By Nate Ritchie
LEWISBURG — North Bedford went into halftime against Meyersdale with a two-score lead.
The Black Panthers offense wasn’t exactly clicking on all cylinders in the first half and they were looking to turn things around coming out of the locker room.
NBC did just that as it got contributions from all facets — offense, defense and special teams — in putting up 21 points in the second stanza.
The Panthers turned a strong halftime contest into a mercy-rule affair with three touchdowns in less than five minutes that ended up a 35-14 victory over the Red Raiders Friday night in District 5 Class 1A semifinal action at Panther Stadium Community.
“They (Meyersdale) set up to stop the run, so we had some passes we were trying to dial. We went at them in the first half and they weren’t working,” North Bedford coach Gary Black said. “In the second half, they worked quickly. We took good field position and took advantage of it. Aaron (Bowers) had a really good putback to put one up. … Then (he) brought a lot of momentum there in the third quarter (also with an interception return).”
Sequence of Game: Leading 14-0 at halftime, Northern Bedford started with Meyersdale to open the second half. The defense forced a three-and-out and punt, which Bowers completed and returned 40 yards to the MY 23. A 5-yard facemask penalty forced another 5 yards and the Panthers started at the Meyersdale 18. On first down, quarterback Aion Snyder found Ben Gable in the right side of the end zone for a touchdown to make it 21-0 at 10:06 of the third.
Gable: “We knew we just had to keep their (Meyersdale) confidence. And we knew we had to stop them on the first drive (after halftime) and if we responded like that, we’d have a lot of momentum and it would be hard for them to stop us.”
Player of the game: Gable had just two catches on the night, but the senior made both of them count for points. In addition to the 18-yarder, he hauled in a 27-yard pass that Snider threw into the back of the end zone. Gable had to plant his feet to establish field position and then reach over the end line to pull the ball in for the score that put Northern up 33-0 with 5:22 to go in the third. Gable then caught a two-point pass from backup quarterback Von Schleinkofer to kick the running clock to a 35-0 lead.
Gable: “We knew he (Snyder) struggled in the first half. But he just came back and put it where it needed to be, and we had success from there. … Well, I didn’t think I was open and I was really surprised when I saw the ball. So as I was tracking, I wasn’t expecting to get it, but I just got it – I don’t know how really.”
Unsung Heroes: Bowers and Snyder. In addition to the big punt return, Bowers intercepted Red Raider QB Lance Jones on the ensuing kickoff as NBC went up 21-0. The junior returned the punt 25 yards untouched to give his team a 27-0 advantage with 8:14 left. Bowers also had his only punt of the night, a 47-yarder in the second quarter that backed up Meyersdale at their own 11. He also caught one pass for 16 yards.
Bowers: “I got a good bounce right at me. I picked it up, made the first guy miss and saw a lane on the outside and just hit it. … They ran that play (on his interception return) earlier in the game and the coaches said it was pretty wide open. So I looked it up, read it right away and just did my thing.
Snyder, who missed practice all week because of a hit he took in the season finale, missed several open receivers in the first half but bounced back in the second half with the only two throws he needed. He finished by completing 5 of 8 passes for 112 yards and both touchdown passes to Gable. He also carried the ball four times for 31 yards, including the game’s opening score when he carried the goal line from 1 yard out on third-and-goal with 8:06 on the clock in the first quarter.
Black: We had some open things in the first half and we just missed them. Eion had an attempt last week and actually couldn’t practice for a whole week. Our coach is phenomenal — say hello to Mrs. (Katina) Gibner. She continued to work with him and came with him on Mondays when we weren’t here at school just to help him get to the point where he could play tonight. I think until he was training he was a bit rusty and I told him ‘don’t worry about it’. Just throw the ball and we’ll score and get out of here.”
Most important stat: Northern Bedford was extremely efficient in the third quarter as they ran just two offensive plays, both of which resulted in touchdowns. Meyersdale, meanwhile, had 24 plays, the latter accounting for its first points of the night on Spencer Whitfield’s 5-yard TD run with 4.3 ticks left in the quarter.
Meyersdale coach Ryan Donaldson: “We weren’t happy to be down by 14 at the break. But we felt like once we got the ball and made it 14-0 at halftime, we could figure some things out. We tried that after halftime. The problem is that Coach Black’s team is very, very good. We knew if we didn’t put something together there right when we got the ball after halftime, it was going to be even more difficult in the last 24 minutes.”
Notable: The two teams met in Week 7, with Northern Bedford earning a 43-6 victory on the road. … Adam Johnson, who carried the ball nine times in the first half for 29 yards, gave the Panthers their second touchdown when he easily scored from 1 yard out with 3:18 left in the first half. … Black was able to unload his bench after a 35-0 lead that allowed both Meyersdale field goals. … Malachi Carr came up with an interception of Schleinkofer on the first play of the final stanza, which led to the Red Raiders’ second touchdown when Tucker Lapp scored on a 12-yard run at 5:24 of the fourth.
Records: Meyersdale (6-5); Northern Bedford (11-0).
Next week: Meyersdale’s season is complete; Northern Bedford will play Windber Thursday night at Somerset Area High School for the District 5 Class 1A championship at 7 p.m.
Donaldson: “I’m very proud. I just told them they turned the corner based on what happened to us in the past. They have never been to a playoff game. They had fun and were grateful for the opportunity. We didn’t make it—we were fighting tonight. I’m proud of every single one of them.”
Myersdale 0 0 7 7 — 14
Northern Bedford 7 7 21 0 — 35
NB–Snyder 1 run (Kochara kick), 8:06.
NB–Johnson 1 run (Kochara kick), 3:18.
NB–Gable 18 pass from E. Snyder (Kochara kick), 10:06.
NB–Bowers 25 interception return (kick blocked), 8:14.
NB–Gable 27 pass from E. Snider (Gable pass from Schleinkofer), 5:22.
MY–Whitfield 5 run (Oller hit), 4.3.
MY–Lapp 12 run (Ohler kick), 5:24.
TEAM STATISTICS MY NB
First downs 14 9
Total yards 240,203
Rushes-yards 35-147 24-84
Yards passing 93,119
Pitching (comp.-att.-int.) 12-22-1 6-10-1
points-avg. 3-21.0 1-47.0
Fumbles-Loss 2-0 0-0
Penalty yards 6-43 4-30
RUSHING–Meyersdale, Brenneman 17-50, Schurg 3-16, Whitfield 12-76, Lapp 1-12, Jones 1-(-8), Ohler 1-1. Northern Bedford, Johnson 9-29, E. Snyder 4-31, Detterline 5-23, Gable 2-1, N. Snyder 2-0, Clark 1-1, TEAM 1-(-1).
PASSING – Myersdale, Jones 12-21-1-93, Whitfield 0-1-0-0. Northern Bedford, E. Snider 5-8-0-112, Schleinkofer 1-2-1-7.
RECEIVING – Meyersdale, Carr 7-69, Brenneman 3-9, Schurg 1-0, Sellers 1-15. Northern Bedford, Johnson 1-13, Pittman 1-38, Bowers 1-16, Gable 2-45, N Snyder 1-7.