BELLWOOD - West Branch left its starters in the entire game despite a lopsided score against Bellwood-Antis at Memorial Stadium Friday.
It didn't really have a choice.
The Warriors played the Blue Devils, a power in District 6 Class A for years, with a roster of just 17 players and the final result was indicative of that. Bellwood led by 40 at halftime and eventually won, 54-14, to improve its record to 2-1.
"I'm sure it's extremely difficult from the standpoint of just practicing and getting ready," Bellwood-Antis coach John Hayes said regarding West Branch. "Then you'd have game times where your depth is virtually non-existent. Give them credit, though. Their kids played hard."
The Blue Devils have rarely had depth issues to deal with while dominating their conference for the past several years.
It took Bellwood three offensive plays to jump out to a 13-0 lead. Jake Burch connected with Josh Gates on a 40-yard touchdown and Casey Gray ran for a 66-yard touchdown.
Neither Burch or Gray played much, but both had good days in limited action. Burch finished 5-for-6 with 146 yards and two touchdown passes. He also ran once for a 31-yard score. Gray carried the ball only eight times but finished with a game-high 127 yards and two touchdowns.
"I saw a lot of good things tonight," Hayes said. "We certainly had some players who made big plays, and of course we wanted to work on some things and execute things and we were able to do that."
Jake Stapleton added two rushing scores for the Blue Devils, and Zach Mock capped their scoring with a 6-yard run with 1:13 remaining in the game.
Walker Williams and Kris Smeal provided some bright spots for the Warriors. Smeal rushed for 95 yards on 17 carries and Williams had a 2-yard touchdown run and connected with Nathan Kerlin on a 48-yard touchdown pass. West Branch played Bellwood even, 14-14, in the second half.
"This was kind of like a practice for us," West Branch coach Lester Smeal said. "We're coaching as the game is going on. We're learning and trying to get better. We have 17 kids, and like I always say, they are the toughest kids in our school. They're playing both ways the whole game and playing hard."
After opening its season with two of its first three at home, Bellwood-Antis will play three in a row on the road. That stretch begins next Friday when the Blue Devils take on Juniata Valley.
"We wanted to come out of this game healthy, and we achieved that," Hayes said. "We have a really good series and rivalry with [Juniata Valley]. It's intense, and going down there you're out of your element. We're going to have to work hard and get better."
Game note: Ellen Crook was named the homecoming queen.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
West Branch0 0 8 6 - 14
Bellwood-Antis20 20 7 7 - 54
BA-Gates 40 pass from Burch (Creppage kick), 8:50.
BA-Gray 66 run (kick failed), 7:06.
BA-Gray 11 run (Creppage kick), 4:05.
BA-T. Snyder 31 pass from Burch (Creppage kick), 11:47.
BA-Burch 31 run (Creppage kick), 7:19.
BA-Stapleton 31 run (kick failed), 4:41.
BA-Stapleton 2 run (Creppage kick), 5:35.
WB-Williams 2 run (Williams run), 0:59
WB-Kerlin 48 pass from Williams (pass failed), 6:48.
BA-Mock 6 run (Creppage kick), 1:13.
RUSHING: West Branch-K. Smeal 17-95, Williams 9-24, L. Smeal 7-20, Rougeux 5-32. Bellwood-Antis-Gray 8-127, Stapleton 7-58, Mock 5-44, T. Snyder 4-29, McCaulley 4-20, Burr 3-9, Lardieri 2-10, Burch 1-31, TEAM 1-(-2).
PASSING: West Branch-Williams 5-13-0-74. Bellwood-Antis-Burch 5-6-0-146, Huff 0-1-0-0.
RECEIVING: West Branch-Stone 3-23, Kerlin 1-48, L. Smeal 1-3. Bellwood-Antis-Zitterbart 1-41, Gates 1-40, T. Snyder 1-31, Lardieri 1-29, Gray 1-5.
INTERCEPTIONS: West Branch-none. Bellwood-Antis-none.