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FOOTBALL LOOKAHEAD: Connor Says Unbeaten Bellaire is Solid on Both Sides of Ball

September 20, 2012
By RICK THORP , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

As the prep football season reaches its midway point, a few things are certain.

One, is the Buckeye 8 is pretty good. And two, because it's pretty good there are going to be some quality matchups on tap down the stretch.

Another one of those will kickoff at 12:30 Saturday afternoon at Nelson Field where the unbeaten Big Reds will finish a four-game home standing by welcoming once-beaten Indian Creek.

It's been a memorable season so far for Bellaire. A thrilling 44-42 come-from-behind triumph at Steubenville Catholic to open the season helped spark three straight home victories against John Marshall, East Liverpool and Buckeye Local.

''To be at 4-0 is great for us,'' Big Reds coach Jose Davis said. ''I can't say we're surprised. We just didn't know when the talent we have was going to gel.''

Bellaire is leading the Ohio Division V, Region 17 computer points and is ranked 10th in the latest Associated Press poll.

But it's early in the season, Davis cautioned, and he he said a lot of work remains.

''That's what it's all about, making sure you make progress week by week,'' he said. ''The staff and the kids have worked hard in tweaking things here and there.''

Saturday's contest against the Redskins marks a trio of contests against teams with a combined mark of 11-1. Next week, the Big Reds will visit rival St. Clairsville before hitting the road to tangle with Harrison Central a week later.

The rest of the schedule includes Edison, Union Local and the battle for SPARKY at Martins Ferry on Oct. 26.

''We liked our talent coming in,'' Davis said. ''And, I think as we've went along, we've had some pleasant surprises every week.

''We've had different guys stepping up here and there and being able to have multiple guys doing different thing is huge.''

Still, Davis knows there is plenty of room for improvement.

''We need to be more consistent and more efficient on both sides of the ball,'' he said. ''Defensively, we'll get two, three or four good drives. I look back to the John Marshall and East Liverpool games. We got to the fourth of fifth drives and we got lackadaisical.

Indian Creek coach Andrew Connor said he's seen all of Bellaire's games in person. He thought last week's 45-16 Buckeye 8-opening victory against Buckeye Local was Bellaire's best performance of the season.

''They're maturing, playing better and with more confidence,'' he said. ''They're clicking on all cylinders.''

Bellaire is averaging nearly 41 points per game thanks to an offensive unit led by quarterback Spencer Badia.

Badia, already a junior, has thrown for 1,040 yards and 11 touchdowns this season. Nick Patrone has been the beneficiary for the most part, hauling in 27 catches for 365 yards and three TDs. Kenny Hess and Quinton Crosby also have 10 or more catches.

''Their offense is kind of the elephant in the room,'' Connor said. ''They do a great job of spreading the wealth around to different receivers.''

Nick Maffe paces Bellaire's rushing attack. He has 242 yards and five touchdowns this season and is averaging 6.5 yards per carry.

''One thing that gets overlooked about Bellaire is something we haven't missed,'' Connor said. ''Not only are they much better defensively, but they're athletic and create a lot of turnovers.''

The Redskins struggled last week against St. Clairsville, with special teams meltdowns key.

''We know in our heart of hearts we are capable of playing better,'' Connor said.

Davis has no doubt.

''That score (last week) was not indicative of the type of team they have,'' he said. ''I think they are pretty balanced. They are fast and physical up front.''

Alex Young guides the Redskins' offense.

''He's transitioned well from wideout to quarterback and each game he's gotten better,'' Connor said.

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