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Bellwood-Antis Blue Devils have continued success during 2002 football season

For most high school football teams, the bad things that happened to the Bellwood-Antis Blue Devils in 2002 would be considered not merely good, but great. For just about anybody else but Bellwood-Antis and long-time head coach John Hayes, this would have been referred to a “rebuilding year.” The Blue Devils were coming off back-to-back undefeated 9-0 regular seasons and 11-1 overall marks losing in 2000 in the Double-A finals and in 2001 in the Single-A championship finals. There were eight new starters on both the offensive and defensive sides of the line.
Bellwood-Antis finished the season 8-2 (8-1 during the regular season) and qualified for the District playoffs for the fourth straight year and the ninth time overall. The Blue Devil senior class finished their high school careers with a 30-4 mark (26-1 during the regular season). That is an .8824 winning percentage to .8611 for 2001. The winning percentage is the best for a graduating class since 1954’s seniors tallied a school best .9333 (28-2) and the fourth best overall of any B-A senior class. This year’s seniors played in two district championships.
The 2002 Blue Devils find themselves being referred to as “having a bad year.” With an 8-2 finish, most schools would consider this an outstanding performance. At Bellwood-Antis, it was a good season, one in which the great tradition was continued.
A squad that could sympathize with this year’s team would be the 1952 Blue Devils. They also went 8-2. The problem was the two teams in front of them went undefeated during the regular season (11-0 in 1950 including a playoff win and 10-1 in 1951, with the only loss in another playoff tilt) and the two teams coming after them went undefeated (1953 and 1954 both 10-0) as well.
The Blue Devils hung on for a tough 17-15 triumph over backyard rival Tyrone, the Blue Devils’ third straight win over the Eagles on opening day. Tyrone scored a TD in the opening minutes of the game to become the first team in 23 games, to score against the B-A defense in the first quarter since Bishop Carroll in the District 6–A championship game in 1999. Bellwood-Antis dropped a 21-0 loss to Bishop Guilfoyle in week two. In a rivalry that is surpassed by only Tyrone on the B-A schedule, the win by BG broke a streak of 26 straight regular season wins, and 20 consecutive Inter-County Conference wins and was the first shutout loss for the Blue Devils, since the opening game of the 1999 season when Tyrone used a 24-0 win to get on the way to a 15-0 mark and a state championship.
Bellwood-Antis regrouped and won their final seven games of the season to once again qualify for the district playoffs. Included in that streak was a scan of five straight games in which B-A outscored their opponents 212-35. When Windber scored the only touchdown of the game to knock off the Blue Devils 6-0, in the first playoff round, it marked the first time Bellwood-Antis had been shut out twice in the same season since 1994, when a 3-0 loss to Bald Eagle Nittany was the only regular season defeat and another 3-0 loss, this time to Homer Center, was in the District 6-A championship contest. Windber’s victory in the first round was the first time a Bellwood-Antis team had lost in the district playoffs in a game that wasn’t the championship final. One winning streak the Blue Devils still cling to is a 17-game home streak that goes back to a 25-24 loss to Penns Valley in the second week of the 1999 season.
The season was a contradiction in terms of weather, beginning in August with preseason practices so hot and dry and ended with rain or all of the final five weekends that limited teams abilities and forced most back to the basics.
The basics for any John Hayes coached team have always been a tailback dominated rushing attack and a stingy defense. Year after year, the Blue Devils finish near or at the top of all area teams, regardless of classification in both most points scored and least points allowed. This year was no exception as the Blue Devils averaged 25.1 points on offense led by twin tailbacks Adam Plummer and Cory Daly and allowed just 9.3 points per game on defense.
The B-A tailbacks carried the ball for 1,423 yards and scored 22 TDs. On a team with one go-to runner, this figure would have been among the area’s best totals. Adam Plummer carried the pigskin 125 times for a team-best 851 yards and Cory Daly carried 85 times for 572 yards. Plummer averaged 6.8 yards per carry and Daly 6.7. Senior fullback Derrick Miller contributed 142 yards in 34 carries for a 4.8 yards per carry average.
Jesse Graham completed 49 of 107 passes for 695 yards, a 46 percent completion rate, with seven TD passes and 11 interceptions. Senior tight end Ryan McCartney was the top receiver with 12 catches for 189 yards, Cory Daly had nine receptions for 169 yards, Dan Houser had nine for 90, Adam Plummer had six catches for 82 yards, Ryan Myers had five for 54 and Damion Miller had five for 79.
