The Auburn Knights won the toss before the game started, but had little else to celebrate Friday night. The Bucs blanked the Knights 48 – 0, winning their first game at home this season, extending their winning streak to three in a row and continuing a winning streak against Auburn going back to 1997. Coach Hearn says after the emotional win at Boylan, it wasn’t difficult to keep up the team’s momentum.
Auburn started their opening drive, moving the ball eleven yards in the wrong direction. Mike Stringini blocked the punt and the Bucs started on the Knights 28 yard line. Two minutes later Brandon Smaha pushed into the end zone on a one yard run. Auburn’s second drive was much like their first. So was Belvidere’s. Jason Fiske’s 30 yard run put the Bucs on the one yard line and Fiske scrambled in for the score on a drive that lasted three plays and 29 seconds.
Auburn was able to advance with a first down run by Matt Simpson and another one by Dennis Stout that put them down to the Bucs 36. However, the Belvidere defense sacked Auburn quarterback Jacob Erikson for a nine yard loss and they had to punt it away. The Knights defense, led by tackles Tony Ellis and Dennis Stout, held Belvidere to three and out on their next possession. Matt Barr came in to punt it away, but a bad snap forced him to try a throw. It was picked off by Stout who ran it back to the 20.
Belvidere started the second quarter looking at the Knights in scoring position. A run by Simpson pushed the Bucs back to their own three yard line and another run put the Knights inside the one. Auburn fumbled the ball, got it back, but got hit with a penalty that took them back to the six yard line. Auburn called a play with most of the line set to the left and Mike Walker walked into the end zone for a touchdown.
Or so it seemed.
“The center made an illegal snap with his shoulders turned sideways,” said Coach Hearn. “That’s a new rule this year. Last year it would have been a touchdown.” The officials called a time out to discuss the play. The touchdown was nullified after some heated discussion with the Knights coaching staff. That was as close as Auburn would get to the end zone. Kelly Njos blocked the Knights field goal attempt and Belvidere took over on downs. Coach Hearn credits the touchdown scare with motivating the defense. “After that, they just came alive.”
The offense did too. Two plays later and the Bucs were in the end zone again following a 63 yard run by Matt Barr. Chris Barta missed the extra point, but the Bucs made it up on their next drive. Jason Fiske found Mitch Hendrickson on a 50 yard run down to the Knights six yard line. Jason Fiske cut and ran up the middle on the next play to score. Belvidere decided to try for a two point conversion and Fiske found Tyler Pearse in the left corner of the end zone. The Knights went three and out again and Belvidere was again on the march, moving the ball quickly with another Fiske pass to Hendrickson to get them to the 18 yard line. Hendrickson ran it in up the middle two plays later and the score was 35 – 0 going into halftime.
Jason Fiske finished the night in the third quarter after taking the Bucs down to the end zone again, finding Jacob Gross on the left side for a touchdown. Another three and out for the Knights and Matt Barr picked up where Jason Fiske left off, marching the offense downfield through the rest of the third quarter. Adam Barry scored on a four yard run on the first play of the fourth.
The Knights managed one more first down, but they never got closer than 48 yards from the end zone. Belvidere finished the game with a six minute drive that had the Bucs on the 7 yard line when time expired. The game took just under two hours.
The Bucs travel to Roselle this week for a non-conference game against the Lake Park Lancers. “We’re looking at it like a practice playoff game,” says Coach Hearn. “We’re looking at a style of play that we may face if we reach the playoffs this season.” Last year, the Lancers went 10 – 3 including a 28 – 0 win over the Bucs and a trip to the Division 8A semi-finals. “They have a nice quarterback / running back combination,” says Coach Hearn. “They’re very quick on defense and swarm to the ball.” Like the Bucs, the Lancers lost to their opening game, but have won their last three. The game starts at 7:30, Friday night.