Bellwood rings Blairsville Bobcats out of playoffs
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Three for three is a pretty good ratio in sports most of the time, especially in the playoffs. But it wasn't the formula Blairsville was looking for last Friday night in a 35-21 loss to Bellwood-Antis in the District 6 Class A playoffs.
The Bobcats advanced inside Bellwood's 20-yard line three times in the first half, but they came away with only a field goal. That's three points to show for three trips to the red zone.
It was Blairsville's opportunity to take control of the game. Blairsville held a 16:37 to 7:23 advantage in first-half time of possession and outgained Bellwood in rushing yardage 101 to 25.
But the Bobcats settled for a 7-3 deficit at halftime, and it was the Blue Devils who took control in the second half.
"We had tremendous opportunities, (but) our red zone success wasn't there," said Ab Dettorre, who closed out his 25th year as the Bobcats head coach with a 7-4 record.
It was the final game for 22 seniors, who led a program turn-around from a combined five wins in 2009 and 2010. Blairsville represented itself well against its three toughest opponents - Penns Manor, Ligonier Valley and Bellwood-Antis. The difference was that losing on Friday meant the end of the road.
In the 6-A semifinal round, Bellwood will welcome Bishop McCort tonight after the latter team defeated Marion Center 42-16. Penns Manor handled Northern Cambria 36-6 last Friday and will play host to Moshannon Valley tomorrow.
"We had our opportunities," said Dettorre of the Bobcats' season-ending loss. "I thought, if we get a couple of those scores in that first half, it's a different football game. But, this is playoff football, and you're either going the distance, or you're going to lose. I think we just ran out of fuel, and that's about what happened."
The Blue Devils had all the fuel they needed in the second half, and especially in the fourth quarter, to literally run away from Blairsville. Bellwood gained 247 of its 272 rushing yards in the second half, including 149 in the fourth quarter. The Blue Devils picked up seven rushing first downs and two rushing touchdowns in the fourth quarter while consuming 8:56 of clock.
Blairsville never quit, scoring twice quickly in the fourth quarter and still remaining in the game with 54 seconds left to play. But the Bobcats could not get a stop against the Blue Devils.
Blairsville helped stop itself on its first opportunity in the first quarter. The Bobcats kept the ball for 7:16 on their second possession and advanced 52 yards to the Bellwood 14.
The big play of the drive was a third-and-14, 23-yard fade pass from senior Tyler Ferguson to brother Taylor Ferguson, who used his 6-foot-2 height to outjump 5-foot-11 cornerback Casey Gray for the catch. Blairsville had the ball on the Bellwood 26 and, despite two five-yard penalties, advanced to the 14. But a 10-yard holding call stalled the drive.
The hold was followed by a four-yard loss on a Wildcat pass from senior Andre Iezzi to sophomore Anthony Faulk, then a 12-yard sack of Tyler Ferguson. The Bobcats ended up punting from the 40.
"If we had just gotten two of those scores in the first half that might have been a difference-maker," said Dettorre. "Those were some of the most critical points in the game. We were knocking on the door on that first drive, needing just one yard to gain (second-and-1 from the 17 when the first five-yard penalty occurred), and we lose 36 in a row between penalties and miscues."
Blairsville started again from its own 41 and made it all the way to the Bellwood 15 on eight straight carries by Iezzi, including three out of the Wildcat for 18 yards. But the last carry out of the Wildcat, a 10-yard gain, was the last time in the game that Iezzi would receive the direct snap despite having produced 59 rushing yards on 10 attempts.
Two incompletions from the 15, including one in which the Blairsville sideline howled for pass interference, ended the drive on downs. Bellwood took over and accomplished in one play what the Bobcats couldn't do in their previous 23 snaps.
Quarterback Ryan Stuby took a two-step drop and connected with receiver Cameron Worthing on an 85-yard touchdown pass down the Bellwood sideline. Iezzi was in coverage but fell down on the play, leaving Worthing to make an over-the-should catch before racing to the end zone. The extra point gave Bellwood a 7-0 lead with 3:46 remaining.
"That was a perfect throw," said Dettorre. "Good throw on their part, good athletic catch. (Stuby) has thrown for over 1,000 yards too, so he's no slouch. He put the ball out there, and the kid made a great catch on the fly."
