BELDING — The final score was probably a little too close for comfort for the Belding Redskins, but in the end, it didn’t matter as the Redskins qualified for the Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) football playoffs for the first time since 2007.
The Redskins started the scoring and finished the game with a defensive stand with the Wyoming Wolves needing a two-point conversion for a victory. When the ball fluttered out of the hands of Wyoming’s Jalen Arizola-Betts and landed alone at the one-yard line, the Redskins could finally celebrate a 26-25 victory at Rudness Field on Friday night.
“It feels so good. I can’t even describe it,” Belding quarterback Kole Hart said. “Words won’t do it justice.”
The win gave the Redskins a regular season record of 6-3 (3-2 in O-K Blue). Six wins guaranteed the Redskins a spot in the 256-team playoff field.
“We are excited. They are a good team,” Belding coach Joe Schwander said. “They lost some close games. We are just happy, fortunate and feel blessed to get the win for the community and our fans. It’s pure joy right now.”
Trailing 26-19, Wyoming got one last chance to score with just 3:26 remaining in the game. A Wyoming penalty on Belding’s punt pushed the Wolves back to their own 31-yard line.
Just three plays later, Wolves sophomore Michael Williams broke free and wasn’t brought down until the six-yard line. On first down, Arizola-Betts powered his way to the one-yard line with the clock nearing one-minute.
Belding’s defense stuffed the Wolves on the next two plays leaving fourth and goal from the half-yard line. Finally, Arizola-Betts got a surge and scored to pull the Wolves within 26-25 with just 28 seconds left.
Wyoming (0-9, 0-5) decided to go for the win and went for the two-point conversion.
“They had nothing to lose. They came out and went all out. They did whatever it took to get in the position they were in,” Hart said. “Somehow I knew they weren’t going to get it. I knew our defense would come through.”
Belding opened the scoring on its first drive of the game. The Redskins went 83 yards in a little more than five minutes for a 7-0 lead.
Arizola-Betts scored on Wyoming’s first play from scrimmage on a 46-yard run to tie the game at 7-7. Belding responded on its next possession to take a 14-7 lead on a 26-yard run by Nick Price.
The Redskins went for an onside kick, which was returned by DJ Donaldson for a touchdown. A Botched extra point kept Belding in front 14-13.
“It was a weird game. I feel like we played a lot better than the score indicates,” Schwander said. “We turned the ball over and did some things we shouldn’t have done. But our kids overcame that. They are so hungry and wanted to compete so bad and they did.”
Chris Ornelas kicked two second quarter field goals (29- and 32-yard field goals) for the Redskins, who led 20-13 at halftime.
Wyoming scored on its opening drive of the second half, but missed the extra point to trail 20-19.
Belding rushed for 398 yards and was led by Neil McCully with 213 yards on 18 carries. Price finished with 115 yards on the ground and caught three passes for 67 yards.
Arizola-Betts rushed for 201 yards and three touchdowns.
Belding finished 2-7 a year ago, but Hart said the key this year was a better understanding of the offense this season.
“Just understanding the offense more. We worked a lot in the offseason and got together on weekends, we lifted together and we are closer as a team this year,” Hart said.
The MHSAA football playoffs selection show airs on Sunday at 7 p.m on Fox Sports Detroit.