What do you call a 3-2 football team?
At Bellaire, you call it significant progress.
"To be 3-2, I'm just ecstatic," smiled Big Reds' second-year head coach Jose Davis in the aftermath of Saturday's 32-13 Homecoming victory over Steubenville Central.
As well Davis should be after inheriting a near scrap heap of what once was considered one of the state's most respected programs.
"Considering we went 1-9 last year, how could you not be pleased with three wins at midseason?" Davis continued. "Yes, we have a challenging (second half) schedule, but our kids are in the process of building confidence. Three wins have helped us do that."
The Big Reds did so Saturday against an equally-young and inexperienced Crusaders' ball club who made the final score at Nelson Field somewhat misleading.
BELLAIRE WIDE receiver Manny Ray stretches for a pass against Steubenville Central’s Michael Carapelloti during the second quarter of Saturday’s game at Nelson Field. The pass fell incomplete, but the Big Reds prevailed by a 32-13 count.
Though Gregg Bahen's team yielded more than 400 yards, the Blue & Gold were competing well into the fourth quarter.
In fact, Central trailed just 25-13 and was seven yards from making it a one possession affair when big-time adversity struck.
On a first and goal snap, Crusaders' freshman quarterback Brenton Colabella fired a quick slant which Big Reds' junior Josh Davis intercepted in stride three yards deep in the end zone.
BELLAIRE 32 STEUBENVILLE CENTRAL 13
Steub. Central 0 6 7 0 -- 13
Bellaire 6 6 13 7-- 32
Bell - Ward, 64 pass from Rocchio. Kick failed.
Bell - Ward, 31 pass from Rocchio. Pass failed.
SCC - Emmerling, 1 run. Kick failed.
Bell - Ward, 8 pass from Rocchio. Pass failed.
SCC - Piergallini, 2 run. Bednar kick.
Bell - Myers, 10 pass from Rocchio. Tolliver kick.
Bell - Davis, 103 interception return. Tolliver kick.
RUSHING: Steub. Central 31-40 (Emmerling 20-32). Bellaire 31-103 (Davis 14-58; Rocchio 7-30).
PASSING: Steub. Central 10-24-1 110 (all by Colabella). Bellaire 19-33-1 306 (all by Rocchio).
RECEIVING: Steub. Central (Pieniazek 3-47; Valero 3-40). Bellaire (Ward 7-163; Myers 3-43; Patrone 3-30; Ray 2-17; Davis 1-23).
FIRST DOWNS: Steub. Central 11, Bellaire 21.
PENALTIES: Steub. Central 5-40. Bellaire 10-73.
FUMBLES: Steub. Central 1-1. Bellaire 0-0.
Davis proceeded to embark on a stunning 103-yard runback to the house, effectively sealing the outcome.
"At that point (first and goal), I'm thinking 27-25 us," Bahen related. "We score there, we're down five with momentum and a lot of time remaining. But give Bellaire's kid credit. He made a great read and turned it into a huge play for them."
Davis agreed. "They had us back on our heels. No doubt, that was a game-changer by Josh."
Prior to Davis' heroics, Bellaire quarterback Anthony Rocchio authored a 306-yard, four-touchdown passing performance. Three of Rocchio's scoring strikes went to senior playmaker Devin Ward who totaled 163 yards via seven receptions.
Rocchio, who possesses one of the more unorthodox deliveries imaginable, completed 19-of-33 attempts.
"It hurts your eyes to watch him execute but we're not asking Anthony to make John Elway throws," Davis declared. "Let's see, he has 900 (aerial) yards at midseason. I'd say that's pretty good."
A pair of Rocchio to Ward six-pointers covered 64 and 31 yards, respectively before Central junior Jon Emmerling bulled over from a yard out, resulting in a 12-6 Bellaire lead at halftime.
The Big Reds took the second half kickoff and needed but five snaps to extend their lead.
Rocchio was on target for 18-yards to Chuck Myers, then followed with a 23-yard flare to Davis around the left side.
From the SCC eight, Ward used his athleticism to outleap a Crusader defender for the score. Josh Tolliver added the conversion.
Central responded immediately, with Colabella driving his team 58 yards on eight plays. The freshman completed passes of 21 and 23 yards along the way to teammates Collin Valero and Brannt Pieniazek.
Junior Jordan Piergallini cracked over from two yards out and Alex Bednar's PAT made for a 25-13 lighting.
A 26-yard strike from Colabella to Emmerling later had Central at Bellaire's seven prior to Davis' dramatic defensive play.
Davis also donated 58 rushing yards for Bellaire which generated 103 on the ground. Colabella finished 10-of-24 through the air for 110 yards. Emmerling led the ground attack.
"In no way am I displeased with our kids' effort today," Bahen advised. "If we continue to make progress and improve, I'm confident we're be a much better team in the second half."
The now 1-4 Crusaders remain on the road for another stern test Friday at Wheeling Central.
Bellaire, meanwhile, faces four of its final five games on the road, including a Friday kickoff at Harrison Central.
Gibson may be reached at email@example.com