It was a tale of two teams that couldn’t score on Friday night when Bellefontaine came to Urbana under a dark cloud. A rain-slicked field prevented either team from gaining traction or any points in regulation, sending the soaking gridiron drama into double overtime that Urbana won, 6-0.
The grueling battle for nearly-static field position hinged on a few key defensive stops, penalties and punts. Neither team was able to assemble a serious red-zone threat in regulation and the game clock ran swiftly.
In the first overtime, a Bellefontaine fumble recovered by UHS gave the Hillclimbers a chance to kick a game-winning field goal that fell far short of the crossbar. In the second overtime, Urbana started its drive with a penalty before shaking off the game-long drought on a 25-yard TD pass from Levi Boettcher to Devin Trent. The PAT failed, but Urbana owned a precious 6-0 lead as it defended the goal against Bellefontaine’s final attempt to score after a long, damp night. BHS nearly fumbled on the first play, botched the snap on the second play and then called a timeout. In a double OT crunch play, UHS’s Max Niswonger gobbled up an interception off BHS quarterback Hayden Nease to seal the victory.
Scoring struggles throughout
Urbana showed its potential passing threat as the first half ended, but a shortage of timeouts stymied the Hillclimber drive with only 28 seconds to play. UHS moved steadily from its own 22 toward mid-field before Boettcher completed a pass to Trent near the Chieftain 38. Two Bellefontaine defenders wrapped up Trent to stifle Urbana’s momentum and send the teams into halftime knotted at goose eggs.
Bellefontaine fumbled a punt return early in the third quarter and the ball was recovered by UHS’s Bailey Ullah for one of the home team’s most exciting plays. Urbana had the ball at the BHS 44 but the home team’s offense once again stalled and was forced to punt.
The Chieftains (0-3) started at their own 22 and were sparked by a key quarterback keeper for a big gainer and a first down at the UHS 45. A few plays later Chieftain runner Dezmin Lyburtus notched a first down at the Hillclimber 18 and in an increasingly driving rain, the visitors were threatening. But once again, they self-destructed. A pair of pesky penalties pushed BHS back 5 yards each on the next two plays and then the Chiefs nearly fumbled away the handoff before recovering the slippery pigskin for a 2nd-and-22. Zack Michael nailed QB Nease for a sack on 3rd and 25 and BHS opted to punt, setting the Hillclimbers up with a touchback to start their next drive.
Once again, Urbana struggled to tally consistent yardage and punted again from behind their own 20. Bellefontaine’s Stevens returned the punt deep into UHS territory before Hillclimber Jacob Angles wrapped him up, but a blocking penalty on the visitors chewed into field position and BHS started at the Urbana 36. On the next play, the snap squirted 20 yards behind Nease, another bad snap cost more yardage and the Chiefs ended the scoreless third quarter backed up to their own 40 for a 4th-and-29.
After a BHS punt to start the fourth quarter, Urbana started at its own 30. Once again, a productive offensive drive was more than the Hillclimbers could muster as penalties continued to pile up under monsoon conditions and it was again time to punt.
Bellefontaine returned the punt to its own 47 with 9:08 to play and the Chieftains tried to gain ground by forcing it up the middle. A key penalty against the Urbana defense gave Bellefontaine new gusto just as its drive was running on fumes, but on the very next play BHS fumbled and Urbana recovered it to dodge the bullet.
Urbana started at its own 30 with 8:22 to play and tried a futile ground campaign on the increasingly muddy field before punting yet again. The Chieftains were starting at midfield for their second straight drive and attempting to power it on the ground. Urbana’s defense was starting to give a little bit before Nease slipped and tackled himself. Nease plowed up the middle on 4th-and-1 only to be stopped cold by the Hillclimber defensive line. Urbana was at its own 41 with 4:38 to play but Boettcher threw a wounded duck in the air and Bellefontaine’s Skylar Rogan intercepted it. After a penalty on the return, BHS was starting over at its own 26 with 3:44 to play.
Nease connected with Rogan for a pivotal first down at the UHS 46 on a long passing play, but Nease was sacked on the next play, couldn’t complete the pass on 2nd-and-15 and BHS called a timeout. A penalty backed up the Chieftains on their next play and ultimately they had to punt. Urbana stalled out and took a knee to end regulation.
The Hillclimbers (1-2) play at Stebbins next Friday night.
Brenda Burns can be reached at 937-652-1331 ext. 1771 or on Twitter @UDCBurns.