By David Bonner
The Bellevue Steelers AA team advanced to TNYFL Championship game with a 14-12 come from behind win over Riverdale on Saturday at Bellevue Middle School.
It was a rematch of game played just two weeks ago in which the Steelers prevailed easily but this is the playoffs and this time Riverdale was ready for a battle.
The Steelers running game was very effective early on but penalties and turnovers ended several good drives and the Steelers were left clinging to a 6-0 lead on a Icsom Church touchdown run.
Riverdale tied the score in the second quarter on a long touchdown run that energized the Warriors and their fans.
The teams continued to battle as both defenses stiffened. Gaige Robinson led the Steelers in tackles and the entire Bellevue defense allowed very little space for the Riverdale runners.
Riverdale, looking to take the lead, tried to stretch the field with some long throws but the Steelers defense was ready.
Cornerback Recco McDowell had a key interception late in the second quarter that kept the score tied at 6-6 heading into the half.
The second half was intense and both teams played hard, the way you would expect with a trip to the championship on the line.
Riverdale seized the momentum when they scored on a screen pass, putting the Warriors up 12-6.
The Steelers offense moved the ball well, but struggled to get in the end zone.
Late in the fourth quarter the Steelers seemed primed to take the lead but were stopped again, this time on a 4th and goal at the 2-yard line.
With just over two minutes left in the game, the Steelers were hoping for just one more chance to get the ball and left it in the hands of their defense.
With the crowd cheering frantically, the defense delivered. On Riverdale’s first play from the two yard line, the Steelers defensive line got great penetration and cornerback Javis Walker Jr. tackled the Riverdale runner in the end zone for the safety, cutting the lead to 12-8.
Now the Steelers had all the momentum and awaited the ensuing free kick by the Warriors.
As the clock ran under two minutes, the Steelers went to their workhorse Icsom Church. With sheer will and determination, Church used some timely blocking by his offensive line to rip through the Riverdale defense with only one thing on his mind, the end zone.
Aided by a late hit penalty on the Warriors that moved the ball inside the five-yard line, Church took the snap on the next play and powered into the end zone for a Steelers touchdown, giving Bellevue a 14-12 lead with 34 seconds to go in the game.
Riverdale, faced with a long field and little time left on the clock, was unable to penetrate the Bellevue defense in the final seconds.
The Steelers and their fans celebrated and emotional win and trip to the TNYFL Championship.
Head coach Clarence Wilson, who will be coaching in his second championship game in four seasons summed up the big win. “We’re extremely proud of the boys and their team effort. They fought through adversity today and are one step closer to reaching our team goal, winning a championship.”
The team now looks to complete that goal next Sunday under the lights at Vanderbilt Stadium. The Steelers will face Nolensville, game time is 6:30 P.M.
Steelers AA Team Advances to Finals