BELLWOOD - Northern Bedford didn't go down without a fight against Bellwood-Antis Friday night, but that was exactly the Black Panthers' problem.
With the score tied and the first half winding down, Blake Over threw a Hail Mary to the end zone that was intercepted by Tanner Snyder. Snyder returned the ball 42 yards before being brought down by the Panthers' Jesse Claar. Claar was flagged for a personal foul after a little extra aggression following the tackle and was ejected from the game.
Bellwood took advantage of the penalty and the good field position it gave them on the first drive of the second half and took a lead it never relinquished. The Blue Devils added 21 more points in the fourth quarter to make the final score, 42-14.
Photo for the Mirror by Manning Photography
B-A’s Tanner Snyder runs away from a defender.
"Unfortunately for [Claar], I think he lost his cool," Bellwood-Antis coach John Hayes said. "He had our kid down punching him. It wasn't like you couldn't see it. He hit him several times. I'm sure that had to hurt them and hurt their halftime dialogue and everything they were doing.
"It put a cloud over the whole thing, but the field position we got out of it turned out to be huge in us getting that go-ahead score."
Without Claar, Northern Bedford struggled to protect Over in the second half and stop Bellwood defensively. Over was sacked three times in the second half after rushing for 87 yards and throwing for 84 in the first two quarters. Meanwhile, the Blue Devils had four offensive possessions in the second half, and each one ended with a touchdown.
"That play at the end of the half was big, no question," Northern Bedford coach Jeff Batzel said. "We lose one of our best players that we don't have in the second half. Then we were driving to try and tie the game and had some penalties that killed our momentum and took us out of the game."
After the Blue Devils traveled just 33 yards for a touchdown on their first possession of the second half to take a 21-14 lead, Northern Bedford took the ball from its own 12 down to the B-A 33-yard line. The Panthers (6-2) went backward from there, picking up five penalties on the drive and finally punting from the 50 after a 9-minute possession that yielded no points.
The victory clinched the Inter-County Conference Gold title for the Blue Devils (7-1, 5-0)
"Once we got momentum, we were tough to deal with," Hayes said. "Winning the conference was something that was one of our goals, but our focus now is trying to get better and get ready for the playoffs."
Northern Bedford seemed poised to force a three-way tie between itself, Bellwood-Antis and Mount Union in the ICC Gold when Over led the Panthers on a pair of first-half scoring drives. The first ended with an Austin Heck 2-yard score to put Northern Bedford up 7-0 and the second was a 71-yard run by Over to give the Panthers a 14-6 advantage.
"I thought we played an absolutely great first half," Batzel said. "Then some things didn't go our way from the last play of the first half on, and Bellwood didn't make any mistakes after that and penalties on our part cost us from being in the game in the fourth quarter."
Bellwood rushed for 288 yards, including 122 by Casey Gray and 106 by Snyder. Gray finished with three rushing touchdowns, and Snyder had two in addition to a pair of interceptions. Kyler Larderi touched the ball just two times, but both set up touchdowns. The first was a 57-yard rush and the second a 46-yard reception.
"We knew what plays they were going to run," Snyder said. "We had some nerves coming out, but we were able to recover and get the job done. It feels good. We want to carry this on to Richland and the playoffs."
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Northern Bedford7 7 0 0 - 14
Bellwood-Antis6 8 7 21 - 42
NB-Heck 2 run (Bequeath kick), 3:53.
BA-Stapleton 5 run (kick failed), 0:00.
NB-Over 71 run (Bequeath kick), 10:59.
BA-Gray 20 run (Burch pass from Gray), 9:05.
BA-T. Snyder 5 run (Creppage kick), 9:00.
BA-T. Snyder 9 run (Creppage kick), 11:00.
BA-Gray 1 run (Creppage kick), 7:34.
BA-Gray 1 run (Creppage kick), 1:49.
RUSHING: Northern Bedford-Over 11-92, Heck 9-23, Brallier 5-11, Kolinchak 3-17, Hershberger 1-5. Bellwood-Antis-Gray 24-122, T. Snyder 15-106, Larderi 1-57, Stapleton 2-10, Wood 1-4, Burch 1-(-11).
PASSING: Northern Bedford-Over 14-27-2-145, Batzel 2-3-0-13. Bellwood-Antis-Burch 5-6-0-96.
RECEIVING: Northern Bedford-Diehl 5-68, Heck 5-44, Dasher 3-34, Raab 2-13, Hershberger 1-(-1). Bellwood-Antis-Larderi 1-46, Stapleton 2-41, Zitterbart 1-7, Gray 1-2.
INTERCEPTIONS: Northern Bedford-none. Bellwood-Antis-T. Snyder 2.