BELLWOOD - Travis Taylor is generously listed at 5-foot-7, 165 pounds on the Bellwood-Antis football roster, but he couldn't have come up any bigger in the Blue Devils' 36-22 win over Juniata Valley that clinched the Inter-County Conference's North Division title at Memorial Stadium Friday.
"Travis has tremendous heart, No. 1," Bellwood-Antis coach John Hayes said. "He'd take 45 handoffs a game if you called his number, because he'll go until he drops, and he just plays so hard on both sides of the football."
Taylor didn't quite reach 45 carries, but his 33 runs for 149 yards and pair of short touchdown plunges were the difference for the Blue Devils. Taylor also put the final nail in the Green Hornets' coffin with an interception of Seth Carper on Juniata Valley's final drive.
Photo for the Mirror by Joe Anello
B-A’s Travis Taylor runs between Juniata Valley’s Dalton Weicenburg (7) and Ian Hawn (74).
"It feels great to win the title," Taylor said. "We knew that we had to come out and play hard and play smash-mouth football. I had some great blocking by my offensive line. The line was just doing a great job all night."
It didn't take Bellwood-Antis' offensive line long to get things started. After Seth Worthing returned the opening kickoff 50 yards, Tyler Campbell, playing fullback in place of the injured Tyler Beech, broke a 45-yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage.
The Blue Devils blocked Marvin Sommers' 41-yard field goal attempt, Campbell cashed in an 80-yard drive on a 1-yard touchdown plunge and it appeared Bellwood-Antis was about to run away with yet another game.
Eleven seconds later, the Devils realized they had a game on their hands.
Ethan Morrison returned Bellwood's kickoff 80 yards for a touchdown, and Sommers' extra point cut the lead to 12-7.
"Our special teams gave up a long punt return that didn't hurt us, and our kick return team really got us started," Juniata Valley coach Mike Smith said.
After a Buddy Shaw 26-yard field goal, Juniata Valley struck again. This time it was Carper finding Nick Gildea on an 18-yard touchdown pass that cut Bellwood's lead to one.
The Green Hornets, normally a running team, managed just 3 yards on the ground while passing for 217.
"I thought we'd be able to run the ball a little bit better than we did," Smith said. "We didn't do too bad at times, but we weren't consistent enough. The way they were lining up exposed them a little bit more to throwing the ball, so that's what we had to go with."
Bellwood-Antis fired back with a pair of touchdowns. Derek Denny caught a 58-yard touchdown pass from Luke Evans just before the half, and Taylor found the end zone from 3 yards out to put the Blue Devils ahead, 29-14, with 9:45 left in the third quarter.
Juniata Valley answered with a seven-play 63-yard touchdown drive capped off by a Morrison 5-yard run. Carper connected with Gildea on a two-point conversion that pulled the Green Hornets within seven points.
Juniata Valley got the ball back twice with chances to tie the game and possibly save their undefeated season, but Carper was sacked four times in eight plays.
"Our defense stepped up when it had to," Hayes said. "Their backs were against the wall, and when they had that opportunity, they stepped up. We talked about it at halftime.
"We said it would be a war in the second half, and we had to keep coming. Fortunately we were able to score enough to stay ahead of them."
Bellwood-Antis got the ball back at its own 22 and milked 7:16 off the clock while going on a 15-play, 78-yard touchdown drive that clinched the game. Taylor had eight carries and scored on a 2-yard run to finish a drive highlighted by a 35-yard pass from Evans to Jared Minori.
"Overall, this is what big games are about," Hayes said. "Things don't all go well, but our kids really dug in and played well when they had to."
Game notes: Juniata Valley (7-1) will travel to Williamsburg to close the regular season next Friday while Bellwood-Antis (7-1) will host Mount Union ... Bellwood fumbled six times but recovered four of them. ... Juniata Valley fumbled the second-half kickoff, and Bellwood cashed in a touchdown five plays later.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Juniata Valley7 7 8 0 - 22
Bellwood-Antis12 11 6 7 - 36
BA-Campbell 45 run (kick failed), 11:41.
BA-Campbell 1 run (pass failed), 3:25.
JV-Morrison 80 kickoff return (Sommers kick), 3:14
BA-Shaw 26 FG, 6:51.
JV-Gildea 18 pass from Carper (Sommers kick), 3:34.
BA-Denny 58 pass from Evans (Minori pass from Evans), 3:11
BA-Taylor 5 run (kick failed), 9:45.
JV-Morrison 5 run (Gildea pass from Carper), 6:08.
BA-Taylor 2 run (Shaw kick), 1:57.
RUSHING: Juniata Valley-Morrison 12-44, Varner 1-4, Weicenburg 2-(-2), Carper 7-(-43). Bellwood-Antis-Taylor 33-149, Campbell 10-78, Shaw 3-24, Gray 1-12, Evans 3-5, TEAM-(-1).
PASSING: Juniata Valley-Carper 11-20-1-217. Bellwood-Antis-Evans 7-11-0-143.
RECEIVING: Juniata Valley-Morrison 6-94, Gildea 4-68, Musser 1-38, Weicenburg 0-17. Bellwood-Antis-Denny 3-76, Minori 3-53, Campbell 1-4.
INTERCEPTIONS: Juniata Valley-none. Bellwood-Antis-Taylor.