Bellmont gets another shot at Panthers
ON THE STOP â€” John Mahlan (lower left) brings down East Noble halfback Jordan Miller with the help of Dewey Melcher this past Friday. Mahlan led the team in tackles. The Bellmont defense will be tested by No. 1 Eastbrook Friday in the first round of the 3A state football playoffs. (Photo by Jim Hopkins)
"This is not the first game Eastbrook wanted either," stated veteran Panthers' coach Jeff Adamson, noting the draw for the first round of the IHSAA State 3A football playoffs.
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Eastbrook, rated No. 1 by the Associated Press, will be at Bob Worthman Stadium for the 7 p.m. game Friday in a rematch of the 34-0 surprise rout by the Panthers a year ago.
Though the Panthers are unbeaten and have been slamming their basically 2A conference foes, they know that Bellmont will not be such an easy prey, and there's the revenge factor of coming back to the place of the crime, last year's sectional championship game.
"Of course, we'd like to keep our string going since we've been to three straight sectional championship games, and Eastbrook is in our way," stated Bellmont coach Rick Burkhalter.
"It's a game we wanted, because we want to show them the real Bellmont. We didn't do a good job last year, from the coaching staff down to the players, so it's nice to get another shot at them," said Burkhalter, whose Braves are 4-5 overall.
Bellmont is going to have to bounce back from a tough showing last week in a 49-14 loss to a talented East Noble team. The key there was the skill of quarterback A.J. Dove, and the speed of his top receivers. The Braves' defense was not a good match for that type of offense.
Eastbrook also has a good quarterback as Tanner Day returned in that role. "Tanner has been throwing the ball extremely well and has made some good decisions with the ball when reading our option. Max Widmeyer and Colton Benedict are having great seasons carrying the ball," stated Adamson.
"We are similiar to last year, but we lost a few of our good players. Caleb Hemmick and Jeremy Porter-Jones both graduated and had great games against Bellmont last year," noted the coach.
Hemmick looked like King Kong at middle linebacker and he also appeared to have studied the BHS playbook. He was where the ball was most of the day, and seemed to be unblockable, getting several tackles for losses and scoring a big pickoff.
Porter-Jones also seemed unstoppable, especially on third down.
On defense, Adamson notes the surprise play of twin brother defensive ends Chase and Cody Thompson. "They are very good pass rushers and have been effective at stopping teams' off-tackle plays. Gavin Pearson took over for Hemmick and has played exceptionally well at inside backer. He is quicker than Hemmick and has improved in every game. Our line returns Jackson Bratcher, who was a state wrestling finalist. Alex Combs and Matt Shonkwiler play tackle and defense the run very well," explained Adamson.
Day doubles as the team's kicker. Bellmont quarterback Brian Fullenkamp has been the punter recently for the Braves.
Bellmont fullback Daniel Meyer, who has over 1280 yards rushing this season, is expected to start and play on offense this week after missing most of the game a week ago, nursing a sprained ankle. John Mahlan subbed for Meyer at linebacker and led the team in tackles.
"I'm sure we'll need to focus on stopping Meyer. I clearly remember having the ball for only three plays in the first quarter of last year's game because we couldn't tackle him!," said Adamson.
"I'm sure it will be a physical game, so we will need to match Bellmont's intensity."
The Braves need a win over a good team. The total number of victories for the teams Bellmont has beaten this year is seven, and South Adams is on a four-game winning streak.