By Dave Malaska
VERONA, Ky. – The threat of lightning in the area halted Friday's season opener between Bellevue and Walton-Verona at halftime, but the outcome had already been long decided.
The Bearcats, forcing five Bellevue turnovers and scoring on three plays of more than 30 yards, ran away with the 40-0 win to open the season.
Walton-Verona went for 322 yards of offense in the half, with 246 yards coming on the ground seemingly at will.
After a Bellevue encroachment on the Bearcats' first snap, junior back Halsey Page broke a 62-yard run around the left side to put the Bearcats up 6-0, while senior Mason Compton followed with 13 rushes for 76 yards and two more scores.
Meanwhile, senior quarterback Justin Kline was comfortable in the pocket, connecting on 3 of 7 passes for 119 yards and other two scores.
"You know, you just can't have a good season without a strong offensive line, and we think we have a very good line that has a chance at being great," said Bearcats coach Jeff Barth. "We let some opportunities get away from us early, but other than that there's really not much to complain about."
After Page's opening score, the Walton-Verona defense got takeaways on Bellevue's next three possessions. Senior Joey Coomer jumped on a fumble by Alec Hazeres to halt the first Tigers drive, then Zach Barrett fumbled on Bellevue's next possession.
Walton-Verona didn't convert on either turnover, though, stalling inside the 5 yard line both times. Then Coomer struck again, intercepting a tipped pass from unexpected Bellevue starter Tate Grainger and returned it 17 yards to the Bellevue 39 to set up the Bearcats' next score.
Barth said Coomer was getting his first taste of defense.
"Joey's a great kid," Barth said. "He didn't play much defense for us last year, so this is the first time he's really playing both ways. I guess he was making up for lost time."
Seven plays later, junior Noah Richardson busted a 36-yard run on the first play of the second quarter to put the Bearcats up, 12-0.
That opened the flood gates, and Walton-Verona kept pouring it on. Kline connected with James Martin on a 52-yard scoring strike on the Bearcats' next possession, then Mason Compton ran for a 32-yard touchdown the next time Walton-Verona touched the ball.
Compton scored again on the Bearcats' next drive, this time from two yards out to put the Bearcats up, 33-0.
The senior said his offense was dominant.
"It's exactly what we practiced all week," Compton said. "That's what happens when you come out and put points up on the board early and keep putting them on — it demoralizes the defense."
Kline finished off the scoring with a swing pass to William Latimore, which the senior running back took around the right side, delivered a stiff-arm at the 5 and rumbled into the end zone for a 33-yard touchdown.
Lightning in the area first appeared to be delaying the start of the second half, but minutes later officials called off the rest of the game.
Bellevue, which finished 7-5 last season featuring a pass-heavy offense, started Grainger over expected starter Alex Hazeres. Grainger completed 14 of 26 passes for 124 yards, but also threw three interceptions. The Tigers also fumbled twice to give them five turnovers in the half.
Bellevue also ran the ball four times for just a total of five yards.
Coach Johnny Pointer was not pleased with the result — a stark contrast to last season's opener against the Bearcats that came down to a failed 2-point conversion in Walton-Verona's 21-20 win.
The Tigers had a long team meeting after the game.
"I told the guys I could sit here and scream and holler at you, but it's not going to do us any good," Poynter said. "We just didn't show up to play. It's something that I've been worrying about for six weeks."
He went on to say the problem is players not willing to do as coaches ask.
"They just kind of showed up tonight and decided to do their own thing," Poynter said. "You know, we've had some pretty good football players come through Bellevue in my time who weren't too proud to do what we asked them to do and they succeeded.
"I guess that's on me. If you're not going to do what I ask you to, then I'm going to have to find somebody who will. I hope you print that."
at W.-VERONA 6-34—40
WV-Page 62 run (kick missed)
WV-Richardson 21 run (kick missed)
WV-J. Martin 52 pass from Kline (Anderson kick)
WV-Compton 32 run (Anderson kick)
WV-Compton 2 run (Anderson kick)
WV-Latimore 33 pass from Kline (Anderson kick)
RECORDS: Walton-Verona 1-0, Bellevue 0-1.