The Belvidere Bucs game against the Jefferson J-Hawks Friday night was nearly perfect. Almost everything went right for the Bucs offensively and defensively and almost everything went wrong for the J-Hawks.
The game was never in doubt; even from the get-go. On the opening kickoff, Tyler Pearse ran 77 yards down to the Jefferson 14 yard line. He pushed down to the 4 yard line two plays later; good enough for a Bucs first down. However, the Bucs didn’t need more than one more play. A quarterback sneak by Matt Barr caught the Jefferson defense unaware and the score was 6 – 0 Belvidere with less than a minute and a half burned off the clock.
After stopping a two-point conversion attempt, it was Jefferson’s turn on offense. Their first play ended with a penalty flag. It took the J-Hawks three more plays before they gained some positive yardage. However it was too little, too late. The J-Hawks had to punt it away.
Belvidere started their next possession at their own 49 yard line. Barr ran to the left, picking up 20 yards before being run out of bounds. Brandon Smaha gained six yards and a flip from Barr to Pearse was good enough for a Bucs first down at the Jefferson 15 yard line. The Bucs pushed down to the six yard line before the J-Hawks defense began pushing back. A penalty set Belvidere back 10 yards and the J-Hawks defense caught Barr looking for someone to throw to. On fourth down and 14, Barr found Pearse in the left corner of the end zone for a touchdown. This time the two point conversion was good and the Bucs were up by 14.
A light rain began to fall. Greg Thompson took the kickoff from the Bucs and ran up to the Jefferson 34 yard line. However, they were unable to do much more than that. The J-Hawks took a time out on fourth down with two yards to go, but were unable to come up with a way to trick the Bucs. Nathan Kays sped past the Jefferson line to drop the Jefferson quarterback for a five yard loss and the Bucs took over on downs.
A flag for an equipment violation put the Bucs back on the Jefferson 42. On second down and 15, Matt Barr attempted to connect with Brandon Wakeley. However, Andrew Breitbach stormed in to break up the play for the Jefferson D. The ball flipped up in the air and came down in the hands of Bucs tight end Tyler Bruss. Belvidere got another first down at the J-Hawks 30 yard line. One play later Matt Barr ran it in for another touchdown and the Bucs were up 20 – 0.
Jason Swartz kicked the ball off for the Bucs and ended up stopping the return at the Jefferson 41 yard line. J-Hawks quarterback Joe Herron connected with Enoch Williams at midfield, but an illegal formation penalty knocked them back and a sack by Bucs Defensive End Casey Gustafson forced them to punt from their own 31 yard line.
The Bucs started their next drive on their own 47 yard line. Time was running out in the first quarter. There were less than 20 seconds left. However, Belvidere didn’t even need that long. A hand off to Brandon Smaha with nine seconds left resulted in a 53 yard touchdown run as time expired. Jason Swartz’ kick was good and the Bucs finished the first quarter with a 27 – 0 lead.
The second quarter was more of the same. Jefferson started on their own 25 yard line. They managed a first down on a nine yard run by QB Joe Herron out to the 42 yard line, but the Bucs defense clamped down. Four plays later, the J-Hawks were punting it away from the 42 yard line.
It took the Bucs two plays to score at the end of the first quarter. Their first possession of the second quarter would only take one play. Brandon Smaha took the ball straight down 63 yards for a touchdown. Again, Swartz’ kick was good and the Bucs were up 33 – 0. The defense was up to the task and Jefferson punted it away after a net total of zero yards gained on their next possession.
The starters for the Bucs were done for the night with six and a half minutes left in the first half. Nate Byers and Matt Stringini traded hand-offs from junior Quarterback Steve Golubski as the Bucs worked their way down the field 46 yards to the end zone. Stringini pushed it in from the one yard line and Swartz kicked another point after to lift the Bucs up to a 41 – 0 lead.
Jefferson managed a first down in their next possession, moving it out to their 31 yard line. However, the Bucs defense wasn’t about to take that lying down. Jefferson was forced to punt it away. Cory Radke blocked the punt and recovered it at the 1 yard line. Chris Weber punched it in on the next play for the Bucs and the Bucs finished the half leading the J-Hawks 48 – 0.
The second half clock ran continuously; only stopping for time outs. Jefferson pushed into Bucs territory, getting it down to the 32 yard line before the Bucs pushed halfback Michael Herron backwards 17 yards in the wrong direction. Belvidere took over on downs. The Bucs next possession was only one of two that didn’t result in a score. Matt Barr came back into the game to punt it away. Three plays later, Jefferson fumbled and Blake Grooms came up with it for the Bucs to finish the third quarter.
The Bucs kicked off the final quarter with their final score of the night. Jon Sell ran it in from two yards out and Jason Swartz’ point after was number 55 for the night. The J-Hawks and Bucs traded fumbles. Jefferson recovered on their own 46 yard line with five minutes left in the game. Tempers flared and Jefferson was playing for pride. Michael Herron pushed into Bucs territory for a first down. A penalty brought them back to their own 44 yard line. Herron, last year’s NIC-9 rushing leader, was held to just 38 yards all night. However, with less than a minute left, Enoch Williams took a hand off and ran it 53 yards into the end zone. Unfortunately for Jefferson, a holding call negated the touchdown. The final pass of the game was incomplete and the game that began with a Belvidere bang ended with a J-Hawks whisper. The final score: 55 – 0, Belvidere.
Next, the Bucs travel to Freeport for the Pretzels’ home opener. Last year, Freeport’s explosive offense cracked open the game, resulting in a 44 – 27 win over Belvidere. And until Friday night, the Pretzels had not lost a NIC-9 conference game since the 2000 season. But while the Bucs were busy dismantling Jefferson, the Boylan Titans were taking the opportunity to crush Freeport 35 – 0. So, while their invincibility has been brought into question, Freeport is still expected to be a powerhouse in the conference this year led by quarterback Jared Krawczyk and returning all-conference linemen Davie Pierson and Josh Bratley. The game starts at 7:15 on Friday night.