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Bells beats Blue Ridge in shootout

Jerry Powers,
The Herald Democrat
Bells' Bo Baker catches a touchdown pass on front of Blue Ridge's Travis Graham during 8-3A (II) action.

BELLS — A contrast in offensive philosophies led to a back-and-forth contest which saw the Bells Panthers and their running attack get the better of Blue Ridge’s aerial assault for a 53-34 victory in a key District 8-3A (II) match-up.

The teams entered the game on equal footing in the standings after two weeks of district action and the win by Bells (5-2, 2-1) keeps the Panthers in a tie for second place while Blue Ridge (3-4) drops down to fifth place.

Bo Baker led the way for the Panthers in a big way — he had 18 carries for 214 yards and four touchdowns, caught a 34-yard TD pass and intercepted a pair of passes on defense.

Grady Waldrip totaled 22 carries for 142 yards and and score while Brock Baker finished with 108 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries as Bells had 528 yards on 61 attempts.

Bells bounced back from its loss against first-place Gunter and will look to add to its win total when it travels to Lone Oak on Friday but Blue Ridge has lost two straight district games going into its home game against Leonard.

In this one, Blue Ridge was forced to go to the air as the Panthers limited them to 69 yards on the ground. The Tigers relied on Casey Walls’ arm to move the ball down the field. Walls completed 14-of-28 passes for 189 yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions with much of that going to Jonathan Garza, who totaled eight catches for 142 yards and three TDs. Byron Meserole led the Tigers with 12 carries for 65 yards.

Blue Ridge struck first when it scored on a 75-yard pass from Walls to Garza.

But Bells answered back on an 81-yard TD run from Bo Baker.

The Tigers then countered when Walls connected with Garza again, this time on a 34-yard touchdown pass in the middle of the first quarter.

Blake Rolen found Bo Baker for a 34-yard touchdown pass to tie the score at 14 four minutes later.

As the second quarter opened, Blue Ridge had a possession that culminating on a 24-yard touchdown pass from Walls to Garza.

The teams then traded turnovers — Utah Porath recovered a fumble for Blue Ridge but Bo Baker intercepted a pass to get the ball back for the Panthers.

Bells was unable to tie the score but Keaton High kicked a 33-yard field goal to pull the Panthers within four points at the 3:10 mark of the quarter.

The defense came up with a stop and Bells was able to score on a nine-yard run by Bo Baker as time ticked down to one second remaining in the half and the Panthers held a 25-21 advantage at the break.

Bells got possession to start the second half and drove 70 yards with a 39-yard touchdown run by Brock Baker extending the home team’s lead less than four minutes into the third quarter.

The momentum quickly shifted as Brody Darland returned the ensuing kickoff 88 yards for a score and Blue Ridge was back to within a 32-27 margin.

The Panthers started to widen the gap, this time on an 11-yard run by Waldrip with two minutes to go in the third.

Walls went to the air and he connected with Kolbe Gelvin in the end zone from a yard out to make it a one-possession game going to the fourth quarter.

The Panthers were able to seal the victory over the final 12 minutes as they opened the quarter with a 61-yard touchdown run by Bo Baker. Bells closed out the scoring with another Bo Baker TD, this time from four yards out with 1:42 remaining, and he then capped off the win with his second interception.

District 8-3A (I)

Bells;53

Blue Ridge;34