BLANCHARDVILLE – Belmont’s margin of error has been eliminated. Now, the Braves need to eliminate their errors if they hope to secure a playoff berth this season.
Pecatonica/Argyle improved their playoff chances at the expense of Belmont’s post-season hopes after pulling ahead early and hanging on late for an 18-14 Six Rivers Conference victory on Pecatonica’s Homecoming Day in Blanchardville on Saturday, Sept. 24.
The Vikings (3-3 overall, 3-2 in SRC) jumped out to a 12-0 lead in the first half on a pair of long touchdown passes by quarterback Jon Hendrickson. The junior connected with Nathan Loyd on a 52-yard scoring strike on a reverse flea-flicker in the first quarter, and added a 42-yard bomb to Kyle Zwicker in the second quarter.
The Braves (2-4, 2-4) moved the ball well on the ground to start the game, but two turnovers deep in Viking territory- one on a fumble and another on downs- and an interception kept them off the scoreboard.
“The last two weeks we’ve come out with some slow starts. To the boys’ credit, they don’t give up. They keep battling to the end. We just got to stop spotting teams so many points to start the game,” said Belmont head coach Jason Weittenhiller.
Belmont finally got on the board late in the opening half with Avery Willborn hitting Isaac Haag with a 17-yard TD pass with two seconds remaining to break the shutout. Brandon Wedig punched in the two-point conversion to cut the deficit to 12-8 at the intermission.
The Braves continued to move the ball on the Vikings in the second half, but once again penalties and turnovers kept them out of the end zone.
Still trailing 12-8 late in the end of the third quarter, the Braves marched from their own 20-yard line to the Vikings’ 13. However, following a holding penalty and a negative run that moved the ball back to the 26, Willborn was sacked and lost the ball, which was recovered by the Vikings’ Jacob Melvin at the 30.
Belmont got the ball back with under two minutes to play, but they had to gamble and go for it on fourth-and-20 at their own 17. Willborn’s pass fell incomplete, giving the hosts the ball with 1:14 to play.
Two plays later, Jared Johnson ripped off a 14-yard TD run to give the hosts an insurmountable 18-8 advantage.
Belmont tried to rally, trekking 63 yards over the final 50 seconds of the game. Willborn went 5-for-7 on the drive, including an 8-yard TD pass to Jeremy Richardson on the final play of the game, but it was just too little, too late for the Braves.
“We've been making the same mistakes we’ve been making since week one. We false start. We fumble the football. We’re not wrapping up on tackles,” Weittenhiller commented. “We keep making too many mistakes to allow us to win a football game. Until we eliminate those mistakes, we’re going to keep putting losses up.”
Willborn completed 7-of-14 passes for 88 yards and two TDs to lead Belmont on the day. Wedig finished with 114 yards on 25 carries, while Richardson added 73 yards on 20 totes and 44 yards on five catches.
David Stoney also had 53 yards on 14 carries for the Braves, who finished with 258 rushing yards and 346 total yards.
Hendrickson led the Vikings with 126 passing yards on 5-of-1- passing with two TDs, and Johnson tacked on 66 yards on 16 carries with another score.
“We’re going to have to clean things up or these last three games are going to be difficult for us,” said Weittenhiller.
Belmont will try to put its three-game slide to rest on Friday, Sept. 30, when the Braves travel to Wauzeka to face the Wauzeka/Steuben Hornets (2-3) in a non-conference game, starting at 7 p.m.
Belmont……. 0 8 0 6 - 14
Pec/Argyle… 6 6 0 6 - 18
PA – Loyd, 52 pass from Hendrickson (kick failed)
PA – Zwicker, 42 pass from Hendrickson (run failed)
B – Isaac Haag, 17 pass from Avery Willborn (Brandon Wedig run)
PA – Johnson, 14 run (kick failed)
B – Jeremy Richrdson, 8 pass from Willborn (no try)
Team Stats: First Downs- B 19, PA 10. Rushing- B 60-258; PA 27-140. Passing- B 7-14-1, 88; PA 5-10-0, 126. Fumbles-Lost- B 2; PA 1. Penalties- B 5-45, PA 7-60.
Individual Leaders: Rushing (Att-Yds-Td)- Brandon Wedig 25-114-0, Jeremy Richardson 20-73-0. Passing (Comp-Att-Int-Td-Yds)- Avery Willborn, 7-14-1-2, 88. Receiving (Cat-Yds-Td)- Richardson, 5-44-1; Isaac Haag 1-17-1.