Blue Devils try to continue upward swing against battle-tested Lions

Bellwood-Antis will strive to continue their uphill battle at Chestnut Ridge on Friday night. The Lions are fresh from a commanding 33-7 bombing of previously undefeated Everett and are 5-1 with a week one 20-14 loss to division leading Bishop Guilfoyle, the only blemish on their record. The Blue Devils started the season 1-2 after defeats to Tyrone (27-0) and Everett (22-20 in a game B-A had several chances to pull out), but have rebounded with three straight wins. Remaining games against Chestnut Ridge (5-1) Moshannon Valley (5-1) and Bishop Guilfoyle (4-2 with losses to Huntingdon and Tyrone) don’t make a late-season surge any easier.
The Lions return 20 letterwinners from a 3-7 mark in 2002, and have already jumped well past that win total on their run toward the district playoffs. Dan Wilkins, one of the youngest coaches in the area at just 31, is in his fourth season at Chestnut Ridge and has a roster of 39 with six starters on offense and six on defense back.
Following the opening loss to BG, Ridge has counted wins over Mount Union 33-20, Claysburg-Kimmel 31-14, Penns Valley 26-15 and has really turned it up a notch outscoring Glendale 48-3 and Everett 33-7 over the last two weekends.
Chestnut Ridge, located at Fishertown, just outside of Bedford, first appeared on the Bellwood-Antis schedule in 1984. B-A won the first game 42-0 and has a 7-0 series lead, including last year’s 28-7 win at Bellwood.
“Chestnut Ridge is a really solid football team. We saw them develop last year,” notes Bellwood-Antis coach John Hayes. “They have a good nucleus of skill people and a big strong line that is experienced. We have been playing better each game. We have seen kids step up and do things for us, playing good football on both offense and defense. If we can continue to play as well as we have been progressing, we can do well on Friday night. Chestnut Ridge is a formidable football team, but we are not conceding anything.”
Ridge has featured a two-pronged offensive attack this year. Junior tailback Fred Halbig (5-10,180) has 654 yards and five TDs on 95 rushes and classmate Casey Shaffer (6-1, 200) has carried the ball 48 times for 318 yards from his fullback spot. Shaffer score four times against Everett last week and has five TDs overall.
The Lions have run principally to the left behind left tackle Joe Fitzpatrick (6-0, 225), left guard Luke Larson (5-8, 200) and center Brock Hillegass (5-8, 195). Hillegass and Larson are seniors. Fitzpatrick is a junior.
Junior quarterback Brian Barefoot (6-0,185) has accounted for nearly 900 yards of offense. Barefoot has completed 45 of 75 passes for 635 yards. Barefoot has thrown 10 TD passes and just one interception and has rushed 53 times for an additional 261 yards and four TDs.
Leading the Lions in receptions is senior tight end Jason Foltin (6-0,195) with 16 catches for 271 yards and four TDs. Junior Dan Novak (6-0,190) has 12 catches for 151 yards and two TDs and senior Joe Utz (6-2, 170) has five grabs for 37 yards and one score. Tony Lombardi (6-1, 170) has three catches for 53 with two TDs and Mike Schade (6-0, 180) has three for 47 and one TD.
“Chestnut Ridge likes to run I-Formation,” said Hayes. “They like to run tosses to the tailback who has good speed and trap inside with the fullback. Barefoot has a strong arm and good size. They have several good receivers who can catch the football.”
Ridge has distributed the scoring around. Halbig and Shaffer have 30 points on five TDs, Foltin and Barefoot have four TDs for 24 points and senior placekicker Chris Stultz has kicked 20 of 24 PATs and a 22-yard field goal for 23 points.
Chestnut Ridge has rushed for 1,472 for an average of 245 yards per game, despite getting only 81 yards against BG in the opener. Ridge has passed for 675 yards, an average of 113 yards per game.
“On defense, Ridge runs a solid eight-man front, 4-4 or 6-2, said Hayes. “They stunt some, but basically they just play good defense. They feel confident in their four good, strong interior linemen. They play conservative with their secondary, trying to not get burned deep.”
The Lions defense gave up 234 yards rushing and 274 yards total offense to BG, but since then have yielded just a total of 400 yards rushing and an average of 222 yards in total offense in their last five games.
Bellwood-Antis has rushed for 1,099 yards and passed for 637 for a total offense of 1,736. The Blue Devils average 183 yards rushing and 106 passing for a combined average of 289 yards per game.
Dan Houser has rushed 103 times for 552 yards and nine TDs. Matt Sneath adds 263 yards on 54 carries.
Shawn Weiand has completed 42 of 77 passes for 627 yards with four TD passes and three interceptions.
Derrick Hoffer lead the Blue Devil receivers with 13 catches for 249 yards and three TDs. Matt Sneath has 11 receptions for 107 yards, Dan Houser has nine grabs for 113 yards and Matt Plummer has six catches for 131 yards and one TD.
Houser leads the team in scoring with 10 TDs and three PAT kicks for 63 points. Hoffer has four TDs and a two-point conversion for 26 points.
“This week is really no different from any other for the kids,” explained Hayes about finishing up the Penns Valley varsity game on Monday prior to the jayvee contest. “It was the coaches who suffered the biggest impact. Usually we spend the weekend going over what our next opponent does and what we can do against what they do. This past weekend, we had to split time to think about Penns Valley as well as Friday’s game with Chestnut Ridge.
“We expected Chestnut Ridge to be pretty good and they have played up to that so far. We need to play our game, eliminate mistakes and take advantage of what they give us.