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The injury-riddled Bellevue Tigers captured the second seed in Northern Kentucky’s 1A district Friday night with a 40-0 blowout of Ludlow.
The Tigers are battling the injury bug, with an unusual amount of players missing games. Head Coach Mike Croley summed it up well.
“I don’t know how much time you’ve got but if I told you about all the injuries we’ve had throughout the year, you’d have to extend the program,” Croley said in a postgame interview.
Friday night was more of the same for the seemingly snake-bitten Tigers. After the first quarter played to a 0-0 stalemate, Bellevue lost starting quarterback Jake Sparks who was vomiting on the sidelines. Fortunately for Bellevue, the game was delayed at that time due to half the lights at Ludlow’s stadium being off.
“We always give him enough reps in practice to where I was comfortable if (Jake Sparks) went down, we’d be okay,” Croley said about putting the sophomore Tyler Ackerson into the quarterback position.
“Thankfully tonight the lights went out and we got a break in between the first and second quarter and I got to run some offense down there. I got him some practice before we restarted the game.”
When Ackerson finally got on to the field following the delay, it didn’t take him long to get settled in. He handed off to his running backs on a few straight plays, before Jordan Fogelman punched it into the endzone from a yard out to put the game’s first points on the board. Fogelman, the Tigers’ workhorse back, finished the game with 28 carries for 107 yards.
“I just wanted to come in and execute,” Ackerson said. “I get the reps in practice and I just did what I was taught.”
After Bellevue’s defense got a stop, the offense went on a time-consuming drive down the field that ate up most of the remaining clock. Ackerson capped the drive when he went right up the middle for the touchdown from two yards out.
“At first I was nervous, but after I got the first one in I settled in and was just ready to do what I do,” Ackerson, who finished with six carries for 131 yards and three touchdowns, said.
Coming out of halftime, both teams struggled to move the ball on offense. The two teams traded possessions a few times before Croley made a bold coaching decision. With his team facing fourth and inches at their own 15, he decided to go for it. The decision paid off as Ackerson pushed the pile forward for a two-yard gain. A few plays later, scat back Justin Hatch took off on a 43-yard run down the sideline in front of Ludlow’s bench. A few plays later, he gave the Tigers a three touchdown lead when he ran it in from 38 yards out to make it 21-0 heading into the fourth quarter. Hatch finished with 13 carries for 120 yards on the game.
Ludlow had a golden opportunity to start the fourth quarter, after wide receiver Chris Yates made a spectacular one-handed catch down the sidelines that put them in the redzone. The Panthers would march all the way to the Bellevue 10-yard line, but that’s as far as they would get. The Tigers held them on four straight plays and forced a turnover on downs. That stop not only kept the Tigers’ shutout intact, it also took any momentum residing on Ludlow’s sideline after Yates’ catch and placed it back in a black and yellow jersey.
“We haven’t been a very good defensive team this year. We’ve struggled with tackling, and we’ve got a lot of sophomores. They don’t look like sophomores but they play like sophomores,” Croley said. “Tonight some of them grew up a little bit. They made some tackles and we did some things.”
“Boy, I was proud of ‘em.”
Ackerson blew the game open with 6:13 left. After handing off for most of the night, he had his number called. After faking to the running back up the middle, he rolled out on the bootleg and sprinted 75 yards down Bellevue’s sideline for the score, stiff-arming a defender along the way. Ludlow then fumbled the ensuing kickoff and Ackerson ran the exact-same play for a 20-yard score to make it 33-0 with 5:55 remaining.
“Tyler’s a great athlete,” Croley said about his young quarterback. “He’s what I call one of my super sophomores. We’ve got a great sophomore class. He’s just now starting to figure out what his potential is. I think tonight, on a couple of those big runs he had, he started realizing how good of a player he can be if he really works at it.”
The Tigers tacked on a late touchdown from reserve running back Alec Hazeres following another Ludlow fumble to make the final score 40-0.
Bellevue advances to 4-4 on the year and locks up the two seed in the district for the playoffs, while Ludlow falls to 2-6.
Rick Broering is the owner of NKySportsBlog.com. A 2011 graduate of Northern Kentucky University with a degree in Electronic Media and Broadcasting, he has written for various online publications, called play-by-play for all three major sports and has made appearances on WKRC TV and Clear Channel Radio. This will be his sixth year covering the Northern Kentucky preps beat and his fourth season with TriStateFootball.com. If you are interested in covering your team, please CONTACT US.