Although his team was off to a 3-0 start, Bellaire head coach Jose Davis had been disappointed that the Big Reds couldn't put their last two opponents away when they had the chance.
He had no worries Saturday on a perfect afternoon for football as Bellaire struck early and often on offense, while the defense stymied Buckeye Local for 45-16 Buckeye 8 victory at Nelson Field.
"I think we played a really good football game today," Davis allowed. "The defense was opportunistic and the offense did a good job, for the most part, of taking advantage of some situations."
T-L Photo/SETH STASKEY
BELLAIRE’S Hunter Westlake and Kenny Hess (25) celebrate a first-half touchdown. Westlake caught the 45-yard touchdown to ignite the Big Reds.
The Big Reds (4-0) scored on all five of their first-half possessions, and the first series to start the second half. Three lightning-quick touchdown drives gave the hosts a 21-0 lead before the fans could get settled into their seats.
Brendon Ross picked off a Nathan Kirk pass and returned it 28 yards to set the Big Reds up at the Panthers' 15. Three plays later, fullback Nick Maffe went into the end zone from a yard out to cap the 51-second march. Dalton Conroy converted the first of his six extra-points for a 7-0 lead.
Following a short punt by Buckeye Local on its next possession, Bellaire covered 41 yards on just two plays as quarterback Spencer Badia found paydirt on an option keep to the right.
He hooked up with wideout Quinton Crosby for 36 yards on the first play of the drive that took a mere 25 seconds.
Bellaire's Logan Koshenka intercepted a pass on the next Panthers' drive, running it back to the Buckeye Local 23. After a 5-yard encroachment penalty against the visitors, Badia rifled a strike to Nick Patrone on a pump-and-go.
"Our defense was on the field a lot because of the quickness in which our offense was scoring points," Davis added. "They (Buckeye Local) only had one sustained drive in the first half, and we stopped them from scoring on it."
First-year Buckeye Local head coach Phil Pest thought he and his staff had a good game plan for shutting down Bellaire's high-octane offense.
"They hit us with those three big plays in the first half. We got that early pick and I thought we were going to be in for a game, but we showed some signs of life before halftime.
"We felt we had a good plan going in, but it's hard when you get behind by that much against a good team."
Conroy nailed a 31-yard field goal with 5:48 left in the first half that increased the margin to 24-0.
Buckeye Local finally got on the scoreboard when Kirk lofted the ball down the field where Shane Duncan ran under it. He caught it in stride and outran everyone to complete a 61-yard scoring play. Kirk then teamed with Brian Zeroski on the 2-point play for a 24-8 deficit.
However, Bellaire restored its previous margin when Badia found Hunter Westlake streaking down the left hashmarks for a 45-yard scoring play with 34.4 seconds on the clock.
Kenny Hess pounced on a Buckeye Local fumble four plays into the third quarter after Abhay Horvath applied a crunching hit that dislodged the ball.
Five plays later, Badia connected with Maffe for an 8-yard touchdown pass in the right flat.
Austin Marshall gave the Buckeye Local faithful something to cheer about when he returned the ensuing kickoff 72 yards to the Bellaire 17. However, a motion penalty and a quarterback sack on fourth down stalled the drive.
Crosby's interception sparked the final bellaire touchdown drive, which took 13 plays and covered 53 yards. Westlake bulled his way into the end zone from a yard out and Conroy's PAT made it 45-8 on the final play of the third quarter.
The Panthers completed the scoring as Shawn Tustin carried the leather into the end zone from two yards out. He also ran for the two points.
In addition to kicking six extra-points and the aforementioned field goal - his third of the season - Conroy boomed four kickoffs into the end zone, forcing the Panthers to go the full field.
"That is a big plus," Davis said with a smile. "Dalton has a huge leg and has really been kicking good for us. Not only on PATs, but kickoffs, as well.
"Today, for the most part, was one of those days when nearly everything went right," he continued. "We were balanced on offense and our defense and special teams stepped up."
For Pest and his Panthers, it's time to get back to the basics.
"We've got to go to the drawing board and see what we can come up with," he said.
Badia completed 13 of 22 passes for 254 yards and three TDs. Westlake hauled in four for 114 stripes and a TD. The Big Reds gained 133 yards on the ground.
Kirk only completed six passes, but they went for 139 yards and the TD. Duncan caught three for 109 yards.
Bellaire will conclude its four-game homestand next Saturday when Indian Creek limps into town following a 48-6 dismantling Friday night at the hands of St. Clairsville.
Buckeye Local, meanwhile, returns to War Memorial Stadium in Yorkville Friday when Edison visits.
North can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org