Another proverbial Streetcar Named Desire rolled through Mansion Park Friday night.
This one wore a definitive shade of blue and gold.
The Bellwood-Antis Blue Devils escaped from the precipice of defeat in regulation, mounting an impressive 81-yard, game-tying drive to score the tying touchdown with just 32 seconds left and force overtime in their PIAA, Class A state quarterfinal-round playoff matchup with Delone Catholic.
Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski
Nick Torsell recovers the fumble that ended the game around teammates Tyler Campbell (36) and Ethan Hunter (75).
Bellwood showed the same indomitable spirit to win the game, 33-26 in double overtime, with junior halfback Casey Gray scoring the decisive touchdown and B-A's defense forcing a fumble on Delone's second-overtime possession that junior defensive end Nick Torsell recovered to ice the outcome.
The Blue Devils (13-1) became the third team in school history to reach the PIAA semifinals, joining the 1988 and 2006 squads. Bellwood will face Dunmore of District 2 - a 34-12 winner over District 1's Bristol Friday night - in the semifinal showdown next Friday at a site to be determined.
The winner of that game will advance to the Class A state championship game Friday, Dec. 14 in Hershey.
"It's a great feeling,'' veteran Bellwood coach John Hayes said in the aftermath. "It's a reward for the kids who have sacrificed so much and put in so much work. And it's a feeling of great fulfillment for the coaches, too. But we know that next week is another week, and all these good feelings could go south.''
Bellwood's chances to advance were going south quickly late in the fourth quarter Friday. But trailing, 20-12 with 2:30 left, Bellwood took over on its own 19 and marched 81 yards in 11 plays for the tying points. Senior slotback Haden DeGennaro - who sustained a leg injury in overtime - scored on a 1-yard run off the left side with 32 seconds left in regulation to pull B-A to within 20-18.
Senior quarterback Seth Worthing then ran a perfect play fake into the line with Gray before hitting wide-open senior tight end Ian O'Shea in the left corner of the end zone to tie the score, 20-20.
"I delayed to make it look as if I was blocking, then I shot out to the outside,'' O'Shea said. "We work on that play a lot. It's one our main two-point conversion plays.''
The drive turned the momentum of the game back in Bellwood's favor after the Blue Devils had missed a scoring opportunity earlier in the fourth quarter following senior Keith Shawley's block of a 33-yard field goal attempt by sophomore Jay Strickland and Cameron Worthing's 58-yard return to the Delone 20.
"It was do-or-die,'' Hayes said of the game-tying drive. "We had a chance after the blocked field goal, but we didn't succeed. Then we got another chance and we got great running from Gray and DeGennaro and great blocking on the drive. All the things you work on in practice, we performed close to perfection.''
Gray - who rushed for 128 yards on 25 carries and scored both of Bellwood's overtime touchdowns on a 1-yard run in the first session and a 10-yard burst in the second session - said the Blue Devils' confidence never wavered.
"Our team never gives up,'' he said. "We saw that there were two minutes left. We knew we could drive down the field. We knew we could do it.''
Bellwood won the coin toss in the first overtime, and deferred possession to Delone, which took a 26-20 lead on senior quarterback Brett Smith's 10-yard, first-down scoring pass to diving senior tight end Austin Noel in the deep right corner of the end zone. Shawley blocked Strickland's conversion kick, however, which proved to be important when Bellwood took its possession and tied the score, 26-26 on Gray's 1-yard, third-down TD run but missed a chance to close the deal in the first overtime when senior Tyler Campbell's conversion kick sailed wide left.
Campbell redeemed himself in the second overtime, tacking on the point-after-kick following Gray's 10-yard, first-down scoring run up the middle to give B-A a 33-26 lead.
Delone took possession, but Torsell recovered junior fullback Matt Guiffreda's second-down fumble on a run up the middle from the 10 to secure Bellwood's trip to the semifinals.
"The ball just got loose, and I jumped on it,'' Torsell said. "There was no way I was going to let it go.''
Delone Catholic, which closed a 9-4 season, appeared to have the game in hand midway through the fourth quarter. Down 12-0 in the first half, Delone stormed back and eventually took a 20-12 lead when Brett Smith, playing corner on defense, picked off a Seth Worthing pass in the third quarter and returned it 65 yards to the B-A 1, setting up a 1-yard scoring burst by senior halfback Lance Reneker.
"We still felt it was our football game,'' Smith said. "We had a lead for most of the second half. We wanted to finish. We just couldn't do it.''
After Gray's 1-yard first-quarter run and DeGennaro's 13-yard second-quarter sweep gave B-A its early 12-0 lead, Delone responded with a 5-yard scoring blast by Guiffreda in the final minute of the first half and Guiffreda's 12-yard scoring jaunt in the third quarter.
"I'm so proud of our players,'' Delone coach Steve Wiles said. "They played their hearts out.''
But so did Bellwood, and that's why the Blue Devils are living to fight another week.
"It feels phenomenal,'' Torsell said. "There are only a couple teams left at this point of the season. It's all about the will to win right now.''
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Delone Catholic0 7 13 0 6 0 - 26
Bellwood-Antis6 6 0 8 6 7 - 33
BA-Gray 1 run (kick failed), 6:46.
BA-DeGennaro 13 run (pass failed), 5:52.
DC-Guiffreda 5 run (Strickland kick), :34.
DC-Guiffreda 12 run (run failed), 7:58.
DC-Reneker 1 run (Strickland kick), 4:36.
BA-DeGennaro 1 run (O'Shea pass from S. Worthing), 0:32.
DC-Noel 10 pass from B. Smith (kick failed).
BA-Gray 1 run (kick failed)
BA-Gray 10 run (Campbell kick)
RUSHING: Delone Catholic-Guiffreda 21-95, Reneker 17-89, B. Smith 8-24, Z. Smith 2-4, Team 1-(-1). Bellwood-Antis-Gray 25-128, DeGennaro 8-66, S. Worthing 6-8, C. Worthing 2-11, Campbell 4-10, Snyder 1-3.
PASSING: Delone Catholic-B. Smith 3-7-0-68. Bellwood-Antis-S. Worthing 3-6-2-23, DeGennaro 1-1-0-12.
RECEIVING: Delone Catholic-Reneker 2-58, Noel 1-10. Bellwood-Antis-Campbell 1-17, S. Worthing 1-12, C. Worthing 1-8, O'Shea 1-(-2).
INTERCEPTIONS: Delone Catholic-Miller, B. Smith.