By Dan Wright
BELLEVUE, Ky. – Over the final 20 minutes of its game at Bellevue’s Gilligan Stadium Friday night, Walton-Verona lost two fumbles, had one punt blocked, gave up four sacks, was whistled for nine penalties, and routinely lost yards on offense.
Nonetheless, the Bearcats were able to hold on for a 21-20 win after junior defensive lineman Brandon Wilson led a charge that pulled down Bellevue running back Dylan Huff inches short of the goal line on a two-point conversion attempt with 3:53 remaining in the game.
“I got in there and I took on the lead block there. I wrapped up and wouldn’t let go, but it wasn’t only me in on that play,” said Wilson, who stood Huff up long enough for his teammates to swarm around him. “I knew they were going to run the ball, but you’ve got to play your position and you depend on your teammates to play theirs.”
Said Walton-Verona coach Jeff Barth: “The clock just struck zero quick enough. Quick enough. Hopefully we’ll figure some things out going into next week, because that was a tough one.”
The game didn’t look like it would be so tough for the Bearcats early on, as Walton-Verona leaned on the big-play ability of brothers Chris and William Latimore to open up a 21-6 third-quarter lead.
On Walton-Verona’s second possession, junior William Latimore took a pass over the middle from junior quarterback Justin Kline and raced down the right sideline for a 48-yard reception that set up senior Chris Latimore for a 6-yard touchdown with 5:58 remaining in the first quarter.
A 32-yard run by William Latimore had Walton-Verona poised to score again on its next possession, but later in the drive Bellevue senior linebacker Zack Poinsett scooped up a fumble and returned it 69 yards for a Tigers touchdown. After the extra point hit the left upright, Walton-Verona’s lead was one, 7-6.
Walton-Verona expanded the lead to eight in the second quarter when Kline hit William Latimore In stride down the sideline for a 60-yard score with 3:16 left before halftime.
William Latimore finished with those two catches for 108 yards and ran four times for 36 yards. Chris led Walton-Verona with seven carries for 68 rushing yards and two scores.
The second touchdown was a 67-yard bolt up the middle that seemingly had Walton-Verona in control, 21-6 with 8:09 remaining in the second quarter.
“I saw a good kick (block) and I saw another good kick in the secondary on the linebacker, so I made a cut and there it was,” said Chris Latimore. “It was golden. I just had to turn on those jets.”
From that point on, however, Bellevue’s defense, anchored by junior Alec Hazeres and senior Hayden Swope in the middle of the defensive line, caused Walton-Verona to finish with minus-13 yards of offense with no first downs over its final five drives before taking a knee to end the game.
“We just made a couple of adjustments at halftime,” said Johnny Poynter following his debut as Bellevue’s head coach. “We thought coming into the game they would try to get into the perimeter with us a little bit, but they didn’t do that. In the second half we came out and threw a few more guys on the line of scrimmage and took away their inside run. I don’t know what their stats were for the second half, but I know they didn’t have much offense.”
After gaining 162 yards in the first half, including 113 in the air, Walton-Verona had just 58 yards in the second half, including Chris Latimore’s 67-yard touchdown run.
Bellevue finished with 177 yards of offense in the game, gaining just 31 yards on the ground.
The Bearcats' own stingy defense was able to hold Bellevue on one drive to the Walton-Verona 15 yard line, but could not stop the Tigers after Bellevue recovered a blocked punt at the Walton-Verona 2 in the third quarter.
Senior running back Dylan Huff scored on the next play, and a two-point pass from senior quarterback Tyler Ackerman to Hazeres pulled Bellevue to within seven, 21-14 with 36 seconds left in the third quarter.
In the fourth quarter, Huff recovered a Walton-Verona fumble in the end zone to set up the decisive two-point conversion attempt with 3:53 remaining.
“It was power off-tackle, old school football,” said Poynter, who thought Huff may have gotten into the end zone. “Half his body’s laying in the end zone and they don’t give you two points.”
Said Barth of the Bearcats' defensive approach: “We actually got out of our goal line set, because they ran right down our throat twice on it. We played a base defense and Brandon Wilson made a nice play there.”
Huff, coming off a season in which he ran for 1,845 yards and 24 touchdowns, finished with just 27 yards on 21 carries.
“He’s a great runner and he’ll have a great season, we just played our defense,” Barth said. “We’ve got a lot of returners on defense and we expect them to do well. He’s a great player, but he needs guys up there blocking for him and our guys did their job tonight.”
Walton-Verona’s defense held two more times in the final two minutes, with junior defensive end Cody Catlett sacking Ackerman on fourth-and-12 from the Walton-Verona 39 with 1:34 remaining, and senior defensive back Ryan Burt intercepting a desperation pass at midfield with 23 seconds remaining.
at BELLEVUE 6-0-8-6—20
WV-C. Latimore 6 run (Hoffa kick)
B-Pointsett 69 fumble return (kick failed)
WV-W. Latimore 60 pass from Kline (Hoffa kick)
WV-C. Latimore 67 run (Hoffa kick)
B-Huff 2 run (Hazeres pass from N. Ackerman)
B-Huff recovered fumble in end zone (run failed)
RECORDS: Walton-Verona 1-0, Bellevue 0-1.