Belpre grid program back on right track

Finishing 5-5 this season after going 4-6 last year, it seems as though Belpre football is now on its way to bigger and better things in the near future.

The Golden Eagle gridders won three of four to close out last season and then four of their final five games this fall after a 1-9 record in head coach Greg Adams’ first year in 2010, followed by a winless second season.

Still, Adams knows the Golden Eagles have to figure out how to compete against the likes of the Wahamas and Trimbles of the world they compete in, the TVC Hocking Division.

“After getting beat by Trimble soundly (54-0), I felt that wins in our last two games was something that we really needed to achieve (a .500 season) for us to take that next step next year,” said Adams.

The 5-5 campaign, capped by shutout wins over Miller (39-0) and Waterford (19-0), tied for the third-best record at Belpre since 2000 after 8-2 and 7-3. “I consider that quite an accomplishment by these young men, and that’s something that we’ve got to continue to do around here is win,” said Adams.

The most memorable moment of the season came in week 7, a 21-8 triumph over visiting – and state-ranked No. 6 in Division VII, Region 25 – South Gallia, which barely finished out of the eight-team regional playoffs at No. 9 with a 6-4 record.

In that game, junior Belpre tailback Manney Tullius, who went over 1,000 yards rushing on the season despite missing two games and three quarters of another with a severely-sprained ankle, rushed for 307 yards on 24 carries with a pair of long-distance touchdown dashes of 80 and 45 yards.

”That was the first team we beat in my four years here that had a winning record (4-2 then),” said Adams. “So those things have to change and we have to start beating those teams like Wahama and Trimble.”

Still, Adams noted that “last year, we beat Southern here pretty handily (to snap a 13-game losing streak dating back to the 2010 season), but go down there this year and the score’s 19-0 in Southern’s favor.”

Of course, that was during the time when Tullius was out along with several other Belpre starters. namely Nathan Mason and Matthew Colvin, being knocked out of that game. That came after the Fort Frye game the week before when Tullius sustained his ankle injury late in the first quarter with Belpre already ahead 14-0 and looking like it was going to score again, but didn’t and went on to lose, 41-28.

“In my mind, that was a game against a Fort Frye team that made the playoffs at 8-2 that we should have won, but we didn’t,” said Adams. “So that showed us we weren’t there yet.”

But Belpre was a predominately-young team this fall with just three starters (D.J. Leftwich, Jamie Barrett and Dakota McDaniel) out of five seniors – and only one junior in Tullius out of a total of 22 players.

”So there wasn’t a lot of experience there coming into this season, but a lot of those younger guys got some this year to ‘grow up’ in football jargon,” said Adams.

“Going 5-5 was another positive step for us, and that’s what we have to keep doing.”

Belpre has been led the past two years by quarterback Tavian Miller, who started as a freshman last fall, and Tullius at tailback after starting as a freshman at quarterback in 2011.

”But we have other athletes now too that we’ve able to surround those two with,” said Adams.

“The next step” that Adams sees his team taking “is winning enough games to go to the playoffs.”

He admits, “Yes, that would be a big step, so I can’t wait for next year to get here.”