Beallsville keeps playoff hopes alive by caging Bulldogs

BEALLSVILLE – Beallsville kept its playoff hopes alive Friday night by holding off pesky Bridgeport before a sparse turnout in Monroe County.

The Blue Devils built a seemingly comfortable 35-6 lead before the Bulldogs staged a comeback with two late touchdowns for a 35-21 final.

“We told the kids before the game that every game from now on is a playoff game,” Beallsville head coach Paul Kanzigg said. “This win keeps us in the (playoff) hunt. That’s how we have to approach each week from now on.”

Beallsville (5-3) entered the week ranked seventh in Division VII, Region 25. The Big Blue have games at Bishop Donahue and at home with St. John Central remaining.

“This was a good win for us and now we’ll re-group and get ready for Donahue,” Kanzigg advised.

Things went bad for Bridgeport (2-6) from the get-go as it fumbled on its third play from scrimmage as Beallsville’s Bruce Sefert came up with the loose ball at the Bulldogs’ 47.

Five plays later, sophomore quarterback Chase Mercer rolled right on fourth-and-16 from the Bridgeport 22. He put just enough touch on the ball for Levi Phillips to haul it in along the sidelines at the 5 and walk into the end zone. The two-point run failed with 8:52 on the clock.

“We basically gave them that touchdown,” Bridgeport head coach Rudy Vavrock said. “We had them fourth-and-long and let them off the hook.”

The Bulldogs couldn’t move the ball on their next possession and were forced to punt. Beallsville took over at its own 38 and marched down the field behind the running of freshman Joey Cunningham and the passing of Mercer.

On second-and-goal from the 7, Cunningham took a pitch and swept around his left end behind the blocking of Dalton Secrest. Mercer then found Derek Lucas for the two points and a 14-0 bulge with 2:24 showing.

Following another Bridgeport punt, Beallsville went 82 yards on seven plays, using 3:30 to up its lead to 20-0 as Sefert bulled his way over from six yards out.

The Bulldogs were finally able to get on the board when junior quarterback Bailey McGrath teamed up with senior Colt Charlton from 5-yards out to cap a 6-play, 41-yard scoring march. The snap for the PAT was bad, leaving the score at 20-6 at the half.

Bridgeport tried a little trickery to start the second half as Charlton recovered an onside kick. However, after a 14-yard run by foreign exchange student Benjamin Behnke, two straight penalties (one an intentional grounding), a loss of two yards and a bad snap on the attempted punt thwarted that threat.

“We make mistakes at bad times,” Vavrock added. “We had a little bit of momentum, but we let it slip away.”

Aaron West and Phillips tackled Behnke after the bad snap at the Bulldogs’ 19.

On fourth-and-goal from the three, Mercer dropped back to pass but couldn’t find anyone open. He wisely pulled the ball down and darted around his right end for a touchdown. He once again found Lucas in the right flat for the two points and a 28-6 advantage.

On the Blue Devils next possession, Mercer found Lucas open over the middle and hit him in stride for a 68-yard scoring strike. Tristan Palmer booted the extra-point for a 35-6 margin.

Bridgeport, to its credit, didn’t give up despite the lop-sided score. The Bulldogs put together back-to-back scoring drives that were capped by short TD runs by junior Jacob Ray, who is listed at 5-5, 145, but played a lot bigger.

“Jacob really ran hard tonight. He ran hard on kickoffs, too,” Vavrock noted. “He’s a tough kid for his size.”

Beallsville managed 312 yards of total offense as Mercer went 10-for-13 for 139 yards and two scores. Lucas snagged four balls for 91 yards and the aforementioned score.

McGrath connected on 11 of 23 attempts for 183 yards, a TD and a pick. Ray finished with 17 carries for 41 yards and the two scores.

“We’ve got to continue to get better,” Kanzigg said of his Blue Devils. “I thought they (Bridgeport) outplayed us on the line, especially their offense against our defense.”

Bridgeport travels to Shadyside next Friday, while Beallsville treks to Moundsville to meet Bishop Donahue a week from tonight.

North can be reached at