It’s pretty simple this week for the Bellwood-Antis Blue Devils. It’s one of the biggest games of the season as they travel to also unbeaten Tussey Mountain with the winner claiming the Inter-County Conference title.
Maybe even more importantly, a win would be pivotal for playoff positioning. The Blue Devils dropped to fourth place in the District 6 AA standings this week. A loss probably wouldn’t do much harm for Bellwood in terms of the playoffs, but a win could put them as high as second place heading into the final week of the regular season next week.
Although all of that is on the line, B-A head coach Nick Lovrich is still focused on the task at hand and trying not to make this week bigger than any other week.
“The further you get into the season, the more is on the line with each game,” said Lovrich. “We have taken the approach each week that Friday night is our state championship game and I think that keeps us from getting too fired up for a game or not getting excited at all. We only get to play one game a week, so we treat them all like they are important. This week’s opponent just happens to be undefeated.”
The Blue Devils should be feeling pretty good about Friday with the way things have gone lately. The last two weeks, Bellwood has ran for over 400 yards in both contests with two different backs going for over 200 yards individually.
That feat has given the Blue Devil offensive line much praise from Lovrich lately.
“We have had some really good lines since I have been here,” said Lovrich. “This year’s line is still striving to be the best they can be. They work hard every week to prepare for the other team’s defense. Our line coaches do a great job working to make them better each week.
“The thing about are linemen is that they are all pretty athletic, which helps them execute their assignments. They are working very well as a unit and they need to continue doing that for us to be the best team we can be.”
The Blue Devils will be given the task of stopping an explosive Tussey Mountain offense that is scoring an average of 35 points per game and only giving up 12 points per game. However, they have given up more as of late.
Just last week, the Titans were up 18-0 against Glendale at halftime, but had to hold on for a 26-23 win over the Vikings.
The biggest worry that Lovrich has is containing the Titans’ run game, which has over 2,500 yards to their credit so far this season.
Junior fullback Kaden Lucko just went over the 1,000-yard milestone last week and leads the rushing attack. They also have a pair of wingbacks that have over 500 yards on the ground in Jarred Sipes and Tyler Rhodes.
On top of that, Tussey Mountain quarterback Matt Leonard has thrown for over 800 yards on the season with just two interceptions.
“They run their offense very well,” said Lovrich. “The Tussey coaching staff does a great job getting them ready each week. Kaden Lucko runs very hard. He is hard to bring down and runs with a lot of determination. Their wing backs, Tyler Rhodes and Jarred Sipes, have great speed. Once they get into the open areas they are hard to catch. Then the quarterback is very efficient at throwing the ball and he will catch teams by surprise when he runs the ball.
“I think their line moves their feet and does a good job blocking. They are one of those teams that really has all 11 guys doing their job on each play.”
On the defensive end, Tussey Mountain has 23 sacks on the year to go with seven interceptions.
With the two teams being the only undefeated teams left in the ICC, the winner will be crowned ICC champions.
Kickoff from Saxton is set for 7 p.m.