By John Raffel
Special to the Record-Eagle
GREENVILLE — It was a tough one to take for the Bellaire Eagles.
Bellaire dominated the statistical sheet and moved the ball much better offensively than Deckerville, but still fell short in a dramatic ending 14-12 in the 8-Player football state championship game at Greenville's Legacy Field Friday night.
Hunter Walsh was stopped at the Deckerville 4-yard-line as time ran out on Bellaire's state title hopes.
The Eagles scored earlier with 49 seconds left on a dramatic touchdown pass of 52 yards from Zach Smith to Wes Villafane but failed to convert on the extra point and trailed by two.
It was the second MHSAA 8-man football state championship game in Michigan and the first one in the Lower Peninsula.
It was the second lowest scoring total for Deckerville this season, but it wasn't enough to give Bellaire the victory.
"The kids played like this all year," said Bellaire coach Ron Bindi. "With only 13 of them, always out-numbered, there was no quit in them. We didn't get it done at the end this time."
Bellaire had 300 rushing yards and 117 passing compared to 239 rushing yards for Deckerville and none passing. But despite a 417-239 edge in total yards, the Eagles were hurt by two interceptions and two costly fumbles.
Bellaire's season ended at 9-4. Deckerville takes the title at 12-1.
"With great kids, you saw a lot of character out here today," said Deckerville coach Bill Brown.
Trailing 6-0 at halftime, Deckerville score 14 unanswered points in the third quarter for a 14-6 lead.
Arthur Lapp recovered a fumble at the Bellaire 24. Christopher Wolfe scored from 5 yards out and a quarterback keeper by Nick Pagel gave Deckerville an 8-6 lead.
On Bellaire's next drive, Ryan Stone intercepted a pass. Deckerville had runs of 31 yards from Wolfe and 23 from Stone, who scored the touchdown for a 14-6 lead. Pagel's try for two points failed on the pass.
Bellaire came back and got deep in Deckerville territory on a 39-yard run by Chase Small.
But for the third time in the evening, Bellaire would be stopped in the red zone. On the first play of the fourth quarter from the 1-yard-line, Small was stopped for a loss and Deckerville maintained its lead.
Smith was stopped on a keeper at the Deckerville 33 with 3:59 to play.
Deckerville drove to the Bellaire 36 but ran out of downs, giving Bellaire the ball with 1:14 to play and no timeouts.
But then Smith and Villafane connected for a 52-yard touchdown pass with 49 seconds to play. On the key extra point try, Walsh took the pitch and appeared to reach the goal line, but was ruled short by inches on a hit from Stone.
Richard Winslow recovered the onside kick for Bellaire at its own 49.
Smith passed to Villafane 32 yards to the 4-yard line with 20 seconds to go.
Walsh took the pitch but was stopped by Deckerville at the 4 as time ran out.
"We didn't spike the ball down there because I live by the philosophy that hey, let's try to catch them so the other defense can't get set," Bindi said. "We just hit a big play earlier with that same running play. It just didn't work out."
It was all Bellaire in the first half but the Eagles only led 6-0 at halftime.
Turnovers were critical for Bellaire.
On the game's first drive Bellaire drove to the Deckerville 21 before fumbling the ball away. Later in the quarter, another Bellaire drive was stopped on downs deep in Deckerville territory.
Late in the second quarter, Bellaire started driving again and this time they scored. Smith passed 15 yards to Chase Small to set up what would be a 1-yard quarterback sneak for a 6-0 lead.
Smith was 6-of-10 passing for 117 yards. Villafane caught three for 93 yards. Small ran for 149 yards while Smith had 116 .
Small had 12 tackles and Jordan Proctor added 10.