BY YANEEK SMITH, BEACON CONTRIBUTOR
PORT CLINTON — Two years ago, Port Clinton opened the season hosting Bellevue at True-Lay Stadium and lost, 35-0.
And things didn’t look too promising on Friday night when the Redskins (1-0) fell behind by 18 points before rallying on two separate occasions to defeat the Redmen, 49-44.
Bellevue (0-1) took a 36-35 lead when Jax LaPata scored on a 1-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter, but Port Clinton responded, going ahead for good on a 39-yard touchdown pass from Cam Gillum to Tyler Webb on the first play of the fourth quarter.
The ‘Skins added to the lead and made it 49-36 when Josh Hurst caught a 14-yard touchdown pass from Gillum on fourth-and-6 with 2:32 to play.
The Redmen responded and scored a touchdown with 47 seconds to play, but Port Clinton recovered the onside kick to clinch the victory.
Trailing 18-0 early in the second quarter, Port Clinton scored 28 unanswered points to take control before Bellevue fought back. Hurst caught a 40-yard touchdown pass from Gillum to get on the board and the first of seven extra points by Andrew Hanson cut the deficit to 18-7. Two pick-sixes by Cashes Jackson (62 yards) and Garrett Cornell (34 yards) vaulted the ‘Skins to a 21-18 lead.
Owen Auxter caught a 12-yard touchdown pass from Gillum to push the lead to 10 points and the Redmen cut the deficit to 28-24 at halftime when Will Hager scored on a 69-yard touchdown run with 30 seconds to play.
“The turning point was our very first touchdown with Josh (Hurst) because we were down 18-0. We had to score and we threw a 40-yard touchdown pass. That gave us hope and life. Then Cashes pick-sixed it,” said Port Clinton coach Beau Carmon. “I don’t think we were ever in control. It’s Bellevue, you’re not going to control a team like that. It was a back-and-forth battle and punches were thrown on both sides.
“Both of us scored seven touchdowns and we went 7-for-7 on extra points. Our defense gave up 44 points, but they also scored two touchdowns and held Bellevue to all but one two-point conversion.”
Gillum completed 15-of-24 passes for 221 yards and five touchdowns and Hurst led the receivers with four catches for 89 yards and three scores.
“It started off shaky, and what a lot of people don’t know is that I don’t think our offensive line played particularly well. Cam didn’t have all day to throw the football, he had to make quick reads and get rid of the ball,” said Carmon. “Bellevue’s defensive line made things difficult. Cam is a smart kid and makes the reads. He’ll try to make plays and throw the ball deep when he should just run it for 5-6 yards; it can be a double-edged sword. He made a lot of plays, he was able to do some nice things. Hats off to Bellevue for how good they are. Then we lost Garrett Cornell for the whole second half. Noah Auxter did a good job filling in for him. Our wide receivers were there, too. It’s a team effort.”
Carmon talked about the psyche of the team after it fell behind 18-0 early in the second quarter.
“It was bad after we fell behind. We know we’re a good football team. They go down and score, then they go down and score right away on the interception,” he said. “Being down that much to a team like Bellevue, it usually spells doom, but it didn’t because of our senior leadership and the spark the kids made.”
On Friday, Port Clinton hosts Rossford, which defeated Swanton, 55-7, in its opener.
“I think Rossford is a good football team, and they put together a nice win against Swanton. Their quarterback is the heart and soul of their team — he can throw and run the ball,” said Carmon. “They’ve got big numbers, I think it might be the best they’ve had.
“They have new facilities, and they’re always one of the better teams in the Northern Buckeye Conference. I think it’s going to be a very good game. I think both teams are capable of beating each other if the other team doesn’t give 100% effort. I think it will be another fun game to watch.”