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Bellaire routs Martins Ferry to take SPARKY and clinch OVAC 3A title

Photo/JOE LOVELL THE BELLAIRE Big Reds pose with the SPARKY Trophy after defeating Martins Ferry, 35-16, at Nelson Field. The Big Reds finished the regular season at 9-1 and won the OVAC Class 3A title as well as locked up a home game in the Division VI playoffs.

BELLAIRE — Playoff berths are great! Ohio Valley Athletic Conference titles are cherished!

Beating an arch rival on your home field, hoisting the trophy and celebrating with the student body is priceless.

Bellaire experienced all of the above Saturday afternoon at overcast and chilly Nelson Field.

By taking care of their business in a 35-6 victory against Martins Ferry, the Big Reds brought SPARKY back to the All-American Town for the first time since 2016. Adding to the excitement is the fact that this was the Big Reds first victory against the Riders at home since 2005.

“I am just really proud of these guys,” an emotional Mark Spigarelli said of his Big Reds. “We had to take care of business and in a big rivalry like this, it’s really special.”

Though they’ll talk about the win over the Riders for years to come, Bellaire, in the immediacy, will have to get back on the ground and begin preparations for an opening-round playoff game. The official brackets will be announced on Sunday.

“We’ll see how the (playoff brackets) shake out and start getting ready,” Spigarelli said. “I know these kids will be ready to go.”

Before any thoughts shifted to the second season, Bellaire did what it’s done all season. It relied on a stingy, opportunistic defense, which was up to its same old tricks.

The Big Reds blew the game open in the second quarter thanks to that defensive unit.

Junior defensive back Ray Ray Pettigrew scooped up a fumble and raced it the other way for a 40-yard touchdown.

A couple of possessions later, the Big Reds capitalized on yet another Purple Rider gaffe.

“They made some big plays in the first half and we had some things go against us that put us in a hole,” Martins Ferry head coach Chas Yoder said. “We knew, for us to have a chance (to win), we had to keep it a low-scoring game.”

Senior standout Colt Sechrest, who opened the scoring with a 10-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, made another impressive, one-handed interception that he took back for a 50-yard pick six.

For the season, the Big Reds now have 30 takeaways and nine defensive touchdowns.

“We played really tough defense again,” Spigarelli said. “Colt and Ray Ray really seemed to get us going on both sides of the ball.”

Indeed.

The Big Reds eventually added an additional offensive touchdown in the first half when shifty junior Brayden Roth went 9 yards for his first of two scores on the day. Lucas Littell, who was perfect on all five of his PAT attempts, booted the extra point.

“(Against Union Local), we didn’t score when we had some chances, but we scored when we needed to this week,” Spigarelli said. “Our numbers were really good inside the 30 (against Ferry), so I am proud of that.”

The Big Reds pushed the game into OHSAA mercy rule by taking the second half kickoff and quickly marching down the field before Roth closed the drive from 16 yards out, pushing the game into the mercy rule.

The Big Reds finished with 293 yards of offense. Junior quarterback Jake Heatherington, who didn’t play well at Union Local, bounced back with a 12 of 20 effort for 169 yards. Junior Joey Lewis led the way with 52 yards rushing, which was one more than Roth.

The Riders avoided a shutout when freshman quarterback Ayden Ludolph found Colton Goddard for a 54-yard touchdown.

Martins Ferry’s offense has struggled much of the season for consistency and Saturday was no different. The Purple Riders finished with 139 yards and just five first downs.

While the Big Reds are headed for next week, the Purple Riders finish the season with a 1-9 mark, which is the program’s worst record since going winless in 1970.

“We have to go back and evaluate how we do things,” Yoder said. “Point blank, we struggled. We were in some games and some we weren’t, so we have to look at ourselves and how we do things.”

Bellaire 35, Martins Ferry 6

Martins Ferry 0 0 0 6 — 6

Bellaire 7 21 7 0 — 35

B — Sechrest 10 run (Littell kick).

B — Pettigrew 40 fumble return (Littell kick).

B — Sechrest 50 INT return (Littell kick).

B — Roth 9 run (Littell kick).

B — Roth 16 run (Littell kick).

MF — Goddard 54 pass from Ludolph (Run failed).

Rushing: Martins Ferry 24-38 (Hulsey, 2-11; Ludolph, 8-34; Ray, 10-7; Lock, 2-8; Team, 2-(-22)). Bellaire, 36-124-3td (Sechrest, 1-10-td; Roth, 9-51-2td; Lewis, 10-52; Heatherington, 6-(-5); White, 2-3; Dowling, 1-17; Lamotte, 1-1; Smelko, 2-11; Piper, 1-(-3); M. Pettigrew, 2-(-6); Team, 1-(-7)).

Passing: Martins Ferry, 5-12-101-1td-1x (All by Ludolph). Bellaire, 12-20-169-1x (All by Heatherington).

Receiving: Martins Ferry, 5-101-td (Reddinger, 1-2; L. Hores, 1-4; Lucey, 1-30; Goddard, 2-65-td). Bellaire, 12-169 (Dowling, 5-57; R. Pettigrew, 3-52; Kesterson, 3-48; Lamotte, 1-12).

First Downs: Martins Ferry, 5; Bellaire, 17.

Fumbles: Martins Ferry, 3-1; Bellaire, 2-0.

Penalties: Martins Ferry, 6-55; Bellaire, 5-35.

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