Beloit ends SC title run with red zone roadblock
SCHS quarterback Trey O'Neil breaks out for a 14 yard gain during first quarter action against Beloit during the Class 3A sub-state playoffs.
By Rod Haxton, editor
“We had our opportunities,” said senior defensive tackle Matt Tuttle as the final minute was ticking off the game clock during Saturday’s Class 3A sub-state title game against Beloit.
Five times the Beavers (11-2) had entered the red zone and they came away with just one touchdown in a 36-13 loss that ended their improbable state title run.
None of those missed opportunities was bigger than Scott City’s first possession in the second half when they had second-and-five from the Beloit nine yard line with a chance to cut into a 22-13 deficit.
A play had been called in the huddle, but after seeing how the defense was lined up, quarterback Trey O’Neil audibled into a different play. There was confusion on the pitch attempt and the ball hit the ground without another Beaver back or lineman aware of the situation other than O’Neil, who was wrapped up by a tackler.
That brief window was all the time that Bowe Behymer needed to scoop up the ball in stride and race 88 yards the other direction for a touchdown.
“We had called a sweep but because of the crowd noise and such not everyone heard the audible,” says head coach Glenn O’Neil. “That led to a mess-up in the backfield and on the line which allowed (Bryce) Black, their defensive end, to blow the play up.”
It was a huge turnaround that saw the opportunity to cut the lead to one or two points turn into a 30-13 deficit.
Even with a 17 point deficit, the Beavers looked like they might climb back into the game behind a running attack that had been limited to just 23 yards in the first half. For the second straight possession, Scott City’s runningbacks were able to slice their way through the Trojan defense for some huge gains.
In just four plays the Beavers covered 56 yards - including a 26 yard run by fullback Wyatt Kropp that gave them a first down at the six yard line.
Four plays later they were still at the six following an incomplete pass, but a holding penalty in the secondary gave the Beavers an additional down from the three yard line. Kropp was caught behind the line for a five yard loss which essentially ended Scott City’s state title hopes.
Following a 54 yard drive on Scott City’s next possession that ended at the Beloit 28, the Trojans responded with their only offensive touchdown of the second half on a 56 yard pass play.
“They were pretty content with working the clock in the second half,” says O’Neil.
SCHS made one final trip inside the 10 yard line late in the game after stopping Beloit on downs at their own 39 with 1:21 on the clock. Three consecutive completions put the ball at the Beloit nine yard line, but the threat ended with four incomplete passes and a Scott City penalty.
It marked the end of a frustrating day - particularly in the second half - for the Beavers.
“They were quicker than us which was evident when we tried to get to the edge,” says Coach O’Neil. “We didn’t have the home run threat that might have scored on one or two plays. Once we got inside the 20 they were able to pack enough guys and bring a lot of pressure on our quarterback. We couldn’t find the running lanes near the goal line and they didn’t give us much time to make reads and throw the ball.”
SC Takes Early Lead
Even though the Beavers had much better offensive balance in the second half - 117 yards rushing and 101 yards passing - all their scoring came in the first half.
Scott City was able to gain the early advantage following a Beloit turnover on their opening series. A fumble recovery by linebacker Cooper Griffith gave the Beavers excellent starting field position at the 50.
Against Beloit’s 10-man front, SCHS gained 14 of their 23 first half rushing yards on the first play from scrimmage when O’Neil was looking to pass and scrambled for a nice gain.
Unable to establish their running game early, the Beavers found success through the air with a 29 yard completion from O’Neil to Chantz Yager that put the ball at the six yard line. Three plays later, senior wideout Chris Pounds was on the receiving end of a four yard TD pass that put SCHS on top, 7-0.
Beloit’s ground game, however, was unstoppable in the first half. The Trojans rushed for 262 yards and scored on three consecutive possessions while building a 22-13 halftime lead.
Beloit put together first half scoring drives of 71, 93 and 61 yards while holding a 17:15 to 6:45 advantage in time of possession.
After taking an 8-7 lead and forcing a punt by SCHS, one of the key moments in the game occurred on Beloit’s following possession. They were faced with fourth-and-one at their own 16 yard line and - in typical Trojan fashion - elected not to punt. They were able to convert the fourth down by half a football and also converted a fourth-and-10 at the SCHS 30 later in the drive that eventually led to a 14-7 Beloit lead.
SCHS wasted little time answering with a two-play drive that featured a throw-back screen to wideout Brayden Strine who found a wide open lane up the middle and then cut to the far side of the field for a 67 yard pass play. The failed PAT kick left the Beavers trailing 14-13 with 7:35 left in the first half.
Beloit needed just six plays to extend its lead to 22-13 on a five yard run by Behymer.
A quick three-and-out by the Beavers left Beloit more than enough time to drive for another score, but Griffith was able to come away with his second turnover of the game, this time on an interception which he returned to the Scott City 44 with just 44.5 seconds left on the clock.
“That was a great interception by Coop,” says Turner. “Someone else was supposed to be covering that area, but he stepped in and made the play.”
Back-to-back completions of 21 yards to Strine and 15 yards to Pounds gave SCHS a first down at the Beloit 20. The drive stalled at the 30 following a pair of Scott City penalties and four incomplete passes.
Once the ball was inside the red zone, T. O’Neil said the running lanes were tighter and the passing opportunities more limited.
“It was a lot harder for our receivers to get open and they had a lot of speed at linebackers and safeties to keep us from getting to the edge,” says O’Neil, who finished with 258 yards passing.
Beloit Controls Edge
The Beavers knew that Beloit relied on running between the tackles with their veer attack and SCHS countered with a five-man defensive front rather than their standard 4-4 defense.
“When you play a five-man front you’re going to give up something,” noted Turner. “With us it was the runs on the edge.”
Tuttle noticed a difference up front with fewer plays than expected coming in his direction.
“For about the first series and a half I was barely touched,” he says. “It didn’t seem like they were going up the middle that much and there were times they doubled down on me with two big guys.”
Turner felt the defense did pretty well in limiting the Trojan running game up the middle, which is where Behymer gained most of his 165 yards on 27 carries. The difference was quarterback Payton Vetter’s ability to get to the edge for 140 yards.
“With the type of offense they run you have to put so many people within the tight ends that you run out of people to protect the edges,” noted Coach O’Neil. “With Vetter’s athletic ability to beat people one-on-one to extend plays and with his ability to get to the corner he definitely made a big difference.”
O’Neil said Vetter’s ability to get to the outside was a complement to Behymer on the veer option in the opposite direction.
“We could have lived with what we gave up in the middle if we’d been able to control the edge,” added Turner. “It wasn’t just the speed of the guys running the ball. Their (wingbacks) were getting to our outside linebackers and blocking them.”
Beloit held a big 341-140 edge in rushing yards, but only a 432-398 advantage in total offense.
The Trojans’ ability to control the running game was also reflected in a 31:09 to 16:51 advantage in total time of possession.
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