COMSTOCK PARK — In a battle of unbeaten teams, it was the Comstock Park Panthers making key plays when needed.
Comstock Park forced three turnovers, Jake Bush rushed for 161 yards (scored four touchdowns) and they stopped the Belding Redskins when they needed it the most in a 30-7 O-K Blue Conference win on Friday night.
“We talked all week about finally putting a game completely together,” Comstock Park coach Mark Chapman said. “Our record is nice, but we hadn’t played our best game yet. We felt like tonight we came out and probably gave them our best game.”
The Panthers — leading 16-7 — were on defense for more than seven minutes to start the second half. With the Redskins inside the 10-yard line on fourth down, the Panthers defense made the stop of the game. Belding quarterback Kole Hart, on the keeper, was stopped just inches shy of the first down, giving the Panthers the ball back, but most importantly stopping the Belding momentum.
“That was a field goal we would have made, but I thought we needed to get into the end zone,” Belding coach Joe Schwander said. “I thought if we get in, go for two, the game could come down to a field goal. All year, we had been getting that, but tonight we missed by a few inches.”
After each team punted on their next possessions, the Panthers put the game out of reach with another game-breaking touchdown by Bush.
On the final play of the third quarter, Bush weaved in and out of traffic for a 72-yard touchdown to open a 23-7 lead.
“We did a nice job of turning them over and winning that battle,” Chapman said. “And then Jake Bush in the second half. Once he figures it out and our offensive line gets some momentum, he makes those big runs for us.”
Comstock Park scored once more in the fourth quarter on a nine-yard catch by Bush from quarterback Pat Naughton with 5:18 remaining.
“It was going to come down to being perfect on execution,” Belding coach Joe Schwander said. “They did a much better job at it than we did. They didn’t do anything our kids weren’t prepared for on either side of the ball.”
Belding’s first two possessions ended on interceptions by Jimmy Whalen and Sam LaRoche. The second interception gave the Panthers the ball at the Redskins own 30-yard line. Belding’s defense stepped up and held the Panthers to a field goal for a 3-0 lead.
Bush score his first touchdown on a 17-yard run on fourth and one with 8:32 left in the first quarter A missed extra point gave Comstock Park a 9-0 lead. Belding answered with its first touchdown, a 15-yard run by Hart to pull within 9-7.
Bush’s second score was a six-yard run with 2:22 left in the first half.
Neil McCully led the Redskins with 91 yards on 15 carries. He had four catches for 38 yards.
“This was his game where he had to play different than our other games,” Schwander said of McCully. “He got a lot of hard yards. I thought he played outstanding. I’m proud of all our guys.”
Hart was 7-for-24 for 63 yards. He rushed for 63 yards on 11 carries.
Naughton went 9-for-22 for 115 yards.
Comstock Park improved to 5-0 overall and 2-0 in the league. Belding dropped to 4-1 overall and 1-1 in the league.
It was a tough loss for the Redskins, but they face another tough opponent in Allendale Friday at Rudness Field. Schwander said his team would bounce back.
“When you get to this point and you see tears and you care about these kids, it’s tough,” Schwander said of the loss. “I told them I love them and we are going to get better. It’s not as bad as you think it is. We have a big game next week and we will bounce back.”