PLATTEVILLE - You have to expect a few mistakes from a team in their season opener. But, when those mistakes come late in a tight game, the results can be disastrous.
Highland scored on back-to-back drives early in the second half to erase a 12-6 deficit, then halted Belmont in Cardinal territory on a pair of fourth quarter drives to seal a 20-12 victory over the Braves at the sixth annual Six Rivers Football Jamboree at UW-Platteville’s Ralph E. Davis Stadium on Saturday, Aug. 20.
Belmont (0-1 in SRC and overall) snapped a six all tie on the opening possession of the second half when they marched 75 yards on 10 plays with junior Brandon Wedig blasting in from a yard out to put the Braves ahead 12-6 with 7:21 to play in the third quarter.
The Cardinals (1-0) had a quick answer with an eight-play, 64-yard scoring drive of their own to tie the game once again at 12-12. Highland overcame three penalties on the drive by using passes of 29 and 31 yards from junior quarterback Blake Bodenstein– the last of which resulted in the game-tying score to Caleb Yager.
After a Belmont punt, Highland went back to work and marched 49 yards on six plays to regain the lead. Tyler Kleist capped the drive with a 3-yard TD run and added the two-point conversion run to put the Cards up 20-12 with 9:36 to play
Belmont matched into Highland territory on their next drive, but a pair of penalties– their first of the game– slowed the drive. On 4th-and-2 from the Highland 41, Wedig fumbled backwards and Bl. Bodenstein picked up the ball and advanced it to the Belmont 39.
On the second play of the next Highland series, Belmont’s Sam Marzahl recovered a Ba. Bodenstein fumble to set up the Braves at the Belmont 36. The Orange-and-Black advanced to the Highland 34, but a bad snap over the head of Wedig in the wildcat formation took Belmont back into their own territory.
The Braves got back into Highland territory on a 10-yard pass to Lane Friedrich from Avery Willborn, but a penalty on 4-and-11 from the Highland 42 made things difficult and an incomplete pass turned the ball over to Highland with just over two minutes to play.
A 29-yard scramble by Bl. Bodenstein on third-and-9 gave the Cards a key first down at the B23 with 1:46 to play and Highland ran out the clock to give new head coach Shaun Reuter his first coaching victory.
“We were two evenly matched teams. It just came down to who made the least amount of mistakes and, unfortunately, that wasn’t us,” said Belmont head coach Jason Weittenhiller. “We had a lot of mistakes.”
Highland opened up the scoring on the first drive of the game with Kleist ripping off a 59-yard TD run to put the Cards up 6-0.
The Braves answered with a nice 50-yard scoring trek on their first possession. Wedig raced in from 22 yards out to tie the game at 6-6 and the PAT failed to leave the score deadlocked. It remained stuck there the rest of the first half.
Wedig finished with 82 yards on 18 carries with two TDs, while Jeremy Richardson tacked on 75 yards on 14 carries for the Braves. Belmont finished the game with 181 yards on the ground and 44 yards through the air.
“I was pleased with how the offense was moving the ball. We just couldn’t get the defense off the field fast enough,” added Weittenhiller.
Kleist ran 17 times for 88 yards and two TDs to lead the Cards, and Bl. Bodenstein completed 4-of-5 passes for 84 yards and a score.
Belmont travels to Benton’s Swift Park to meet Benton/Scales Mound (1-0) in another Six Rivers Conference contest on Friday, Aug. 26. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
“We got to get things figured out and get ready to play (the Zephyrs) at their place. They are one of the top teams in the conference,” Weittenhiller stated.
Highland... 6 0 6 8 - 20
Belmont.... 6 0 6 0 - 12
H – Kleist, 59 run (run failed)
B – Brandon Wedig, 22 run (kick failed)
H – Yager, 31 pass from Bl. Bodenstein (run failed)
B – Wedig, 1 run (kick failed)
H – Kleist, 3 run (Kleist run)
Team Stats: First Downs- H 14, B 9. Rushing- H 40-169; B 43-181. Passing- H 4-5-0, 84; B 4-6-0, 44. Fumbles-Lost- H 2-1; B 4-1. Penalties- H 5-31, B 3-20.
Belmont Leaders: Rushing (Att-Yds-Td)- Brandon Wedig 18-82-2; Jeremy Richardson, 14-75-0. Passing (Comp-Att-Int-Td-Yds)- Avery Willborn, 4-6-0-0, 44. Receiving (Cat-Yds-Td)- Lane Friedrich, 2-17-0.