After winning its first district title in 30 years, Bald Eagle Area got ready for its state playoff game against Bedford, thinking the game would be played Friday night in Windber.
Thursday’s storm changed that.
The game was moved to Sunday night at Altoona’s Mansion Park, the scene of the Eagles’ historic triumph just nine days ago. Same venue. Same result.
The Eagles knocked off Bedford 35-14 in the Class 3A state playoffs to keep its momentous season alive for at least one more week. Quarterback Jaden Jones needed just three words to sum up the victory.
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“It means everything,” he said.
The junior signal-caller’s ability to scramble and buy time for the receivers to get open downfield led to one big play after another for the Eagles. Jones completed 12-of-16 passes for 197 yards and four touchdowns in the win.
“Jaden’s special. In the middle of the year, we protected him. We didn’t want him scrambling a lot because we knew where we were in the playoff picture,” BEA coach Jesse Nagle said. “This time of year it’s do or die, so we told him if he doesn’t like it, take off. He always keeps his eyes downfield. We have guys that can get open.”
Nick Turner caught seven passes for 130 yards and two touchdowns, including a 63-yard catch and run that broke a 14-14 tie on the last play of a wild first quarter. Jones scrambled towards the Bedford sideline, giving Turner enough to come across the field and get behind the Bisons’ secondary for the score.
“I saw the linebacker come down. The line did a great job keeping the front four off of me, and he just kept on his route,” Jones said.
The Eagles’ defense responded with its first hold of the game, and Jones engineered another scoring drive. After completing passes of 14 and 25 yards to Turner and Kaden Bittinger, respectively, Jones rolled right and found Bittinger open in the back of the end zone on fourth down for an 11-yard touchdown to make it a 28-14 game.
“We didn’t play our best football, but part of that had to do with their guys making plays,” Bedford coach Kevin Steele said. “(Jones) was all over the field making plays. We knew that he threw the ball and ran the ball well. Keeping him in the pocket is the toughest thing. We didn’t do a very good job of that.”
BEA (11-2) tacked on another touchdown in the third quarter to go up by three scores. The Eagles’ defense opened the second half with a 3-and-out, giving the ball back to the offense at the 50. Eight plays later the Eagles were in the end zone again. Jones threw his fourth TD of the game, a 2-yarder to Turner for a 35-14 lead.
After Bedford gained 128 yards and scored two touchdowns on its first two possessions, the District 5 champions managed just 143 yards and no points the rest of the game.
“They did something they didn’t show all year. They came out unbalanced. They came out in double wing,” Nagle said. “We made our defensive adjustments, changed some things and locked them down. We shifted over and had our linebackers treat their guard like a center.”
BEA got on the board first. After Turner returned the opening kickoff 33 yards to midfield, Jones converted a third down with a 15-yard run. The very next play, Blake Roberts scored on a 28-yard run for an early 7-0 lead. The senior back finished with 99 yards rushing. He also caught two passes for another 33 yards.
Bedford answered immediately when Ressler scored on a 61-yard run on the Bisons’ second play from scrimmage, tying the game 7-7. BEA mounted a long drive on its second possession, running 14 plays to move 77 yards for a 14-7 lead. Jones completed 4-of-5 passes on the drive, including a 13-yarder to a wide-open Nathan Hoover for the score.
Bedford responded again, pounding the middle with Dylan Arnold and using the other backs on the edge to go 63 yards in 9 plays. Arnold’s 2-yard run tied the game at 14-14.
BEA plays Sharon in the state quarterfinals next weekend at a site and time to be determined. Sharon defeated Grove City 23-6 Friday to advance. Bedford’s season ends at 6-6.