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The rivalry returns

After a six-year break, Chiefs and Hillclimbers to clash again


Bellefontaine’s Sean Egler looks for running room against Urbana in Week 10 of the 2006 football season. That was the last time the two rivals met on the football field. They renew their rivalry Friday in Urbana. (EXAMINER FILE PHOTO | MATT HAMMOND)

It is not just a rivalry. It is The Rivalry for Bellefontaine’s football team.

There are other series on the Bellefontaine football schedule that have turned into intense battles — games against Benjamin Logan, Indian Lake and Sidney are always much-anticipated — but none of them match the emotion and intensity of the Urbana game.

Adding fuel to Friday’s matchup at 7:30 p.m. at Urbana is the amount of time it has been since the teams last met. The Chiefs and Hillclimbers will clash on the gridiron for the first time since 2006.

Because of realignment in the Central Buckeye Conference and the two schools moving into different divisions seven years ago, the rivalry was put on hold.

Efforts have been made over the last couple of years to get the game back on the schedule as a non-league contest. Both schools were able to free up a spot on their schedules to renew the rivalry.

“I am excited for our players to be able to participate in this rivalry, and myself and my coaches are excited to be able to be part of this game as well,” said first-year Bellefontaine head coach Toby Smith.

The last time the two teams met was during the final week of the 2006 regular season. Bellefontaine came into the game with a 4-5 record and Urbana was 8-1 and ranked in the state poll.

On a muddy and wet night at Urbana, BHS coach Jason Brown guided the Chiefs to an 8-0 upset victory.

As the two teams prepare to meet again, there is a notable buzz in the air. Bellefontaine is selling “Beat Urbana” T-shirts, which are replicas of ones sold in 1984 when the Chiefs ended a long drought with a victory over the Hillclimbers.

On the field, there should not be a shortage of fireworks. Urbana comes into the game with a high-powered offense led by standout junior quarterback Nathan Mays.

Mays threw for 447 yards and six touchdowns in blowout wins over London and Dixie to start the season. Urbana outscored those two teams 118-24.

As a sophomore, Mays piled up 2,103 passing yards and 31 touchdowns, with just five interceptions.

“He is a quality quarterback,” said Smith. “We are going to have our hands full trying to contain him.

“We need to be able to disrupt his timing and not allow him to get into a rhythm. It is important that we make him uncomfortable back there.”

Urbana lost two big-time skill players to graduation in running back Tanner Lawrence and wide receiver Tyler Powell. Lawrence rushed for 1,497 yards last year and Powell led the CBC in receiving with 952 yards.

Despite the departures of Lawrence and Powell, the Hillclimbers have maintained their explosiveness.

Through two games, sophomore Sam Niswonger has 164 yards and two touchdowns on six receptions.

Senior tailback Shane Ware has become a home run hitter in the backfield, amassing 203 yards and six touchdowns on just 12 carries. He is averaging almost 17 yards per rush.

“They are very explosive offensively,” said Smith. “We have to be disciplined with what we do defensively.”

Being more disciplined has been the focus for the Chiefs in practice this week after they committed eight penalties, including four unsportsmanlike conduct infractions, in a 28-21 overtime win over Sidney last week.

“We need to be disciplined and keep our focus in every situation we are in,” said Smith. “We saw a situation last week where we were up 14 points with six minutes to go, and our undisciplined play resulted in the game going to overtime. Playing with more discipline is something that has certainly been addressed in practice.”


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