Bellaire’s defense dominates, forces five turnovers to advance to Regional Finals

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DUNCAN FALLS, Ohio (WOUB) — It was a defensive clash between the Bellaire Big Reds (9-4) and the Nelsonville-York Buckeyes (11-2) on the 25th anniversary of their only other meeting. This matchup was defined by the three interceptions and two forced fumbles by the Big Red defense. That kept the Buckeyes off the scoreboard all night on route to a 20-0 shutout as Bellaire advanced to the regional final.

Bellaire Coach Bonar stated, “We thought we would execute well defensively… I thought we matched up well… our game plan matched up pretty good against them, and [sic] we thought we could stop them.” Bellaire’s dominant defensive performance was starred by Ray Ray Pettigrew. He forced a fumble, picked off Nelsonville York’s quarterbacks twice while contributing a receiving touchdown and 115 yards of total offense for good measure. 

Bellaire was locked in from the first snap on the defensive side of the ball. On Nelsonville York’s first play from scrimmage, Ray Ray Pettigrew forced and recovered a fumble that immediately placed Bellaire deep inside the Bucekye’s territory. Not long after, Jake Heatherington found Pettigrew who converted a vital fourth and seven into a touchdown putting the Big Reds up 6-0 early in the first quarter. 

Both teams traded possessions en route to Nelsonville York’s most successful drive. On the Bellaire 16, the Buckeyes drew up a lateral pitch off a Leighton Loge reception, but it went awry as there was no one behind Loge to follow up on the toss which resulted in a turnover on downs. 

On the heels of Bellaire’s redzone stand, the Big Reds executed their lengthiest drive of the night. Starting from their own 30, Bellaire drove to the Nelsonville York 28. Facing a fourth and two, Heatherington forced an offside with a cadence which sustained the Big Red’s drive. On the very next play, Heatherington found Logan Edgar for a 23 yard touchdown. After a failed two point conversion, the score stood at 12-0 Bellaire. 

On the Buckeyes’ next drive, Ray Ray Pettigrew struck again. As Landon Inman attempted to roll right, his receiver fell, and Pettigrew took advantage to set up Bellaire to take command of the contest. 

The Big Red offense’s final possession of the half was marked with the two offensive stars of the night. Heatherington found Pettigrew twice to put Bellaire in the red zone. Two plays later, Brayden Roth punctuated the drive with a nine yard touchdown, and on the ensuing two point conversion, Heatherington found Terrin Frazier to extend the Big Red advantage to 20-0. 

Both defenses tightened their belts in the second half as it would be scoreless the rest of the way. Bellaire’s defense would force an additional two turnovers to hammer home an authoritative defensive performance. 

As the Buckeyes’ season ends, it was an impressive run for this Nelsonville York squad. The Buckeyes improved their record from 8-4 last year to 11-2, and claimed a share of the TVC-Ohio conference title. Individually, the team featured Gridiron Glory Player of the Year Nominee Leighton Loge who put together an incredible season while totaling nearly 200 tackles. 

The Bellaire Big Reds move on to face the team that routed them in Week Two, the Fort Frye Cadets. The Cadets took care of business against another Player of the Year Nominee Chase Hall and the Coal Grove Hornets. 27-14. It will be a different Big Reds team that Fort Frye faces as the Big Reds left that matchup 0-2, but since that point have been 9-2 with six straight wins. These teams will face off on November 19th at a yet to be determined neutral site.