BELMONT – For all intents and purposes, Friday’s Six Rivers Conference football game was a playoff game for both Belmont and Shullsburg.
The winner knew they would still have a shot at one of the 224 WIAA post-season berths, while the loser realized their season would be done after next week.
From the opening snap, it was the Braves who were playing with a sense of purpose as they ran down the visiting Miners, 56-6, for a key SRC victory at BHS on Friday, Oct. 7.
“We’ve already started our playoffs. We know we have to win out. If we lose, we go home,” said Belmont head coach Jason Weittenhiller. “We finally played, for the most part, a mistake-free football game. These guys came out and played the way we should have been playing all season.”
Belmont (4-4 overall, 3-4 in SRC) wasted no time taking control of the game with junior halfback Brandon Wedig scoring from 23 yards out on the fifth play from scrimmage to get the hosts on the board, Jeremy Richardson punched in the conversion for an 8-0 lead less than two minutes into the game.
And, unfortunately for Shullsburg, Wedig and the Braves were just getting warmed up.
Two plays later, the junior recovered a Shullsburg fumble at the Miners’ 48-yard line and three snaps after that he was right back in the end zone with a 5-yard scoring run to put the Braves ahead 14-0 with 8:36 remaining in the opening period.
The Miners (2-6, 2-5) trimmed the deficit to 14-6 midway through the quarter on a 6-yard touchdown pass from freshman quarterback Brett Matye to Nate Carrier, but Richardson fired right back with a 35-yard TD jaunt and another two-point run to put the Braves ahead 22-6 with 3:36 to play in the first frame.
Wedig added his third TD run midway through the second quarter on a 10-yard scamper and tacked on the two-point conversion, while Braves’ quarterback Avery Willborn sneaked one across the goal line with just six seconds remaining in the first half to extend the lead to 36-6.
Richardson (12 yards) and Wedig (six) each scored again for the Braves in the third quarter to run the advantage to 48-6, and the Braves’ back-ups got into the scoring act in the fourth quarter with freshman Lane Friedrich capping a six-play, 32-yard TD drive with a 1-yard plunge to close the scoring at 56-6.
All told, the Braves rushed for 463 yards and eight TDs on 46 carries. Wedig led the way by rolling up 266 yards on 22 carries with four TDs to go over the 1,000-yard rushing mark for the season. He currently has 1,049 yards with 15 rushing TDs.
Richardson chipped in with 93 yards on eight carries with two TDs, while David Stoney ran nine times for 63 yards and Friedrich added 28 yards on three totes with a score.
“You have to credit the front line. When all those guys can run that well, those front seven are really moving guys around,” explained Weittenhiller.
And, as impressive as the offense was for the Braves, the defense was equally as impressive in shutting down the high-octane Miners’ running attack.
Carrier, who had run for over 1,400 yards coming into the night, was held to a season-low 62 rushing yards on 24 carries by the Braves, including nine stops behind the line of scrimmage. The speedy Shullsburg senior added 40 yards and a score on three catches to lead the air attack for the guests.
“Every time Carrier touches the ball, you have to hold your breath. But, we did alright against him. I was really happy with the D for their effort tonight,” Weittenhiller noted.
The rest of the Miners managed just 33 yards on the ground and 30 yards through the air against the staunch Belmont D.
“It was obviously the perfect storm of bad things that could happen in a game. There was not really one terrible thing that we could point to, but some of the same problems we have had all year,” mentioned Shullsburg head coach Scott Matye.
John Hentrich and Richardson led Belmont with 10 tackles apiece and Christian Galloway added eight stops. Wedig and Kyle Tillotson each recovered a fumble for the Braves.
Hervey Trejo paced the Miners with 10 tackles, while Connor Crotty and Brett Knautz made eight stops apiece for the guests. Andrew Uehling recovered a fumble and Bradley Sigwarth intercepted a pass for the Miners.
Belmont will be looking to secure a playoff berth in their finale at River Ridge (0-8, 0-7) on Friday, Oct. 14. A win over the winless Timberwolves should put the Braves into the post-season. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
“Hopefully, this will carry into next week because we need one more victory to get into the playoffs,” said Weittenhiller. “And, hopefully, we keep this going and come in hot into the playoffs.”
Shullsburg has a backyard brawl in store for them in their SRC finale as they host rival Benton/Scales Mound (2-6, 1-6) at Badger Park on Friday night also at 7 p.m.
“I expect out guys to bounce back and play with a sense of purpose, which was lacking Friday. It is the backyard rivalry (against) guys we know well and want to beat because we like them,” noted Matye.
Shullsburg…. 6 0 0 0 - 6
Belmont…….. 22 14 12 8 - 56
B – Brandon Wedig, 23 run (Jeremy Richardson run)
B – Brandon Wedig, 5 run (run failed)
S – Nate Carrier, 6 pass from Brett Matye (kick blocked)
B – Richardson, 35 run (Richardson run)
B – Wedig, 10 run (Wedig run)
B – Avery Willborn, 1 run (run failed)
B – Richardson, 12 run (run failed)
B – Wedig, 6 run (run failed)
B – Lane Friedrich, 1 run (Isaac Haag pass from Willborn)
Team Stats: First Downs- S 8, B 13. Rushing- S 33-95; B 46-463. Passing- S 7-17-0, 70; B 1-2-1, 29. Fumbles-Lost- S 2; B 1. Penalties- S 5-40, B 7-55.
Individual Leaders: Shullsburg– Rushing (Att-Yds-Td)- Nate Carrier 24-62-0. Passing (Comp-Att-Int-Td-Yds)- Brett Matye, 7-17-0-0, 70. Receiving (Cat-Yds-Td)- Carrier 3-40-1. Belmont– Rushing (Att-Yds-Td)- Brandon Wedig 22-266-4, Jeremy Richardson 8-93-2. Passing (Comp-Att-Int-Td-Yds)- Avery Willborn, 1-2-1-0, 29. Receiving (Cat-Yds-Td)- Wedig, 1-29-0.