Bellaire regains SPARKY

Bellaire and Martins Ferry had only played one overtime game in their storied106-game history.

Make it two.

For the fourth time this season, the Big Reds provided their fans with some late-game dramatics, the latest being a come-from-behind, 34-28, victory over arch-rival Martins Ferry in the 107th meeting Friday night before an overflow crowd at Purple Rider Stadium inside the Dave Bruney Athletic Complex.

“These kids fight and fight and fight,” exclaimed Bellaire head coach Jose Davis, who also picked up his first coaching victory in the rivalry after winning twice as a player for the Big Reds. “From Day One when we took over the program, this is where we wanted to build back to with these kids. We always tell them that it takes no athletic ability to give 100 percent. When you do that, good things can happen. Case in point … right now.”

Spencer Badia’s 17-yard strike to Nick Patrone on Bellaire’s second play in the extra session capped a see-saw battle which saw the teams exchange blow after blow , and the lead five times.

“This feels great,” Badia said. “It’s an entire team win. Everyone contributed tonight.”

The scoring play, which set off a huge celebration by the Big Reds and their faithful and brought SPARKY to the All-American Village for the first time since 2006, came just two plays after Martins Ferry fumbled on the one on second-and-goal.

The Purple Riders took the ball first in the extra session and moved the sticks to setup a first-and-goal from the seven. Quarterback Eric Flowers, playing in his first Bellaire-Martins Ferry game, picked up five on first down. He called his own number again, but this time, on a second effort, he was stripped of the ball and Bellaire’s Abhay Horvath scooped it up.

Bellaire took over at the 20 and Badia ran for three yards on first down. On the next play, he threw a laser to a wide-open Patrone at the goalline and he waltzed into the end zone, setting off the celebration.

With the win, the Division V, Region 17 Big Reds (8-2) advance to the playoffs for the first time since 2006 when they were Division IV. The Big Reds’ Week 11 destination is still undecided. The final pairings will be announced Sunday by the Ohio High School Athletic Association.

The loss ends Martins Ferry’s season at 5-5.

“We made one more mistake than they made,” allowed veteran Martins Ferry head coach Dave Bruney. “I congratulate Bellaire. They had a great game plan, and I thought we did, as well.

“I also congratulate our players with all the injuries we had and a player not being able to play because of something that happened in school. For our guys to be able to re-group after those things, I couldn’t be prouder of them.”

The Purple Riders struck first as Flowers lofted the ball downfield to Cody Schau who caught it in stride and completed the 40-yard pitch-and-catch. Arjay Burress nailed the first of his four PATs and it was 7-0 in favor of the hosts with 2:15 left in the first quarter.

Keying the 4-play, 82-yard drive was a 30-yard hookup between Flowers and Schau.

Bellaire countered with an 8-play, 73-yard drive that was capped by Badia’s 2-yard dance. Dalton Conroy was true on the first of his four extra-points at the 11:56 mark of the second quarter.

The Big Reds made it 14-7 on their next possession as they marched 70 yards on 16 plays. Badia found Quinton Crosby in the middle of the end zone from eight yards out with 4:25 left in the first half.

Schau picked off a Badia pass near midfield with just over a minute in the half, and the Purple Riders cashed in when Flowers bulled his way into the end zone from a yard out as the clock showed 14-14 with 20 ticks left.

Martins Ferry opened the third quarter with a time-consuming drive that featured 14 plays – all runs – and picked up 81 yards, the final one coming on a Flowers run.

Bellaire, on its lone possession of the third quarter, used the legs of Nick Maffe to draw even at 21. The hard-running senior ripped off gains of 32 and 33 before crashing in from the one.

Flowers found the end zone from nine yards out on a nifty bootleg with 10:36 left in the fourth quarter that gave the Purple a 28-21 advantage.

However, there’s no quit in these Big Reds.

Badia drove his troops 65 yards on nine plays, hitting Patrone on a slant from nine yards out to tie it at 28. A key 38-yard connection between Badia and Crosby on fourth-and-4 from midfield kept the drive alive.

Badia finished with 369 yards on 28 of 48 and three TDs. He now has 2,742 yards and two dozen touchdowns this season. Crosby grabbed nine balls for 99 yards, while Patrone had seven catches that totaled 119 stripes. Kenny Hess had five receptions for 110 yards. Maffe finished with 73 yards on eight totes.

Flowers went 7-for-18 for 139 yards and a touchdown. He also carried the ball 14 times for 56 yards. Sophomore Jahad Joyce had a breakout game as he lugged the leather 30 times for a game-high 153 yards. Schau caught five passes for 103 yards.

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