October started badly for the Bucs. On a cold rainy Homecoming night, Hononegah came into Belvidere and beat the Bucs 13 – 12. However, the Bucs finished October on a high note. The Indians came back into Belvidere last Friday for the first round of the Division 7A playoffs and left as losers, 24 – 12. Coach Hearn says second chances don’t come around too often, “We were glad to get revenge. It was our primary motivation.”
The Belvidere defense got off to a good start against the Indians. They started on their 39 and had to kick it away from their 38 a few plays later. The Bucs stuck to their ground game mostly, gaining only 19 yards and one first down, but taking almost four minutes off the clock. The wind picked up, helping to carry Matt Barr’s punt almost 70 yards into the end zone. The Indians got the ball back on their 20 and running back Sean Michael Wiley found a hole, taking it 18 yards up to their 42 yard line. However, the Bucs defense tightened up and they never made it past midfield. Belvidere wasn’t able to do anything offensively their next possession, and the Indians couldn’t do much better. The first quarter ended with a bit of confusion. Hononegah quarterback Casey Ryczek connected with David Frank, but there was a holding call against the Indians as time ran out. They ran an extra play with no time on the clock as a quarter cannot end on a penalty.
The Bucs went to work from their own 20 yard line with four straight carries by Brandon Smaha, including a break up the middle for 8 yards and a first down. Quarterback Jason Fiske did not go to the air often, but did connect with Jimmy Billon for a nine yard gain. Fiske was more successful on the ground, keeping a fake handoff and getting down to the Indians 26. On another quarterback keeper, Fiske ran into trouble. He pitched it to Tyler Pearse who powered it down to the 7 yard line. Brandon Smaha circled around the middle and into the end zone for the Bucs first touchdown of the night. Chris Barta’s kick was good and Belvidere was up 7 – 0 with 5:45 left in the half. Hononegah tried to work through the air and Jimmy Billon came up with an interception at the Bucs 34 yard line. The offense went to work again. Tyler Pearse got two good blocks and pushed 12 yards up to the 46 yard line. Jason Fiske faked a handoff to Pearse a couple of plays later, kept it himself, and dashed 16 yards downfield. Matt Barr ran it in from the two yard line for a touchdown. Again, Chris Barta’s kick was good and the Bucs had a 14 – 0 lead going into halftime.
The Bucs picked up where they left off in the second half. Brandon Smaha found a hole at the Bucs 37 yard line and ran down to the Hononegah 37. Jason Fiske dove into the end zone on the next play, but the touchdown was nullified on a pair of penalties on Belvidere. The Bucs continued to push forward on the ground with Matt Barr and Brandon Smaha doing most of the legwork. The Bucs were unable to convert a third down and eight, getting down to the Indians 13 yard line. Chris Barta came in to kick a 30 yard field goal to give Belvidere a 17 – 0 lead with six minutes left. Hononegah put together a five minute drive of their own. The Indians got down as far as the Bucs 39, but the Belvidere defense – led by Kelly Njos and Justin Evens – stopped the drive cold. Ryczek tried to convert a fourth down and 11, but his pass was thrown too high. Belvidere took over on downs.
Hononegah had the ball at the beginning of the fourth quarter. The Bucs defense forced them to punt, but a penalty on Belvidere gave the Indians another chance. This time, they faked the punt and got a first down at their own 49 yard line. However, the Bucs defense stepped up and Jimmy Billon grabbed his second interception of the night. The Bucs offensive drive lasted less than a minute, but that was all they needed. On second down at their own 35 yard line, Tyler Pearse took a handoff 65 yards for a touchdown. “Ryan Bruce gave Tyler a great block,” said Coach Hearn. Chris Barta kicked into a strong wind, but the kick was good and the Bucs had a 24 – 0 lead.
Indians running back Sean Michael Wiley had been contained much of the night, but on their next possession he rushed for 23 yards. Casey Ryczek went to the air, completing a pass to Warren McCarty who in turn pitched it to Wiley for a 9 yard gain. Three plays later, Ryczek connected with McCarty again for a touchdown. Hononegah went for a two point conversion, but Ryczek lost the ball on a bad snap. The score was 24 – 6 with five minutes left in the game. Their onside kick was successful. Stefan Palches came up with the ball for the Indians on the Bucs 45 yard line. Ryczek connected with McCarty at the Bucs 11 and Brian Dombeck caught a pass in the end zone on the next play. Nick Wirth broke up the two point conversion and the score was 24 – 12.
Hononegah’s second onside kick wasn’t as successful. Matt Barr fell on the ball. With a little less than four and a half minutes left, the Bucs offense was working to run out the clock. Unfortunately, Tyler Pearse lost the ball and the Indians came up with it on Belvidere’s 42 yard line. However, the Bucs defense was able to come up with one more key play. Mitch Hendrickson picked off a Ryczek pass with about two minutes left. Matt Barr’s ten yard run was the final nail in the coffin. The Bucs got their last first down of the night and ran out the last minute of the clock.
The Bucs have won their first playoff game since 1998 and move on to play Cary-Grove this Friday. Coach Hearn says the Trojans are a lot like Belvidere. “They run a lot of the same plays we do.” The biggest difference is in records. Cary-Grove went undefeated in the Fox Valley conference and are the number one seed. However, the eighth seed Woodstock team played tough last Friday. Cary-Grove beat them in overtime 27 – 20. Coach Hearn says his team is comfortable being the underdog, “It’s a great place to be. We have something to prove and nothing to lose.” The Bucs take on the Trojans at Cary-Grove Friday night at 7:00.