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"This was something else. I don't know what to say," said Bellmont's standout runningback Cody Walters minutes after the Braves won just their second sectional football championship ever, 21-20 in overtime at Western High School Friday night.
"The whole game was hard-hitting, but we never stopped, never gave in, and we got it done," said determined senior linebacker Dewey Melcher.
The Braves, now 6-6 but 4A playoff hardened, will travel to No. 3 West Lafayette Friday for a 7:30 p.m. regional game. Bellmont football is 1-0 in previous such events.
With 1:33 to go in the game — and some Bellmont fans making for the exit — Western had the ball with a 14-7 lead. However, they had to punt. Senior all-state candidate Brian Hakes slipped through the heart of the Western blocking scheme on fourth down and blasted the ball back toward the goal line, where he recovered it at about the two-yard line.
While Hakes pulled off the huge block, as he did to the Western kicker in overtime for the win, it looked like a jail break as several Bellmont were aiming at the Western punter.
Hakes scored on the power wedge as the Braves tied the game. Bellmont went up 21-14 in OT as Walters hit the end zone and steady PAT kicker Chase Ellsworth added the key PAT boot. After Western scored on a fourth-and 10 pass, Hakes split the middle gap again and finished Western's season with big block No. 2. It was his sixth kick block of the season!
"I think all you can say is WOW! It had all the twists and turns and I told the kids at half it was going to come down to who wants it the most. Our kids never gave up," stated head coach Larry Getts, who helped deliver a sectional title in just his first year at the helm.
"It came down to the end and it looked bad, and they found a way to win. Just like we said at the beginning of the sectional, find a way to do it. It was just great senior leadership."
Defensive coordinator Marty Ballard, a holdover from previous Bellmont head coaches, also credited the seniors, and for a little extra work during the week to get ready for some odd alignments that Western presented.
"Wednesday we had a terrible practice. We couldn't get anything down, couldn't align with all of these formations that they run. Knowing they weren't ready, the seniors (on defense) met at Ben Baker's house Wednesday night. They watched videos, and on Thursday we had a perfect practice and confidence was high. It was the seniors that did it. No doubt about it," praised Ballard.
Though the yardage was about the same, Bellmont dominated the clock and had numerous drives. The Braves ran 50 rushing plays to the 25 of Western. The Braves had the ball two-thirds of the time, limiting the Panthers to 16 minutes of possessions.
Bellmont punted only once, but the 46-yarder by Isaac Birch help set up the first BHS touchdown. Birch put the ball at the Western 16-yard line. The Braves defense got their first stop, and the return punt was just 18 yards, putting the Braves at the 36-yard line of Western.
Walters ran for 11 yards, but Bellmont faced fourth-and 10. QB Brian Fullenkamp then rolled a little left and fired the ball to the end zone as Lance Shifferly ran deep. Shifferly had to dive, but made a sensational catch for the first touchdown.
Western tied the score on a touchdown toss of their own in the first period.
The Braves worked deep into Western territory, and two fieldgoals were short. A Western fieldgoal of just 25 yards, fell short on a botched kick just before halftime.
A 17-play drive, which started at the BHS 10-yard line, moved the ball to the 18 of Western midway through period four. However, the Braves lost yardage, and Ellsworth tried a 39-yard fieldgoal, which was just short.
Western just needed three plays to score the go-ahead touchdown in that final period. The Braves had pretty well stopped big fullback Hudson Featherstone, but James Davis shook loose on a 44-yard scoring play. He stumbled through the line and by the time he got his footing back he was deep in the BHS backfield.
The Braves answered back, converting two fourth-down plays. However, at the 15-yard line, on fourth-and-two, Fullenkamp fumbled the snap and the drive halted. On an earlier play, Josh Hall was open near the end zone on the halfback pass, but Shifferly's toss was just wide.
It looked grim at the point for Bellmont. "If we stop them, I want a time out right after the play," BHS coach Getts told the line judge when Western faced third down. Fortunately, they needed to use that last time out.
"We told the kids that this game was going to come down to the last play, and to play to the end. The kids did it. They never quit," praised Getts.
Five Ranked Teams Left
The winner of the BHS-W. Lafayette game will take on the winner of the contest between No. 6 South Bend St. Joe (10-2) and No. 8 Jimtown (10-2).
In the lower half of the 3A bracket, No. 1 Bishop Chatard (10-2) will meet 8-4 Indian Creek. The other regional game will be between unranked Evansville Memorial (7-5) and No. 12 Corydon Central (10-2).
In the Class A tourney, unranked Adams Central (7-5) will travel to No. 6 Sheridan (9-3), while also in that bracket, No. 1 Lafayette Central Catholic (12-0) will travel to No. 8 South Newton (11-1).
Unranked North Vermillion (7-5) will host No. 7 Indianapolis Scecina (9-3) in a bottom bracket regional. Unbeaten and No. 3 Linton-Stockton will host 11-1 Milan in the other game on that side.