LOYSBURG - In a prize fight, reach is considered one of the more important categories in the tale of the tape.
In a matchup of Inter-County Conference high school football heavyweights on Friday night, the longer reach of a couple of Bellwood-Antis Blue Devils proved to be just as vital.
With no other alternatives left available to them, Seth Worthing and Casey Gray stretched out as far as they could with the football to break the plane of the goal-line for second-quarter touchdowns. That was all Bellwood needed, as the Devils turned in an exceptional performance on defense against explosive Northern Bedford to wrap up the ICC Gold Division with a 20-0 decision in a clash of unbeatens at Panther Community Stadium.
Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski
Bellwood-Antis’ Ian O’Shea celebrates after returning an interception 5 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter.
"It feels really good to beat a good football team like that," B-A coach John Hayes said. "You've got to be pleased."
Worthing scored on a fourth-and-goal play, while Gray managed to dive just inside the pylon as time expired in the first half in pushing the Devils' record to 8-0 overall, 5-0 in the division. Bellwood-Antis hasn't lost to a team that is part of the current ICC since 2003.
Worthing's TD capped a 15-play drive after the Devils took over on downs at their own 25. On fourth down at the Black Panther 1, Worthing looked like he might be stopped, but he kept spinning and squirming and reached back across his own body with the ball, finally drawing the signal that he had broken the plane and what had been a scoreless tie to that point.
"I thought I was in, and I heard people say 'He's in. He's in.' Then I heard someone say, 'He's not.' So I just tried to push that ball over," Worthing said. "Luckily, they called it for me."
It was about as close as Gray's when the junior tailback dove at the corner of the end zone holding the ball in front of him to make it a two-touchdown difference. Gray had 143 yards on 30 carries, and Bellwood rushed for 259.
Gray's touchdown was a back-breaker for Northern Bedford. B-A had gained possession again on downs - this time at its own 29 - with 1:02 left, but managed to cover that distance and score. The Devils did it with a 28-yard hook-and-lateral play and benefited from a late hit out of bounds and an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty at the end of a Worthing run to give them first-and-goal at the 4 with 6.2 seconds left in the half.
"Mental and physical mistakes. The last two and a half minutes of the first half were a killer for us," Northern Bedford coach Jeff Batzel said. "We gave them a gift. We played them to pretty much a stalemate in the second half, except for the interception."
The interception about which Batzel was speaking was a pick-six by Blue Devil linebacker Ian O'Shea from the 5-yard line. The stage for it was set, ironically, by one of NB's highlights of the night: A goal-line stand at its 1.
An all-state performer last year, O'Shea was returning from injuries that limited him to about three quarters of action so far this season.
"It couldn't get any better than that. I was just in the right place at the right time," O'Shea said. "I've been thinking of this game all week."
O'Shea's was one of three interceptions for the Devils - Gray and Worthing had the others. Northern Bedford's Blake Over entered the game leading the area with 1,487 yards passing and completing nearly 65 percent of his throws. Bellwood's defense snapped a string of four games in which it allowed more than 100 yards in the air and six where it allowed the opposition to complete at least half of its attempts.
Bellwood held Northern Bedford to 157 yards.
"We knew they passed most of the time. We practiced all week on our coverage," said Gray, who had another interception wiped out by a roughing the passer penalty. "[Having been in big games before] helped us tonight. We know how we're supposed to act in this situation."
The Devils host Glendale next Friday. Northern Bedford will try to bounce back at Williamsburg.
"I think we're very disappointed right now," Batzel said. "But they're kids. They're resilient."
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Bellwood-Antis0 14 6 0 - 20
Northern Bedford0 0 0 0 - 0
BA-S. Worthing 1 run (pass failed), 7:43.
BA-Gray 4 run (S. Worthing pass from DeGennaro), 0:00.
BA-O'Shea 5 interception return (run failed), 5:27.
RUSHING: Bellwood-Antis-Gray 30-143, DeGennaro 6-73, Snyder 6-30, Campbell 3-19, O. Worthing 1-(-2), S. Worthing 7-(-4). Northern Bedford-Ebersole 5-35, Kagarise 9-21, Diehl 2-5, Over 6-(-2).
PASSING: Bellwood-Antis-S. Worthing 4-9-1-43. Northern Bedford-Over 12-28-2-98, Z. Pressel 0-1-1-0.
RECEIVING: Bellwood-Antis-C. Worthing 2-8, Snyder 1-9, Gray 0-25. Northern Bedford-Z. Pressel 4-37, T. Pressel 2-12, Diehl 4-24, Miller 1-2, Baker 1-23.
INTERCEPTIONS: Bellwood-Antis-S. Worthing, O'Shea, Gray. Northern Bedford-Diehl.