The Belvidere Bucs kick off their NIC-9 season with what may be their biggest game of the year. Last year’s conference champions, the Freeport Pretzels, are coming off a 10 – 1 record and an undefeated record in the NIC-9 for the last three seasons. That’s a record that no other team has been able to match, but Bucs Coach Mike Hearn is hoping to end their winning streak Friday night.
Despite the normal bangs and bruises from practice, Coach Hearn says all of the starters will be ready to play on Friday. “We’re as healthy as we’ve been for a few years.” Last year’s 5 – 5 season earned the Bucs a playoff berth, losing to McHenry in the first round. This season, many expect the Bucs to be in the running for the NIC-9 championship.
Starting quarterback Jason Fiske is returning after starting every game last season in his junior year. Ryan Vetter returns as tight end and offensive linemen Grant Michaud and Thomas Hartzell also return from last season. Coach Hearn is hoping the core of veterans will offset the loss of most of the backfield.
Freeport has its own losses to deal with. Three year starting defensive back and receiver Adam Schlampp has graduated along with their starting quarterback. The Buccaneers defense will be mixing up blitzes to put pressure on the new QB.
Freeport is a team that generates big plays. “You can play even with them for 52 out of 60 plays,” says Coach Hearn. “But those other eight plays will win the game.” With the home crowd expected to be large for the season opener, the Bucs are pumped for the game. In fact too much adrenaline may be flowing. “You need to keep the players calmed down and focused on what they need to do,” said the coach. The key is to not make mistakes, avoid penalties and create more of an even game.
The Bucs and the Freeport Pretzels take to the field Friday night at home in Funderburg Stadium. The starting time is 7:15.