By JOE SPAULDING
A huge performance by the Bellmont defense, which resulted in eight quarterback sacks and 14 tackles for loss,, plus a new offensive weapon helped key the Bellmont Braves to a second-round, 22-7, IHSAA sectional playoff victory over Yorktown Friday night at Bob Worthman Stadium.
"Our defense was outstanding," analyzed Bellmont coach Larry Getts following the smothering show the Braves blanketed the Tigers with.
"This was a big game, a tough game, one that could have easily flipped either way on several occasions but our kids stayed tough. I'm so happy for our seniors. There were a lot of people in this town that said the seniors wouldn't amount to anything this year on the football field. When I took this job, there were a lot of negative comments made about the seniors, a lot of nay-sayers. I think those people need to step up and apologize to these seniors. They're a great group of kids," he added.
The win puts Bellmont in the sectional final game next Friday night at Western High School, which defeated Mississinewa by a 58-21 score last night.
Another factor that it appeared Yorktown was not expecting was an increased use of senior Brian Hakes on offense. One of the toughest, hard-nosed players on the team, Hakes carried the ball on the first Bellmont play from scrimmage and although he finished with 36 yards on seven totes, he gave Bellmont the lead for good in the game at the 5:52 mark of the second period.
Hakes snuck out of the backfield and was wide open for a halfback option pass from Jacob Bergman as Yorktown bit on what they thought would be a running play but Hakes easily scored on the 25-yard pass for a 12-7 lead. The PAT pass failed.
With 3:56 to play in the game, Hakes carried a couple of Tigers into the end zone with him from four yards out to give the Braves some breathing room and Chase Ellsworth was perfect on the PAT book for the final 22-7 tally.
Bellmont established its strong running game early in the contest as after the Braves defense held Yorktown to an opening three and out, BHS got the ball at their own 49 and eight straight running plays found the Bellmonters taking a 6-0 lead with 6:14 to go as Cody Walters, who carried on six of the eight plays, crashed in from a yard out.
An unusual episode happened on the extra point try. Ellsworth's kick was good, but an eager Yorktown lineman encroached before the snap. Since the penalty automatically killed the play, the PAT kick was wiped out and had to be retried. This time the kick failed.
Yorktown marched 74 yards in eight plays, getting 58 of those yards on two passing plays. Gavin Rogers went from the Yorktown 30 to the Bellmont 33 for 37 yards on one pass from quarterback Joe Todd and then Todd split a seam in the Bellmont secondary from 21 yards out to Jason Brown for a 3:26 touchdown in the first period. When Derek Fox made the extra point kick, the Tigers suddenly had a 7-6 edge.
That scored sparked the Tigers as on Bellmont's second play from scrimmage, they forced Cody Walters to cough up the pigskin after he had gained enough yards for a first down and Mason Patterson recovered. Yorktown workhorse Brendon Barnes (28 carries, 153 yards of which 114 came in the first half) was then called upon to move the Tigers into scoring position and Yorktown moved to the BHS 19.
A perturbed Bellmont defense would have no more Yorktown gains, however, forcing Todd to recover his own fumble for a loss on second and eight, holding a runner for no gain on third, and the Dewey Melcher sacked Todd for a seven-yard loss to give the ball back to the Braves.
Bellmont got down as far as the Yorktown 14 but the Tigers stiffened on third and one to hold the Braves without yardage on two cracks.
Bellmont forced two fumbles on consecutive Tiger possessions with recoveries by Bergman and Ellsworth. Hakes' first score came after the initial recovery and the last put the Braves into position for a 33-yard field goal attempt that fell just short.
The final play of the first half came oh-so-close to putting a dagger in Yorktown's heart.
With time left for one play, Todd went back to pass and was pressured. He started to go down but before his knee hit the ground, Brad Busse stripped the ball from him. With Todd on the ground then and no other Yorktown players within site, Busse had nothing but green grass between him and the end zone, but as he stepped away from the quarterback, he stumbled and fell to the ground.
Bellmont dominated the third period getting deep into Yorktown territory on two occasions. Yorktown held on a fourth and one at their eight yard line the first time but the second time they scored when Ellsworth converted a 29-yard field goal with :35 to play in the period for a 15-7 edge.
The last real Yorktown threat of the night came at the start of the fourth period with the Tigers moving to the Bellmont 11. Then on a second and night play, it was the defensive pressure from the line that forced Todd to run for his life and he threw a pass with no receiver in the area and Yorktown was charged with intentional grounding, a five-yard foul from the spot of the pass plus loss of down. A play later, Todd was again hounded and his desperate heave forward was snatched by Hakes and returned to the Bellmont 48.
That set up the final BHS touchdown of the game with the key play of the drive being a third and six conversion with 5:14 to play as Hakes caught a 42-yard pass from Brian Fullenkamp to the six-yard line.
Yorktown scored an apparent touchdown with 2:33 remaining on a 27-yard pass from Todd to Barnes but it was called back on a holding penalty. Later in the drive, Yorktown was faced with fourth and 24 and came up just short on a 22-yard pass play to give the Braves the ball back to end the game with two drops to the knee by quarterback Fullenkamp.
Walters had his second straight big rushing night of the sectional with 160 yards on 22 carries for Bellmont. Barnes, who entered the game with over 1,500 all-purpose yards for Yorktown this year, finished with 153 on 28 totes. Melcher came in with 11 tackles for the Bellmont defense while Ben Baker had 7.5 including three and a half tackles for loss. Busse had two and a half sacks while Josh Hall had six stops.