Panthers trio keys fast start

Todd Hutchinson,
The Herald Democrat
Bells' Bo Baker follows a block from his brother Brock Baker for a touchdown during the Panthers' victory against Howe in non-district action at Bells.

BELLS — Three Panther backs rushed for more than 100 yards each, leading Bells to touchdowns on six of seven first-half possessions on the way to a 47-24 homecoming win over the Howe Bulldogs in non-district play.

Brock Baker led Bells (2-0) with 127 rushing yards on seven carries. He scored one touchdown on a 1-yard run, capping a six-play, first-quarter drive. Grady Waldrip ran for 121 yards and two TDs on 15 carries while Bo Baker scored two touchdowns — one of those a 46-yarder — on his way to 101 yards in 10 carries.

“We are a run-heavy team,” Bells head coach Dale West said. “In that first half, we executed in all aspects of the game and took advantage of their mistakes. We were real physical on both sides of the ball.”

In that first half, the Panthers defense led by defensive end Cooper Smith held Howe (0-2) to 14 rushing yards and forced one fumble. The Bulldogs punted five times.

“That was a good half of football,” West said. “Our first half of defense was unbelievable.”

With 4:50 left in the second quarter, Smith scooped up a Bulldogs punt that traveled 10 yards in the air and was bouncing around a group of players at the Bells 45-yard line. Smith broke one tackle and ran the ball down to the nine-yard line. Two carries later Waldrip collected his first touchdown of the game, scoring on a 1-yard plunge with 4:13 remaining in the first half for a 26-0 advantage.

Waldrip’s second touchdown came on a 47-yard run with 1:47 left in the game to close out the scoring.

Bells began its scoring barrage on its fourth play of the game when Blake Rolen hit a wide-open Tanner Carter in stride on a 45-yard touchdown pass. It was Rolen’s only completion of the night as he attempted just two passes and the second straight week Carter opened the scoring with a long TD reception.

After Howe’s Matthew Hayes intercepted a Rolen pass to thwart a drive in the first part of the second quarter, Bo Baker scored on runs of 15 and 46 yards while Rolen scored on a one-yard sneak to propel the Panthers to a 40-0 lead at half.

In the second half, Howe put Ethan Lopez at quarterback. After the Bulldogs recovered a fumble on the Panthers 16-yard line with just over six minutes left in the third quarter, Lopez scored Howe’s first touchdown on a four-yard run. The big play to keep the drive going was an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against the Panthers when Howe was facing third-and-10.

The call gave the Bulldogs a first down at the Bells six-yard line and they scored two plays later.

Lopez scored his second touchdown of the game on a five-yard run on the Bulldogs' next possession.

Lopez finished his night on a touchdown pass with 4:43 left in the game. While backed up at the Bulldogs 15-yard line, Ryan Hough got behind the defense and Lopez cut loose, hitting Hough at the Bulldogs 40 and the wide receiver ran the rest of the way, untouched, into the end zone.

Lopez led Howe with 99 yards on 3-of-4 passing and Hough led the Bulldogs receivers with two catches for 90 yards. But Howe struggled in the running game, netting just 92 yards on 38 carries. Carson Daniels led the team with eight attempts for 46 yards.

Bells hosts Valley View on Friday while Howe will host Sanger.