Cade Fortney’s father can still remember seeing the nerves and anxiety grow in his son right before the opening kickoff in youth football games.
Back then, sometimes the Bellefonte star cried or needed reassurance before taking the field. He’d tell his father, Tim, through tears that he didn’t want to play, and his father would tell him to relax.
“He had a severe case of butterflies before the youth games,” Tim said. “But once he got in there one or two plays, in my opinion, he was amazing. He was just an animal on defense and on offense. He would just go out and play.”
Tears aside, the description of Fortney’s “amazing” play still fits now in the middle of his senior year at Bellefonte. The more-relaxed wideout is the county’s leading receiver with 394 yards and ranks second in the area with eight rushing/receiving touchdowns. With Fortney serving as the team’s top big-play threat, Bellefonte’s explosive offense has scored at least 30 points in five games.
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Fortney and the Red Raiders (5-1) have already matched last season’s win total and established themselves as one of the Mountain League’s top teams after their 55-point outburst in last week’s win over Clearfield.
Fortney seems to make one highlight-reel play each week with his sure hands and quickness. He runs his routes with precision, whether he’s on the practice field or he’s playing in front of the packed stands at Rogers Stadium. And he’s stayed humble while enjoying the individual and team success.
“He’s a great teammate; he does what he can do and he never asks for anything,” Bellefonte coach Shanon Manning said. “You don’t even know he’s in the locker room. You have no clue. None. He’s very unassuming, but he works very hard.”
Fortney’s football career started when he went to one of his older brother’s youth practices, where a flag football team was also practicing. Fortney, then 5 years old, pointed to the field and told his father he wanted to play.
The next year, the speedy kid was on the field.
In youth football, once the nerves disappeared — he and his father sometimes laugh about his pregame jitters — he proved to be pretty tough to catch in the open field. Not much has changed, as Bellefonte’s first six opponents haven’t been able to contain Fortney on passing or running plays.
“When he runs, my mom would always say he almost like trots or glides,” his father said. “When he runs, it looks a little bit different. It just looks like really smooth.”
His father compared that running style to a horse’s trot, as he has shown he can effortlessly coast past opposing defenders.
Fortney did just that against Tyrone, when he ran down the sideline and shifted direction to evade one defender on his way to an 80-yard touchdown run. But it was a play earlier that night that sticks in his father’s mind. Bellefonte quarterback Dylan Deitrich rolled right and fired a pass to Fortney, who sped up and reached out with his left hand to make the one-handed grab for a 24-yard gain — in front of where his family was sitting. His father asked him what he was thinking on that play, and Fortney admitted he wasn’t sure if he could get to it at first.
But when Fortney makes those plays that wow his family and team, he eschews a longer celebration, compliments his teammates and heads back into the huddle on the next play.
“Hey, that was a good throw,” Fortney says he tells his quarterback. “Give props to them. Give props to the line for giving the time for the quarterback to make the throw.”
It’s something his father instilled in him at a young age. He learned to be respectful off the field — his father would tell him to hold the door for an older lady on trips to Walmart — and to enjoy his athletic achievements while remembering there’s someone who’s better than him playing somewhere. He hasn’t needed much of a reminder from his father as his coaches are just as impressed by his humility as his talent.
At this point, the extraordinary plays have come to be expected from the area’s top receiver.
“Honestly, we just kind of look at each other and go, ‘Cade just made another play,’” Bellefonte wide receivers coach Bob Sealy said. “I don’t want to say we’re immune to it. We’re happy, obviously, but it’s like that’s what Cade does. He’s just one of those kids.”