MILL HALL - The cold rain made it hard to get a good grip on the ball.
Dunmore's big line made it even harder to get a grip on Daiqwon Buckley and Austin Seamon.
The combination of the two was more than the Bellwood-Antis Blue Devils could overcome.
Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec
Tyler Campbell (36) is consoled by Bellwood-Antis assistant coach Bill Crowell and Owen Worthing.
One of two Devil lost fumbles thwarted a promising potential go-ahead drive for Bellwood in the third quarter. Dunmore took advantage to crack open a close game behind Buckley and Seamon's 386 combined yards on the ground and six touchdowns as the District 2 champion sidelined B-A in the PIAA Class A semifinals on a wet and dreary Friday night at Central Mountain's Malinak Stadium, 40-19.
"I just feel disappointed and sadness. I just wish we could have done something more to win the game," Blue Devil senior tight end/linebacker Ian O'Shea said. "It seemed like their size and their line just overpowered us. We held up for as long as we could, but they just kept pounding and pounding away at us."
Playing a team that had four linemen weighing 230 pounds or more while their heftiest starter was 225, missing two-way starter Haden DeGennaro with a broken leg and being without quarterback/safety Seth Worthing for much of the first half because of a twisted pelvis sustained on their first offensive play, Bellwood had the game knotted at 13 late in the second quarter. Dunmore scored to take a six-point lead into the half, but the Devils took the second-half kickoff and marched from their own 35 to the Dunmore 28 on the legs of junior tailback Casey Gray.
However, as Gray seemed about to break out in the clear for a first down on third-and-3, a Buck defender managed to strip the ball, and Dunmore's Josh Sawka recovered at the 30.
Dunmore then took the ball 70 yards on 12 running plays to make it 25-13.
Down two scores, Bellwood decided to go for it on fourth-and-near midfield, but Gray was stopped short with the third quarter about to end. Dunmore covered 42 yards in four more runs to push its lead to 20 and take total control of the game.
"That was big. I thought we were on our way to tie it up, and then you don't know," Bellwood coach John Hayes said. "It's easy to project things. Obviously, it didn't help. I've always said turnovers are the things that usually spell the difference in games like this. Momentum definitely shifted, because they took it down and scored. That made it a two-touchdown game, and, at that, point we were kind of grasping at things to do with guys in and out."
The turnover on the opening drive of the third quarter was one of five fumbles for Bellwood in the game. They also had a pass intercepted in the end zone in the fourth quarter.
"It's always hard when you have those turnovers. It wasn't prime conditions with a slippery ball. I knew it was going to be tough," Devil senior lineman Keith Shawley said. "I'm not saying if the weather was perfect, we would have won. I just think it would have helped us more."
Bellwood's game was speed, whereas Dunmore's was raw power with the 215-pound Buckley and 180-pound Seamon running behind the likes of 285-pound James McHale, 265-pound Mike Boland and 255-pound Tim Drews. Both Buck runners had 100 yards rushing by the end of the third quarter.
"Those guys are great runners. I take my hats off to them," B-A senior linebacker Tyler Campbell said. "But it's their line that really did it for them."
Buckley was able to get a head of steam going and finished with 223 yards and touchdown runs of 9, 45, 15 and 2 yards on just 22 carries.
"I knew if the line was blocking great, we were going to be able to run the ball. And the line blocked phenomenal," Buckley said.
Gray piled up 132 yards on 29 carries for the Blue Devils, scoring on a pair of short runs. As a team, Bellwood amassed a very respectable 245 yards rushing.
"They were big, so it was up to the line to move them around and give us room to run," Gray said. "They did, but, in the end, they were just too big."
"Our line has always been smaller," Shawley said. "I'm pretty sure we wanted it more. We just drove our feet. That's the secret. We have a lot of really good linemen. Not the biggest, but we've got a lot of talented kids. We just figured we'd go out and work as hard as we can and make something happen."
Managing that without DeGennaro, who broke his leg in overtime of the Devils' double-overtime PIAA quarterfinal win against Delone was quite an accomplishment. The Devils also did it without Worthing, the four-event PIAA track qualifier, for much of the contest. After he forced and recovered a Dunmore fumble on the second play from scrimmage, he fumbled a snap himself and got injured trying to make something happen.
"Haden was a huge part of the offense. Without him, we lost all that speed and a play-maker," Gray said. "When Seth went down on that first play, it just took us down. We really need them in there to do what we want to do."
Worthing was in and out of the lineup several times as he kept reaggravating it.
Worthing's younger brother, Owen, came in to play quarterback and scrambled for the Devils' first score from 11 yards out with 1:24 left in the first quarter. Freshman Jake Burch came on under center for Bellwood in the fourth quarter.
"I couldn't really get down in a stance, so me playing defense was out. I didn't want to take any hits. I tried to get out of bounds more than I usually do to avoid getting hurt," Seth Worthing said. "It's a bummer. And, with Haden being out, that's a lot of speed we were missing."
Dunmore coach Jack Henzes was concerned with Bellwood's quickness.
"This team is very good, and they have a lot of speed. I think we wore them down in the second half, and I think that was the difference in the game," Henzes said.
"We're disappointed not to be in the final two, but the other team did their thing tonight," Bellwood coach John Hayes said. "Unfortunately, we suffered for that."
Game notes: Bellwood players wore a No. 44 decal on their helmets in honor of DeGennaro. ... Seamon rushed for an even 100 yards of his 163 total in the second half. ... Bellwood ended the year 13-2. Dunmore takes a 14-1 record into its PIAA championship game with unbeaten Clairton on Friday.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Dunmore7 12 6 15 - 40
Bellwood-Antis6 7 0 6 - 19
D-Buckley 9 run (Boland kick),5:34.
BA-O. Worthing 11 run (pass failed), 1:24.
D-Buckley 45 run (run failed), 11:49.
BA-Gray 1 run (Campbell kick), 3:55.
D-Buckley 15 run (kick failed), 2:35.
D-Seamon 5 run (kick failed), 2:06.
D-Seamon 23 run (Seamon run), 10:43.
D-Buckley 2 run (Zilla kick), 5:03.
BA-Gray 1 run (kick failed), 0:13.9
RUSHING: Dunmore-Buckley 22-223, Seamon 21-163, TEAM 2-(-3). Bellwood-Antis-Gray 29-132, T. Snyder 5-45, S. Worthing 7-(-3), Stapleton 4-11, Campbell 3-7, O. Worthing 5-21, Burch 1-32, Mock 1-0.
PASSING: Dunmore-Kujawski 2-3-0-25. Bellwood-Antis-S. Worthing 1-5-0-14, Burch 1-2-1-6.
RECEIVING: Dunmore-Rinaldi 2-25. Bellwood-Antis-Campbell 1-14, O' Shea 1-6.
INTERCEPTIONS: Dunmore-Rinaldi. Bellwood-Antis-none.