SHULLSBURG – Week two of the prep football season is usually a time for most teams to iron out some wrinkles against a non-conference opponent. But, in the Six Rivers Conference, week two can be an important game with far-reaching consequences — especially when both teams opened the season with a loss.
Last season, Belmont started off with a loss and used a 31–13 week two win over the Miners to earn a playoff berth with a 4–4 league records. The Miners dropped their next two games to start 0–4 and missed the playoffs with a 3–5 league record.
Both teams met again in week two this season at Shullsburg’s Badger Park and each entered the game with 0–1 records. And, once again, it was the Braves who came out on top.
Belmont quarterback Jon Bahr ran for 146 yards and a touchdown and fullback Mitch Ray added four short touchdown runs — one in each quarter — as the Braves endured a pair of lightning delays to strike down the Miners, 36–28, in a key Six Rivers contest on Friday.
“It was a long game” said Belmont head coach Jason Weittenhiller. “There were a lot of breaks, but the kids hung in there. It never fails. Whenever we play Shullsburg, it’s always a good game.”
Shullsburg (0–2) held the lead three times over the first 27 minutes of the game, but once the Braves (1–1) gained the lead midway through the third quarter they refused to let it go. The Miners’ lead could have been even greater had they not had two touchdowns called back due to penalties in the first quarter.
“We gave ourselves a chance to win, but we had a few too many hiccups in the middle of the game,” noted Shullsburg head coach Scott Matye.
The Miners used a pair of touchdown passes by senior quarterback Brett Matye to grab a 14–8 first-quarter lead before the teams had to leave the field during the first lightning delay.
Matye teamed with younger brother Hunter for a 3-yard scoring strike to open the scoring on the night. A two-point conversion run by Cody Groskreutz put the Miners up 8–0.
Belmont tied the score at 8–8 on a 1-yard plunge by Ray and a Nate Knebel conversion run, but Brett Matye hooked up with senior wideout Kethan Rood on a 72-yard bomb moments later to put the Miners back into the lead at 14–8.
Following a 30-minute delay, the Braves went right back to work on the ground with Ray covering the final two yards to tie the game at 14–14 with 6:21 to play in the half. Neither team could find the end zone again the rest of the half to keep the score deadlocked at the break.
The Miners struck first in the second half, taking the opening kick at their own 39 and marching 61 yards in 10 plays to regain the lead. Brett Matye capped the drive with a 1-yard sneak at the 8:51 mark of the third quarter to put the hosts up 20–14.
Shullsburg got the ball right back after forcing a quick Belmont punt, but on their next play linebacker Tucker Wedig picked off a Brett Matye pass and returned the ball to the Shullsburg 1. Ray punched it in from there on the Braves’ first play from scrimmage and Bahr ran in the conversion to give the Braves their first lead of the night at 22–20 with 6:56 remaining in the third quarter.
Bahr added a 1-yard TD run at the 2:14 mark of the third period and connected with Ray on the conversion to extend the Braves’ lead to 30–20.
Before Belmont could kickoff, lightning struck again and the teams had to leave the field for another extended delay.
When the game finally resumed after the 10 o’clock hour, the Miners quickly marched down to the Belmont 11, but the Braves’ defense came up with a big stop to keep their lead intact.
“(The delays) made for a disjointed game,” Matye commented. “The second lightning delay I don’t think hurt us. It was at a point that allowed us to gather ourselves a little bit. We came out and had a nice drive, but didn’t punch it in. That was tough.”
Belmont stopped the Miners at midfield on their next drive as well, and then the Braves gave themselves a bit of breathing room by taking it right down the field for another score.
A 47-yard run by Bahr on the first play from scrimmage moved the ball down to the 2, and Ray hit pay dirt from there to up the Braves’ advantage to 36–20 with 6:14 to play.
The Miners stayed alive with an eight-play, 57-yard scoring drive. Senior running back Bradley Sigwarth capped the drive with a 7-yard TD jaunt with 3:17 remaining, and he added the conversion to pull the hosts back within a score at 36–28.
Shullsburg forced a Belmont punt just over a minute later; and, for the second time in the first two weeks of the season, had a chance to tie the game with a late score.
The Miners drove down to the Belmont 34 with under a minute to play, but on 4th-and-5 play Knebel put a big hit on Brett Matye mid-throw forcing an incompletion that sealed the victory for the Braves.
“The boys battled hard. Defensively, we played better this week and our offensive line blocked better,” said Weittenhiller.
The Miners finished the night with 454 total yards to Belmont’s 294 yards, and they even outgained the Braves on the ground, 321–223, and through the air, 133–71, in the game; but they came up short where it mattered most– on the scoreboard.
Groskreutz carried 22 times for 173 yards, while Sigwarth added 18 carries for 120 yards with a TD.
Matye completed 9-of 20 passes for 133 yards and two TDs with an interception. Rood had one catch for 72 yards and a score, and Hunter Matye had three catches for 27 yards and a score.
Bahr completed 3-of-10 passes for 71 yards to go along with his 146 rushing yards, while Ray ran 16 times for 54 yards and four scores and had one catch for 43 yards.
Tucker Wedig led the Braves’ defense with 24 total tackles, including 22 solo stops, and he also came up with a key interception.
Quinn Cushman, Knebel and Ray each had six tackles for the Braves.
Belmont heads to Highland on Friday, Sept. 5, for another tough Six Rivers Conference contest against the unbeaten Cardinals (2-0, 1-0), who are coming off a 20-14 win over Cassville last week. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
Belmont 36, Shullsburg 28
(from Friday, Aug. 29 @ Shullsburg)
Belmont 8 6 16 6 — 36
Shullsburg 14 0 6 8 — 28
S: H. Matye 3 pass from B. Matye (Groskruetz run)
B: Mitch Ray 1 run (run)
S: Rood 72 pass from B. Matye (pass fail)
B: Ray 2 run (run failed)
S: B. Matye 1 run (run failed)
B: Ray 1 run (Jon Bahr run)
B: Bahr 1 run (Bahr run)
B: Ray 2 run (run fail)
S: Sigwarth 7 run (Sigwarth run)
First downs — B 16, S 24. Rushing — B 44-223, S 53-321. Passing Yards — B 71, S 133. Passing — B 3-10-1, S 9-20-1. Fumbles–lost — B 1-0, S 1-0. Penalties-yards — B 6-25, S 5-41.
Rushing — B: Jon Bahr 21-146; S: Groskruetz 22-173, Sigwarth 18-120. Passing — B: Bahr 3-10-1, 71; S: B. Matye 9-20-1, 133. Receiving — B: Mitch Ray 1-43; S: H. Matye 3-27, Rood 1-72.