It was a cold night in Mount Prospect Saturday, but that didn’t stop an army of loyal Bucs fans from making the trip into the Chicago suburbs. The visiting bleachers were filled to capacity and then some.
Belvidere’s woes began early with poor field position on the opening kick-off. Tyler Pearse was unable to handle the ball and only made it up to the Bucs 7 yard line. The Bucs went three and out on their opening drive, for the first time all season. Matt Barr’s punt was short and a facemask penalty on Belvidere didn’t help the situation. The Knights started on the Bucs 33 yard line. All they needed was one play. Quarterback Matt Bowman connected with Max Cherwin on first down for a touchdown. The kick was blocked by Cris Collier and the Bucs were down by 6. On the next kickoff, Belvidere was unable to get it out of their end zone and started at their own 20. Brandon Smaha fumbled on first down, but Belvidere recovered. Tyler Pearse lost it on second down and Prospect picked it up to start their next drive on the Bucs 21. From the shotgun, Bowman found Cherwin again for nine yards and a handoff to Evan Daniel turned into another touchdown. This time Cherwin’s point after was good and the Knights were up by 13.
The Bucs started at their own 20 again. The running game only gained a couple of yards and Barr was unable to connect with Casey Gustafson. On fourth down and eight, Matt Barr punted it away. He was hit after the play and the penalty gave the Bucs a first down. They went back to work, but it was rough going. Brandon Smaha fumbled twice in two carries. Belvidere was able to recover both. On third down and long, Barr pitched it to Tyler Pearse to gain first down yardage. Unfortunately, that was about as far as Belvidere could go. Another fumble, another recovery. On fourth down and 15 to go, Barr was unable to connect with Adam Wakeley and the Knights took over on downs. The Bucs defense rose to the challenge and held Prospect to three downs and out. Tyler Pearse caught the punt and returned it to the Bucs 40 yard line, their best starting position in the game. They started the second quarter pushing deep into Knights territory. Tyler Pearse managed to squeak past the Knights defense to get down to the 8 yard line. A handoff to Matt Stringini gained a couple of yards and Pearse got the call again on third down at the five yard line. He turned the corner and made it into the end zone (though it did take the officials some time to make that call). The point after was no good, but the Bucs were on the board 13 – 6.
That was as close as they would get. The Knights started at their own 40 yard line and marched down field on two handoffs to Evan Daniel. Max Cherwin grabbed a catch to take it down to the Belvidere 9. Evan Daniel took it in from the one yard line a few plays later. The kick after was good and the Knights had a 20 – 6 lead. The Bucs went three and out. Matt Barr did punt it away and pin the Knights down at their own 5 yard line. However, they didn’t stay pinned for very long. Evan Daniel ran it in from the Bucs 1 yard line a few minutes later, wrapping up a 95 yard drive. Max Cherwin kicked the extra point and the Knights were up 27 – 6 with 36 seconds remaining.
The Bucs were down, but they weren’t ready to give up yet. Matt Barr connected with Tyler Pearse twice, Pearse running it out of bounds at the 39 and at the Knights 49 to stop the clock. On first down, Barr went back to pass again, but was intercepted at the 43 yard line. Prospect pushed down field, but Ben Salley deflected a pass to end the half.
The Bucs regrouped during the halftime show and started the second half with an onside kick. The Bucs recovered at midfield. Matt Barr found Adam Wakeley for a 17 yard gain. A couple of plays later, Tyler Pearse caught a short pass and sped inside the 20 yard line. Pearse was able to convert a third down and five against a grudging Prospect defense. On fourth down and less than a yard, Matt Stringini was finally able to push it into the end zone. The kick after was no good and the Bucs were down 27 – 12.
The Knights came right back however with a quick pass out to midfield. Two handoffs to Daniel got Prospect down to the 10 yard line. After a penalty, Bowman found Burton in the end zone for a 20 yard score. The point after was good and the Knights had a 34 – 12 lead. The Bucs went three and out in their next possession. The Knights finished the third quarter with a long drive that culminated in a 25 yard field goal at the beginning of the fourth quarter. The Bucs went three and out again. However, while the Knights were still able to move the ball, the Bucs defense did manage to stop them at the Belvidere 30 yard line. On fourth down and three, the Knights took a time out to discuss it and ended up punting it away. The ball rolled into the end zone and the Bucs started on their own 20 yard line. With five minutes left in the game, Matt Barr kept the ball for a seven yard gain. He found Casey Gustafson for a 12 yard reception. Tyler Pearse took a handoff up to the 45 and Brandon Smaha broke into Knights territory, down to the 40 yard line. On first down from the 40 yard line, Matt Barr went back to pass long and the Knights intercepted. They ran the last three minutes out, pushing the ball down field to the Belvidere 19 before the game finally ended.
Prospect will be going down to Champaign to play Chicago Mount Carmel this Saturday afternoon for the Class 7A Championship. While Belvidere’s season is over, the Bucs can look back with pride at an undefeated regular season, an undisputed NIC-9 championship and the best record since 1994.