Football: Crusaders Turn Tables on Bellaire

BELLAIRE – Whenever Steubenville Catholic and Bellaire get together on the football field, you don’t know what to expect.

Last fall, the visiting Big Reds staged a 25-point rally in the second half to nip the Crusaders on the final play of the season-opener at Harding Stadium, 44-42.

Saturday afternoon at Nelson Field, Steubenville Catholic returned the favor as it tallied the final 34 points in a 55-35 thumping of the mistake-prone Big Reds.

Bellaire led 35-21 with 5:35 left in the third quarter after Tyler West bulled his way into the end zone from 2 yards out.

“We had a chance to put them away. When you’ve got the knife to the throat, you’ve got to take advantage of it. Right?” a dejected Bellaire coach Jose Davis said. “When you don’t do that to a good team, there’s always the chance that they can come back.”

Steubenville Catholic scored three plays after West’s short touchdown run as fleet-footed Khalil Jones skirted around right end and outran everyone down the sideline for a 59-yard scoring jaunt that made it 35-28 with 4:18 on the third-quarter clock.

The Big Reds picked up one first down on the ensuing possession, but the drive stalled and they were forced to punt.

Jones muffed the kick, but quickly recovered to save the Crusaders from potential danger. Eleven plays later, Ryan Fletcher walked into the end zone from a yard away to complete an 85-yard march to tie the game at the 10:09 mark of the final quarter.

Keying the drive was a 31-yard hookup between veteran quarterback Brenton Colabella to Chris Murphy that moved the ball to the Big Reds 10.

On the ensuing kickoff, Colabella’s boot hit near the Bellaire 30 and bounced away from the nearest Big Reds player. Steubenville Catholic’s Aleks Porreca alertly pounced on it, giving the Crusaders all the momentum.

It also marked the second time that happened to the Big Reds. The Crusaders also recovered a kickoff in the first quarter that immediately led to another score.

This time, it only took Steubenville Catholic one play to reach the promised land. Fletcher, a hard-running senior, took a handoff and went into the center of the line where it appeared as though he had been stopped. However, he kept his legs churning and broke outside where it was all green grass ahead en route to a 30-yard scamper that made it 42-35 as the clock showed 9:54.

“That can’t happen in high school football,” Davis said of the two muffed kickoffs. “We had three other fumbles, and you can’t have that many and expect to win.”

Bellaire was moving the ball down the field as Badia found West for a 28-yard hookup, but the ball popped loose as Jones fell on it at the Crusaders 49.

Two plays later, Fletcher found running room off the left side and was gone. The 47-yard scamper came on the second play of the short drive. and it marked the fourth two-play scoring drive in the game for the Crusaders.

A 2-yard run by Jones capped the scoring.

Colabella and Porreca teamed on a 41-yard strike to get the scoring started two plays into the game. The senior quarterback rolled to his left and lobbed a short pass to Porreca along the sidelines. He zig-zagged his way to paydirt.

Bellaire answered with a 1-yard plunge by West on its initial possession, but Steubenville Catholic used back-to-back scores in 47 seconds to take a 21-7 lead after one quarter. Romano ran in from 11 yards out and also landed a 10-yard scoring pass from Colabella.

West rambled 55 yards for six points and Badia hit Brendon Ross on a quick slant for a 2-yard touchdown that made it 21-21 at the half.

The Crusaders finished with 258 yards and six touchdowns on the ground, with 197 and five TDs coming in the second half. Colabella was 11 of 18 for 143 yards with two touchdowns and a pair of picks.

Bellaire amassed 299 yards of total offense, but only 96 (2 rushing) after halftime. Badia was 22-for-36 for 192 yards with two TDs and an interception. West led the ground game with 99 yards on 12 carries and had a 55-yard TD run in the second quarter that gave the Big Reds a 21-14 lead.

Kenny Hess and Brendon Ross evenly divided 10 receptions, while Nick Patrone caught four passes for a team-best 67 yards.