Before Friday’s home opener against the Freeport Pretzels, Belvidere Bucs coach described Freeport as a team that generates big plays. “You can play even with them for 52 out of 60 plays,” said Coach Hearn. “But those other eight plays will win the game.”
“I hate being that kind of a prophet,” he remarked afterwards.
One long touchdown pass by Freeport quarterback for 36 yards and two long touchdowns by Myron Collins helped the Pretzels score 44 points in their best offensive outing against the Bucs.
However, the news wasn’t all bad. Last year, opponents scored a total of 57 points against Freeport all year. Belvidere scored more than half of that total in just one game.
Two big passes and two big completions were the story in the first quarter for Freeport. However, the Belvidere defense kept the Pretzels to just a single field goal. Bucs quarterback Jason Fiske ran more than threw. However, two penalties in cruicial situations kept Freeport at bay, including a holding call against them at the five yard line.
Belvidere’s offense came alive with a 25 yard pass into the end zone. Belvidere’s defense playing strong on the inside, with Justin Evens recovering a fumble in the second quarter. Belvidere capitalized on the miscue and took the lead with a Fiske jog into the corner of the end zone. The Bucs lead with six minutes left in the half 14 – 6. However, Freeport’s 46 yard run for a touchdown changed the momentum of the game. The Belvidere defense kept pressure on the quarterback, but a wild 31 yard throw for the end zone as Wagner was flushed from the pocket resulted in a second Pretzel touchdown in five minutes and the final change in the lead.
“Freeport has the kind of athletes that make them scoring threats from anywhere in the field,” Said Coach Hearn.
However, Belvidere continued to play their kind of football game, keeping control of the ball and methodically working their way down the field with a mixture of passing and runs. They missed a field goal, wide left, on the 18 yard line as time ran out.
The second half had a number of big plays by the Pretzels. Belvidere took the kick off, but was unable to get a first down. Their punt was returned for a touchdown 66 yards by Myron Collins.
Despite the shaky start, the Belvidere defense kept up the pressure. Freeport dropped the ball at the 42 yard line, recovered, but had to punt it away. Belvidere took the ball down from their own 37 yard line for their longest drive of the game, almost six minutes. Fiske’s 1 yard run into the end zone brought the game within 3 points.
However, an 82 yard run by the Myron Collins Freeport Pretzels increased their lead 31 – 21 less than a minute later.
Belvidere’s defense grabbed an opportunity at the beginning of the fourth quarter, taking a bad hand off and recovering. Belvidere scored a touchdown, but missed an extra point. Freeport fumbled again on the next series, but Belvidere had it’s only pass interception of the game on the very next play.
With two minutes left, Belvidere was down by ten points. The only time they really looked rushed and they were unable to gain a first down after four bad passes. Freeport took over on downs and scored a final touchdown. While they missed the extra point, the final score was still 44 – 27.
While Freeport came away with their 25th conference win in a row, Belvidere came away with some promising numbers. They had only two penalties in the game. Freeport had five for fifty yards.
Coach Hearn liked the way the offense looked. “We passed pretty well and I don’t think they stopped us as much as we stopped ourselves.” The rushing game needs to be imprtoved. The Bucs gained only 87 yards on the ground, Quarterback Jason Fiske ran for 37 yards for the best numbers of the night. And Myron Cummins ran for 225 yards on his own, with a total of 305 on the ground. “Our defense works from the outside – in, and they beat us on the outside. That’s something we need to work on.”
Looking ahead, the Bucs play Rockford East for the E-rabs home opener. The E-rabs are coming off a 41 – 0 loss at Rock Island. They went 1 – 7 in the conference last season, including a 48 – 8 loss to Belvidere last September. While Coach Hearn is confident the Bucs can bounce back, he says team Rockford East team is very much improved from last year. The E-rabs defense is primarily designed to stop the run with 5 and 3. While the Bucs plan to pass, Hearn says “we need to run the ball better.” On the defensive side, their focus will be on stopping Russell, the E-rabs 6’3″ running back.
Above all, Coach Hearn says they need to keep their focus on playing their kind of football. “After a loss like Friday’s, I tell them they can feel bad for 48 hours. Come Monday, it’s back to work.”
The Bucs look for their first conference win on the road at Rockford East Swanson Stadium, Friday night at 7:15.