Park’s Bell finishes grid season strong

WHEELING — He was the top receiver in the state of West Virginia as a senior, now Elijah Bell sits atop the record book at North Carolina A&T.

The former Wheeling Park all-stater landed a TD pass against Alcorn State last Saturday, helping the 10-2 Aggies to a 24-22 Celebration Bowl win. It marked the 25th career receiving TD for the 6-2, 221-pound junior, tying him for the most in school annals.

Bell hauled in six passes in the bowl win. That strong showing came on the heels of a huge effort in A&T’s regular-season finale when he snared 10 passes for 122 and two TDs in a 45-10 rout of rival North Carolina Central.

“Tying the record feels real good because a lot of people didn’t even expect me to make it to college,” Bell said. “I am now second in career receptions also, 30 behind the leader.”

Bell’s late-season exploits helped to soothe the pain of a season-long physical issue.

The 2015 Randy Moss Award winner sat out spring practice with a shoulder injury. He suffered another setback this summer, incurring an ankle injury. What was first diagnosed as a sprain turned into a broken ankle.

The injury slowed Bell for much of the season.

“It was the toughest time of my life and I have been through a lot, but I was never unhappy until my ankle injury,” Bell noted. “It just wore on me all season because this was supposed to be my best year for my future and my dreams of playing in the NFL.

“But everything happens for a reason. It humbled me,” he added. “So now I am looking forward to the process of gettng back healthy and getting my mental health back under my control.”

While Bell has an eye on the NFL, he remains a team-first guy. He relishes the success his Aggies have attained.

“The bowl win was major for us this season because a lot of people counted us out because we lost some games we shouldn’t have,” Bell stated. “The bowl win helped us get that hunger again and enabled us to finish the season strong.”

Bell was an instant impact performer at A&T. He caught 35 passes for eight TDs as a frosh. He was subsequently named Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Rookie of the Year and second-team all MEAC.

Bell followed up that season with a monster sophomore campaign, one in which he caught 64 passes, 11 going for TDs. He was named first-team all-MEAC.

His ankle injury severely impacted his effectiveness this season. He landed 48 grabs to go with six TDS. With 147 collegiate receptions to go with his record 25 TD grabs, Bell is looking forward to a strong senior season.

“My goals next year are to win more championships in my final year at A&T and have my best football season ever,” he offered. “We lose a lot of talented players so people will be counting us out. I can’t wait to get started.”

Bell helped lead Wheeling Park to the Class AAA West Virginia state football crown in 2015, marking the first in Patriots’ history. He topped the state that season with 1,214 receiving yards and 17 TDs.

In addition to receiving the Randy Moss Award that season, given annually to the top wide receiver in the state, he was also named the USA Today Offensive Player of the Year for West Virginia.

BIG REDS FOOTBALL

BELLAIRE ENJOYED a sparkling 2018 football season under the tutelage of head coach Mark Spigarelli, winning eight games including a playoff victory over rival Martins Ferry.

Big Reds’ Athletic Director Mike Sherwood has released the Reds’ 2019 grid card, featuring two new foes. Bellaire has added Garaway in Week Two as well as Cambridge in Week Five, both at Nelson Field. The Pirates and Bobcats replace Shenandoah and Buckeye Local, respectively.

The complete 2019 Bellaire football schedule is as follows:

Aug. 30: at River; Sept 7: host Garaway; Sept. 13: at Harrison Central; Sept. 20: at John Marshall; Sept. 28: host Cambridge (Homecoming); Oct. 5: host Beaver Local; Oct. 12: host St. Clairsville; Oct. 18 at Shadyside; Oct. 25: at Union Local; Nov. 2: host Martins Ferry.

BUBBA’S BITS

THE BOSTON College women’s basketball team ended pre-Christmas play with a sparkling 10-2 record. The Eagles are coached by Weirton Modanna athletic great Joanna (Bernabei) McNamee. She is in her first year at Boston College after two successful years as head coach at Albany. The Eagles won just seven games all last season.

PITTSBURGH GOT the monkey off its back by finally defeating New England after five straight losses to the Patriots. The Steelers have no time to celebrate, however, as they cannot afford another loss. New Orleans poses a tougher test than the Pats did. Back in August, I predicted a Saints- Steelers Super Bowl.

BELLAIRE NATIVE Missy Tiber has the University of North Alabama off to a sparkling 9-1 start. The Lions are competing at the D-I level for the first time. North Alabama’s lone setback was a road loss at Xavier.

MICHELLE (BIELANSKI) Filander is enjoying another strong season at the helm of the Austin College (Texas) Lady Kangaroos. Austin owns a 9-1 mark at the Christmas break. Filander is a 1997 St. John Central grad, scoring 1,436 points while being named all-Ohio twice.

CLEVELAND PLAYS host to Cincinnati today. A win would push the upstart Browns to a remarkable 7-7-1 on the year while also likely locking up the full-time coach job to Gregg Williams.

JIM CRUTCHFIELD is enjoying banner second season at the helm of Nova Southeastern. The former West Liberty University coaching great has the D-II Sharks swimming at 9-0. Nova is ranked No. 5 nationally.

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