tampabay.com

Dunedin's Bellamy takes over in clutch

By JOHN C. COTEY, High Schools Columnist
Published November 17, 2007


DUNEDIN - This was his town. His field. His game.

His moment.

So Darius Bellamy took each handoff and delivered on every run. He ran around people, ran over people, carried people. Fun ride that was.

Which got many to wondering: What took Dunedin coach Mark Everett so long?

Eight carries in a first half and a Falcon deficit.

Twenty carries in the second half, a decisive Falcon win.

That's easy math.

"I'd give the offense an A," Bellamy said, who like any good back passed all the credit to his offensive line.

It was, officially, his breakout performance in a year where he has set a school single-season rushing record with 1,500 yards.

But Bellamy has been the other running back in Pinellas County. While Largo's Brynn Harvey was setting a county rushing record and Northeast's Jeff Brinson was churning out 300-yard games, Bellamy has zigged and zagged in relative obscurity.

Except in Dunedin. He was a local pee wee football legend, whose arrival at the high school had been anticipated for years before he surprised everyone and enrolled at St. Petersburg Catholic. But the SPC program was headed for probation, and after one season, Bellamy was headed home.

"I was disappointed when he left," senior center Zack Benson said. "I was thrilled when he came back."

Moments like those Friday are why for so many his delayed arrival was such a big deal. Moments like the second half, when Everett just put the season on his best player's back and told him to run, and run hard.

But what choice did the coach really have? It was either run Bellamy down Gibbs' collective throat or duck.

"Brian told me, 'Coach, if you stop giving him the ball, I'm going to punch you in the side of the head.'"

Brian Bruch, former Lakewood coach, is much taller than Everett. That would have hurt. Friday, though, he didn't have to make good on his promise.

"Darius got hot," said Everett, who got smart and called his number again and again.

Sometimes, the best way to call a game is the simplest way.

Bellamy is the perfect blend of power and speed, a 4.4 back with gamebreaking ability and a thick 200-pounder with a bonebreaking mentality. He let Gibbs know early that if it wanted to stop him and move on in the Class 4A playoffs, there would be a price.

"I wanted to get in their heads," he said. "I wanted to show them what was waiting for them."

It might not have been the greatest rushing performance in a season that has seen three Tampa Bay rushers go over 2,000 yards and enough 300-yard performances to fill a Gatorade bucket, but as far as halves go, you won't find one better.

His team trailing by 10, Bellamy carried seven times and scored on a short run.

His team trailing by 3, Bellamy carried seven times and scored from 14 yards out.

In 14 fell swoops, he changed the game. He made sweet moves, powerful moves, devastating moves, and when it was over, he had 277 yards and four touchdowns, and his team was moving on.

"They opened the holes," Gibbs coach Yusuf Shakir said, "and he just kept coming."