BELMONT – It may have been Belmont’s Community Fair, but Black Hawk left the midway with the biggest prize on Friday night.
The Warriors rallied to tie the game at 28-28 with 1:38 to play in regulation, then won it in double overtime on Merick Meythaler’s third touchdown pass of the night to Hayden Schliem as they knocked off the hard-charging Belmont Braves, 34-28, in a wild Six Rivers Conference shootout at BHS on Sept. 16.
“We were very fortunate,” said Black Hawk head coach Cory Milz after his 14th-ranked Warriors pulled out a tough win to move within a game of clinching a playoff berth. “You got to practice all you practice and you have to be good, but sometimes it just comes down to flat out luck.”
The Warriors (4-1 overall, 4-1 in SRC) didn’t appear to have much luck on their side after the Braves (2-3, 2-3) pasted 22 unanswered points on the scoreboard to turn a 20-6 first quarter deficit into a 28-20 third quarter lead.
The Braves were on the verge of pulling ahead by two scores midway through the fourth quarter when an untimely turnover changed the momentum of the game.
After marching from the Warriors’ 48-yard line to the Warrior 4 with a methodical 18-play, eight-and-a-half minute drive that featured three key fourth-down conversions, the Braves fumbled the ball away with Black Hawk’s Kyle Woodruff pouncing on the loose ball at the 4 with 5:03 to play.
“We played well. We just keep making mistakes that are turning wins into losses for us right now,” admitted Belmont head coach Jason Weittenhiller.
Meythaler and the Warriors went to work from there, going right to the air to get back into the game. The junior quarterback connected on five of his seven passes during the drive, including completions of 18, 11 and 30 yards to Schliem to move the Warriors down to the Belmont 20.
On the 10th play of the possession, Meythaler hooked up with senior Jace Johnsrud on a pass over the middle and Johnsrud took it down to the 1 before getting the ball jarred loose on a hit by a pair of Belmont defenders. The ball popped into the end zone where senior DeeJay Warrell jumped on it for a Black Hawk touchdown to cut the Braves’ lead to 28-26.
The Warriors’ first two-point attempt failed, but their new-found luck held out when the Braves were flagged for a defensive holding penalty to give the Warriors a second chance.
This time, Black Hawk would not be denied as Johnsrud carried a pack of Belmont defenders across the goal line with him to forge a 28-all tie with 1:38 remaining in regulation.
“They knew we were going to throw the ball, so the offensive line had to be solid,” noted Milz about their clutch 96-yard scoring drive. “We did a pretty good job of keeping Merick upright and we made just enough plays to keep the chains moving. That’s what athletes do.”
Belmont went nowhere on the opening drive of the first OT period, but the Braves’ defense stepped up and stopped the Warriors on their turn on offense despite a passing interference penalty to start the drive and two near completions at the goal line at the end of it.
Black Hawk struck gold on the fourth play of the second OT period when Meythaler found Schliem streaking across the middle and the senior wideout raced into the end zone to complete the 10-yard scoring strike for a 34-28 Black Hawk lead.
The Warriors left the door open for the Braves by missing the extra point try on a low snap to keep the lead at six.
The Braves looked to answer on their second OT possession, but an incomplete pass on a fourth-and-5 play from the 20 gave the Warriors the stop they needed to hold on for the victory.
“That was a really tough one to lose. It was a great football game,” Weittenhiller commented.
Black Hawk looked like they were going to put the game away early after scoring touchdowns on their first three offensive drives.
Meythaler capped an 11-play, 58-yard opening drive with a 1-yard sneak to put the Warriors ahead 6-0 just five minutes into the game.
After the Braves rallied to tie the score at 6-6 on an 18-yard TD run by junior halfback Brandon Wedig, the Warriors regained the lead just three plays later on a 15-yard TD pass from Meythaler to Schliem with 4:13 to play in the first quarter. Cory Rupnow’s PAT put the Warriors up 13-6.
The Braves fumbled the ball back to the Warriors on the first play of their ensuing drive, and the guests made them pay with Meythaler connecting with Schliem from 19 yards out on the first play from scrimmage to pull ahead 20-6 just over eight minutes into the game.
Undaunted by the 14-point deficit, the Braves got the running game rolling and fought back to tie the game at 20-20 by the halftime break.
Wedig capped a 12-play, 59-yard march with an 11-yard scoring jaunt to cut the gap to 20-12 early in the second quarter.
The Belmont D went to work and forced a Black Hawk punt to give the ball right back to the offense, and the Braves marched right back down the field. After getting TD runs wiped out twice on penalties earlier in the drive, Wedig finally punched it into end zone from a yard out on the 13th play for his third score of the half.
Then, Wedig added the two-point conversion run to knot the score at 20-20 with 2:57 remaining in the half.
