By Andrew Roberts
BELDING — The Belding football team continued to show its ability to be explosive on the offensive side of the ball Friday night in its Ottawa-Kent Blue Conference opener at Rudness Field.
The Redskins scored 36 points in the opening half to take a commanding lead into the third en route to a 54-35 win.
“We’ve been fortunate that last three weeks that our guys have come out focused and have executed,” Schwander said. “We felt coming in that Coopersville was a goob team and we have just executed from week one to week two and this week.
“It’s huge to start the league season 1-0, but to start 3-0 is even bigger. You want to win your opener and we did. You want to win your first game on the road and we did. We have goals to make the playoffs and win the conference and this win tonight puts us that much closer to that.”
After stopping Coopersville on its opening drive, the Belding offense put together a drive of 90 yards, that included a 43-yard run by junior Sam Beckett, and concluded it with a two-yard plunge into the end zone by quarterback Kole Hart.
The Redskins added to their lead as time expired in the first quarter when senior Cameron Dombrowski intercepted a pass and returned it 60 yards for a score. Kicker Gio Delgado added his second PAT to give Belding a 14-0 lead after one.
Following a three-and-out for the Broncos, junior running back Michael Walker completed another scoring drive with a 68-yard TD run. Neil McCully tacked on the two-point conversion.
With just under 5:00 left in the half, Beckett found the end zone on an 18-yard run and Delgado added the extra point to extend the Belding lead to 29-0.
Coopersville finally got on the board with 3:07 left in the second on an 11-yard pass from quarterback Ben Cushway to Logan Pametta. Koby Buth added the extra point to make it a 29-8 game.
Belding tacked on another score just before the half. Despite committing four penalties, including three on consecutive plays, the Redskins were able to convert on fourth and 16 when Hart hit McCully on a 32-yard pass for a touchdown. Delgado added another PAT and the Redskins took at 36-7 lead into the locker room.
Coopersville’s defense stood tall on the opening drive of the third. The offense responded for the Broncos with a five-play drive that ended with a 42-yard touchdown pass from Cushway to Nate Darcy to cut Belding’s lead to 36-13.
The Redskins ate up over six minutes on 16 plays on their next drive, then added to their lead with a 27-yard TD run by McCully. Delgado hit another PAT to put his team up 43-13.
The Broncos responded with another scoring drive, capped off by a 10-yard run by Brendan Howe. Belding thwarted the two-point try to keep it a 43-19 game.
Mcully led the way on the ground for Belding with 94 yards on 11 carries. As a team, the Redskin rushers picked up 399 yards on 48 attempts.
Hart and Bach combined for 119 yards through the air.
Cushway paced the Coopersville offense with 303 yards on 9-of-19 passing.
“We came out and had a few small mistakes on our first drive and (Belding) came out and executed,” Bronco coach Jared Hudson said. “When we start from behind it’s tough for us to get going.
“They are a real disciplined team and Schwander is doing a great job. Their style of offense really takes assignment and disciplined. They caught us committing some mistakes and exploited them.”
The next Redskin drive started strong, but they were forced into a fourth-down situation on the Coopersville 25. Schwander decided to give kicker Chris Ornelas a chance add to his team’s lead. Despite a low snap, the sophomore was able to boot the ball 42 yards for a field goal, giving Belding a 46-19 lead.
The Bronco offense responded on their next possession as Cushway connected with Panetta on a 75-yard throw. Cushway hit Darcy on a pass to complete the two-point try to cut the Coopersville deficit to 46-27.
Belding completed its scoring late in the fourth when backup Gunner Bach threw a strike to Andrew Swider in the end zone. They added the two-point try to make it 54-27.
Belding (3-0, 1-0 in O-K Blue) will play host to Leslie on Friday for homecoming.
Coopersville falls to 3-0 overall and 1-0 in conference play with the loss.