GREENVILLE — The Greenville Yellow Jackets couldn’t have asked for a better start in their new home, Legacy Field.
Facing longtime rival Belding, the Yellow Jackets scored just 1:20 into the game on a six-yard touchdown run by running back Miguel Nieto. The score was set up by a bad Belding snap on a punt deep in the Redskins’ zone.
Once the punt’s snap hit the ground, that was all the time Jake Hopkins needed to bring down the Redskins punter and set up the outstanding field position.
Nieto’s touchdown run was the first offensive play of the year for the Yellow Jackets.
“A touchdown on the first play of the year. That’s not a bad deal,” Greenville coach Dave Moore said.
The Redskins’ woes and blunders continued throughout the first half, hurting themselves with missed plays, penalties and turnovers.
“We just had too many fumbles, guys not lined up the right way, wrong guys on the field,” Belding coach Joe Schwander said. “An environment like this is good for our kids, but some of them maybe got lost in it.
“We have given our guys a lot of stuff,” he added. “Sometimes when you do that the errors pop up. We will get better and ready to go next week.”
The Redskins got on the board with 5:52 remaining in the first quarter when Neil McCully rumbled 39 yards untouched into the end zone. A missed extra point kept Greenville in the lead, 7-6.
After an offensive lull for both teams, the Yellow Jackets found their scoring touch with two late second quarter scores. The first came on a 30-yard touchdown pass from Curtis Heppe to Tyler Rasmussen with 6:01 remaining. The second was a a three-yard run by Nieto. He followed that up with a two-point conversion, giving Greenville a 22-6 lead with 3:38 left in the half.
“Credit the Belding coaching staff,” Moore said. “They made things difficult at times and it looks like they have a nice foundation started.”
The Redskins were in the midst of a 63-yard drive when a fumble on the two-yard line killed any scoring chance, with under 30 seconds remaining in the half. It turned out to be a critical momentum swing.
“The fumble they had at the goal line down here early in the game was huge,” Moore said. “It was a huge momentum shift going into halftime. That was big.”
Schwander said his team will learn from its mistakes and players can hold their heads high despite a tough loss to their rivals.
“We felt confident the whole way through. We drove the ball too much and didn’t finish drives,” Schwander said. “It’s early in the year and we are throwing a lot of stuff at these kids. We will get better and they will be alright. That was a good football team that just beat us.”
The Yellow Jackets scored on two of their first three drives in the second half to open up the game. Both scores came from junior Carter Stephens, which included a 66-yard rushing touchdown. Stephens finished with 110 yards on nine carries.
“We bogged down a little bit. It’s early,” Moore said. “We needed to make some adjustments and, in the second half, we made some blocking adjustments and that really sprung things for us. That was the big key for us.”
Corey Zimmerman’s two-yard touchdown run extended the Yellow Jackets’ lead to 43-6 halfway through the fourth quarter.
Belding starting quarterback Brady Badder went out with an injury in the third quarter and was replaced by Kole Hart. Badder finished the night 13-of-23 for 145 yards and Hart finished 6-of-10 for 42 yards and rushing touchdown.
“Both Brady and Kole did well,” Schwander said. “We have two good quarterbacks. It’s just getting reps with the offensive line, seeing protection and getting used to the pace. This is all new to us.”
Heppe finished the game 5-of-9 for 89 yards and a touchdown. Nieto rushed for 103 yards.
“Carter (Stephens) did a nice job in the second half,” Moore said. “Miguel (Nieto) always runs hard and did such a great job. Curtis (Heppe) made some timely throws in the first half. I’m proud of the way they played.”
Colt and Chase Harrington recovered fumbles for Greenville.
“I’m very pleased with the first game. The kids played hard and I can’t be more pleased with that,” Moore said.
Greenville will travel to Kenowa Hills (1-0) on Thursday and the Redskins will host Lakewood (0-1) on Thursday.