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A game of inches

Mark Hazelwood • Nov 13, 2012 at 10:56 AM

The phrase was made famous in sports circles by the late Jim McKay, the former longtime broadcaster of ABC s World Wide of Sports.

In the wake of one of the greatest playoff games in area history, there s never been a more apt description.

On one side: The pure joy of Bellevue’s sidelines, erupting in celebration and disbelief as the team defeated Perkins on the final play of a Division III second round game, 28-27, at Clyde High School.

On the opposite side: Pirate players strewn across the field, collapsed in disbelief and heartbreak after abruptly losing what appeared to be an 11th-straight win and regional championship berth for the first time since 1999.

On the other side of the field, meanwhile, Bellevue coach Ed Nasonti  — a head coach at his alma mater for more than two decades  — had never experienced anything quite like he did Saturday.

“I’ve never been a part of a game where it comes down to no time on the clock with the extra point deciding it,” Nasonti said. “For it to be on such a big stage with so many people was just unbelievable. I give the kids for both teams credit for the way they battled.”

Much of the speculation after the game was on Perkins’ decision to call a pass play with the lead and less than a minute to go.

Faced with a fourth-and-5 at the Bellevue 30 and a little more than 30 seconds left with a 27-21 lead, Pirate QB Brandon Smith dropped back to pass, but was intercepted by Bellevue’s Nick Raifsnider, who returned it 33 yards to the Perkins 42-yard line.

Four plays later, Jalen Santoro threw a 12-yard touchdown pass on the game’s final play. Jake Strayer hit the extra point for the 28-27 win.

Perkins coach Jason Ziegler said it’s easy to play thewould-have,should-have aspect after the fact, but he still stands by the decision to pass the ball.

“You can look back and say there is a lot of different things you could do,” he said.  “We didn’t feel punting was an option with the distance and I decided to run a play we felt we d be able to get done. Unfortunately, that didn”t happen.

“It was a great effort at the end by Brandon to even make a tackle on the interception return and stop them there,” he said.  “Yeah, there was a sequence of things that happened in that last minute that you’d like to see different, but it’s a game, played by two great teams and it’s unfortunate that we lost. I can’t say enough of how proud I am of this team.

“Things don’t happen just because of one play,’’ he added “Games aren’t won or lost on one play. The kids gave a fantastic effort, and Bellevue did a fantastic job to go down the field and win it at the end, and you give them credit. They did a great job, and so did we. Unfortunately someone had to lose, and it was us, but it doesn’t discredit what our guys did for 12 weeks. “

Ziegler said his feelings toward the season aren t slanted from Saturday’s outcome.

“I’m just as proud of our program today as I was earlier in the year,” he said.  “That was obviously a great high school game played by kids. This wasn’t college or the NFL, it was high school kids laying it on the line, and let s not lose sight of that. We took great strides forward,

“To win 10 games, a conference championship and a playoff game is a great accomplishment,’’ the coach added. I’m proud of the effort our kids and coaches put in, all season long.

Bellevue did what they had to do with the opportunity, and did what had to do to win, he said. “Give Ed and those guys all the credit. It hurts, but I wish Bellevue the best.”

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