Bellevue’s senior wideout and quarterback caught a pass to convert on fourth down to setup the Redmen’s go-ahead score in the third quarter. He also ran in a score and threw for another, compiling 181 all-purpose yards running and receiving, while adding 30 in the air. Bellevue touched the ball four times in final half and scored on each possession to overcome a seven-point halftime deficit and top Norwalk 40-28 on homecoming night at Bellevue Athletic Field.
Francis’ 5-yard scoring run with 8:59 to go put the Redmen (4-2, 1-0) up 34-21.
Dakota McPeak had nine receptions for 196 yards and 3 TDs for Bellevue, which tallied 515 yards of offense with 317 coming from the air.
McPeak converted a fourth-and-6 from the Norwalk 34 on the opening drive of the second half with an 18-yard gain on a screen pass. That helped extend a 13-play, 65-yard drive, ending five plays later on another fourth-down play. This time Riley Renwand found Dalton Hay for a 17-yard TD toss. Kaden Livingston managed to block the extra point for the Truckers (2-4, 0-1), though, to keep Norwalk up 21-20.
But after giving up 229 yards in the opening half, the Redmen defense forced a quick three-and-out, then went right back down the field again for the go-ahead score. This time it was a nine-play, 75-yard one ending in McPeak catching a 15-yard scoring pass from Renwand on a slant pattern to make it 26-21 with 2:42 to go in the third quarter.
“We had a talk with our kids at halftime where we put it on the table for them,” Redmen coach Ed Nasonti said. “We didn’t feel that we were mentally ready coming out in the first half. But I thought we put it together. This night meant something to our kids. It’s homecoming, and second half, you can’t deny what we did. We did some good things out there.”
Early on, it was the Kaden Livingston show for the Truckers.
Livingston recorded three catches on the Truckers’ game-opening drive that covered 46 of his team’s 71 yards. Trevon Raymore’s 23-yard TD run at the 8:48 mark was the final play of the eight-play possession. Garrison Smith’s first of four extra points made it 7-0.
However, Norwalk’s lead was short-lived.
On the first play of the ensuing Bellevue possession, McPeak caught a screen pass from Renwand, which he took 72 yards to paydirt down his own sideline. Hunter Notke’s extra point tied the game just 16 seconds after Raymore’s score.
Then the Truckers’ defense made a stand. The Redmen went 94 yards in 16 plays, but once they got a first-and-goal at the 3, Norwalk stuffed the run four times. Raymore wrapped up Francis on fourth-and-1 to turn the ball over to the offense.
Only disaster would strike for the Truckers. Two plays after the great defensive stand, Bryce McMurray’s Pick 6 put the Redmen ahead, 14-7.
“We were backed up about on the one-inch line and we tried to sneak to get it off, but didn’t get much movement,” Norwalk coach Chris MacFarland said. “Up top, we had a pretty good call, but it’s tough for a high school quarterback to sit in the end zone another second. Even the last interception in the second half, we were getting good reads on what was happening over the top, we were just getting the ball out too quick. We have to give our guys a chance to clear the secondary.”
The Truckers bounced back, though, putting together two straight scoring drives to end the half up 21-14.
Livingston pulled the ball in on zone read from the wildcat to run 53 yards to the Bellevue 2 on the first score. On the second one, from a similar formation, he rolled out and somehow got the ball over about three sets of hands to Chase Jubak for a 15-yard strike with 1:28 remaining.
The Truckers compiled 346 yards of offense. Raymore led the attack with 164 yards on 20 carries, accounting for three scores.
“I thought running backs, with Trevon, Rashod and Kaden all in there, did a nice job of picking up some things for us. Receivers made some nice catches, had some nice slants in the first half,” MacFarland said. “We had a lot of people contribute. That’s what we want. We got get our offense spread out as much as we can.”
Added Nasonti: “I got to give a ton of credit to Norwalk because they got some kids that made plays for them. We knew coming in that if we weren’t going to tackle No. 28, we could have a dogfight.”
The Redmen’s ability to extend drives was huge in the second half. For the game, Bellevue was 10 for 16 on third down and 3 for 4 on fourth down.
The Redmen had the ball for 30:06 to Norwalk’s 17:54.
“We just made too many mistakes in the last half and didn’t give ourselves a chance. Turnovers hurt us,” MacFarland said. “We had a chance for a turnover against them and didn’t get it. You lose the turnover and penalty battle against a good team, that’s usually a lose.”