SOUTH WAYNE - Black Hawk went into Friday’s game against Belmont facing a must-win situation. In the second half, the Warriors started to play with that sense of urgency.
Black Hawk scored on four consecutive second-half possessions to rally from a seven-point halftime deficit and defeat the visiting Braves, 40-26, in a high-octane Six Rivers Conference shoot-out at Murphy Field on Sept. 7.
“That was a big game right there. That was a big one,” said Black Hawk head coach Cory Milz. “The boys understood their season was on the line. Starting off 0-3, in this conference, that would be tough. If we would have lost this one, there would be no margin of error the rest of the way.”
The Warriors opened the season with losses to Potosi and Highland; and, with just seven conference games this season, Coach Milz realizes a 4-3 record is what his team will need to make their third straight playoff appearance.
For the Warriors, the playoffs began Friday night. And, the way they went at each other for 48 minutes, it even felt like a playoff game.
Belmont (1-2 in SRC, 1-2 overall) came out and rushed for 259 yards in the first half alone, including touchdown runs of 56 and 64 yards by senior Brandon Wedig and a 71-yard scoring jaunt by junior Kyle Van Bogaert– all in the second quarter– to build a 20-13 halftime lead.
Black Hawk quarterback Merik Meythaler ran for an 8-yard touchdown early in the first quarter and hooked up with Cory Triem on a 40-yard scoring strike midway through the second quarter to keep the hosts close.
“You always worry about Belmont. We have a heck of a time figuring them out. No matter what we do, (Coach) Jason (Weittenhiller) and his staff do a nice job figuring out where to run the football. Their kids are good running backs. They were hitting their cutbacks, and they made us pay,” Milz said.
The Braves recovered a fumble and intercepted a Meythaler pass on the Warriors final two drives of the half to maintain their lead at the intermission.
“We played well in the first half. We were moving the ball well and sustaining our blocks. Our traps were open in the middle,” noted Belmont head coach Jason Weittenhiller. “In the second half, we got down and had to throw it a little more.”
Things didn’t start well for the Warriors in the second half as they fumbled away the ball again in Belmont territory on the opening drive, but the defense stepped up and forced the Braves first punt of the night.
After that, Black Hawk’s offense went into overdrive.
A 55-yard TD run by junior Tanner Sweeney brought the Warriors within a point at 20-19, however a bad snap on the extra point kept the Braves in the lead.
Belmont added to that lead on their next possession. Richardson capped an eight-play, 54-yard drive with a 5-yard blast into the end zone on the first play of the fourth quarter to put the Orange-and-Black ahead 26-19.
The Warriors wasted no time grabbing the momentum right back from the Braves, scoring two touchdowns in the span of 40 seconds to turn a seven-point deficit into a six-point lead.
After Richardson’s score, Warrior senior Logan Stietz returned the ensuing kickoff 31 yards into Belmont territory and with a 15-yard horse-collar penalty tacked on, the hosts started the drive at the Braves’ 28.
On the first play from scrimmage, Meythaler teamed with Tyler Peterson on a touchdown pass and Cory Rupnow added the extra point to tie the score at 26 all with 11:37 remaining.
The Braves turned the ball back over to Warriors just moments later when Heath Butler pounced on a incomplete backwards pass to set the hosts up the Belmont 23. On the very next play, Stietz bullied his way to paydirt to put the Warriors into the lead at 32-26.
“We’ve been lacking big plays this season. We moved the ball well the past two games, but we’d end up turning it over or getting stopped by a penalty,” stated Milz. “I thought we were able to get the big plays tonight and it’s always a spark when that happens.”
The Warriors stopped the Braves on downs at midfield on their next drive, and the offense went right back to work. Sweeney ripped off a 28-yard TD run on the fifth play from scrimmage to make it a two score game, and Stietz punched in the conversion on the ground to give the Warriors a 40-26 advantage with 6:45 to play.
“On three of their touchdowns, we had three or four missed tackles. When you get four guys to touch the ball carrier, you have to bring him down. We didn’t do that,” Weittenhiller said.
