By Andrew Roberts
Daily News correspondent
BELDING — In their annual Day to Believe game, the Belding Redskins looked like a group that never gave up hope despite trailing visiting Allendale 32-20 in the fourth quarter.
After giving up scores on a 94-yard punt return touchdown by Falcon junior Nate Couturier and a fumble return by senior Jon Nielsen for another in the third, the Redskins battled back with a late score in the fourth and a defensive stop to give them a shot to win with 2:00 left.
On a drive that started from the Belding 29, the Redskin offense moved the ball down the field, to the Allendale 40, then were benefited by a 15-yard pass interference call on Allendale that gave Belding a first and 10 at the 28. With just over 1:00 left in the game.
Unfortunately for the Redskins, their hopes of completing a comeback win were dashed when Falcon junior defensive back Tanner Vugteveen earned an interception to secure his team’s 32-26 victory.
Belding coach Joe Schwander said despite taking the tough loss, he is happy that his players battled through all four quarters and kept themselves in the game until the final minute.
“It’s fun to compete, and you want to be in situations like these,” he said. “We fought through adversity the whole game. They made a couple big plays and we had some injuries. We were down in the second half and battled back.
“I am proud of the kids. The way they play should help us down the road and into the playoffs.”
Allendale struck quickly in the first, needing only four plays to cover 63 yards in 1:24 seconds. The possession culminated with a 42-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Haiden Majewski to Couturier to give the Falcons a 6-0 lead.
Belding answered on their first offensive possession, completing a nine-play drive with an 11-yard touchdown run by junior Michael Walker. With confusion on whether the play had been called dead, despite no whistle being blown, Walker continued to run toward the end zone and went in untouched to tie the game a 6-6.
The Falcons broke the tie with their defense on the Redskins next drive. On a third-down play, Belding quarterback Kole Hart threw out of his own end zone, but Belding was flagged on a chop block in the end zone, awarding Allendale a safety.
In the second, the Falcons scored again as Majewski found Vugteveen on an 11-yard pass to make it a 14-6 lead. The Allendale QB completed another successful drive, connecting with Couturier on a 19-yard pass to the end zone to make it a 20-6 game.
Belding fought back with a pair of scores before the half in the form of a 78-yard run by Neil McCully and a pass from Hart to Garrett Anderson. At the half the game was tied 20-20.
After the Falcons’ special team and defensive scores in the third, to build a 32-20 advantage, the Redskins made it a one-possession game with just under six minutes left when Hart completed a pass to McCully to make it a 32-26 game.
The Belding defense made a defensive stop on Allendale’s next possession, despite the Falcons starting on the Belding 37 due to a face mask penalty on the kickoff, giving its offense a chance to win the game.
Allendale coach Ben Burke said he wasn’t surprised to see the Redskins battle back into the game in the final quarter because of the way they play and are coached.
“Belding is a tough team and are well coached,“ he said. “They seem to be getting better every week and we knew coming in that it was going to be a very physical game. That’s the way they play football here and I give them a lot of credit for getting back into the game.”
The Redskins ran the ball 40 times for 250 yards while Allendale picked up 95 yards on 23 attempts.
Majewski collected 167 yards on 14 of 22 passes for the Falcons while Hart earned 150 on 15 of 29.
McCully paced Belding with 162 yards on 15 carries, while Nick Price picked up 55 on eight attempts. Cameron Dombrowski paced the receivers with 43 yards on four catches.
Defensively, Garrett Strotheide finished with five tackles to lead the way, while McCully and Japheth Willmore earned four each. Price also nabbed an interception
Allendale’s ground attack was paced by Trevor Bastien, who picked up 40 yards on eight carries, while Couturier caught six passes for 106 yards.
Neilsen and Bastien led the Falcon defense with six tackles each.
Belding (4-2, 1-2 in O-K Blue) will travel to Hopkins on Friday night, while Allendale (5-1, 3-1 in O-K Blue) will play host to Sparta.