SANDUSKY — Elida was in for a tough night against slippery Bellevue quarterback Jalen Santoro.
But to make matters trickier, the Bulldogs had to turn the quarterback duties over to a standout defensive back in Anthony Sumpter.
It was too much to overcome.
Bellevue’s Santoro made the big plays all night to help the Redmen to a 19-14 victory over Elida in the opening round of the Division III football playoffs Saturday at Strobel Field.
Bellevue (10-1) advances to the second round to face the Urbana (9-1)-Sandusky Perkins (9-1) winner at 7 p.m. Saturday at a site to be named. Elida ends its season 8-3.
Santoro, a 6-foot, 155-pounder, used his explosive quickness to run for 174 yards on 28 carries to power Bellevue. He ran for a 7-yard TD. He also completed 6 of 12 for 68 yards and a 7-yard TD.
“He’s done it all year. That’s what he does,” Bellevue coach Ed Nasonti said. “Our offensive line knows that they can get some push and let him do his thing.”
Elida entered the game without starting quarterback Logan Alexander, who suffered a broken left arm, near the wrist, last week.
Clark Etzler, who quarterbacked earlier this year, returned to the starter job and helped Elida out to a 14-0 lead.
Etzler fired an 11-yard TD pass to Nick Pauff, then threw a 15-yard TD pass to Brandon Stinson. That gave the Bulldogs a 14-0 lead with 7:46 left in the second quarter.
Bellevue got within 14-7 on a 7-yard TD pass from Santoro to Trent Stamm.
Then with 1:55 left in the second quarter, Etzler left the game after running for a 7-yard run. He didn’t return the rest of the night.
“He (Etzler) got his bell rung and our training staff didn’t feel it was good for him to come back,” Elida coach Jason Carpenter said.
“We’re not going to make that an excuse. Injuries are never an excuse for us. It came down to turnovers. We OVERSET FOLLOWS:turned it over three times (all on interceptions) and you can’t do that. … You can’t turn the ball over in the playoffs. We were driving the ball. We were moving the ball between the 20s.”
Etzler finished with 15 yards rushing and was 5 of 6 for 37 yards and two TDs passing. He had one interception.
With Etzler out, Elida turned to defensive back Sumpter, who did his best running out of the wildcat formation look.
Sumpter’s first play was a pass for 36 to Pauff, as he took Elida from its own 47 to the Bellevue 3. But the half ended when Sumpter was picked off in the end zone.
On Elida’s first drive of the second half, Sumpter was picked off by Brendon Wagoner, who ran it back for a 20-yard TD to bring Bellevue within 14-13.
Santoro continued to run past Elida and his 7-yard TD off a cutback run gave Belleuve a 19-14 lead with 56 seconds left in the third quarter.
Sumpter did all he could running the ball out of the wildcat/shotgun. He finished with 97 yards rushing on 17 carries, as he bulldozed over several tacklers along the way. In the air, he was 2 of 8 for 49 yards with two interceptions.
“I knew ahead of time I was going to play today on certain occasions, but I didn’t expect to play this much,” Sumpter said. “It was instinct to just run because my arm isn’t that good, but I wish I could have done more. I gave it all I had.”
Elida’s Seanquez Frye had a big day as well, with 66 yards on 17 carries.
Last year Elida, with graduated quarterback Reggie McAdams, rolled past Bellevue, 54-20.
“I’m extremely proud of our seniors,” Carpenter said. “Everybody in the media wanted to say you lose Reggie, you lose Austin (Etzler), you lose all your offense and can you still make the playoffs? Well, we did (made the playoffs) and our defense proved that they were just as much a part of that run last year.”