BELLAIRE - In a game that featured nearly 1,000 yards of offensive fireworks, it was a key defensive stop late in the third quarter that allowed Bellaire to put a halt to St. Clairsville's long regular-season winning streak.
With the Big Reds leading 35-21, the Red Devils had swung the momentum in their favor when Colby Lindsay blocked a punt deep in Bellaire territory. However, Big Reds defensive tackle Cody LaRoche stopped Jaylon Brown for a 2-yard loss on fourth-and-1, giving the ball back to the hosts.
Bellaire promptly drove down the field, and LaRoche, of all people, banged home a 33-yard field goal as the Big Reds (5-2) were on their way to a 38-28 triumph against the Red Devils (6-1) at Nelson Field.
Bellaire running back Brandon Laughman rumbles for yardage in Saturday’s victory against St. Clairsville.
"This is a really big win for us as a program," Bellaire coach Jose Davis said. "We told the kids (we needed this) that if they ever want to get to the upper top of the echelon, that's where they're (St. Clairsville) at.''
The loss was the first in the regular season for St. Clairsville since Oct. 21, 2011 when Martins Ferry marched 99 yards for a game-winning touchdown, a stretch of 17 games.
"There's no excuses, we just got beat. They're a good team," St. Clairsville coach Brett McLean said. "We'll have to handle that and accept it. It's been a long time since we've been in this position during the regular season, so we'll see what type of character we have as a whole ... as a team, as a school, as a community."
Bellaire, which has been known for its pass-happy offense under Davis, amassed 565 yards of offense, but 327 of that came on the ground to 238 via the airways.
Brandon Laughman, playing in his second game for the Big Reds after sitting out the first five due to the OHSAA transfer rule, rumbled for a career-high 215 yards on 22 carries. Although he didn't reach the end zone, he made an impact.
Bellaire's quick-strike offense went to work after forcing St. Clairsville to punt on the games opening possession. A 30-yard hookup between Spencer Badia and Nick Patrone was followed by a pair of Laughman carries that picked up 25 more. Badia then spotted Hunter Westlake all alone for a 30-yard scoring strike and LaRoche was perfect on the first of his five PATs, making it 7-0.
St. Clairsville answered with a 12-play, 63-yard drive that was capped by a 1-yard burst by Brown, and Zach Musilli knocked through the extra point to tie the game.
With Laughman running wild through the Red Devils defense, Bellaire marched right back down the field. The 5-foot-8, 185-pound junior lugged the ball five times for 51 yards. After he was caught for a 2-yard loss, Badia found Brendon Ross on a bubble screen left that resulted in a 5-yard scoring play and a 14-7 Bellaire lead.
Badia engineered another scoring march to start the second quarter as he capped the eight-play, 80-yard march with a 20-yard pass to Ross. Badia lobbed the ball to the back right corner of the end zone where Ross made the catch over top of a defender and still got a foot down inbounds. LaRoche made it 21-7 with 9:14 left in the half.
St. Clairsville again answered as Brown became the workhorse once again. He carried the ball seven times on the 10-play drive, capping it with a 2-yard sweep around left end.
After a turnover, Michael Monteroso and Malik Gummer teamed up on 24- and 29-yard receptions that moved to the Bellaire 18. On the second catch, the Big Reds were guilty of a personal foul, advancing the ball to the 9. Monteroso then rolled right and lofted the ball to the end zone where Brendan Ferns hauled it in to draw the Red Devils even at 21-21 entering the half.
Laughman was again the focal point at the start of the second half as he carried three times for 33 yards before Badia and Kenny Hess combined on a 27-yard scoring strike. Two plays later, Bellaire was back in business as Ross picked off a Monteroso pass that had skipped off Gummer's hands. Starting at the Red Devils 30, Laughman moved the ball to the 4 on three totes before Badia dove in from there to bump the count to 35-21.
Badia continued his march to 7,000 career passing yards. After throwing for 238 and four TDs on 16 of 23, Badia is at 6,876 in his two-plus seasons.
Brown ran 25 times for 106 yards and two touchdowns. He also caught five passes for 48 yards and another score.