When a team is 0-9, and staring at a possible 0-10 season down, just about everything, including conventional football logic and play calling, will be hitting the wind.
That’s exactly the position Bellefonte found itself in as it welcomed in St. Marys for the final week of the regular season. And, much like most teams in that position, Bellefonte went for fourth downs early and a two-point conversion after its first touchdown in an effort to pick up that first win.
The aggressive play helped Bellefonte drive down the field and score on its opening drive. After that though, it was all St. Marys as Nick Cunningham threw three first half touchdowns as the Flying Dutch cruised to a 54-24 win at Rogers Stadium.
“We really got some things going in the second quarter,” St. Marys coach Joe Schlimm said. “We got punched in the mouth in the first two minutes of the game, but responded well. I’m proud of the kids for that.”
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St. Marys (6-4) racked up 410 yards of offense, with 205 passing yards and 205 rushing yards. The balanced attack added up to points quickly.
“Bellefonte really jammed it up the middled to stop (Alex) Feldbauer,” Schlimm said. “It was obvious to us early in the game, and we thought we could get stuff on the outside.”
St. Marys offense attacked through the air to open the game.
Cunningham, who finished the first half with 195 yards, easily eclipsed the team-average of 103.8 passing yards per game.
The Flying Dutch signal caller completed all but four of his first half attempts. That included throwing completions on his first five passes. Cunningham finished completing 11 of his 18 passes.
“When adversity comes, it’s really hard to shake off the last nine weeks,” Bellefonte coach Shannon Manning said. “As much as those kids wanted to forget those things, they stick in the back of your mind.”
After receiving the opening kickoff, Doylan Deitrich picked up a fourth-and-one from the Bellefonte 45 yardline. Dietrich also caught a 7-yard pass from Mark Armstrong, who finished the drive with a 10-yard completion to Jon Kerschner.
The Red Raiders (0-10) continued to push for points, electing to go for two after the opening drive touchdown. Despite going against most football guides, the gamble paid off as Austin Jackson gave the Red Raiders an 8-point lead with a sweep into the endzone.
“As things go forward that is just the type of mentality I’m going to have as a coach,” Manning said of the early gambles. “If you don’t take risk, there is no reward. You have to be willing to do things that come with a little risk.”
Bellefonte only trailed 14-8 at the start of the second quarter, but a fumble by Armstrong on a center exchange gave St. Marys the ball back moments after scoring its second touchdown.
“When that stuff happens, that’s when you see the doubt start to creep in,” Manning said of the turnover. “Little things that wouldn’t normally be a big deal, especially when you haven’t had that success, become tough to overcome.”