WINGATE — With the way Chestnut Ridge’s offense was grinding up yardage against the Bald Eagle Area offense in the first half, the Eagles needed to make a change — a radical change.
And defensive coordinator Shannon Manning’s wild swing worked, especially late in the game.
Bald Eagle Area stopped the Lions three times inside the final six minutes and came up with a key fourth-quarter fumble recovery at its own 1-yard line to secure a 28-26 victory Friday at Alumni Stadium.
BEA, which improved to 4-0, got a pair of touchdowns from Bryan Greene and Dakota Bartley and four key extra points from Tyler Schall to offset a big night from Chestnut Ridge quarterback
Beau Bosch, who rushed for 122 yards and passed for 165.
Though his team led 21-20 at the half, BEA coach Jack Tobias said the Eagles needed to make major adjustments against the Lion option running game that racked up 184 yards in the first 24 minutes.
“They ran all over us in the first half,” Tobias said. “We had to get them back in check.”
Manning’s adjustment was to throw nearly everyone at the line of scrimmage, with eight and sometimes nine defenders in the box.
“We had a six man-line, brought another linebacker in and played with three backers and two corners,” Tobias said. “We had to stop that run. It was the only thing that really hurt us in the first half. ... It’s tough to mimic that offense in practice.”
Bosch did burn the Eagles with a couple of big passes in the third quarter. His 25-yard touchdown pass to Matt Wiley made the score 28-26, but the Lions, who missed an extra point after their first touchdown of the game, were stopped on a two-point conversion run that could have tied it.
Chestnut Ridge (1-3) began to drive again on its next possession and was about to take the lead when Schall made the game’s biggest defensive play. On first-and-goal from the 6, Wiley ran left and appeared headed for the end zone when Schall caused and recovered a fumble at the BEA 1.
“The kid came around I dove in behind one of their blockers,” Schall said. “I just got the ball and stripped it out. I grabbed the ball and ripped and then it was on the ground. I was shocked and jumped on it.”
It marked the second consecutive game that the Eagles made fumble recovery at the 1. They made a similar stop in the final seconds to preserve a 21-20 win against Penns Valley.
“These guys are the Cardiac Kids,” Tobias said. “I think they’re trying to kill me. I don’t know if they like me or what, but they don’t have to let them get to the 1. They can stop them earlier.”
“It’s wild,” Schall added. “It’s not what you want, but it’s a lot of fun. You can’t explain what’s going on down there.”
With Chestnut Ridge’s defense holding BEA to just one first down over the final 19 minutes. The Eagle defense would have to hold the Lions three more times.
One drive ended with the stop of a fake punt at the Chestnut Ridge 44. Austin Cowher halted another by picking off a deep pass at the BEA 26.
Chestnut Ridge got the ball back one more time at its 45 with 1:01 left, but Bosch had three incompletions before being forced out of the pocket and coming up five yards short of a first down.
“At the end, the defensive line did an awesome job getting pressure on the quarterback,” said Tobias, who shuttled in multiple players to keep the line fresh. “They forced him to throw the ball early and wide.”
The outstanding defense in the second half was in stark contrast to the track meet in the opening two quarters.
BEA took the opening kickoff and drove 76 yards, with Cole Long tossing a 33-yard scoring pass to Greene.
Chestnut Ridge countered with a 67-yard drive, capped by Jacob Mock’s one-yard plunge. The extra point kick was wide left to give BEA a 7-6 lead.
The Eagles extended the margin to 21-6 on two more big plays. Bartley swept right behind some nice blocks and outran the Lion defense for an 80-yard score.
“It was blocked out perfectly,” said Bartley. “The linemen did great. The wide receivers blocked out good and I just housed it.
On BEA’s next possession, Greene did the same thing to the opposite side, racing 71 yards for another score.
“We had some good blocks and I just saw grass,” Greene said. “I thought one kid was going to catch me at first, but I just ran and got the touchdown.”
The Lions rebounded to make it the one-point game at the half. Bosch’s 27-yard run helped set up his own 20-yard scoring run. Mock then capped a 52-yard march with another one-yard TD run. Bosch’s conversion toss to Ben Pick made it 21-20 at the half.
Bartley, who had a four-yard scoring run on BEA’s first possession of the second half, led the Eagles with 123 yards on 11 carries. BEA had just 79 total yards in the second half.
“I was disappointed offensively,” Tobias said. “I thought we would be able to move the ball and we weren’t able to.”
Bosch finished 8-of-18 for 165 yards. Mock added 75 yards on 14 carries.
The Eagles, whose win 3-0 start its best since 1993, are excited to be 4-0 heading into a Mountain League showdown at Central (3-1).
“That’s wild here at Bald Eagle,” Schall said of the 4-0 start. “That hasn’t happened here in forever. People are showing up and I can’t wait for every Friday.”
“It’s been a long time coming and these guys have been working hard to be where they’re at, at 4-0,” Tobias said. “We have tough sledding ahead with Central next week. That’s going to be no easy task. Guys have to buckle down and work and we’ll be ready to go.”
Walt Moody can be reached at 231-4630. Follow him on Twitter @wmoodycdt