ATHENS - They live to play another day.
That would be Dave Caldwell and his Beallsville football club who kept Blue Devils fans on the edge of their seats Saturday night.
In a game dominated by offense, Big Blue produced back-to-back game-saving defensive stops in the final minute, holding on for a much cherished 35-34 Division VI, Region 23 semifinal heartstopper over top-seeded Symmes Valley.
"Yes, it's a little bit special," Caldwell gleamed, receiving a long line of hugs and handshakes from the Monroe County faithful. "I think everybody came down here. And the ones who couldn't drive found a way."
Caldwell's clan now advances to next Saturday night's regional championship against New Washington Buckeye Central with a 7 p.m.kickoff.
"I think we can handle another week of practice," he smiled. "How about those kids? How about their effort?"
It took all that and more against the Vikings' well-schooled Wing-T attack which produced a pair of 100-yard rushers and totaled 432 yards.
Beallsville, though, retaliated with a resilient effort, converting a pair of SV fumbles into two touchdowns. In the end, it came down to a blocked extra point with Big Blue's Matt Burke coming through.
Beallsville built a 35-26 upperhand, then staved off a SV rally which brought the Lawrence County ball club within a point with 5:05 to play.
Potential disaster struck when a Viking pounced on the ensuing kickoff, setting up Symmes Valley at midfield with 5 minutes to play.
A pair of first downs had Beallsville back on its heels in the final 90 seconds.
From the Blue Devils' 30, two incomplete passes and a stuffed screen pass which lost two had Symmes Valley facing a do-or-die fourth-and-12. Following the Vikes' final time out, Beallsville's Gage Steele batted down a Cody Myers heave and it was over.
"One more first down and we're in field goal range," SV coach Rusty Webb said. "But give Beallsville credit. They were very opportunistic. And another thing, this wasn't exactly Dave Caldwell's first rodeo. He's been doing this stuff 30 years."
It was vintage Caldwell who masterminded what proved the night's most dramatic play.
Leading 28-26 and with Steele in punt formation, the Devils' junior pulled up and fired a strike to Burke on a dazzler which went for 33 yards. Three snaps later, Brandyn Heath scored his third touchdown of the game and it was 34-26. Heath added the PAT for a nine-point cushion.
Symmes Valley responded almost immediately, scoring on a Myers QB sneak. A two-point conversion made it 35-34, setting up the final five minutes.
"The idea was to try and go ahead and make them play from behind," Caldwell remarked. "For the most part, it worked. I couldn't be more thrilled for a great group of young men. Week 13 sounds so good right now.'
Big Blue QB Teryn Jarrett passed for 126 yards, including a game-opening five-yard TD hookup with Burke. Hard-charging Grahamm Dauch was an all-night force, running for 110 yards, including a 12-yard TD jaunt.
Senior Aaron Thompson and junior Kyle Groves recovered Viking fumbles which set up Big Blue touchdowns. The news wasn't all positive for Beallsville which lost Heath with an ankle injury and also saw ace wideout Ricky Tubaugh sidelined.
Beallsville, meanwhile, was forced to overcome a 144-yard outing from Herrell. Teammate D.J. Miller also eclipsed the century mark, piling up 121 yards via 20 totes. Region 23's top team capped a 10-2 season while Big Blue takes an identical mark to next Saturday's title tilt.