COMSTOCK PARK – Belding’s football team came close to pulling an upset against Comstock Park in the Division 4 regionals Friday night.
Instead the Redskins had their season end at the hands of the Panthers 35-17.
The biggest problem was turnovers. Belding had four to one for Comstock Park.
“It’s just tough,” Belding coach Joe Schwander said. “When you play a team of this caliber you have to take care of the football. Credit to them (Comstock Park). They have a lot of athletes and every play you’re having to go so hard to the max. Our kids are fighting for extra yards and the ball comes loose in the process.”
One of those athletes Schwander was talking about was Jake Bush, who scored three touchdowns for the Panthers. He opened the scoring late in the first quarter with a one-yard plunge.
Belding (8-3) got that back with 4:36 left in the second quarter on a Kole Hart run around the left end from three yards out.
The Redskins forced a three-and-out on Comstock Park (11-0) and drove the ball late in the second quarter, but a 47-yard interception return set up quarterback Pat Naughton throwing a 20-yard touchdown pass to Bush for a 14-7 lead with 19 seconds left.
Belding needed just 52 seconds of the third quarter to tie the game back up again when Neil McCully ran in from 71 yards away.
“I’m glad for him (McCully),” Schwander said. “Such a warrior for us, such a workhorse.”
The Redskins took the lead on a 21-yard field goal from Chris Ornelas with 4:51 left in the frame.
“In our locker room our kids feel like we can compete with them (Comstock Park),” Schwander said. “We’re going to grind it out the whole game was the plan and to keep going at it. So it wasn’t a surprise we were up. We didn’t think anything of it.”
But that would be the last points the Redskins would score the rest of the game. Bush scored from 16 yards out with two minutes left in the third, then Comstock Park converted a fourth-and-long into a 31-yard pass from Naughton to Nate Meinke and converted a Belding turnover one play later as Naughton found Jimmy Whalen for another 31-yard pass.
“They (Comstock Park) made some plays and we didn’t and it got away from us,” Schwander said.
Bush had 20 carries but for only 75 yards. He had just 29 yards at halftime.
“Our kids were very disciplined,” Schwander said. “We knew what they were going to do. We tried to mix up our defensive looks often so that they couldn’t get in a rhythm. Eventually some of their kids made some plays.”
Naughton was 12-of-16 for 201 yards passing.
Belding was led by Neil McCully, who had 142 yards on 22 rushes as the Redskins had 240 rushing yards total. Hart, though, was just 1-of-4 passing for 14 yards and two interceptions.
Comstock Park will host Cadillac in the Division 4 quarterfinals.