They say there’s a first time for everything.
Trailing by one late in the fourth quarter, Bellevue allowed Columbus Bishop Hartley’s Quri Hickman to score from the 12-yard line because there was only 1 minute, 27 seconds left in the game.
The Redmen’s ensuing drive, however, stalled at the Hawks’ 36.
“We let them score,” Bellevue coach Ed Nasonti said. “We were hoping to get a stop and save our timeouts, but they were chewing up the clock. That’s the first time we’ve done that, but it was our best chance. We got it back and moved it. I told the kids I’m proud of them. What more could you ask? They fought for 48 minutes. When you get this far, the margin for error is small.”
Bryce Ray caught a 13-yard touchdown pass from Alec Foos on fourth-and-7 in the first quarter. Ray later took a tipped pass 78 yards down the sideline for a score early in the second quarter, but Bellevue trailed 21-12 at the half as Bishop Hartley drove for a touchdown its first three possessions.
“He runs good routes,” Nasonti said of Ray. “Allie stuck it on him. They have to prepare for Seth and sometimes they forget about Bryce. It’s pick your poison. We were able to utilize him all year running routes (out of the backfield).”
Bellevue forced the Hawks to turn the ball over on downs twice in the second half, including fourth-and-2 from the Bishop Hartley 33, but one Redmen drive stalled at Bishop Hartley’s 25. Dakota McPeak caught a wobbly 23-yard touchdown pass as he posted up a defender in the end zone.
“That was slant-go with Dakota,” Nasonti said. “They were leaning on Seth (Linder) and we saw Dakota was 1-on-1. Dakota ran a fantastic route.”
Hickman scored four touchdowns Saturday.
“He makes the pile move,” Nasonti said of the 240-pounder. “You have to get into his legs.”
Bellevue (10-3) won nine straight games before Saturday’s setback. The Redmen will graduate eight seniors, including Linder, Logan Turner, Jared Hoy, Chase Gore and AJ Perry.
“They’ve been great leaders all year,” Nasonti said. “They made a lot of great memories for me. The seniors are unselfish and bring people up around them. The message to the underclassmen is to learn from the seniors.”
Foos is a junior, Ray is a sophomore. Ray ran 17 times for 104 yards and caught three passes for 96 yards and two touchdowns Saturday while Foss threw for 176 yards and three scores.
“We had a lot of young guys get experience (in a regional final Saturday),” Foos said. “That will pay off. The seniors set a great example. Those days in the weight room when you can’t do another rep, you think of games like these. It makes you want to give 100 percent and that’s what we’ll do.”