FREDERICKTOWN – To hang onto any sort of chance of making the WPIAL Class A playoffs, the Jefferson-Morgan football team had the tough task Friday night of going on the road and trying to upset undefeated Beth-Center.
Even with a good start, that turned out to be a very difficult task.
Beth-Center broke open a close game with a 22-point second quarter, cruising to a 54-7 victory in a Tri-County South Conference game.
J-M (2-4, 2-4) got off to a good start with Logan Bowman getting the start at quarterback in place of Rece Henneman, who was out with an ankle injury.
Bowman, normally a running back and the Rockets’ leading rusher on the season, completed his first four pass attempts of the game, including a 55-yard touchdown throw to Gerald Metz on a third-and-long play to give J-M a quick 7-0 lead.
“He’s just naturally a great athlete and makes plays wherever we line him up,” J-M coach Liam Ryan said of Bowman.
But everything went downhill from there for Rockets.
Beth-Center (6-0, 6-0) tied the score on their first drive, when quarterback Gino Faieta scored on the ground from one yard out. Faieta set up the scoring run with a 31-yard scramble to get the Bulldogs to the J-M five-yard line.
The teams exchanged punts throughout the rest of the first quarter before the Bulldogs exploded in the second. And they got things started with big plays from their special teams and defense.
Nico Brown gave B-C the early second quarter lead by returning a punt 65 yards for a touchdown. Then on J-M’s next drive, Bowman was intercepted by Jason Stay, who returned it 24 yards to the Rockets six-yard line.
“Our special teams had an outstanding night,” said Beth-Center head coach Ed Woods. “We had a couple of blocked extra points which we will have to take a look at, but overall our return game and our kick coverage were very good. Add to that the fact that we may have played our best defensive game of the season, and I am very pleased with our all-around effort.”
One play later, Stay scored on the ground to make it 21-7.
The Jefferson-Morgan offense stalled after the long touchdown pass. The Rockets managed only 49 other first-half yards. As a result, the Bulldogs won the battle of field position as they started every second-quarter drive in J M territory.
“We got off to a good start,” Ryan said. “But we couldn’t sustain it and we had to punt to them a lot. Their returners gave them momentum and the field position they had for most of the game. It was tough to overcome.”
It took a while, but the Bulldogs got leading rusher Anthony Welsh more involved in the second quarter, and he responded with an 18-yard touchdown run to put the game out of reach for J-M.
Welsh broke out in the second half, scoring on runs of 46 and 38 yards on back-to-back drives in the third quarter to extend the Bulldogs’ lead to 41-7. He added his fourth touchdown run of the game in the fourth quarter, from 11 yards out.
Welsh finished with 178 yards and four touchdowns on only 10 carries.
“All of our running backs played very well, but Anthony is something special,” added Woods. “He not only has the speed and the power, but he is very explosive and everything is downhill with him. Everything is positive yards when he gets the ball.”
B-C’s Matt Riggle capped the scoring with a 24-yard run midway through the fourth quarter.
Beth-Center will try and stay perfect next Friday when it travels to Frazier. The Rockets will try and salvage their season as they play host to Vincentian Academy.
“Now it’s all about trying to just finish strong,” said Ryan. “We had a goal of making the playoffs that we didn’t achieve, but we can still finish with a winning record if we close out the season strong.”