CADIZ - A good kicker in high school football is a bonus.
A very good kicker is a weapon.
Bellaire used the big right leg of Dalton Conroy to slip past Harrison Central, 29-28, Friday night at a jam-packed Wagner Field in Buckeye 8 action.
BELLAIRE’S Spencer Badia is tackled by Josh Moore during Friday’s game in Cadiz. The Big Reds rallied for a 29-28 victory.
The 240-pound Big Reds' senior booted a 22-yard field goal as time expired to give his team the improbable victory over the stunned Huskies and their faithful.
"That is probably the most pressure I've ever felt in my life," Conroy explained outside an exuberant Bellaire lockerroom.
Bellaire trailed 28-26 after junior quarterback Spencer Badia capped a 7-play, 67-yard touchdown drive with a 5-yard quarterback draw. His two-point pass was batted away by a diving Fletcher Watt to preserve Harrison Central's slim lead with 3:25 remaining to play.
With the Huskies expecting an onside kick, Conroy boomed one deep that Josh Moore fielded at the goal line and returned to the 15. Talented running back Maurtice Hython gained four yards on first down, but lost one on second as Logan Koshenka made the tackle.
On third-and-7, Harrison Central quarterback Rashaen Mitchell dropped back to pass. With the rush in his face, he spun around a couple of times to elude defenders, but soon found himself in the end zone. He got a step out of the end zone before getting flagged for intentional grounding. That left the Huskies with fourth-and-24 from inside their own one.
David Miser's punt was fielded by Brendon Ross at the 36 and returned to the 28. On third-and-4, Badia laced a rocket into the arms of Hunter Westlake that moved the ball to the Huskies' 11. Badia gained six yards on a pair of carries that lined Conroy up for his game-winning attempt.
After a pair of time outs, one by each team, the snap from Wyatt Back to Badia was perfect and Conroy's kick split the uprights as the Bellaire sidelines and bleachers erupted in joyous celebration.
"Dalton is the weapon we talked about earlier in the year," a jubilant Bellaire head coach Jose Davis allowed. "We know where we have to get to be in his range. That was a chip shot for him. He probably had 20 or 30 yards to go on that kick."
While the kick made winners out of Bellaire for the fifth time in seven outings, and halted a two-game losing skid, the loss was really hard to swallow for the Huskies on Homecoming.
"They made one more play than we did," said a disappointed Harrison Central head coach Justin Kropka. "Our kids played hard and were in the right places. It just didn't work out."
The game was a tale of two halves as the Huskies bolted to a 28-20 halftime margin thanks to a 21-point second quarter.
Hython picked up 119 of his 211 yards and all four of his team's touchdowns in the first half. Only two of his 15 second-half carries went for more than seven yards.
"We really didn't make any big adjustments defensively at halftime," Davis explained. "They (Harrison) were just muscling us up and down the field. Our kids had to man up and they did."
Badia found Nick Maffe on a perfectly executed middle screen and the senior tailback weaved his way down the field before cutting to the far sidelines en route to a 60-yard scoring strike to give Bellaire a 7-0 lead following Conroy's PAT.
Hython scored from 36 yards out and Rafael Teixiera's extra-point evened the count at 7:58 of the opening stanza.
Bellaire went back ahead when Conroy connected on a 20-yard field in the waning seconds of the quarter as the visitors led 10-7.
A pair of Hython scoring runs, from 18 and 15 yards, gave Harrison Central a 21-10 lead with 6:06 left before the half.
A 18-yard run by Maffe cut into the hosts' margin at 21-17 and, after Hython scored from a yard out, Conroy boomed a 43-yard field goal through the uprights as the first half came to a close with the Huskies on top, 28-20.
"That was huge for us to score in the last minute," Davis said of Conroy's second field goal. "That gave us the momentum going to the lockerroom."
Neither team could dent the scoreboard in the second half as the defenses took center stage.
"Our defense has given up some big plays, and they did again tonight, but when we needed them to step up in the second half, they did," Davis praised.
Badia finished 26 of 44 for 306 yards and a touchdown. Patrone landed nine catches for 99 yards, with Maffe gaining 95 on five receptions.
Mitchell was 6-for-11 for 98 yards and an interception, which was pilfered by Patrone.
Bellaire returns home to Nelson Field next Saturday to host Union Local, while Harrison Central hits the road to Wintersville for a crucial meeting with Indian Creek.
Mindi Snyder was crowned homecoming queen during halftime festivities. She selected the odd-colored rose.
North can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org