Handcuffed by untimely penalties, Tecumseh falls to Bellefontaine

Bellefontaine’s Garrett Gross breaks a tackle by Tecumseh’s Cyle Wells during Friday night’s game. BILL LACKEY/STAFF
Bellefontaine’s Garrett Gross breaks a tackle by Tecumseh’s Cyle Wells during Friday night’s game. BILL LACKEY/STAFF

Holding and personal foul penalties are difficult for any offense to overcome. But the Wing-T?

“We don’t have any third-and-eight plays or third-and-12 plays,” said Tecumseh’s A.J. Betleyoun, a senior running back and linebacker. “We have third-and-three and third-and-four plays. So those are the situations we need to get in.”

Three times the Arrows drove into Bellefontaine territory Friday night converting those third-and-short plays. But each time a yellow flag was a stop sign. “We have to stay on schedule,” Arrows coach Chris Cory said after his team fell 21-0 to Bellefontaine on homecoming.

The Arrows faced third-and-5 at the Chieftains’ 37 in the second quarter. But a holding call and a false start killed that drive. Early in the fourth quarter the Arrows were helped by a personal foul on the Chieftains to set up a second-and-6 at the nine. But the Arrows got a deadball personal foul and that drive died. On their next possession, the Arrows were again stopped by a holding call on second-and-9 from the 27.

“We just made some mistakes,” Cory said. “The kids were playing hard — I don’t blame them for any of the mistakes they made. We’ve just got to fix it, and that’s my job.”

The Arrows (4-3) were playing in the biggest game of their high school careers. They had a chance to be the only 2-0 team in the Central Buckeye Conference Kenton Trail Division. Now they are 1-1 and Bellefontaine is 2-0 and 5-2.

“We talked about it all week,” Cory said. “We’ve been down the last few years and haven’t had the opportunity to play in big games.”

Bellefontaine’s offense revolves around the running of junior running back Garrett Gross and junior quarterback Grant Smith. Gross rushed for 99 yards and Smith 86 to lead and rushing attack that gained 246 yards. The Arrows bent a lot on the running game, but it was passing connection of Smith to Jack Clement that broke the defense.

Smith, who was 3-of-5 passing for 107 yards, threw touchdown passes of 33 and 55 yards to Clement in the first half for a 14-0 lead. The Arrows tried an onside kick to open the second half, but it didn’t work. The Chieftains took advantage of the field position. Gross ran the ball four times and Smith completed an 18-yard pass on a 48-yard drive that ended with Gross’ 19-yard touchdown run.

The Arrows managed only 58 yards of offense in the second half and finished with 169. Five of their first downs were earned by penalty, but those flags didn’t cost the Chieftains the way they cost the Arrows. The Arrows were forced to throw the ball more than they like to and completed only 3 of 15 for 26 yards.

Last year the Arrows lost to Bellefontaine 41-0. They’ve closed the gap, but that’s not enough after raising expectations with a 4-2 start.

“I’m tired of moral victories,” Betleyoun said. “We’ve had a lot of those.”

The Arrows have games left with Ben Logan (2-4), Jonathan Alder (5-2) and Kenton Ridge (4-3).

“This group has a short memory,” Cory said. “They’re going to come in tomorrow and be disappointed. But once we come back Monday they’ll know it’s time to get focused on Ben Logan.”