Chiefs Fall at Regional Final 19-13


By: Dave Bezusko & April King

The Bellefontaine football team’s run through the State Playoffs came to an end in Marion Friday night, dropping an intense defensive struggle, 19-13 to top-seeded Bishop Watterson in the Division III Region 11 Finals.

Watterson quarterback A.J. McAninch threw an 11-yard back-shoulder touchdown pass to Jake Uhlenhake to break a 13-13 tie with 8:52 left in the game for the difference.  The play capped a 70-yard Eagles drive to start the fourth quarter.  After Bellefontaine turned the ball over on downs at the Watterson 41-yard line with just under five minutes left, Watterson ran out the clock to preserve the win.

The Chiefs had the lead midway through the 3rd quarter, turning two interceptions into 13 unanswered points.  Riley Neer scored a pick-six against McAninch, stepping in front of an intended receiver and outrunning all the Eagles 70 yards down the sideline for the Chieftains first score of the game on the opening drive of the second half.  Alex Crabill’s extra point made it 7-6 Chiefs.  C.J. Wilson intercepted McAninch on the next possession, setting up Bellefontaine’s lone offensive scoring drive.  Wilson caught an 11-yard bullet from Tavien St. Clair on a slant pattern to give the Chiefs a 13-6 lead with 5:26 to play in the third.  Watterson would respond with a 33-yard touchdown by Zach Webber to tie the score at 13-all, setting up the fourth-quarter dramatics.

Bellefontaine could never establish its running game Friday and was limited to minus-5 yards rushing on 12 carries and just 150 yards of total offense in the game.  St. Clair threw two first-quarter interceptions.  But Bellefontaine’s defense kept them in the game, holding Waterson to two Rudy Kessinger field goals and a 6-0 Eagles lead at halftime.

Friday marked the 4th time Watterson has ended Bellefontaine’s season in the playoffs (1999, 2000, 2009, 2023). The Eagles (13-1) advance beyond the Regional Finals for the eighth time in school history to play Celina in the State Semifinals next Friday.

Bellefontaine’s season ends at 11-3, with the team winning three playoff games in one postseason for the first time and advancing to the Regional Finals for the third time in school history (1997, 1999, and 2023).

Head Coach Jason Brown had this to say after the game: