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Saturday has perfect feel to it

Mark Hazelwood
Nov 30, 2012

Everything felt right.
I took a drive down U.S. Route 20 through the heart of Bellevue Sunday afternoon, and the sights and sounds were the perfect backdrop for the fall.
Kids were playing football in a backyard. Not far away, a train was storming by with the familiar sounds of the crossing gate wailing at the tracks.
On every level imaginable, those two sights and sounds represent Bellevue. It's a blue collar railroad town with 13,000-plus people.
And it's football in the fall.
Saturday morning, Bellevue's football team will take the field and play for the Division III state championship. It's a day that the players once dreamed about, when they were those very kids playing in a backyard, picturing the day when everyone would be watching them one day play for a championship.
That day, one that didn't seem like it would ever come, is just around the corner.
It's been a perfect run of five playoff games for the Redmen. Arguably the most consistent program in area history that dates back 115 years, an incredible display of comebacks have fittingly been performed at some legendary venues in Ohio football circles.
Constant rain completely ruined the playing surface at Bellevue Athletic Field, so the Redmen opened the first round at Sandusky's Strobel Field. The 77-year old venue with a true coliseum-like look was built in 1936 and seats more than 6,000.
In the regional championship game vs. Napoleon, Bellevue played at Findlay's Donnell Stadium, an 85-year old venue that holds 7,500 has hosted its share of stars between Findlay High School and the University of Findlay Oilers.
Last week with a trip to the championship on the line, the Redmen took on Dayton Thurgood Marshall at Selby Stadium. Situated on the campus of Ohio Wesleyan University, just off the banks of the Olentangy River, the 9,100-seat venue is 84 years old.
So as daylight diminishes to darkness sooner each day, the Redmen football team has extended their season and practices, culminating a journey that began in July all the way into December.
The conclusion to the season also checks off the only thing missing from one of the best football programs in area history.
When you play against Bellevue, you are also playing against its past. From the black shoes and UCLA-look jerseys, to the unmistakable feather on the silver helmet, the Redmen uniforms looked the same in the 1960s as they do today.
27 league championships. No other school has won more league titles. 31 seasons of eight wins or more. That's 27 percent of the time for a program that dates back nearly 12 decades. 570 all-time wins. It's enough victories to put Bellevue in the top 15 in Ohio history.
418 of those wins have come in the last 60 years, when Bellevue has had just three different head coaches in that span. Its current coach played for the previous two. 14 playoff appearances in 32 seasons. Only two other area programs have made as many visits to November football.
A program with a tradition that has few equals has become accustomed to having teams chasing a date with history.
It's no longer chasing.
So with Saturday nearly upon us, Bellevue will play for a championship in the perfect place. The ghosts of football immortality will be the length of a football field away at the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
It will be a collision for history at Fawcett Stadium, often regarded as a top 10 venue for high school football in the entire country, in a city that is the birthplace of the NFL. Calling Fawcett home is Canton McKinley, a program with 793 wins (No. 2 all-time).
It's a game featuring one school looking to add to its already bountiful legend. Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary can become one of nine programs in Ohio history to have at least five state championships. And on the other side, a school finally hoping to ascend to football's pinnacle.
Add it all up, and it's a game where everything about it feels right.



13,000 + people? In Bellevue? 2010 Census count was 8,202. I doubt if there's been an influx of 4,000 plus.