When Blake Roberts left the locker room after Bald Eagle Area’s overtime win over Chestnut Ridge last season, he saw the final result still glowing on the scoreboard at Alumni Stadium.
Roberts, who kicked the game-winning field goal in the Eagles’ 3-0 victory, snapped a photo to preserve the memory. Nearly one year later, with BEA’s matchup with Chestnut Ridge looming, the junior still describes that night as “exhilarating.”
“That was such an exciting moment and, if that ever happened again, I’d still feel the same way,” Roberts said.
It was the Eagles’ best win and final win of the 2016 season as they finished the year on a six-game losing streak. This season, BEA has already matched last season’s win total with a 3-0 start heading into Friday’s game at Chestnut Ridge (2-1). But the Eagles know they’re in for a challenge as the Lions return their top players from the 2016 team that captured the District 5-8 title and reached the PIAA Class 2A playoffs.
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BEA coach Jesse Nagle expects another close game against Chestnut Ridge this week.
“I think it’s going to be a dogfight until the end,” Nagle said. “I think our kids are going to go play four quarters like they know how and, hopefully, we come out on top.”
The Eagles competed from start to finish to beat Chestnut Ridge last year. Roberts recalled the strong effort by BEA’s defense, which came away with turnovers at crucial times to maintain the shutout. Roberts grabbed two interceptions that night, including one in the fourth quarter near the end zone.
“We didn’t really give up and by the time the fourth quarter rolled by, it almost seemed like everyone was like, ‘Oh my God, it’s still 0-0 in the fourth quarter. What’s going to happen?’” Roberts said. “Seeing it play out like that, it just shows how everyone’s so determined.”
BEA quarterback Jaden Jones, a sophomore, watched from the bleachers that night as Roberts’ 26-yard field goal in overtime ended the game.
“You usually don’t see a game like that in high school,” Jones said. “It was a once-in-a-lifetime show.”
Nagle pointed out that his team never trailed in that win over Chestnut Ridge, and the Eagles haven’t trailed in a game this season. BEA rolled past Troy (0-3), Philipsburg-Osceola (1-2) and Penns Valley (1-2) in its first three games. The Eagles were tied with Troy before pulling away in the fourth quarter, so Nagle is still waiting to find out how his team handles adversity.
Still, Nagle tries to develop his players’ mental toughness at practice, with the first-team defensive linemen and first-team offensive linemen pushing each other. The BEA offensive line faces quite the practice challenge in all-state defensive lineman Rilee Bechdel.
“When you have somebody like Rilee coming off the edge, you’re going to get beat most of the time,” Nagle said. “How are you going to deal with that? Are you going to lay down and keep on getting a kicking or are you going to fight? We do that continuously.”
Those situations have helped prepare the Eagles, as they look to stay undefeated against a Chestnut Ridge team led by veteran playmakers at quarterback, running back and wide receiver.
After leading the Lions in rushing (916 yards) and throwing for more than 2,000 yards and 17 touchdowns in 2016, quarterback Logan Hauck is the team’s top rusher through three games in 2017. Nagle said BEA will need to limit big plays by Hauck and running back Noah Dillow, who leads Chestnut Ridge with four rushing touchdowns.
The Eagles’ physical defense and efficient offense have propelled them to a perfect start — one they hope to continue Friday night.
“We are very confident that if we play our football that we’ll have every opportunity to come out 4-0,” Nagle said. “I think that we got to play four quarters. We got to play fundamentally sound football (on) both sides of the football. Hopefully, we get all the breaks.”