BELLAIRE - Juwan Whetstone was silent in the first half of Saturday's Buckeye 8 gridiron clash between Edison and Bellaire. However, the Big Reds' senior more than made up for it in the second half as he led the hosts to a come-from-behind, 30-27, victory against a stunned Wildcat bunch at Nelson Field in the All-American Village.
"He has that potential," Bellaire head coach Jose Davis said of his big-time playmaker. "Today was the case of him being one of those kids that stepped up, and he came up big."
In the second half, Whetstone caught two long, touchdown passes, recovered an Edison fumble that led to the game-winning drive and sealed the deal with an interception.
With Bellaire trailing 21-6 after Edison (3-6) scored on the first possession of the second half, Whetstone and Co. went to work.
On the Big Reds' third play, sophomore quarterback Spencer Badia found Whetstone along the left sidelines. The speedster did the rest as he sprinted untouched down the field for a 51-yard scoring hookup. Dalton Conroy's conversion kick sliced the deficit to 21-13 with 10:19 left in the third quarter.
Following an exchange of punts, the Wildcats marched 68 yards on nine plays as senior quarterback Mark Smyth bulled his way into the end zone from a yard out. However, the PAT kick was wide left, leaving the visitors on top, 27-13.
Key plays on the drive included a 27-yard run by tailback Shane O'Brien and a nifty 31-yard hookup between Smyth and wideout Kyle Minger that put the ball at the Bellaire 1.
Three plays into the fourth quarter, Whetstone took a swing pass from Badia at the Bellaire 23. Seventy-seven quick yards later, he was celebrating in the end zone with his teammates. Conroy's kick made it 27-20 with 10:46 left to play.
"I've just got to give credit to my teammates for blocking and my quarterback for getting me the ball," Whetstone said. "Once I get the ball, I know what my job is."
He finished with four catches for 149 yards, but it was his work on the defensive side of the ball that would follow.
After holding Edison to a 3-and-out on the ensuing series of downs, Badia drove the Big Reds 52 yards on just four plays to tie the game.
His first-down pass intended for Chuckie Myers was off his hands and nearly intercepted by a diving Wildcats' player, but he teamed with Myers for 15 yards on a second down screen pass. Badia then scrambled for 23 yards to the 14 before lofting the ball to the right corner of the end zone where Myers made a leaping grab. He was able to get a foot in bounds and keep possession of the ball.Conroy tacked on the all-important placement that drew the Big Reds even at 27.
Edison still had nearly eight minutes and full allotment of three timeouts to drive down the field. They picked up a pair of first downs and had a third deep in Big Reds' territory, but Minger was drilled by Myers after catching a pass. The ball was jarred loose and Whetstone picked it up in mid-air, returning it to the Bellaire 47.
"I just saw my opportunity to get the football and I responded," he described.
A 13-yard hitch pattern to Whetstone and a hard 19-yard run by senior Josh Davis moved the hosts to the Edison 8. Davis lost a yard on first down and Badia picked up five on a quarterback draw. A third-down slant to Manny Ray fell incomplete in the end zone and Conroy was summoned to attempt a 20-yard chip-shot field goal.
The snap from Wyatt Back to Badia was sharp, as was Badia's hold, and Conroy split the uprights with what would turn out to be the game-winning points with 68 ticks remaining in regulation.
"There wasn't really any pressure," Conroy admitted. "I knew that I had to keep my head down and drive through the ball."
The Wildcats wouldn't go down without a fight, but Whetstone quickly ended the bout.
On first down, he stepped in front of a Smyth pass and had clear sailing down the sidelines, but he dropped the ball. However, two plays later, he dove to make a juggling pick that sent the Big Reds' faithful home happy.
"That was just lucky," he said of the INT. "It was just bouncing around and I happened to get it."
Edison grabbed the early lead by executing its game plan to near- perfection.
Smyth and Co. kept the high-powered bellaire silent in the first half by keeping it off the field, but couldn't do that in the fourth quarter, which cost them in the long run.
"We just couldn't finish," Edison head coach Mike McKenzie allowed. "Once again, I'll have to go back and look at the tapes, but they (Bellaire) started hitting some passes and what-not, but we still had our opportunities.
"We were still up two scores in the second half, but couldn't finish," he added. "I'm proud of my kids because they played their tails off. Usually when we come down here on a Saturday afternoon, we play slow for whatever reason. That wasn't the case today. We came out of the gate playing fast, physical and we were executing.
"We just didn't finish in the fourth quarter. We still have one more opportunity."
Smyth tossed three touchdown passes as the Wildcats grabbed the early advantage. He teamed with Minger on touchdowns of 6 and 53 yards, and also found O'Brien for a 24-yard connection. he finished 16-of-27 for 220 yards.
Badia, meanwhile, completed 12 passes for 248 yards and four touchdowns. In addition to the aforementioned strikes to Whetstone and Myers, he and Ray hooked up from 7 yards out in the second quarter.
"I just told these kids that I've never been prouder of a bunch," Davis praised. "We've been so lackadaisical in the second half of games, but we keep telling the kids to keep plugging away and plugging away.
"We preach every day that there are two things you can't coach and they are attitude and effort," he continued. "The rest will take care of itself and it did today. We got a couple of bounces as a result."
Bellaire (5-4) assured itself of at least a .500 season with the victory and will host long-time rival Martins Ferry Saturday at Nelson Field. Kickoff is slated for 12:30 p.m. Edison, meanwhile, returns to Cartwright Stadium in Richmond to host arch rival Indian Creek Friday night.
Bellaire 30, Edison 27
Edison 7 6 14 0 - 27
Bellaire 0 6 7 17 - 30
E: Minger 6 pass from Smyth (O'Brien kick)
E: Minger 53 pass from Smyth (kick failed)
B: Ray 7 pass from Badia (kick failed)
E: O'Brien 24 pass from Smyth (Minger pass from Smyth)
B: Whetstone 51 pass from Badia (Conroy kick)
E: Smyth 1run (kick failed)
B: Whetstone 77 pass from Badia (Conroy kick)
B: Myers 14 pass from Badia (Conroy kick)
B: Conroy 20 FG
RUSHING: Edison 33-114-1TD (O'Brien 14-65, Graziani 4-30, Smyth 14-22-
1TD, Minger 1-(-3)); Bellaire 31-116 (Davis 14-68, Badia 14-34, Ray 3-14)
PASSING: Edison 16-27-220-3TD-1INT (all by Smyth); Bellaire
12-23-248-4TD-1INT (all by Badia)
RECEIVING: Edison (Minger 7-151-2TD, O'Brien 4-35-1TD,
Marcus 2-30, Long 2-(-1), Springer 1-5); Bellaire (Whetstone 4-149-2TD, Ray 3-42-1TD, Myers 3-37-1TD, Bradshaw 1-14, Patrone 1-6)
FIRST DOWNS: Edison 15; Bellaire 17.
PENALTIES: Edison 10-100; Bellaire 7-45.
FUMBLES-LOST: Edison 3-1; Bellaire 1-0.