BELMONT — On a cold, windy night where passing and kicking the ball was an adventure, Belmont leaned on its running game and stout defense to blank the visiting River Ridge Timberwolves, 20–0, in an old-school Six Rivers Conference clash at BHS on Friday.
The victory not only helped Belmont (6–1 overall, 5–1 in SRC) keep pace with Potosi and Pecatonica/Argyle atop the Six Rivers’ standings, but also assured the Braves their fourth straight playoff appearance with their fifth conference win.
“For the seniors, it’s all four years they have made the playoffs,” said Belmont head coach Jason Weittenhiller. “I’m proud of them because they have contributed each year to our success. It’s nice to be in the playoffs, but starting next week, we’re playing for a conference title.”
Just one pass was completed all game between the two teams due to a stiff wind that blew from sideline to sideline, and the Braves took advantage of the struggles in the punting game by the Timberwolves (1–6, 1–5) to turn two short punts into scores.
After fumbling away the ball on their first play of the game, the Braves regrouped and got rolling on their second possession with junior Jon Bahr taking a quarterback keeper 61 yards into the end zone to put the hosts ahead to stay with 5:05 remaining in the first quarter.
The Braves got back into the end zone midway through the second quarter after a high snap and short punt by the T’Wolves set them up at the RR 40-yard line. Senior fullback Mitch Ray capped the eight-play scoring drive with a 1-yard plunge to extend the lead to 12–0.
Belmont opened the second half with a time-consuming drive that covered 62 yards and ate nearly eight minutes off the third-quarter clock.
The T’Wolves halted the drive at the Ridge 3, but they couldn’t get out of the shadow of their end zone as the Braves’ defense forced two consecutive punts from deep in their territory to own the battle of field position.
Taking over at the RR 15 following the second kick, Bahr ran it in from four yards out for his second score of the night and Ray punched in the conversion to make it 20–0 with 9:33 to play.
The T’Wolves tried to rally by driving inside the Belmont 30 on back-to-back drives late in the fourth quarter, but a fumble and a turnover on downs in the final minute sealed their fate as the Braves held on to post their third shutout of the season en route to their sixth consecutive victory.
“River Ridge is a good team,” said Weittenhiller. “Every week they come out and play hard. We played well.”
Belmont rolled up 251 yards of offense while limiting the T’Wolves to just 173 total yards. Ridge got into Braves’ territory on four of their 10 possessions, but they turned the ball over each time– three times on downs and once on a fumble– and never got the ball inside the Braves’ 15.
Bahr ran 16 times for 167 yards with two scores and completed 1-of-9 passes for 15 yards to lead the Braves’ attack. Ray added 53 hard-earned yards on 18 carries with one score and he had one catch for 15 yards.
“With the wind it was tough to throw. It was really howling. We kind of rode Mitch and Jon there for awhile,” noted Weittenhiller.
Defensively, senior linebacker Tucker Wedig was all over the field, recording 10 solo tackles and six assists with two tackles for loss. Quinn Cushman chipped in with 10 total tackles, while Ray and Raine Voigts each added seven.
Nate Knebel recovered a total tackles, while Ray and Raine Voigts each added seven.
Nate Knebel recovered a fumble for the Braves.
“Our defense has played well the last couple of games,” said Weittenhiller. “When you don’t give up any points, it makes it a lot easier on the offense. The defense is going to have to continue to carry us the rest of the season into the playoffs.”
Belmont’s push for the Six Rivers crown continues when they head to Murphy Field in South Wayne to face Black Hawk (4–3, 4–2) in a Six Rivers showdown on Friday. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
The Warriors have lost two games in a row and are still smarting from a 40–0 loss suffered to Pecatonica/Argyle in their Homecoming game last Saturday.
“It’s nice to have our destiny in our own hands. We don’t have to rely on someone else trying to beat anyone for us,” explained Weittenhiller. “We have two tough games, but that’s what we’re going to see in the playoffs.”
Belmont 20, River Ridge 0
(from Friday, Oct. 3 @ Belmont)
River Ridge 0 0 0 0 — 0
Belmont 6 6 0 8 — 20
B: Jon Bahr 61 run (run failed)
B: Mitch Ray 1 run (pass failed)
B: Bahr 4 run (Ray run)
First downs — RR 8, B 10. Rushing — RR 46-173, B 45-236. Passing Yards — RR 0, B 15. Passing — RR 0-7-0, B 1-9-0. Fumbles–lost — RR 1-1, B 1-1. Penalties-yards — RR 3-15, RR 4-35.
Rushing — RR: Zach Ertz; B: Jon Bahr 16-167. Passing — RR: 0-7-0; B: Bahr 1-9-0, 15. Receiving — RR: none; B: Mitch Ray 1-15.