GREENVILLE — It didn’t take long for the Greenville Yellow Jackets to set the tone for its annual rivalry grudge match against the Belding Redskins.
Actually, it took just 18 seconds. On the first play from scrimmage, Greenville senior Eric Plate cut to the outside, he turned on the burners and raced 82 yards for a touchdown.
Plate’s career game — a school record 265 yards rushing — helped propel the Yellow Jackets to a 63-13 season opening win. The 63 points were the most for Greenville against their rival in a series that goes back more than 100 years.
After the game, a humble Plate credited his offensive line for his success.
“That was our lineman. This whole game, I give all the credit to our lineman. They were awesome,” Plate said. “It’s amazing. It shows how good our lineman are.”
Plate set the Greenville single game rushing mark, surpassing the 246 yards Ty Hallock gathered in a game in 1987 against Stephenson.
“It was an awesome start. The line was dominant and that sprung us tonight for so many runs,” Greenville coach Dave Moore said. “Our seniors did just a great job tonight. I’m very proud of them”
Greenville’s second possession was just as quick. Kyle Swindell raced 49 yards for a touchdown on the Yellow Jackets second play from scrimmage.
By the end of the first quarter, the Yellow Jackets led 30-6. Plate added an 81-yard score and Swindell a one-yard score.
“I’m just disappointed. I feel bad for our community and our kids. We didn’t prepare them well enough,” Belding coach Joe Schwander said. “We’ve been practicing exactly against this. Physically, they got after us and we didn’t have an answer.”
The Redskins managed a first quarter touchdown by Jeff Brimmer, but also turned the ball over three times in the first half.
Two Belding turnovers were fumbles inside their own five-yard line and one was a half ending interception return for a touchdown by Greenville’s Kolton Dunham.
“Offensively, we did some things, we sustained some drives,” Schwander said. “We turned the ball over twice inside the five-yard line. In that type of game, when you’re not playing defense very well, you have to keep pace. If we get in the end zone, the team demeanor changes and the game starts to play differently.”
Plate added a 95-yard reception for a touchdown in the second quarter and finished the game with 108 yards receiving and 373 total yards. Swindell also scored in the second quarter, his third of the game.
Greenville led 50-6 at halftime.
“I don’t think we were expecting this, but I think it’s something we were shooting for,” Plate said. “The team came out good and the lineman came ready to play.”
Brimmer finished the game with 114 yards for the Redskins, while Sam Beckett had 72 yards and Connor Barker had 62 yards on the ground.
“Their offensive line, I tell you what, give them a lot of credit,” Moore said of Belding. “They are well coached, their kids never quit. Their offensive line was very good and they should have had 21 points on the board at halftime. It would have been a whole different ballgame.”
Belding’s lone score of the second half came on the opening kickoff as Barker slide his way through Greenville defenders for an 85-yard score.
Swindell found the end zone for a fourth time following the Belding touchdown. He finished with 125 yards rushing and 24 yards receiving.
Kyle O’Connor passed for 162 yards on four completions. Keegan Cossou caught a pass for 30 yards.
After the game and hugs from his kids, which made the loss a little easier, Schwander said his team will get better.
“It’s one game of a season,”he said. “These guys will work to get better. Our goal is still to be better at the end than the beginning. And we will. We hoped to be better today, but we weren’t.”
Belding will host Lakewood Sept. 5, while the Yellow Jackets travel to Kenowa Hills. Both games are nonconference.
“One game at a time,” Moore said. “We have to go back in and refocus. Just play one at a time. Every game we play will be tough.”