One last time before the half, Blairsville went on the march again, 57 yards all the way to the Bellwood 5. The Bobcats moved quickly to cover 46 yards on the first five plays, then just 11 yards on the next three before a snap infraction pushed them back to the 10.
Tyler Ferguson gained five yards on a keeper, but after a one-yard loss to the 6, the Bobcats opted for a 23-yard field goal by Mike Maryai with 13 seconds remaining.
Bellwood-Antis had the ball to start the second half. Blairsville needed to make a stop and eventually did, taking over on downs at its own 27. Unfortunately for Blairsville, it was the last time the Bobcats would keep the Blue Devils from scoring. The next four possessions resulted in touchdowns, including 229 rushing yards on 26 carries (8.8 yards per rush).
"We really didn't make a lot of adjustments at halftime," said Bellwood coach John Hayes. "We just tried to tell our guys to stay patient and stick to our game plan. There was no screaming or yelling. If anything, we just told them to stop playing not to lose."
The first touchdown was a 54-yarder off a toss to Andrew DeGol, capping a quick, two-play drive of 61 yards and 45 seconds. The Blue Devils would also take over the clock, though, ending up with a 14:21 to 9:39 advantage in possession time in the second half.
The Bobcats finally got in the end zone on an 8-yard pass to Maryai later in the third quarter and Blairsville trailed, 14-9. But the Blue Devils responded with a 66-yard drive and a 10-yard run by Tyler Campbell.
Perhaps the backbreaker was the 13-play, 76-yard march that followed. It burned away nearly five minutes of the fourth quarter and ended with a 13-yard touchdown pass to Ian O'Shea to make it 28-9.
Blairsville still had time to score twice - a 49-yard reception by Mike Milliron and a 1-yard dive by Tyler Ferguson. But in between, Campbell scored again on a 2-yard plunge.
Tyler Ferguson passed for 214 yards in his final game to finish the season with 1,318 passing yards.
Iezzi gained 210 all-purpose yards, including 126 rushing yards, for a season total of 1,311, but he didn't score. Iezzi was one of Blairsville's great weapons inside the 20 this season, but the holding call on the first drive negated one carry from the 14 and the Blue Devils held him to just 10 yards on six other red zone attempts.
Dettorre summed up Blairsville's season on a high note, pointing out the team's rise in the Heritage Conference ranks this year over what had been a dismal performance in 2009 and 2010.
"I'm not going to complain," said Dettorre. "We had a team that won two games last year, and those were both gifts - we stole them - and the year before we won three, so these guys really turned a lot around."
Dettorre had no comment regarding his coaching future.
Bellwood-Antis 35, Blairsville 21
Blairsville 0 3 6 12 - 21
Bellwood 0 7 7 21 - 35
BA - C.Worthing 85 yard pass from Stuby (Campbell kick)
B - Maryai 23 yard field goal
BA - Degol 54 yard run (Campbell kick)
B - Maryai 8 yard pass from Ty.Ferguson (pass failed)
BA - Campbell 10 yard run (Campbell kick)
BA - O'Shea 13 yard pass from Stuby (Campbell kick)
B - Milliron 49 yard pass from Ty.Ferguson (pass failed)
BA - Campbell 2 yard run (Campbell kick)
B - Ty.Ferguson 1 yard run (pass failed)
I NDIVIDUAL STATISTICS
RUSHING: B - Iezzi 27-126, Maryai 1-(-1), Ty.Ferguson 6-(-8)-1; BA - Degol 18-157-1, Gray 8-78, Campbell 11-45-2, Stuby 3-(-7), O.Worthing 1-(-1).
PASSING: B - Ty.Ferguson 14-24-0-214, Iezzi 1-1-0-(-4), Maryai 0-1-0-0; BA - Stuby 7-10-0-166.
RECEIVING: B - Iezzi 5-66, Ta.Ferguson 4-59, Maryai 4-40-1, Milliron 1-49-1, Faulk 1-(-4); BA - O'Shea 2-21-1, Claypole 2-11, C.Worthing 1-85-1, S.Worthing 1-26, Degol 0-17, Gray 1-6.
TEAM STATISTICS B BA
First downs 18 19
Rushes-yards 34-117-1 41-272-3
Passing Yards 210 166
Passes-int 15-26-0 7-10-0
Total offense 327 438
Punts-avg. 4-28.5 2-29.0
Fumbles-lost 0-0 1-0
Penalties-yards 8-52 3-35
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