MAUSTON – Luck had no answer for Belmont’s Riley Christensen last Friday night as the #2-ranked Braves ran down the #4-ranked Cardinals, 60-6, in a match-up of two of the state’s top 8-player teams at the Woodside Sports Complex in Mauston.
“To beat a top program in the state and in that fashion speaks volumes on the group of guys that we have this year. We were able to get momentum early and keep it going on all sides of the ball,” said Belmont head coach Brandon Wiese.
Christensen accounted for over 290 yards of total offense and scored five times on the ground and once more through the air to lead the Orange-and-Black on offense against the defending WIAA 8-player state champions, while registering 23 tackles with 16 solo stops on defense to finish off his huge night.
Christensen put the Braves (6-0 overall) ahead to stay with a 40-yard touchdown jaunt just a minute into the game, and then added TD runs of 22 and 47 yards in the opening stanza to extend the lead to 30-6.
Senior Will Cutler darted six yard for a TD and tacked on two 2-point conversion runs in the first quarter, while Christensen punched in another conversion for the Braves.
Mike Hochstetler’s 50-yard TD run midway through the first quarter got the Cardinals (4-2) on the scoreboard. It was the first time this season an opponent had scored against the Braves’ D in the opening quarter.
Junior Waylon Palzkill scampered 15 yards for a TD early in the second quarter to add to the Braves’ advantage, and then Christensen hooked up with Cutler for a 53-yard scoring strike and ripped off a 30-yard TD run to extend the lead to 52-6 at the halftime intermission.
Christensen hit pay dirt from six yards out midway through the third quarter to put the finishes touches on Belmont’s dominating performance.
The Braves rolled up 464 total yards of offense on the night with 312 coming on the ground on 34 carries (9.2 ypc.) along with 152 passing yards on six completions (25.3 ypc.) from three passers.
Luck ran 41 times for a season-high 222 yards (5.4 ypc.) against the Belmont defense, but the Braves matched a season by allowing just five passing yards and they turnover over the Cardinals four times with two fumble recoveries and two interceptions. The Braves are plus-19 on turnovers through six games.
Christensen toted the ball 15 times for 181 yards and five TDs, was a perfect 4-for-4 passing for 87 yards with a TD and no interceptions, and had one catch for 26 yards.
The senior has rushed for 1,025 yards and 23 TDs this season, and has completed 29-of-43 passes for 442 yards with nine TDs and no picks.
“Riley is an outstanding football player and it shows each week. He is extremely versatile and he has worked really hard to be efficient on the ground and through the air,” Wiese pointed out.
Cutler ran seven times for 39 yards and a score, caught four passes for 87 yards and a score, and was 1-for-1 passing for 39 yards. W. Palzkill had 21 yards on three carries with a TD, caught one pass for 39 yards and completed one pass for 26 yards.
Junior John Burbach rushed eight times for 72 yards and scored three conversions for the Braves.
Justin Blechinger ran 19 times for 76 yards to lead Luck. Gavin Fredericks added 57 yards on 12 carries and Hochstetler chipped in with 54 yards and a TD on two carries for the Cardinals.
Defensively, senior Mitchell Douglas was in on eight tackles and senior Michael Douglas tallied five stops for the Braves. The Douglas each had 1.5 tackles for loss.
Cutler and junior Ty Palzkill each had an interception, while Burbach and Cutler each recovered a fumble.
Belmont and #3-ranked Gilman (7-0) each opted out of the WIAA’s playoff plan and have decided to play one another back at the Woodside Sports Complex in Mauston on Friday, Nov. 13.
With top-ranked Newman Catholic (5-0) calling off their season a few weeks ago and Belmont already defeating #4 Luck, Friday’s meeting becomes an unofficial state championship game for 8-player football.
“We felt it was in the best interest of our team and program to make this decision. It certainly wasn’t easy because we would have rather this been sponsored by the WIAA; but, in this case, it made the most sense for the top two teams in the state to play,” stated Wiese. “Our players and program have worked hard to be in this type of opportunity, so we are looking forward to competing to be the best in the state against a very good Gilman program.”
The Braves have outscored their opponents, 321-45, through six games, while the Pirates have outscored their opponents, 374-28, in seven games.
Belmont last met Gilman in the state semifinal round of the 2003 WIAA Division 7 playoffs. The Braves defeated the Pirates, 21-12, to earn their lone state finals appearance.
Kickoff is scheduled for 6 p.m.
Belmont… 30 22 8 0 – 60
Luck…….. 6 0 0 0 – 6
B – Christensen, 40 run (run failed)
B – Christensen, 22 run (Will Cutler run)
B – Cutler, 6 run (Christensen run)
L – Hochstetler, 50 run (run failed)
B – Christensen, 47 run (Cutler run)
B – Waylon Palzkill, 15 run (John Burbach run)
B – Cutler, 53 yard pass from Christensen (Burbach run)
B – Christensen, 30 run (run failed)
B – Christensen, 6 run (Burbach run)
Team Stats: First Downs– B 10, L 10. Rushing– B 34-312; L 41-222. Passing– B 6-6-0, 152; L 1-6-2, 5. Fumbles-Lost– B 1-1; L 3-2. Penalties- B 5-30; L 8-50.
Belmont Individual Leaders: Rushing (Att-Yds-Td)– Riley Christensen, 15-181-5; John Burbach, 8-72-0. Passing (Comp-Att-Int-Td-Yds)– Christensen, 4-4-0-2, 87. Receiving (Cat-Yds-Td)– Will Cutler, 4-87-1.