By KIM NORTH
For The Intelligencer
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 coach Paul Kanzigg said. "This win keeps us in the hunt. That's how we have to approach each week from now on."
Beallsville (5-3) entered ranked seventh in Division VII, Region 25. The Blue Devils have games at Bishop Donahue and at home to St. John Central remaining.
Things went bad for Bridgeport (2-6) from the get-go as it fumbled on its third play from scrimmage and 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, just putting enough touch on the ball for Levi Phillips to haul it in along the sideline at the 5 and walk into the end zone. The 2-point run failed with 8:52 on the clock.
"We basically gave them that touchdown," Bridgeport 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 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 2 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 the count to 20-0 as Sefert bulled his way over from 6 yards out.
The Bulldogs were finally able to get on the board when quarterback Bailey McGrath teamed up with Colt Charlton from 5 yards out to cap a six-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 2 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 3, Mercer dropped back to pass but couldn't find anyone open. He wisely pulled the ball down and darted around to the right end for a touchdown. Mercer again found Lucas in the right flat for the 2 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 lopsided 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-foot-5, 145 pounds, but played a lot bigger.