WHVL Game of the Week, Bellefonte @ Bald Eagle Area
Written by: Billy Splain on Wednesday, October 25th, 2017
Rivalries are a great thing for football. In Pennsylvania, every team has a rival that, even if they haven’t won a game all year, beating that rival makes the season ok to them. In the cities, it isn’t uncommon for one player to live directly across the street from a player on his rivals team. That makes it special, they’re neighbors. But once you get into the rural areas, which is basically 80% of the state, you don’t have that “just across the street” rivalry. Most teams have to travel to play their rivals, in some cases it could be forty minutes to an hour away.
Friday night in Wingate, we get to see a crossing of both of those scenarios. While 7-2 Bellefonte and 4-5 Bald Eagle Area aren’t just across the street from each other, only a one-half mile stretch of Rte. 144 separate the two school districts. That’s just about as close as you can get. Every other day of the year, players, coaches, parents, sibling and students from both schools can be found hanging out, fishing, hunting or doing any other activity together. Heck some of them are usually related, played for the opposition at one time or works with someone associated with the other team. They’re that close to each other, they’re friends, they’re relatives. But come Friday night those two rivals will square off in a battle that not only gives bragging rights, but one other aspect of this game is the Eagles will be playing for their playoff lives.
Historically speaking, the last 10 years haven’t been as close as a rivalry game could be. With the exception of 2008, this game has been pretty much a blowout for the winner. Bellefonte has won the last three by a total of 106-14. BEA won the previous three by about the same margin. This year, it’s a little different. Neither team can be said to be “that much better” than the other. Bellefonte is having one of it’s best seasons in years. BEA, if healthy, is a very good team with the talent capable of getting the win. It’s a game that, as BEA Head Coach Jesse Nagle says, “you always remember the plays and scores of the battles you’ve been in for this game. Years down the road, and some of my coaches and I still talk about our times in this game.”
For the Eagles, the game plan starts on defense and it starts with DE Rilee Bechdel, Asher Burkett and the rest of the line. Bechdel is as good a defensive end as you’ll see in 3A. They’ll have to keep pressure on Bellefonte breakout quarterback Dylan Deitrich and keep him contained. “We can’t stop him, but we’ll have to slow him down” said Nagle. But it doesn’t stop with containing him, Kael Gardner leads the linebacking corp that will also have to keep the middle and edges locked down because Deitrich can run, and he does that well. In addition to throwing for 900 yards and 8 tds, the senior qb has run for 1,160 yards and 15 tds. Gardner leads the Eagles with 118 tackles, 17 for loss and 4 sacks. Linebacker Garrett Rigg also has 4 sacks. This is an offense that has scored a school record 333 points so BEA will need to play solid defense.
The BEA defensive backs must also play well and keep Cade Fortney from making the big catch. Fortney has caught 29 balls for 562 yards and 7 tds. Stephen Kutches is another weapon for Deitrich at wide-out with 140 yards receiving and a score. Gage Mcclenahan is the leader in the defensive backfield they’ll need, and they hope he can add to his 4 interceptions this year.
Another strong point for the Raiders that BEA will have to take care of defensively is running back Dexter Gallishaw. The Raiders use a combination of speed with Deitrich, and they’ll pound and pound at you with Gallishaw, who has 530 yards on 98 carries scoring 7 times. The Raider line has some size with Dylan Houser at 5-11, 230 and Andrew Davidson going 5-10, 220.
For the Raiders defensively, the Eagles have several players to keep in check. Derek Henry has been doing a good job filling in for starter Jalen Jones at quarterback. (Jones was injured during BEA’s game with Chestnut Ridge back in week 3.) In his 5 games he’s thrown for 281 yards and 2 tds to go along with 141 rushing yards and 2 tds.
The Red Raiders will want guys like linemen Houser, Nathan Spicer and Noah Badger to try and rattle the fill in qb. However, if BEA gets the services of regular starter Jaden Jones back, they’ll be dealing with a quarterback that doesn’t rattle easily. In his limited time, Jones threw for 777 yards and 5 tds. He’s a true drop back quarterback and is pretty accurate, completing 62% of his 103 throws with just 3 interceptions. In that case, look for Bellefonte to send linebackers Gallishaw, Stephen Kuches and DB Fortney and put pressure on Jones.
Bald Eagle has a couple backs that can run the ball. Gage Mcclenehan has 457 yards on 72 carries with 6 tds. Blake Roberts will also see time carrying the ball. If the Raiders can contain the run while putting pressure on the quarterback, the Eagles could be in for a long night. But if Jones comes back and looks fresh, it could be the Raiders who go home with the loss.
This is a game that, if you’re in the area, you will want to stop in and watch. The players and coaches are good friends for 364 days a year, but on this night, anything goes and it usually does. Another note, and this is important to the teams, the winner will be undefeated in Centre County play. BEA and Bellefonte have each defeated Penns Valley and Philipsburg-Osceola. To be the top dog in the county is always a goal of those teams.
If you can’t make it to Wingate Friday night at 7 pm, tune in or log on to WHVL for the Game of the Week! This game will be streamed live, to watch online click on the banner at the top.
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