When Bellefonte rolled out the red carpet to Central for a Mountain League football matchup Friday night, Red Raiders coach Shanon Manning was hoping that some of the excitement and momentum from last week’s big win over Penns Valley would carry over.
Unfortunately for Manning, the Scarlet Dragons weren’t about to allow that to happen.
Taking charge from the start, the Dragons breathed fire early and often, rolling to a 41-7 win over the Raiders at Rogers Stadium.
Wasting no time, the Dragons scored in the first 24 seconds of the game on a 45-yard touchdown toss to Justin Helsel from Noah Benton, the first of four touchdown passes by Benton in the game.
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Then it was Mike Mock reeling in a 52-yard TD toss from Benton four minutes later before he ran in from four yards out for a score.
Again it was Benton showing off his strong right arm by hitting Damon Langer from 20 yards out for a score, giving the Dragons a commanding 27-0 lead with 1:47 still left in the opening period.
“They jumped on us right from the start and to be honest with you, it wasn’t really that they jumped on us, but that we didn’t respond,” said Manning. “You can survive if someone comes out and jumps on you and you respond, but we didn’t. We were just flat tonight and we didn’t look like ourselves. We had a good week of practice and right now, I am not sure what happened.”
Already down 27-0, the Raiders took over on their own 20-yard line and proceeded to engineer a nifty 18-play drive that unfortunately stalled on the Central 6-yard line.
“Do I question our kids effort, no,” said Manning. “Do I question our kids focus? Yeah. When you get down that close, you have to really focus and we didn’t.”
While the Red Raider offense continued to struggle, the Dragons put another two scores on the board to go up 41-0 and send the game into the mercy rule.
Not to be blanked on the scoreboard, the Raiders again put together another nice drive from their own 39-yard line, this time finding the end zone on a 3-yard run by Gaven Daneker with 4:05 left in the game.
Matt Feldman conversion attempt was good to set the final.
“We didn’t go belly up,” said Manning. “Those young kids came in and executed pretty well. I knew they (Central) had a lot of young, talented kids so I saw it as an opportunity for our young kids to get reps. With us not playing the jayvee game Monday, that was a good chance for those kids to get some good reps in a game situation.”
Admitting that his squad had lost to a good team, Manning was quick to point out that his gridders might have helped the Dragons look good.
“I think they are one of the better teams on our schedule, but I also thought we did a good job of making them look very good,” said Manning. “I am not taking anything away from them because coach (Dave) Baker always does a good job preparing his team and they are a good football program every year. I saw us play against a Clearfield team that I thought was a very good team and that game could have easily been tied in the fourth quarter. They made some outstanding plays, but the bottom line is that we didn’t help our own cause and tonight, they were definitely a better football team than we were.”
With time running out, the Raiders still have an outside shot at making the playoffs, but it is going to have take some solid efforts against Chestnut Ridge and BEA to get the job done.
“Our goal was to win all three county games, finish above .500 in the last part of the season and qualify for the playoffs,” Manning said. “If we win our final two games, we will more than likely qualify for the playoffs. Chestnut Ridge is setting there at 7-1 and that would be a boat load of points and then we have Bald Eagle coming here so that is where it is at. We backed ourselves into a little bit of a corner, but the good thing is that we have twelve days to figure things out. The beautiful part of football is that you always have next week until week ten.”