Bethel and Chandler entered Friday night’s Tri-County clash with playoff hopes hanging in the balance and the Lions, behind a second-quarter explosion, earned a 33-20 victory.


Bethel and Chandler entered Friday night’s Tri-County clash with playoff hopes hanging in the balance and the Lions, behind a second-quarter explosion, earned a 33-20 victory.

Bethel held a 7-0 lead after a 34-yard touchdown trek by senior running back Justin Vermillion with three seconds left in the opening frame. Vermillion bullied his way into the end zone by running over two would-be Lion tacklers. He finished with 142 yards on 27 carries.

After the opening score, the Wildcats held Chandler to a three-and-out, but on the next series saw the wheels start coming off the bus.

On a third-and-3 from his 35-yard line, quarterback Thomas Scott lost a fumble that Chandler’s Rodney Lewis pounced on at the Bethel 25.

Three plays later, the Lions tied the game at 7 on a 15-yard run by Jorge Mares with 7:20 left in the half. Bethel then punted on its next possession and Chandler needed just one play to take the lead. Lewis, who had earlier recovered the fumble, took the handoff and raced 57 yards for the go-ahead score with 3:54 remaining.

That was just the tip of the iceberg.

The Lions defense forced a three-and-out, then scored their third touchdown in six minutes of action on a 31-yard scamper by shifty quarterback Austin Waters with 1:12 left. Chandler led 20-7 at that point.

Bethel, on the next play from scrimmage, was victimized by the Lions defense once more. This time R.J. Farley intercepted the Tyler Hughes offering at the 34-yard line and returned it to the Wildcat 21-yard line with 55 secons left in the half.

Four runs later, Lewis was in for his second score of the half on a 1-yard dive. Chandler led 27-7 at the half, scoring all 27 points in 7:20 of second-quarter action.

On the opening drive of the second half, the Wildcats tried to make things interesting and took the ball down to the Lions’ 23-yard line in 11 plays, but a 1-yard loss on first down and a holding call that was thrown in the Bethel backfield on second down, killed momentum and resulted in a Bethel punt. Chandler then put the game away, marching 94 yards (all on the ground) in nine plays to up the ante to 33-7 with 2:20 left in the third quarter. Waters capped the drive with a 20-yard run.

The Wildcats kept fighting and came away with two scores in the fourth quarter to cut the Chandler lead to 33-20, but that was as close as they would get to the victory. Vermillion scored from three yards out and Kyle Foreman ended all scoring at the 1:06 mark with an 11-yard score.

The Lions gashed the Bethel defense with 336 yards on 47 carries. They completed only one pass out of four attempts for a mere 10 yards.

The Lions improved to 3-6 overall and 2-3 in District 3A-4. Bethel fell to 1-4 in district play and 4-5 overall.

Chandler will host Little Axe next Friday while the Wildcats will finish regular-season play at Bristow.