RICHMOND - Bellaire's Kenny Hess made his team's biggest play on Edison's longest offensive gain in the Big Reds' 26-20 victory over the Wildcats Friday at Cartwright Memorial Stadium.
Trailing 26-20 with less than 30 seconds to play, Edison quarterback Nolan Marcus hit Rich Springer on a slant and the speedy receiver broke away from defenders looking destined for the end zone. Hess didn't quit on the play though, taking the pursuit angle, and forcing Springer out of bounds at the Bellaire three-yard line for a 66-yard gain with just over 11 seconds left.
"It's funny, he said to me that I always joke around with him and tell him he's slow," said Bellaire head coach Jose Davis of Hess. "He did a great job of hustling down there and making that play. I can't doubt him on his speed now."
The hustle play set up a game-ending stand that started with a two-yard Marcus run, then a spike with 3.1 seconds left, and culminated when Marcus was tackled for no gain on third-and-goal from the one as time expired to set off a Big Reds' celebration.
"It's kind of crazy," said Davis. "We've been in so many like that. We've always been on offense though, but the defense finally had its chance, and they stepped up and took care of defense.
"That's just guys stepping up and taking care of business. When their number's called they take care of business. I can't tell you how proud I am of our guys, of our coaching staff, and everybody that's involved here."
Added Edison head coach Mike McKenzie of his team's effort, "I couldn't be prouder of them. They never quit. They never quit fighting. Once again there were so many chances for them to give up and we didn't.
"We kept pounding away and fighting and believing something was going to happen. We were one yard away from it. I don't care what the numbers on the scoreboard say, we were winners tonight."
The first quarter saw a pair of scores by Bellaire with Edison finding the end zone once.
Hess started off the scoring on a 9-yard pass from Spencer Badia. The touchdown came after the Big Reds were set up at the Wildcats' 20 when Nick Maffe recovered an Edison fumble on the fourth play of the game. Dalton Conroy missed the point after leaving the score 6-0 Bellaire.
After the teams exchanged punts Edison got on the board for the first time on a Graziani 10-yard run. Josh Pasek wet up the score with a 51-yard jaunt. A bad snap kept the extra point from being kicked and the score was tied at 6-all.
Bellaire answered two plays later. Badia connected with Hunter Westlake from 63 yards away for the score and Conroy's PAT was true for the 13-6 Bellaire lead.
After a scoreless second quarter, Edison capitalized after Cole Wargo recovered a Bellaire fumble on the first play of the third quarter. Graziani's punched in from one-yard for the touchdown four plays later and Marcus' point after put the Wildcats up 14-13 just 2:09 into the second half.
The ensuing possession gave Bellaire the lead right back. The Big Reds traveled 59 yards in 12 plays to set up a Conroy 27-yard field goal and a 16-14 lead.
A fumble recovered by Nick Patrone on the Edison's next play from scrimmage put Conroy in position to put another kick through - this one from 32 yards - and Bellaire led 19-14.
"The turnovers hurt us," said McKenzie. "They hurt every game, but we held them to a field goal on the one so our kids didn't hold their heads down and pout."
On its next possession Bellaire extended the lead to 12. Badia hit Patrone who slipped through a pair of tackles and speed to the end zone on the 36-yard play. Conroy put through his second extra point and the scoreboard read 26-14 Big Reds.
With 6:51 left in the game, and Edison sitting at fourth-and-10, Marcus threw a bomb to a wide open Devan Tennant down the visitors' sideline for a 59-yard touchdown. A missed extra point set the score at 26-20 with 6:51 remaining.
Two Bellaire punts sandwiching an Edison punt led to the final drive madness.
Badia completed 18-of36 passes for 304 yards with three scores and an interception. He also added 70 yards rushing on 15 carries, including some big scrambles for first down.
"That's kind of what it is," said Davis. "We talked at the beginning of the year how he had to become a better runner this year because teams are going to drop a couple more guys into coverage because of what we do.
"The better athlete he can be for us, the better we can be as a team."
Badia's top target was Westlake with six grabs for 120 yards and a touchdown. Patrone pulled in four balls for 86 yards and a score.
Marcus threw for 205 yards on 11-of 24 passing with a touchdowns and a pair of picks. Springer caught eight balls for 141 stripes to lead the Wildcats. Graziani led the rushing attack with 67 yards on 14 touches and two scores.
Edison closes its season Saturday at playoff hopeful Indian Creek.
Bellaire travels to Martins Ferry Friday looking to continue its march to the postseason.
"I would imagine this win is going to help us out, but again we have to take care of our business," said Davis. "The chips will fall where they fall."
and we have to make sure we take care of what we can take care of. The rest will take care of itself from there."