Tullius gets loose: Belpre jr. rushes for over 300 yards in win vs. Rebels

BELPRE – Five times the South Gallia Rebels moved the football down inside the Belpre Golden Eagles’ 10 yard line.

Five times they came up empty.

And with one sweep of his legs, Belpre junior tailback Manney Tullius made all those wasted trips to the red zone haunt, as the Golden Eagles pulled out a 21-8 victory over South Gallia on homecoming Friday night.

“It’s two games now in a row that we’ve won and we’ve won them playing defense,” said Belpre football coach Greg Adams. “We bend a little bit, but we don’t break.”

The Golden Eagles’ defense may not have broke, but the Rebels certainly did, as they watched Tullius run over, around and through to a total of 303 yards and two touchdowns on just 24 carries on the ground.

“A lot of it goes on the line. My line blocked great and opened up lanes for me to run through,” Tullius said.

While Tullius provided a spark for the Belpre offense, it was the defense that kept the Golden Eagles in the game stalling out drive after drive for the Rebels when it counted most.

All told, South Gallia made seven trips inside the Belpre 20 and could not score on one of them. The Rebels’ lone touchdown came on a 38-yard screen pass from quarterback Landon Hutchinson to Mikey Wheeler as time wound down in the third quarter.

Other than that, the Rebels watched their every effort be thwarted by a Golden Eagle defense that forced three fumbles inside the redzone while sacking Hutchinson three times, twice by senior Jaime Barrett.

“Our coaches have been working with us on getting through and reading,” Barrett said.

Those reads produces the results when necessary, and ruined what was otherwise a fairly successful night for the Rebel offense, which accounted for 368 yards with 233 on the ground.

Belpre countered with 367 yards of total offense, the bulk of which came on the legs of Tullius, who broke nine carries for gains over 10 yards and five for pickups of at least 20.

“We moved the ball well, executed on the run plays,” said Belpre quarterback Tavian Miller. “When we run the ball good, we win games.”

The first of those big runs for Tullius came at a crucial moment, when the Eagles were searching for some life offensively after being forced to punt on their first two possessions. Both possessions began after the Eagles’ defense stalled the Rebel offense inside the 10.

“We normally start out kind of laid back, testing the waters,” Barrett said.

On their first possession of the second quarter, the Golden Eagles sparked life into the home coming crowd as Tullius swept around the corner, broke a pair of tackles and raced 80 yards to paydirt, making the score 7-0 with 9:36 in the opening half.

That long scamper was followed by a 50-yard scoring drive covering five plays with Miller finding a wide-open Dejon Bedgood from 14 yards out after a playfake to Tullius on the Golden Eagles’ next possession.

Belpre made it three straight possessions with scores when Tullius took the first carry from scrimmage after a Rebel punt 45 yards to the endzone, making the score 21-0 with 4:43 in the first half.

South Gallia tried to counter each of the Golden Eagle scores, but found itself thwarted time and again by turnovers and penalties that short-circuited drives.

Of the Rebels’ 10 possessions in the game, seven ended without points inside the Belpre 20.

“I think we did great. We wanted to shut them down and we did that,” Tullius said.

As stalwart as the Golden Eagle defense was when it was needed most in the redzone, it couldn’t keep the Rebels out of the endzone entirely.

South Gallia ruined Belpre’s effort at the shutout in the third quarter, taking advantage of a Belpre fumble to cover 46 yards on two plays to make it a ball game, 21-8. Instead of continuing their momentum, the Rebels hampered themselves, taking a first-and-goal situation at the Belpre 9-yard line and turning it into a turnover on downs at the 16 after a pair of false starts and a sack by Barrett.

Belpre failed to run out the clock after taking possession with 2:07 to play, being forced to punt, but sophomore Matthew Colvin provided the icing on the cake for the homecoming win when he recovered the muffed punt at the Rebel’ 37.

“They play with their heart,” Adams praised. They even wanted to go (for the first down) at fourth and two-and-a-half. They want to win football games. And that’s what tickles me to death.”