It was “Boylan Week” at Belvidere. Starting on Labor Day, while the rest of us were relaxing and enjoying the holiday, the Bucs were practicing under the lights. All week, the players worked extra sprints and drills. But while it may have been Boylan Week at Belvidere, the Bucs worked hard to make it Belvidere Day at Boylan last Friday.
The Bucs offense was not as flashy as in weeks past, but they controlled the first quarter, holding onto the ball for almost nine minutes. Belvidere started the game from their own 26 and methodically moved the ball down the field to the Titans eight yard line. The Bucs Chris Barta kicked a field goal, wrapping up a drive that took almost five and a half minutes off the clock. The Bucs defense limited Boylan to just 12 yards in their first possession. A costly penalty on the Bucs eradicated a superb run back by Tyler Pearse and forced them to start on their own 17 yard line. But Jimmy Billon broke open for a 41 yard run, stopped by a defender grabbing his shirt. Bucs quarterback Jason Fiske scrambled into the end zone from the one yard line, scoring the Bucs first touchdown with less than a minute left in the first quarter.
Both offenses tried to find a working offensive formula. Belvidere had early success running the ball up the middle, but it was less successful in the second quarter. Three hand-offs to Brandon Smaha went nowhere and Fiske tried to convert on a fourth and seven. He didn’t make it and the Titans took over on downs at their own 44 yard line. The Bucs defense went to work and stopped Boylan at the Belvidere 38 yard line. Titans quarterback Rob Lotzer looked to throw on fourth down and nine, but was unable to connect. Belvidere took over on downs and managed to move the ball past midfield before punting it away.
Boylan tried something different on their next possession. The Titans offensive line was able to hold off the Bucs D with Loetzer starting deep in the shotgun formation. He connected with Malcolm Tinson for a 13 yard gain and a second throw from shotgun connected with Dan McCarthy on the Bucs 18. Tinson caught a third shotgun pass in the end zone for the Titans’ first score of the night. Belvidere tried their hand at the pass too, but one incompletion and one interception later, Boylan had the ball again. They didn’t keep it long. Jimmy Billon intercepted a Rob Loetzer pass the very next play and ran it back to the 44 yard line, getting hit hard by the Titans Nick Redmond. Some hard looks were exchanged on both sides as time ran out in the half. “This wasn’t just a game,” said Bucs Defensive End Anthony Goranson. “This was a war.”
The Titans started the third quarter with a touchdown drive. Chris Balestrieri’s kick was no good, but Boylan took the lead for the first time in the evening, 13 – 10. Cliff Paul fumbled the ball on the Bucs first play of scrimmage and the Titans got it back. A minute and a half later, Titans Dan McCarthy ran in a 29 yard reception and the score was 20 – 10. Belvidere called five straight run plays. Mitch Hendrickson took the ball 56 yards. The touchdown brought the Bucs to within three.
The Titans held the ball at the start of the fourth. Jake Leighty ran in from the two yard line and Balestrieri’s kick made it 27 – 17 with ten and a half minutes to go. Jason Fiske finally took to the air with a 34 yard throw to Tyler Pearse. Jimmy Billon caught another 18 yard pass and brought the Bucs down to the Boylan 14 yard line. Mitch Hendrickson got the call on a fake hand-off and scored. The score was 27 – 24 with 5:53 left in the game.
Boylan went three and out on the next possession. However, their punt took a long roll in their favor, coming to rest on the Belvidere 29. Time was running out. Jason Fiske threw an incomplete pass. A second pass was complete, but only gained a yard. Third down with a little more than a minute left and Fiske went back to throw again. The Titans defense flushed him out of the pocket. He dodged left towards the sideline. The Boylan side of the crowd began to applaud. Suddenly it turned into a mass groan as they saw Tyler Pearse standing undefended at the 15 yard line. Fiske saw him too. Shaking off a defender, Fiske threw across the field, connecting with Pearse for the go-ahead score with 1:11 left in the game.
Now it was the Bucs game to lose. Rob Loetzer was the lone back in the Titans back field for the kick off. He ran it back to the Bucs 38 yard line. With time running out, he sat back in the shotgun and fired off a pass to John Kane for a first down at the 29 yard line and a second pass to Bryant Beal at the 22. Loetzer tried for the end zone, but the ball was nowhere near Dan McCarthy. On fourth and five, Loetzer put it up again for McCarthy. The Bucs Matt Barr jumped up with McCarthy and made sure neither of them came down with control of the ball. Belvidere took over on downs with 22 seconds left in the game. Fiske took a knee and the game was over, 31 – 27.
With a lot of hard work, the Bucs snapped a losing streak to Boylan going back to 1997. “This week we put 100% on top of our normal 100%,” said Anthony Goranson. “All those extra sprints were worth it.” The Bucs return to Funderburg Stadium to take on the Auburn Knights. The Knights went 2 – 7 last year and the Bucs beat them easily 35 – 6. Auburn is still looking for their first win this season. They lost last week to Elgin 34 – 6 and their two conference losses include a 56 – 0 pasting by Boylan. While the Bucs are confident, it was back to practice on Monday for the team. The game starts Friday night at 7:15.