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Blue Devils must be ready Friday night for surprise effort from Mount Union

There was a lot of hoopla and anticipation when Bellwood-Antis and Mount Union met at Bellwood Memorial Stadium last year. In that game Bellwood-Antis head coach John Hayes was going for the 200th win of his long career. His Blue Devil players didn’t wait very long in handing their coach the historic win, jumping out to 55-0 lead, in what was a 55-14 win.
Coach Hayes and his Blue Devils have won nine more contests since that Homecoming game. On this Friday, Sept. 22, Bellwood-Antis (2-1) will go for their third straight victory of 2006 after what seems to be becoming a mandatory season-opening loss to Tyrone, and Coach Hayes’ 210th victory in his 27 years at the helm of the Blue Devils.
One thing Coach Hayes and staff and the seniors on this team, don’t want to happen is anything that resembles the storyline from Bellwood-Antis last trip to Mount Union’s Trojan Stadium. On that night, in 2004, the Blue Devils got off the bus after the ride down RT. 22 feeling like they were on a roll and like this would be an easy victory. Hayes noticed the attitude of the players on the trip, who seemed to have paid more notice than they should on their press clippings, taking the Trojans entirely too lightly.
That attitude was magnified by the Blue Devils play over the first three quarters. Bellwood-Antis had to fight the fourth quarter of their lives to put 10 unanswered points on the board for a 17-14 win, narrowly avoiding a huge upset by a hard-fighting Mount Union squad.
The 41-point win in 2005 was an indication that Hayes and this year’s seniors, who were sophomores in 2004, will not allow that to happen this time around.
“We don’t have to think back too far, you can’t afford to take anybody too lightly,” reminded coach Hayes. “They have play makers and if you give them an opportunity, if you’re not up to your game and you’re making the mental mistakes, because of lack of focus and so forth, it makes it a difficult game.”
Mount Union has 31 on their roster, an increase of four over last year, when the Trojans ended up canceling their junior varsity season part way through the fall due to lack of healthy bodies. A dozen returning lettermen are numbered among that total
The Single-A class Trojans opened their 2006 season dropping a 37-14 decision to Triple-A Huntingdon, then fell to Inter-County Conference division mate Chestnut Ridge 33-12. Then last week Mount Union presented first-year head coach Dave Hummel with his first career win over Moshannon Valley and fellow first-year coach Murray Fetzer, a Tyrone grad, 21-6..
“Primarily, Mount Union runs out of a Pro-I look on offense, Pro-I and Slot-I and Wide-Slot,” informed Hayes in his weekly interview. “A lot of their look is like they were years ago when coach Hummel was an assistant to Allan Hartman. A lot of what they are doing now, is very much what they were doing then, when they were having a lot of success, back in the ‘90s.”
“This is a new group, there are a lot of old faces, but they are starting new. They have a lot of younger players that are in there. The quarterback, I think is a sophomore, the fullback is a sophomore, the running back is another underclassman. They are playing with a lot of younger kids right now, who must be their better athletes.”
Zach Hicks (101 yards) and Colt Walters (130) each gained over 100 yards against Mo Valley last week, as the Trojans piled up 258 yards rushing the football. Hicks (6-0, 195) has carried 34 times for 168 yards and Walters (5-10, 195) has rushed 36 times for 167 yards for Mount Union, which had just 170 yards total on the ground in their first two games.
Sophomore quarterback Jimmy Smith (5-10, 160) has completed 14 of 30 passes for 184 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions. Senior split end Bill Shives (6-5, 185), who was the Trojans’ quarterback last year, caught eight passes for 122 yards in the first games, but didn’t play last week and is doubtful for the B-A game this week. No other receiver has more than one catch.
“Defensively Mount Union runs a 5-2 with a monster much of the time,” said Hayes. “They have shown a 4-3 some of the time, in longer yardage situations. They change up there with an extra linebacker for pass drops. Out of their 5-2, they will stunt their inside backers, they’ve shown a lot of that, which can create some blocking confusion. One bad play can kill a drive.
“That’s an area where we need to improve regardless of what the other team is doing. I think, we have seen a little bit of improvement, but we are still not to where we have the cohesive group that everybody is on the same page on every play. We have had some breakdowns in each of the weeks, the good news is we had less last week than we had the week before.”
Bellwood-Antis first started playing Mount Union in 1941 with a 6-0 Trojan victory. B-A then won the next 12 games, including a 61-7 triumph in 1951. Mount Union scored just seven TDs in that streak, getting outscored 427-46. The series continued here and there playing just five times from 1956 to 1984, when the Trojans again appeared yearly on the B-A schedule. From 1991 to 1996, Mount Union won four times and tied the only other game in that period. In 2003, the game was moved up to Thursday night in an attempt to beat the forecasted rains from Hurricane Isabel, only to have it rain for most of that Homecoming game anyway, which the Blue Devils won 26-6. Bellwood-Antis, who leads the series 27-12-3 has won the last nine games.
Senior tailback Josh Kleinfelter rushed for 173 yards last week against BEA and has now accumulated 20 100-yard games at Bellwood-Antis, increasing the record he already held going into the 2006 season. Kleinfelter has 61 carries for 443 yards and five touchdowns. Jon Davila has 51 yards and one TD on 16 carries.
Senior quarterback Evan Hughes has completed 20 of 45 passes for 202 yards with six interceptions and one touchdown. Devon Clapper has seven catches for 71 yards, Blaze Winterstein has three receptions for 31 yards, Justin Manning has three for 26, and David Burns has three for 24. Brandon Pruznak has two catches for 34 yards and one TD.
After a dismal showing against Tyrone in the opener, in which the offensive line had a lot of trouble blocking for a ground game, the Bellwood-Antis rushing attack has improved each week, improving to 204 yards in week two against Penns Valley and then reaching 308 yards last week against BEA. Consequently, the passing attack, with Hughes throwing for 103 yards against Tyrone, has been put on the back burner the last two weeks, with the Blue Devils adding just 99 yards passing in their two wins.
Hayes drew a similarity to BEA for Mount Union in their continued improvement as the team learns a new system from a new coach.
“In a new system, especially early in the season, mental mistakes, override enthusiasm and ability,” explained Hayes. “I have seen a lot of improvement in Mount Union from the summer and also on the field from the first week, through last week, so I think they are on the right track. They are improving and we can’t take them lightly.”