It was a fluke play.
But sometimes, that's all it takes and Bellevue coach Ed Nasonti was more than willing to take it in the Redmen's 34-15 win at Norwalk Friday night in a Northern Ohio League matchup.
Trailing 9-6 at the end of the third quarter, Norwalk was in prime position for a signature win on the season.
On the first play of the fourth quarter at the Norwalk 16-yard line, however, Bellevue quarterback Jalen Santoro fumbled the snap, recovered and appeared to be intercepted by Norwalk's Darian Cook. The ball slipped just through Cook's hands, and Bellevue receiver Miles Foos bobbled the ball three times falling forward to make a 14-yard catch to set up first-and-goal.
What followed was a 10-minute span that saw the Redmen score four touchdowns for a numbing reversal of fortunes in a 34-15 win.
Norwalk fell to 2-7 (1-5 NOL) while Bellevue won for the third straight time to improve to 5-4 (4-2 NOL).
"You got two athletes making a play there," Nasonti said. "We just kept fighting and fighting through it. Norwalk's not a bad team, either. I know they are 2-7, but they have some players. We knew that coming in. We talked to our kids at halftime about hanging in there.
"We had opportunities, but just kept shooting ourselves in the foot. That stuff happens, but I give our kids credit. Nothing we've done this year has been easy, yet we still fight through it."
For Norwalk, it's a script many within the program have seen before: close, but not quite close enough.
"Things went haywire on us," Norwalk coach Chris MacFarland said. "We again put ourselves in a hole and just weren't able to recover from it. We're making too many mistakes, and it's playing out costly for us right now."
After Foos' bobbling catch, the junior caught a 7-yard touchdown two plays later from Santoro. The duo hooked up again on the 2-point pass to give Bellevue a 14-9 lead with 10:33 left.
Just three plays later, Norwalk quarterback Jake Fetherolf was intercepted by Mike Bodyke, who returned it 29 yards to the Norwalk 11. On the second play, Derek Smith ran in a reverse to cover the distance to make it 20-9 with 8:45 left.
Feeling the offense was stale and needed a spark, MacFarland elected to keep his offense on the field despite a fourth-and-10 at its own 26. The pass was incomplete, giving the ball to Bellevue. Two plays later, Santoro ran right up the middle of the Norwalk defense for a 16-yard touchdown that made it 26-9 with 4:19 left.
Norwalk answered with a quick five-play, 70-yard scoring drive that was capped on a 28-yard touchdown pass from Fetherolf to Cook with 3:17 left.
The Redmen, however. were just trying to run out the clock late when Dalton Jarvis burst through the middle for a 40-yard touchdown run with 1:01 left in the game to wrap up the scoring.
Bellevue opened the scoring with a 43-yard halfback pass from Jarvis to Foos with 11:25 left in the second quarter for a 6-0 lead.
Norwalk came right back with a 40-yard kick return by Tyrus Perkins to the Bellevue 40. Six plays later, Dustin Crabtree went around the left end for a 5-yard touchdown but the kick failed, leaving the score tied at 6-6 with 9:32 left in the half.
Norwalk put together an 8-play, 65-yard drive that put the ball at the Bellevue 18 with 22 seconds left in the half. Facing fourth-and-short, MacFarland opted for a 35-yard field goal by Michael Finch that gave the Truckers the 9-6 halftime lead.
The biggest turning point in the game for Norwalk came late in the third quarter when Cook made a diving catch at the Bellevue 43 on a third-and-11 play. However, the officials conferred for over two minutes and ruled the catch was incomplete, overturning the call.
The Norwalk sideline was flagged with a personal foul while arguing, and when the Truckers got the ball back, Perkins opened with a 40-yard run to the Bellevue 26. However, another personal foul on the next play helped kill the drive and on Bellevue's ensuing possession that set up the Foose bobbled catch, the Truckers were flagged for yet another personal foul for roughing the passer.
"I have to do a better job of making sure we stay controlled," MacFarland said. "We again put ourselves in a hole and just weren't able to recover from it. We played very well for three quarters, we executed some things, but couldn't finish drives.
"The biggest thing we talk about is finishing. We have to fight through this. If we fight through this with as close as we've been, we still feel positive with where we're going.
Meanwhile, the Redmen have a chance at a winning season at Galion next week after a 1-4 start.
"That's something we've been looking at, and we've tried to keep the kids up and coming back each week," Nasonti said. "We've played one lousy half of football against Shelby in Week 4 in terms of effort. After that, you can't fault our kids effort."
Santoro ran the ball 30 times for 109 yards for Bellevue while completing 10-of-18 passes for 204 yards. Foos caught six passes for 162 yards and two scores while Jarvis ran for 92 yards on 16 attempts.
Perkins picked up 99 yards on eight attempts for Norwalk while Crabtree picked up 90 yards on 17 attempts. Fetherolf was 7-of-24 passing for 87 yards while Trevor Ishee caught five passes for 37 yards.
Willard 3, Galion 0
In Willard, the Crimson Flashes pulled off a slim 3-0 victory over Galion on Friday, holding an opponent to less than 14 points for the first time this season.
Willard improved to 5-4 (4-2 NOL) with the win, while Galion drops to 5-4 (4-2 NOL).
The Flashes will take a shot at rival Shelby (7-2, 5-1 NOL) next week for a chance to finish over .500 for the first time since 2005.
Bellevue 0 6 0 28 -- 34
Norwalk 0 9 0 6 -- 14
B -- Miles Foos 43 pass from Dalton Jarvis, (kick failed)
N -- Dustin Crabtree 5 run, (kick failed)
N -- Michael Finch 35 field goal
B -- Foos 7 pass from Jalen Santoro, (Santoro to Foos)
B -- Derek Smith 11 run, (pass failed)
B -- Santoro 16 run, (pass failed)
N -- Darian Cook 28 pass from Jake Fetherolf, (pass failed)
B -- Jarvis 40 run, (Jarvis run)
First downs 24 13
rushes-yards 50-227 37-225
passing yards 247 87
Att-comp-int 19-11-0 24-7-2
Penalties-yards 7-57 8-106
Fumbles-lost 3-2 0-0
RUSHING - (B): Jalen Santoro 30-109, Dalton Jarvis 16-92, Brandon Adkinson 2-15, Derek Smith 1-11; (N): Dustin Crabtree 17-88, Nick Davis 11-39, Tyrus Perkins 8-99, Darian Cook 1-(-1).
PASSING - (B): Santoro 10-18-204-1-0, Jarvis 1-1-43-1-0; (N): Jake Fetherolf 7-24-87-1-2
RECEIVING - (B): Miles Foos 6-162, Trent Stamm 2-21, Matt Agee 2-29, Adam Manner 1-35; (N): Trevor Ishee 5-37, Darian Cook 1-29, Michael Finch 1-21.