BELLEFONTE — With 2:37 to go in the third quarter, winless Bellefonte had just kicked an extra point to take a 7-6 lead over Penns Valley.
For a Red Raider squad decimated by defections and injuries, it was cause for a wild celebration.
For a Ram squad that came in 2-4, but that most figured would handle Bellefonte, it was gut check time.
“When they went up on us, I think it was one of those cases where our kids had to examine where are they at this point. Are they going to rise to the challenge? Or are we going to fold up the tent and pack it in?” Penns Valley coach Martin Tobias said. “They didn’t pack it in. We rose to the challenge and made some plays when we had to.”
The Rams answered that score with a touchdown of their own 2:27 later, and tacked on another score in the fourth quarter to turn away a determined Bellefonte squad, 21-7, to spoil the Raiders’ Homecoming.
But youthful Bellefonte didn’t go down without a fight, and their coach was encouraged by that.
“That’s a back-breaker, but I don’t think we laid down and played dead for them,” Bellefonte coach Shanon Manning said of Penns Valley’s winning score. “I think we made them fight and scratch and claw the whole way to the end zone. I think that’s starting to epitomize who we are. We’ve come a long way in that regard.”
Both teams moved the ball but neither team could finish a drive in the first quarter. But after Bellefonte turned the ball over on downs after driving for more than 8 minutes, Penns Valley took over on its own 30.
The Rams drove 70 yards on 13 plays and finally scored at the 10:53 mark of the second quarter. Wyatt Sharp burst up the gut nine yards for the touchdown. The extra point try was blocked and the Rams led 6-0 at the half.
Clearly the defensive coordinators for each team found the answers they were looking for at halftime. The second half started with three consecutive three-and-out series.
Bellefonte took over after the third fruitless series and started grinding out another drive. Sticking to the ground, the Raiders drove from their own 24 to the Ram 40.
From there, Nick Jabco took a handoff, angled off right tackle, burst through the hole and was gone. Andrew Stover’s extra point made it 7-6 Bellefonte and suddenly the Raiders could smell their first win of the season.
Penns Valley burst that bubble in the next 2:27.
The Rams drove 77 yards in in just six plays for the go-ahead and winning score. Taylor Collison accounted for 45 of those yards, including the last eight on handoff from quarterback Cameron Tobias. Sharp converted the 2-point conversion and Penns Valley had a 14-7 lead it wouldn’t relinquish.
The Rams added another score in the fourth quarter — Sharp plunged in from 2 yards out — to turn away the determined Raiders.
“We were 0-6 but I don’t think we played like we were 0-6,” Manning said. “I think we played like we were 6-0 and have every opportunity to win a football game. Was I pleased? I’m pleased to see the effort; I’m not pleased to see the results.
“We played hard but we just didn’t get what we’re all after and that’s a W. We are making progress and that’s a big stride for us.”
Tobias seemed impressed with Bellefonte’s fight, and how his team matched that intensity.
“I give a lot of credit to Bellefonte, their coaching staff and players,” Tobias said. “They came out and were very motivated to take it to us tonight. I’ve got a great deal of respect for their program, their players, their coaches, always have, always will. They had their kids ready to play. We were very fortunate.
“There’s always room for improvement. I’m very happy to come out of here with a win.”