Jonathan Alder’s Trevor Mitchell (3) tries to avoid a tackle against Bellefontaine on Friday. The Pioneers lost, 19-6, during their Homecoming game.
For much of the season, the Jonathan Alder Pioneers have found ways to win football games.
Whether it has been coming back from deficits or holding on to slight margins, Alder has been on the winning side of the ledger more often than not.
That string of success and/or luck came to an abrupt halt Friday evening when the Pioneers dropped a 19-6 verdict to Bellefontaine in a Central Buckeye Conference game.
Both teams entered JA’s Homecoming contest with matching 5-1 records.
The Pioneers, though, simply made too many mistakes to extend their run to a sixth victory.
“We had too many missed opportunities tonight,” said JA coach Brett Glass. “We had a couple of turnovers in the red zone and another time, we had several negatives plays.
“I will say this for our defense…. that’s the fewest number of points Bellefontaine has scored this year.”
The numbers that the Chieftains otherwise put up were impressive.
Bellefontaine rolled for 450 yards of total offense, led by quarterback Dezmin Lyburtus.
The senior signal-caller rushed for 130-plus yards and threw for more than 200.
“He’s very tough to bring down in space, but we knew that,” said Glass. “He’s one of the best players in the state.”
The Chieftains scored their initial touchdown by capitalizing on a critical Pioneer turnover.
After forcing Bellefontaine to punt on the opening possession of the game, JA marched from its own 25-yard-line to deep in Chieftain territory.
A big play during the series came on a pass from Preston Eisnaugle to Trevor Mitchell that got the ball down to the 11.
Tailback Jamie Dye took the ball into the line, but coughed it up.
The Chieftains pounced on the pigskin to end the Pioneers’ threat.
“Jamie never fumbles the ball, but he’s a little hobbled after the great games he’s had the last couple of weeks,” said Glass. “That (the fumble) seemed to take some of the steam out of us.”
Bellefontaine played the role of opportunist as Lyburtus orchestrated a series that covered 92 yards in 11 snaps.
The drive appeared to stall a bit once the Chieftains reached the JA 13-yard-line.
Bellefontaine was whistled for an ineligible receiver downfield, but the Pioneers declined to accept the infraction.
Lyburtus faced third-and-11, but took the snap and weaved his way into the end zone for the touchdown.
The extra point by Derek Robb put the visitors up by a 7-0 count.
The Pioneers once again advanced deep into opposing territory and once again attacked the Chieftains’ red zone.
The march stalled after a pair of incomplete passes left Alder facing fourth-and-eight from the Bellefontaine 17-yard-line.
Alder elected to try for the first down, but the attempt was snuffed out when Bellefontaine’s Jack Clement picked off Eisnaugle’s pass.
Both teams’ offenses sputtered as action moved into the second quarter.
The Chieftains were, however, able to move the ball on their second series of the period.
Lyburtus hit receivers Johnny Ganson and William Parsley for several passes, moving the ball down to the JA 12-yard-line.
Alder’s defense stiffened as the Chieftains had to settle for Robb’s field goal that gave them a 10-0 lead with 22.4 seconds left in the half.
The Pioneers decided to take a knee with 12.6 ticks on the clock with the hopes of regrouping at halftime.
Alder still had trouble mounting much in the way of an offense and punted on its first series of the third quarter.
The Chieftains were able to move the ball, but once again were forced to settle for another Robb field goal that stretched their lead to 13-0.
Another JA punt led to a Bellefontaine touchdown that basically put the game on ice early in the fourth quarter.
The Chieftains mixed their ground game with an aerial attack, moving down to the JA four-yard-line as the third period expired.
Jerome Smith took the opening snap of the final stanza and bulled into the end zone.
The extra point failed, leaving Bellefontaine up 19-0.
The Pioneers started what would prove to be their lone scoring drive of the night at midfield, thanks to a Chieftain face mask infraction.
Eisnaugle connected with Dalton Potts on two big pass plays, advancing down to the nine-yard-line.
Alder recovered its own fumble back at the 16, but Dye got seven of those yards back on the next play.
Eisnaugle then connected with Drew Myers on a pass for JA’s lone touchdown.
The two-point conversion failed, leaving the Pioneers down 19-6.
JA attempted an onside kick that the Chieftains appeared to illegally bat out-of-bounds.
The boys in the striped shirts didn’t see it that way, much to the Pioneers’ consternation.
An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against JA ensued, but the damage was minimized when Bellefontaine later lost the ball on downs.
Alder surrendered the pigskin in the same manner during its final possession of the night and the Chieftains ran out the clock.
The Pioneers (who will travel to Tecumseh on Friday) were without the services of wide receiver-defensive back Bryan Blacka, who is nursing a sprained ACL.
At first, it was thought Blacka had torn the ligament during last week’s victory over Kenton Ridge.
“We missed Bryan tonight, but we can’t use that as an excuse,” said Glass. “In that case, it has to be the next man up.
“We may be able to get him back, however, in a couple of weeks.”
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