CAZENOVIA - After falling behind 14-0 early in the second quarter of their opening round playoff game, Belmont didn’t go into panic mode. They went to work.
The Braves struck for 24 unanswered points on offense and pitched a shutout over the final 34 minutes to rally for a come-from-behind 24-14 WIAA Division 7 Level 1 playoff victory over the #4-seeded Weston Silver Eagles at WHS on Saturday, Oct. 22.
“We came out a little flat. The offensive line wasn’t quite firing out and we had a bad defensive scheme. That was probably the coaches’ fault,” admitted Belmont head coach Jason Weittenhiller. “We made a couple of tweaks at halftime. We put the kids in spots where they could succeed, and they stepped up and played great ball.”
Weston (5-5 overall) got off to a fast start, gaining 137 yards on their first two drives to grab a 14-0 lead. Quarterback Marcus McCauley’s 5-yard keeper opened the scoring midway through the first quarter, and the senior connected with receiver Mike Pyferoen on a 9-yard scoring strike with 10:11 to play in the first half.
Tucker Arneson punched in the two-point conversion to up the lead to 14-0 for the Silver Eagles.
But, it was all Belmont the rest of the night.
The Braves (6-4) put together a 19-play, 75-yard scoring drive to trim the deficit to 14-8 by the end of the half. Junior halfback Jeremy Richardson capped the marathon march with a 1-yard blast into the end zone with 18 seconds to go in the half, and he added the conversion run for the Braves.
Belmont’s first drive of the second half went backwards, but Coach Weittenhiller’s crew caught a huge break when McCauley fumbled away the ball at midfield on their first possession of the half. David Stoney jumped on the loose ball for the Braves
Belmont took advantage of the turnover by pounding the ball right down the field to overtake the Eagles. Stoney scored from a yard out on the eighth play of the drive to tie the score at 14 all, and Richardson punched in the conversion to put the Braves ahead 16-14.
The Eagles had a chance to take the lead late in the third quarter, but missed a 27-yard field goal to keep the Braves ahead by two.
Belmont followed with a 19-play, 74-yard possession that didn’t end in any points, but took over nine minutes off the clock.
Weston stopped the Braves at the Eagle 6-yard line with 3:20 to play in the game, and quickly drove to the Belmont 29 thanks to a 50-yard pass from McCauley to Arneson and a Belmont pass interference penalty.
However, Richardson came up with a clutch interception inside the Braves’ 20 to end the threat.
Belmont needed just two plays to turn the pick into points. Junior Brandon Wedig busted free for a 66-yard gain on the first play from scrimmage to move the Braves’ from their own 30 to the Weston 4, and Richardson walked it in from there to add to their lead.
Richardson ran in the conversion as well to put Belmont up by two scores at 24-14 with 1:19 remaining in the game.
Senior Avery Willborn picked off his second McCauley pass of the night with 1:11 to play, and Stoney carried the ball four times to pick up the first down the Braves needed to seal the victory.
“We played a great second half defensively, and offensively we were moving guys out of there. We started running the ball very well,” Weittenhiller commented. “The backs really started taking over. It was fun to watch.”
Belmont ran the ball 71 times for 326 yards and added 41 yards through the air to outgain the Silver Eagles, 367 to 265, in total yards on the night.
Wedig rushed 27 times for 170 yards to lead the way, while Richardson added 97 yards on 21 carries with two TDs and three conversion runs. Stoney tacked on 49 yards on 18 totes with a TD for the Braves.
McCauley led Weston with 79 yards on 16 carries with a TD and he completed 3-of-6 passes for 68 yards and another score. None of his passes hit the ground as Willborn swiped two passes and Richardson picked off one to go along with Stoney’s fumble recovery.
Belmont will get a chance to avenge their season opening loss to Highland in the second round of the playoffs when they head to Tyler Field on Saturday, Oct. 29, to take on the Cardinals in a Level 2 affair. Kickoff is set for 2 p.m.
“They are a heck of a football team and they are playing very well right now,” Weittenhiller said of the Cardinals, who defeated Potosi, 22-14, in the season finale to grab a share to the Six Rivers Conference championship and opened the playoffs by beating Ithaca, 34-6. “We’re going to have to play a great game.”
The Braves opened the season with a 20-12 loss to the Cardinals at the Six Rivers Jamboree. Weittenhiller noted some of his players felt they didn’t play their best in the first meeting, so Saturday will give them a chance to make up for that loss.
“The kids kept saying they didn’t play well. Now, they have a chance to prove it,” said Weittenhiller. “They get a chance to go out there and show that they didn’t play well that first game.”
WIAA DIVISION 7 LEVEL 1
Belmont… 0 8 8 8 - 24
Weston…. 6 8 0 0 - 14
W – McCauley, 5 run (kick failed)
W – Pyferoen, 9 pass from McCauley (Arneson run)
B – Jeremy Richardson, 1 run (Richardson run)
B – David Stoney, 1 run (Richardson run)
B – Richardson, 4 run (Richardson run)
Team Stats: First Downs- B 21, W 12. Rushing- 71-326; W 35-197. Passing- B 2-4-0, 41; W 3-6-3, 68. Fumbles-Lost- B 1; W 1. Penalties- B 6-55, W 5-30.
Individual Leaders: Rushing (Att-Yds-Td)- Brandon Wedig 27-170-0; Jeremy Richardson 21-97-2. Passing (Comp-Att-Int-Td-Yds)- Avery Willborn, 2-4-0-0, 41. Receiving (Cat-Yds-Td)- Isaac Haag, 1-34-0.