BELMONT – Before they could shoot off the fireworks over the football field to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Belmont Community Fair, the Braves first had to come up with some fireworks of their own on the Belmont football field.
Senior fullback Mitch Ray scored his third touchdown of the second half on a 7-yard run in overtime as the host Braves kicked off their Fair celebration by defeating the Cassville Comets, 20-14, in a Six Rivers Conference thriller at BHS on Friday, Sept. 12.
“That was very exciting. We struggled a little early, but the boys battled back,” said Belmont head coach Jason Weittenhiller. “It was a great game down to the end. It makes for a great Fair weekend.”
Ray rumbled for 92 of his game-high 131 rushing yards and scored all three of his touchdowns in the second half to rally the Braves (3-1 overall, 3-1 in SRC) from an 8-0 halftime deficit.
“He was a horse. He’s tough to bring down, and he kept getting tougher and tougher as the game went on,” Weittenhiller stated.
Ray scored from 9 yards out midway through the third quarter to break the goose-egg; and, after the Comets (2-2, 2-2) pulled ahead 14-6 on a 26-yard TD pass from Hunter Nix to Dylan Ganahl-Johll on the final play of the third quarter, Ray drove the Braves right back down the field to tie the game at 14 all midway through the fourth quarter.
Ray, who ran seven times for 47 yards during the drive, punched it in from 2 yards out with 6:22 remaining to cap the 12-play, 69-yard scoring trek. The senior added the two-point conversion to deadlock the score at 14-14.
The Comets punted twice and lost a fumble on their final three drives of regulation, while the Braves tossed a pair of interceptions and turned the ball over on downs at the Cassville 34-yard line down the stretch.
Belmont won the toss to start overtime and chose to go on defense to start the period. The gamble paid off as they stopped the Comets cold with junior Nate Knebel knocking down a fourth-down pass at the goal line to end the possession.
Then, Knebel got the Braves’ possession rolling with an 18-yard gain on their first play of OT, and Ray took it from there covering the final seven yards on the next play to give the Braves their third straight victory.
Cassville took an early 2-0 lead when they tackled Knebel in the end zone for a safety at the 4:38 mark of the opening quarter. Senior Dallas Esser extended the lead to 8-0 in the opening minute of the second quarter when he ripped off a 49-yard TD run for the Comets.
The Braves allowed 130 yards in the opening half and managed just 32 yards of their own before the intermission. A different team came out of the locker room in the second half as they turned the tables by outgaining the Comets, 192-50, over the final two quarters and overtime.
“We tweaked some of our Xs and Os in our blocking assignments on the offensive line. The guys adjusted well. We started to sustain our blocks better and we played great football,” Weittenhiller said about the team’s halftime changes.
Belmont finished with 224 rushing yards on 50 carries and added 14 passing yards on one completion.
Ray finished with 131 yards on 24 carries and three scores and he also had the team’s one catch for 14 yards. Quarterback Jon Bahr added 65 rushing yards on 12 carries, while Knebel tallied 31 yards on 13 totes.
Esser ran for 127 yards on 17 carries with a score for the Comets. Nix completed 6-of-14 passes for 69 yards with a TD and two interceptions, and Ganahl-Johll had two catches for 40 yards and a score.
Senior Tucker Wedig was a force for the Belmont defense, recording 16 total tackles including three for a loss with half a sack and two fumble recoveries.
“(Tucker’s) been playing great for us on defense all year,” Weittenhiller commented.
Ray added seven tackles for the Braves, while Knebel and Raine Voigts each had a sack. Quinn Cushman and Cole Johnson also intercepted passes for the hosts.
Belmont hosts Weston (2-2) in a non-conference contest on Friday, Sept. 19. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
Belmont 20, Cassville 14, OT
(from Friday, Sept. 12 @ Belmont)
Cassville 2 6 0 6 0 — 14
Belmont 0 0 6 8 6 — 20
C: Team safety, Knebel tackled in the end zone
C: Esser 49 run (kick failed)
B: Ray 9 run (run failed)
C: Ganahl-Johll 26 pass from Nix (run failed)
B: Ray 2 run (Knebel run)
B: Ray 7 run
First downs — C 10, B 14. Rushing — C 38-144, B 50-224. Passing Yards — C 69, B 14. Passing — C 6-14-2, B 1-14-2. Fumbles–lost — C 2-2, B 3-1. Penalties-yards — C 7-70, B 5-45.
Rushing — C: Esser 17-127; B: Mitch Ray 24-131. Passing — C: Hunter Nix 6-14-2, 69; B: Jon Bahr 1-13-2, 14. Receiving — C: Dylan Ganahl-Johll 2-40; B: Ray 1-14.