BELLS — After the Howe Bulldogs tied the game with a pair of touchdowns in the fourth quarter, the Bells Panthers escaped with a 19-13 overtime victory in non-district.
Bo Baker scored his second touchdown of the night with a two-yard plunge to win it for Bells (1-2), which came close to losing its third straight contest by a single possession. It was the first win at the school for new head coach Dale West.
Howe (1-2) had the ball first in the extra period but a fumble recovered by the Panthers gave the home team a chance to win in Bells’ turn in OT.
Baker capped the seven-play drive with deciding touchdown run. He finished with 19 carries for 61 yards.
“We knew our offense was going to be sputtering a little bit with our quarterback [starter Austin Haley] being out,” Howe head coach Bill Jehling said. “But we got it going in the second half. Defense played outstanding again. So you know, if we just keep building and keep getting better it will come together. We are a gritty football team, we just have to fix the little things, eliminate the mistakes and we will be fine.”
Freshman Grady Waldrip had 24 carries for 91 yards to lead Bells while Tyler Hawthorne chipped in 10 carries for 44 yards.
Both teams struggled to find their footing offensively in the first quarter with each drive ending in a punt and only one first down being picked up by Bells.
Layton Elvington, taking over as Howe’s QB with Haley sidelined due to an injury in the win over S&S, managed to complete two crisp passes to receiver Jalen Thornton, in the Bulldogs’ final drive of the quarter. Unfortunately for Howe, the drive began with three straight flags that set them back 15 yards before a successful play was made, preventing any momentum the offense might have gained prior to the quarter coming to a close.
Bells put together its first scoring drive midway through the second quarter. The Panthers chipped away slowly with a 19- play drive that ended with a two-yard touchdown run from Baker with 36 seconds left to play in the half for a 7-0 advantage at the break.
The Panthers, who ran 65 times for 222 yards, added on to their lead right out of the gate with their first drive of the third quarter. Again picking up yardage bit by bit with a rapid run game, the nine-play drive ended in a one-yard touchdown run by quarterback Blake Rolen. The Bulldog defense was able to block the extra point attempt with 6:50 remaining in the third quarter.
Howe surged back in the fourth quarter and was able to force the overtime. The Bulldogs put their first points on the board after a 56-yard drive that ended with a 16-yard touchdown run by Brandon Williams, who finished with 9 carries for 38 yards. The extra point missed and Howe was still down by seven points.
The Bulldog defense came through with a huge play to put the tying points on the board with three minutes left. A fumble was scooped up and returned for a 23-yard touchdown by Thornton. Kevin Flores hit the PAT to help send the game to overtime as Bells was unable to answer on its final chance to regain the lead in regulation.
Thornton led Howe with 41 yards on seven carries as well as three receptions for 29 yards.