Three and out was not what Shanon Manning had envisioned for his offense on its opening drive, but things suddenly went from bad to worse Friday in a blink on an eye.
After an incomplete pass on third and long, Bellefonte was forced to punt the ball away and that proved to be costly once Rhett Stetchock got the rock in his hands. The senior running back snagged the ball on the bounce and took off down field as he dodged and shook off wimpy tacklers.
A few seconds later, Stetchock was greeted by fellow teammates in the end zone after a 56-yard punt return for a touchdown. From there the rout was on and Huntingdon capitalized on every Red Raider mishap throughout the game en route to the 47-0 win.
Last week’s 26-20 loss in overtime to Mt. Union was looming in the back of the Bearcats’ minds and they were determined to not start off their season 0-2.
“It was a heartbreaker last week,” Devon Claar, the Bearcats’ senior running back said. “We came out strong from the beginning. The punt return, once that happened it kind of set the tone and we just kept pounding and pounding. The line was strong and we were coming off the ball quick and ended up playing pretty well I guess.”
The Bearcats’ offense consisted of continuous sweep, trap, and dive plays. And who could blame Mike Hudy for wanting to run the ball almost every play, especially when they did in the dominating fashion that they did?
On 53 rushing attempts, the Bearcats rattled off 389 yards on the ground and would not give up when a Red Raider was trying to tackle them. At times, it took three and four red jerseys to take the Bearcats’ running backs down.
“They’re working hard,” Mike Hudy, the Bearcats’ head coach said. “We’re working on intensity and drive after contact every week and they want to get better. This group has an intrinsic fire inside, they want to get better.”
The Bearcats’ ground attack was lead by senior fullback Mitchell Lauer and he caused problems for the Red Raider defense all night long. Fourteen times Lauer was asked to carry the load and he delivered in a big way with two touchdowns and 114 yards to add to his name.
Five of his 14 touches he ran for more than 10 yards and his biggest run of the night was a 42-yard scamper that got the Bearcats into the red zone right before half time.
“He’s got heart that’s for sure,” Hudy said. “We didn’t even really get a chance to establish his game last week because of what was going on with our jet sweep package, it was working. He’s obviously somebody to contend with now.”
For the second-straight week Bellefonte was on the wrong end of a 40-point blowout and continues to struggle on offense. While they did manage to put up 121 yards of offense, there were times where the quarterbacks and receivers were not in tune with one another.
Mark Armstrong, the Red Raiders’ sophomore gunslinger finished the night on 2-for-13 passing and 43 yards. The majority of his passes were intended for senior wide receiver Nick Leiter, but the two could only connect two times in the game. Once for nine yards and then again for 34 yards down the sideline on what seemed like the Red Raiders’ best opportunity to cash in on points all evening.
In the second quarter facing third and ten from his own 29-yard line, Armstrong floated a fade down the home sideline and connected with Leiter, who once he caught the ball was off spiriting downfield. Leiter ended the play celebrating in the end zone, but was called back after being ruled out of bounds at the Bearcats’ 37-yard line.
The drive eventually stalled and so did the Red Raiders’ offense, as they couldn’t manage to find pay dirt all evening. Despite two blowout losses to start the season, the Red Raiders’ head coach Shanon Manning is confident that things will eventually start to click.
“It’s going to take a while to click, we can’t turn the ball over and do those things early in the game,” Manning said. “It takes away your confidence, makes it difficult to bounce back and when you have a young team that’s what happens with your confidence. The adversity really sometimes can cause a snowball effect and that’s what you’ve seen the last two weeks and that’s something we’ve got to keep working on. I take responsibility for it and it’s something that I will keep addressing.”