow it up. The interception we threw down there killed one drive, that had we been able to score, might have gotten that spark the young kids need. Our kids went out there with a deer-in-the-headlights look. After losing three years in a row, Tyrone came out there with a little extra incentive.”

—Bellwood-Antis was able to manage just 65 yards rushing and 78 yards total offense against the Tyrone defense.

—“I thought we were able to play pretty good defense against the run,” explained Tyrone coach John Franco. “I think that’s usually the key in high school football. We came up with some key plays. Bellwood played a real game. I thought our kids were very well prepared and played hard. Bellwood is always good and I’m sure they’ll be back and making their run for the playoffs.

—“Next week we have another tough opponent in Huntingdon and they are picked to win the Big 8 and be the dominant team in Triple-A. A tough schedule is nothing new to us, we just have to keep getting better.”

—Both teams are at home next week. Tyrone hosts Huntingdon at Gray-Vets Memorial Field on Friday, Sept. 5, at 7 p.m., and the Blue Devils put out the welcome mat for Mercyhurst Prep on Saturday night at 6 p.m.

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