Dan Graham booted 29 of 30 PAT kicks and added three field goals, including a 39 yarder against West Branch to set a new school record for the longest field goal. Dan has kicked a career total of seven field goals, including four in 2001. Both single season and career field goal totals are B-A records as well as a school career record 106 points by kicking. His 52 extra points in 2001 is another school record and his total of 85 PATs ranks second to Chris Miller’s career total of 88. Dan’s 2001 total of 64 points by kicking is also a B-A mark.
Adam Plummer rushed for a career total of 1,413 yards to join the B-A 1,000 yard club. In 2002, Plummer accounted for 851 yards rushing, 82 receiving and another 165 on kick returns for a team-best 1,098 yards this season and has a career total of 1,546 yards total offense. Cory Daly also surpassed the 1,000-yard career rushing mark with 572 this year and 461 in 2001 for a total of 1,033 yards rushing and 1,232 yards total offense.
Ryan McCartney has 31 career catches, good for a tie for sixth on the B-A career list and 499 yard receiving, eighth best all-time.
Cory Daly led the team in scoring with 84 points on 14 TDs, Adam Plummer had 11 TDs for 66 points and Dan Graham had three field goals and 29 PAT kicks for 38 points.
The Blue Devils defense in 2002, was led by Ryan and Bret McCartney, Eric Brubaker, Ryan Myers, Adam and Matt Plummer, Dan Houser, Adam Plummer and Cory Daly.
Ryan McCartney earned the top honor a high school football player can hope for with a selection to the AP Small School Second Team All-State squad as a defensive end. Ryan had 51 total tackles, knocked down four passes, blocked a punt, led the team for the second straight year in quarterback pressures with a dozen, led the team in quarterback sacks with five and in total tackles for loses with 11 for 39 yards.
Adam Plummer, Ryan Myers and Eric Brubaker shared the lead in total tackles with 80 each and Matt Plummer was close behind with 78. Adam Plummer led in solo tackles with 46, while Eric Brubaker had 49 assists to lead the team in that department. Ricky Shannon had six pass knockdowns, Matt Plummer blocked two punts, had four knockdowns and Ryan Myers had three interceptions, had three fumble recoveries and tied with Ryan McCartney with six running back sacks. Dan Houser led the squad with five pass interceptions.
Cory Daly kept the opposition in poor field position all year long with 25 punts for an average of 41.1 yards per punt.
Ricky Shannon played football as a senior for the first time since junior high and added electricity to the attack. Ricky returned a punt 65 yards for a TD against Mount Union and got loose from scrimmage against Williamsburg for a 43-yard score and was solid in the defensive secondary as well using his athletic skills in pass coverage.
Bellwood-Antis finished second in the Inter-County Congerence Division I to Bishop Guilfoyle, but put 10 Blue Devils on the ICC Division I First Team All-Stars to nine for the Marauders. Adam Plummer (running back) and Cory Daly (running back), Ryan McCartney (tight end), Josh Rosella (offensive line) and Eric Brubaker (offensive line) were chosen to the First Team Offense and Bret McCartney (defensive line), Matt Plummer (defensive end), Ryan Myers (linebacker) and Dan Houser (secondary) were named to the First Team Defense. Dan Graham was selected as the First Team kicker to round out the first team selections. Damion Miller was picked as an Honorable Mention Offensive selection at wide receiver.
Bret McCartney (offensive tackle), Ryan McCartney (defensive end), Adam Plummer (linebacker) and Cory Daly (punter) were selected to the Altoona Mirror Blair County First Team All-Stars and Ryan McCartney (tight end), Dan Graham (kicker) and Ryan Myers (linebacker), and Dan Houser (corner back) made the Second Team.
Eric Brubaker (offensive guard), Josh Rosella (offensive center, defensive tackle), Adam Plummer (running back) and Cory Daly (linebacker were nomnated to the Honorable Mention list.
Adam Plummer (linebacker) and Cory Daly (punter) made the Mirror Regional First Team and Ryan McCartney (defensive end) was picked for the Regional Second Team.
Honorable Mentions included Ryan McCartney (tight end), Bret McCartney (offensive tackle), Josh Rosella (center, defensive tackle), Adam Plummer (running back), Dan Graham (kicker), Matt Plummer (defensive end) Ryan Myers (linebacker) and Cory Daly (linebacker) and Dan Houser (cornerback).