Bellefonte coach Shanon Manning got his team a special gift for Senior Night, organizing a special entrance for his squad before their showdown with Penns Valley.
The Red Raiders came onto the field through a smoke machine, with a fire truck siren blaring and Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” blasting over the loudspeakers. The fire company stuck around for the entire game to blow the siren during Bellefonte scores — but the Penns Valley defense wasn’t cooperating.
The Red Raiders came out on top in the end, 35-20, against the Rams. But that didn’t mean it was an easy victory. Bellefonte came into Friday night averaging 42.2 points per game over their last five contents — but they needed until the 6:56 mark of the third quarter to score their first TD against the Rams.
The Red Raiders made the siren go off five times in the second half and one final time at the conclusion of their victory at Rogers Stadium.
Stephen Kutches sparked a stagnant Bellefonte offense in the second half with a couple gashing runs on jet sweeps. He finished with five carries for 85 yards and two TDs, averaging a healthy 17 yards per carry.
“The first half we came in thinking we were going to pound them, and then we realized they came to play,” Kutches said. “We realized we needed to play.”
Since winning in its season opener, Penns Valley (2-5) had lost its next five games by an average of 34.4 points, but the Rams weren’t going to roll over for Bellefonte (6-1, 4-1).
The Rams actually outgained the Red Raiders 443 to 398, but Penns Valley shot itself in the foot with 13 penalties for 109 yards.
PV held a 6-0 lead at halftime, thanks to Ryan Ripka’s 11-yard TD run, and they had two other drives fizzle out inside the red zone. The Rams dominated the first half, running 38 plays for 171 yards compared to Bellefonte’s 23 plays for 110 yards.
Rams QB Aaron Tobias did whatever he wanted against the Red Raiders defense for much of the night, completing 25-of-42 passes for 343 yards.
“You could see early we were having continuity issues, and we couldn’t get our calls in,” Bellefonte’s Manning said. “We just couldn’t get things to mesh up right. It’s just like any other sport; you can tell early whether or not you’re dialed in. Last week we were playing Clearfield, and we were dialed in, and this week we struggled.”
Tobias’ receivers Nic Kubalak and Logan Snyder did their parts to keep the Rams in it late after Bellefonte stormed ahead in the second half.
Kubalak carried Dylan Deitrich the final 15 yards on his back on a 60-yard scoring play to cut the deficit to 14-12 with 4:05 left in the third quarter. After exchanging scores, Snyder was then called upon.
Snyder, who finished with eight catches for 113 yards, scored on a 24-yard seam route to once again cut the deficit, as Bellefonte held a slim 21-20 lead with 7:17 left in the fourth quarter.
“They showed us a lot of heart and a lot of determination,” Penns Valley coach Martin Tobias said of his team “Everything that we’ve been working on is still improving, and that’s what we could see tonight. But we can’t miss out on opportunities when they present themselves, and Bellefonte made the plays when they had to.”
The Rams held the Red Raiders passing attack in check for much of the night until Cade Fortney made the catch of the night, pirouetting in the air to take a pass away from Brennan Hyde and then sprinting the rest of the way for a 44-yard score.
A week after accounting for six rushing TDs, Deitrich couldn’t find the end zone against Penns Valley — but he still racked up 119 rushing yards.
The Red Raiders had a number of bad center-QB shotgun snaps, and Manning thought that the Senior Night festivities may have thrown his team off their normal routine.
“You can’t have excuses when you come to play this late in the season,” Manning said. “This is Week 7; we need to come out and execute.”