Belmont completed the rally midway through the third quarter thanks to a Black Hawk turnover. One play after John Hentrich pounced on a Warrior fumble at the Black Hawk 23, senior fullback David Stoney busted right up the middle of the field and raced 23 yards to pay dirt to put the Braves into the lead.
Wedig tacked on the conversion to push the hosts’ lead to 28-20 with 7:44 left in the third quarter.
“We came out and made two quick mistakes, and we were down by 14 points. But, the boys didn’t give up,” Weittenhiller said. “They kept battling back to the very end. You have to give them credit for that because they didn’t quit.”
After gaining 137 yards on their first three drives of the game, Black Hawk managed just 12 total yards on their next five possessions. During that same time, the Braves rolled up 240 yards all on the ground.
“(Belmont) beat us physically up and down the field for much of the game, but when we needed them to the kids came up with the big plays,” Milz stated.
The Warriors’ offense got back on track on their 10-play, 96-yard game-tying drive, then carried that momentum into overtime to pull out the win.
“We challenged the team at halftime. We were not nice to them. There’s only so many times a year you can give the kids a tongue lashing, and you never know how they’re going to respond,” Milz said. “I think our kids responded very positively. When they really needed to do something, they got it done. That’s a sign of a good football team.”
Black Hawk finished the night rushing for 84 yards on 25 carries and passing for 220 yards on 13 completions for 304 total yards.
Belmont rolled up 387 rushing yards on 68 carries and ended the night with 390 total yards.
Meythaler completed 13-of-29 passes for 220 yards and three TDs. Schliem hauled in seven of his passes for 114 yards and all three scores.
Johnsrud led the ground game with 65 yards on 14 carries and he added five catches for 89 yards for the Warriors.
Stoney led the Braves with 182 yards on 28 carries with a TD, while Wedig racked up 110 yards and three scores on 23 carries. Junior halfback Jeremy Richardson completed the three-headed rushing monster by running for 94 yards on 21 totes for the hosts.
Defensively, junior Coltin Piefer registered a game-high 23 tackles (five solo, 18 assists) to lead the Warriors on the night. Shawn Woodruff added 15 tackles, while Tanner Sweeney and Dakota Meier each were in on 10 stops for the guests.
Sweeney also recorded a sack, and Logan Stietz and K. Woodruff recovered fumbles for the Warriors.
Hentrich paced the Braves with seven tackles and a fumble recovery. Richardson added seven tackles and Sam Marzahl had six stops, while Stoney finished with five tackles and a sack.
Black Hawk will try to lock up a WIAA playoff berth at home against Benton/Scales Mound (2-3, 2-2) in a Six Rivers’ game at Murphy Field on Friday, Sept. 23. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
Belmont will try and make a playoff push when its heads to Argyle on Saturday, Sept. 24, to meet Pecatonica/Argyle (3-1, 3-1) in Argyle’s Homecoming Game. Kickoff will be at 2 p.m.
“We need to stop making mistakes, battle back and get ready to go because we need two more victories in the last three conference games to get into the playoffs,” said Weittenhiller. “It’s not like we can guarantee any of those wins either, so we’re going to have to play well and stay disciplined.”
Black Hawk… 20 0 0 8 6 - 34
Belmont…….. 6 14 8 0 0 - 28
BH – Merik Meythaler, 1 run (kick failed)
BEL – Brandon Wedig, 18 run (kick failed)
BH – Hayden Schliem, 15 pass from Meythaler (Cory Rupnow kick)
BH – Schliem, 19 pass from Meythaler (Rupnow kick)
BEL – Wedig, 11 run (run failed)
BEL – Wedig, 1 run (Wedig run)
BEL – David Stoney, 23 run (Wedig run)
BH – DeeJay Warrell, 0 fumble return (Jace Johnsrud run)
BH – Schliem, 10 pass from Meythaler (pass failed)
Team Stats: First Downs- BH 8, Bel 20. Rushing- BH 25-84; Bel 68-387. Passing- BH 13-29-0, 220; Bel 1-4-0, 3. Fumbles-Lost- BH 1; Bel 2. Penalties- BH 8-50, Bel 8-60.
Individual Leaders: Black Hawk– Rushing (Att-Yds-Td)- Jace Johnsrud 14-65-0. Passing (Comp-Att-Int-Td-Yds)- Merik Meythaler 13-29-0-3, 220. Receiving (Cat-Yds-Td)- Hayden Schliem 7-114-3. Belmont– Rushing (Att-Yds-Td)- David Stoney 28-182-1, Brandon Wedig 23-110-3, Jeremy Richardson 21-94-0. Passing (Comp-Att-Int-Td-Yds)- Avery Willborn, 1-4-0-0, 3. Receiving (Cat-Yds-Td)- Wedig, 1-3-0.