Belmont went to the air to try and get back into the game, and freshman quarterback Jon Bahr responded by hitting on five consecutive passes to move the Braves down to the Black Hawk 6.
However, Black Hawk’s Brett Lovelace came up with the pivotal play when he stepped in front of a Belmont receiver and swiped a Bahr aerial at the goal line to seal the victory for the Warriors.
“I give our kids credit for not panicking and playing a nice second half. We had some deer-in-the-headlight looks in the first half,” explained Milz. “There wasn’t a big coaching adjustment in the second half. We tweaked things a little bit, and the kids came out playing with a little more passion.”
After getting outgained, 264-142, by the Braves in the first half, the Warriors turned the tables in the second half and rolled up 258 total yards to Belmont’s 137 yards.
The Braves held a 259-43 yard advantage on the ground over the first two quarters of play, but in the second half the Warriors rolled up 196 yards on the ground while limiting the Braves to just 70 rushing yards.
Sweeney ran 17 times for 148 yards and two scores to lead the Warriors, while Stietz added 39 yards on five carries with a TD and a conversion run.
Meythaler completed 10-of-19 passes for 166 yards with two TDs and an interception. Kyle Walters hauled in four catches for 57 yards, and Sweeney made three catches for 23 yards.
Wedig rushed for 139 of his 156 yards in the first half and finished with two TDs on 13 carries to lead the Braves. Van Bogaert ran 10 times for 110 yards and a score, while Richardson rolled up 63 hard-earned yards on 22 carries with another score and a conversion run for Belmont.
Bahr connected on 8-of-15 passes for 74 yards with an interception. Van Bogaert added four catches for 48 yards, while Wedig and Richardson each had two catches for 13 yards.
“There isn’t a team that’s going to be an easy win in this conference left on our schedule. One more loss and we’re looking at not being in the playoffs,” said Weittenhiller, who now finds his team in a similar spot as Milz’s Warriors, needing three wins in the final conference games to garner a playoff berth. “We’re allowed only one more loss, so we’re going to have to buckle it up and from here on out it has to be 1-0 every week.”
Black Hawk hopes to build on last Friday’s win when they head to Bloomington to face River Ridge (0-2, 1-2) in a SRC game on Friday, Sept. 14, starting at 7 p.m.
Belmont will try and get back on track when they return home to host Cassville (0-3, 0-3) in their annual Fair Game on Friday, Sept. 14, also at 7 p.m.
Belmont…….. 0 20 0 6 - 26
Black Hawk… 7 6 6 21 - 40
BH – Merik Meythaler, 8 run (Cory Rupnow kick)
Bel – Brandon Wedig, 56 run (Jeremy Richardson run)
BH – Cory Triem, 40 pass from Meythaler (kick failed)
Bel – Kyle Van Bogaert, 71 run (run failed)
Bel – Wedig, 64 run (pass failed)
BH – Tanner Sweeney, 55 run (pass failed)
Bel – Richardson, 5 run (run failed)
BH – Tyler Peterson, 28 pass from Meythaler (Rupnow kick)
BH – Logan Stietz, 23 run (kick failed)
BH – Sweeney, 28 run (Stietz run)
Team Stats: First Downs- B 11, BH 14. Rushing- B 45-327; BH 33-238. Passing- B 8-15-1, 74; BH 10-19-1, 166. Fumbles-Lost- B 2-1; BH 3-2. Penalties- B 6-65, BH 9-57.
Team Individual Leaders: Belmont– Rushing (Att-Yds-Td)- Brandon Wedig 13-156-2; Kyle Van Bogaert 10-110-1. Passing (Comp-Att-Int-Td-Yds)- Jon Bahr, 8-15-1-0, 74. Receiving (Cat-Yds-Td)- Van Bogaert, 4-48-0. Black Hawk– Rushing (Att-Yds-Td)- Tanner Sweeney 17-148-2. Passing (Comp-Att-Int-Td-Yds)- Merik Meythaler 10-19-1-2, 166. Receiving (Cat-Yds-Td)- Kyle Walters 4-57-0.