More than two months ago, the Bellevue football team visited Clear Fork in a non-conference game. It was a program it had little to no history with.
The Redmen took an early fourth quarter lead, but came up four yards shy in overtime of a 20-14 loss. The Colts (11-0) haven’t lost since, but now the Redmen (8-3) get a second shot at them on a neutral field in Friday’s 7:30 p.m. Division IV Region 14 semifinal at Arlin Field in Mansfield.
“It was a situation where there wasn’t much film to watch, and you’re playing down there in in Week 2 without one of your better players (Treston Francis),” Bellevue coach Ed Nasonti said. “With all that being said, we’re a couple plays from winning that game.”
After dominating the second half of a 33-14 win at rival Clyde in Week 10 to reach the playoffs, Bellevue was one of three teams in Ohio last week to win a playoff game after needing a victory in Week 10 to get in.
In a 34-6 win at Pepper Pike Orange, the Redmen dominated from the outset and were never challenged in earning playoff win No. 17 in program history.
After a 46-0 loss at Shelby dropped the Redmen to 2-2, Bellevue has won six of its last seven games by margins of 12 points or more entering Friday’s game. The lone loss was a competitive 49-35 setback vs. Sandusky on Oct. 20 in Week 9.
“For us, we evaluate our kids each week — and a lot of times people will distinguish whether your rolling or not by wins or losses,” Nasonti said. “Sometimes you play a pretty good game and you do things well, and you don’t win.
“But it’s nice that these last two weeks the kids have been rewarded for doing all the little things to contribute to being successful,” he added. “From practicing, working hard in the weight room, they’ve done a good job all season. We got the results last week because of details tended to prior to that. We felt they weren’t as physical as we were, and a lot of times you’re a little bit careful and cautiously optimistic about that — but it was truth, and our kids went out and proved it.”
The Colts are anchored up front by a pair of linemen, Paul Francisco and Hunter Tollison, who check in at 6-foot-4, 250 pounds and 6-2, 280.
Quarterback Blake Dinsmore was 66-of-104 for 896 yards with eight touchdowns in the regular season, and also ran 121 times for 899 yards and 17 TDs. He’s also a standout at defensive back and added three interceptions.
Daniel Spencer and Michael Chillemi have combined for 14 sacks along the defensive line, while linebacker Jacob Bailey (85 tackles, 5 sacks) anchors the defense. Jake Lowe has 12 pass breakups and is the Colts’ best defensive back.
“When you look at any program worth their salt, and you watch throughout the year, you’ll see improvements all over the place,” Nasonti said. “Clear Fork has a really nice team, nice size up front on defense, and skilled guys who can really run with an elusive QB who they utilize.
“They like to get him in empty sets and make you play in space,” he added. “They have a nice system, are well-coached and have a good football tradition. All those things add up to make a competitive game — and we’re excited to be playing a team like that in Week 12.”
The only other time the Redmen played in a playoff game at Arlin Field was in 2001, and it was a memorable one. Like this season, they were a lower seed (sixth) and were facing an unbeaten team (Big Walnut).
In the Div. III Region 10 championship game, Bellevue handed Big Walnut its lone loss of the season in a 42-35 shootout, advancing to the state semifinals for the second of three times (1996, 2012).
The game was also delayed in the second quarter when the power at the stadium went out.
On Friday, the Redmen have yet another opportunity to reach the regional title game round.
“It’s one of our goals, though we don’t talk a lot about it,” Nasonti said. “But the opportunity to get in playoffs is always something huge, because not many teams get to do it. We’re one of 16 teams left in our division.
“It’s a nice opportunity for us, and also a great opportunity for us to represent our program, our school and our conference and community in the postseason,” he added. “It’s an exciting time for anyone involved. It’s much better to be standing on sidelines still rather than watching someone else play.”