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Battle of defending ICC champs pits Bellwood-Antis versus West Branch

Bellwood-Antis entertains West Branch on Friday night in the Blue Devils third straight home game. With Johnstown Votech deciding to discontinue all sports, this will also be the final regular season home game. B-A will receive a forfeit, but loses a home game and the revenue that would have gone with it. Due to the loss of a home contest, Friday night will be Senior Night.
The two ICC member schools represent the best of two of the three sections from last year. Bellwood-Antis is the defending Section I champ and West Branch, who went 6-3 overall and 4-0 in section play is the defending Section III champion.
The two schools have been competing since a Bellwood-Antis 41-13 win in 1965 began the series. The Blue Devils won nine of the first 10 meetings and have a distinct advantage, leading 21-3, with two of the Warriors’ wins coming back-to-back in 1975 (14-6) and 1976 (29-13), the last time Bellwood-Antis had two losing records in a row. West Branch has not scored against B-A in the last three games, dropping 28-0, 37-0 and 39-0 decisions the last three years. In 1998, Bellwood-Antis won 48-3 and in 1997, the Blue Devils and Warriors didn’t meet during the regular season, but played the District Six championship game at Mansion Park. Bellwood-Antis won their second district title in that game with a 35-6 win, with West Branch scoring their only TD on the last play of the game.
Last year, Eric Kustaborder keyed the 28-0 win for the Blue Devils with 145 yards and two TDs on just seven carries before turning the ball over to the B-A reserves. Chuck Benton completed eight of 13 passes for 150 yards and set up a pair of scores with his passing.
West Branch is 2-2 in 2002 for coach Gary Hubler, opening the season by getting hammered by Bishop Guilfoyle 41-9 before picking up a pair of wins, 41-0 over Tussey Mountain and 12-7 over Everett. Last week the Warriors fell to undefeated Northern Bedford 20-6.
“West Branch basically runs the same offense they have been using for some years,” recounted B-A coach John Hayes. “They run most of the time out of a Wing-T, with some variations. They have a pretty good group of versatile athletes and that offense fits their roster real well. They are primarily a run offense, when they mix in the pass, it is with motion or option.”
Junior Zachary McDowell leads West Branch in rushing with 293 yards and one TD on 61 carries. Senior fullback Jared Ricotta adds 218 yards and two TDs on 41 carries and Tim Tice has 95 yards on 21 carries. Adam Andrasko, a senior quarterback has completed 19 of 49 passes for 230 yards with four TD passes and four interceptions. In part-time duty, Nathan Owens adds four of seven completions for 48 yards. Steve Sudik has six catches for 76 yards and one TD, senior Denzel McDowell has four receptions for 41 yards, Jay Ames-Dixon has four grabs for 18 yards and one TD. Jordan Chutko has three catches for 58 yards.
“West Branch uses a 5-3 alignment on defense,” said Hayes, “and they stunt a good bit out of it. They have a pretty good crew of linebackers and they bring then a lot to try to put pressure on the offense.”
Bellwood-Antis has had their offense in high gear the last two games and their defense has allowed practically nothing in downing Mount Union 35-0 and Williamsburg 51-7.
Adam Plummer leads the offense with 416 yards and three TDs on 49 carries. Cory Daly adds 186 yards and four TDs on 24 carries. Dan Houser has seven receptions for 46 yards and one TD, Daly adds six catches for 47 yards, Ryan McCartney five catches for a team-best 75 yards, Ryan Myers had five for 64 and Plummer has four catches for 60 yards.
“We try to make the kids familiar with what they are going to see in the game each week,” said Hayes in describing the practices this week. “We try to work a lot of individual work in, stressing fundamentals. We keep touching on the things we need to do to play good sound football.”
Hayes indicated there are no new injuries this week, although Matt Rogers is still on the sideline due to a concussion suffered in the BG game. According to Hayes there will be no big changes in the lineup. The long-time B-A head coach did say the fans will see more of the offensive look with both tailbacks Adam Plummer and Cory Daly in at the same time.
The Blue Devil defense has been led by Ryan McCartney, who had three quarterback sacks against Mount Union and blocked a punt against Williamsburg, Adam Plummer, who had pair of sacks in the Tyrone game, Matt Plummer, who had two fumble recoveries and two quarterback sacks against Tyrone, Dan Houser, who leads the entire area with five interceptions, Ryan Myers, Cory Daly, Eric Brubaker, Josh Rosella, Bret McCartney, Damion Miller, John Elvey and others. With the exception of the BG game, just 22 points have been scored against B-A in 12 quarters. .