In a tale of two halves, it was truly the best of times and the worst of times for the Bucs Friday night. In the first half, Cary-Grove looked and played like an undefeated football team. Penalties stopped as many Cary-Grove touchdowns as the Bucs defense did. The offense could not get anything going against a tough Trojans defense. While the Bucs were down, they were by no means out. In the second half, the Bucs came back with an offensive and defensive combination that had the crowd wondering whether Belvidere would pull off another last minute miracle. In the end, however, there just wasn’t enough time. The Trojans were able to hang on and win the game, 21 – 14.
In their first possession, Cary-Grove quarterback Brian Mitz was the leading rusher with runs of eight yards, five and three. On first down at midfield, Mitz went to the air, throwing a long pass intercepted by Matt Barr at the 12 yard line. The Bucs offense moved onto the field, but didn’t stay there long. On their first play of scrimmage, Jason Fiske fumbled and Trojans Blake Kube came up with it on the Bucs 19 yard line. The Bucs defense came up short on fourth down and two to go. Brian Mitz kept the ball and ran seven yards for a touchdown. Don Hansen’s kick was good and the Bucs were down by seven. Belvidere started on their own 22 yard line and quickly established their running game. On third down and short, Jason Fiske found a hole and ran down the sidelines into Trojans territory, being pushed out of bounds at the 42 yard line. The Trojans defense stiffened up. Brandon Smaha fumbled. Tyler Pearse recovered, but with a four yard loss. Jason Fiske was sacked and the Bucs were forced to punt.
While Cary-Grove started deep in their own territory, they didn’t stay there long. Trojans running back Andy Bures slipped up the right side, going 30 yards before Nick Wirth brought him down. The second quarter started with Cary-Grove threatening to score. However, Will Yocius coughed up the ball and Anthony Goransen recovered for the Bucs. The offense went back to work, but on their second play Cliff Paul suffered a broken ankle. The game stopped for about 15 minutes, both teams watching as paramedics wheeled Paul off on a stretcher. “Cliff’s our power runner,” said Coach Hearn. “Without him, it really hurt us trying The Bucs continued their offensive drive with the ambulance still on the sidelines. They only gained three more yards before they were forced to punt. Mitz had better success in the air, completing a 12 yard pass to Dillion Cappello. Two plays later, Mitz connected with Cappello again at the Bucs 29 yard line. Will Yocius found a big hole up the middle, running down to the Belvidere 4 yard line. Mitz found Adam Pilli in the end zone, but a holding penalty on the Trojans nullified the touchdown. The ambulance finally left the stadium and the Bucs defense could concentrate on the game again. Kelly Njos made two consecutive stops and the Bucs pushed the Trojans back to the 13 yard line. Cary-Grove tried a field goal, but it was blocked by Paul Tonkovic. The Bucs took over on their own 14. Jason Fiske tried to move the ball through the air, completing short passes to Jimmy Billon and Ryan Vetter, but two incomplete passes under heavy defense pressure stopped the drive at the 39 yard line. They were forced to punt it away again. The Trojans wasted no time, moving the ball 75 yards in three plays. Mitz threw a long bomb to Dillion Cappello who ran it in for Cary-Grove’s second touchdown of the night. The Bucs were down 14 – 0. Tyler Pearse returned the kick off, but fumbled after running about five yards. The Trojans recovered on the Bucs 31 yard line with 1:30 on the clock. On fourth down and five yards to go, Cary-Grove tried a trick play. Brian Mitz tossed the ball to Adam Pilli who in turn connected with Dillion Cappello in the end zone. However, an offensive pass interference call nullified another Trojans touchdown. The Bucs took over, but were unable to move the ball on the ground or in the air against the determined Trojan defense.
The Bucs reached into their bag of tricks at the start of the third quarter. Unfortunately, the trick was on them. On third down and seven to go, Jason Fiske handed the ball to Matt Barr. Barr attempted a long pass downfield, but it was intercepted by Cary-Grove. They were unable to capitalize on the miscue however, and Jimmy Billon returned their punt to the Trojans 44 yard line. Jason Fiske went to work, completing two passes for 21 yards. Matt Barr pushed it down to the Trojan 16 yard line. At that point, the drive stalled. Brandon Smaha could only gain a couple of yards. A Fiske pass to Ryan Vetter was incomplete. On fourth down and four to go, Fiske found Jimmy Billon in the end zone for their first touchdown of the night. Chris Barta’s kick was good and it was a 14 – 7 game.
The Trojans came back with a six minute drive that ate up the rest of the third quarter. Belvidere finally forced them to punt with ten minutes left in the fourth. The Bucs started deep, at their own 8 yard line, but they didn’t stay deep long. Jason Fiske’s quarterback keeper on first down got Belvidere out to the 21 yard line. He connected with Jimmy Billon for another 13 yards a few plays later. The Bucs tried another trick play on fourth down; Chad Radke took advantage of a fake punt, running down to the Trojans 45 yard line. However, that was as far as they would get. The Bucs went for it on fourth down and eight to go. Jason Fiske’s pass was incomplete and the Trojans took over on downs at their own 40. Runs by Mitz and Yocius got Cary-Grove into Bucs territory and a costly facemask penalty on the Bucs gave the Trojans a first down at the 31 yard line. Two plays later, Mitz connected with Adam Pilli for a 30 yard touchdown play. Don Hansen’s kick was good and the Trojans had a 21 – 7 lead with less than three minutes left.
But the Bucs weren’t quite finished yet. Two huge penalties on Cary-Grove moved them from their own 25 to the Trojans 35 yard line. Fiske found Brandon Smaha who ran it down to the 10. Matt Barr caught a pass at the 1 yard line, but couldn’t get into the end zone. Fiske couldn’t get in either and the Bucs took a time out. On fourth down at the one yard line, Jason Fiske tried again. The ball popped out high in the air, but the Bucs recovered in the end zone. Chris Barta’s kick was good and the score was 21 – 14. With 52 seconds left in the game, the Bucs tried an onside kick. However, the Trojans recovered and ran out the last seconds of the game. Cary-Grove goes on to play Crystal Lake South Friday night, winners last week against Harlem. Freeport is the last NIC-9 team in the playoffs after a come from behind victory against Batavia.
This week, Belvidere players turned in their equipment. Looking back at the season, Coach Hearn thinks the Bucs were better than their 7 – 4 record. “We could have beat Harlem and we should have beat Hononegah in the regular season.” However, the two close wins at Boylan and Lake Park could have gone the other way. “We had a great bunch of kids,” said Coach Hearn, “and getting to the second round of the playoffs is something they can be proud of.” Coach Hearn and his staff are already working on the 2005 season. Matt Barr is expected to be the starting quarterback next year, replacing graduating Jason Fiske. “We’re putting together a tentative lineup, plugging in the incoming juniors where we think they’ll fit.” Over the next few months, the coaches will be ordering new equipment and attending football clinics, working to improve their system. “Things may slow down in the off-season,” says Coach Hearn, “But there’s not a day that goes by that I am not working on something for the varsity football program. For the head coach, it’s definitely a year-round job.”