By Andrew Roberts
Daily News correspondent
SPARTA — The Redskins are still in a position to achieve their biggest goal of the season.
With its 35-14 win over O-K Blue rival Sparta Friday night, Belding ended its three-game skid and kept the possibility of a playoff berth intact with one week left to play.
Although the offense pushed the ball into the end zone five times, it was the Redskin defense that set the tone early, forcing a punt on the Spartans’ first possession and stopping them on fourth down on their second and third drives.
“(Sparta) is a great team and they run for a lot of yards and their offensive line moves holes making it hard on anyone they play against,” Redskins coach Joe Schwander said. “We had to come out and be physical, which we did this week.
“Now we have to get ready for a big game next week.”
The Redskins started their first drive on their own 39. It only took the offense four plays to reach the end zone as Neil McCully scored on a 13-yard touchdown run.
The Redskins next possession began in Sparta territory. The offense moved down the field and capped off another scoring drive by clearing the way for running back Nick Price, who found the end zone on a nine-yard scamper.
The home team was able to get on the board on its fourth possession. With the ball on the Belding 10-yard line, Sparta quarterback Anthony Ingalls found receiver Beau Dunneback in the right corner of the end zone with a pass for a score. The extra point was blocked by junior Michael Walker, keeping the Belding lead at 14-6.
Late in the second quarter, the Belding defense gave the offense another chance to add to its advantage heading into the half by recovering a fumble. With 32.3 seconds left, Redskins quarterback Kole Hart threw a 19-yard pass to Thad Whorley in the end zone.
After forcing another punt, Price fair caught the punt at the Sparta 35 with 1.5 seconds left in the first half. That’s when Schwander decided to take advantage of a little-known rule of high school football.
If a punt is fair caught, the team can opt to attempt a free-kick field goal from where the ball was received, in which the kick is not contested by the defense. Schwander decided to give his long-range kicker Chris Ornelas a shot at a 45-yarder.
The kick was accurate, but the ball fell just a few yards short of the crossbar. Heading into the half, Belding held a 21-6 advantage.
Starting the third quarter, Belding running back Sam Beckett took the handoff on a counter and found a big hole created by his offensive line and scampered 62 yards for the touchdown.
Belding’s last touchdown also came in the third on a one-yard pass from Hart to Price in the back of the end zone.
Sparta capped the night’s scoring in the fourth quarter on a one-yard run by junior Adrian Garza. He also caught a two-point conversion pass from Ingalls after the touchdown.
Stats were not made available by press time.
Belding moves to 5-2 overall and 2-2 in the O-K Blue with the win. Sparta falls to 5-2 overall and 1-2.
Belding will play host to Wyoming next week, while Sparta travels to O-K Blue leading Comstock Park.