BELDING — It took Dalton Riches four years, but he finally got into the end zone … with the ball.
Up 26-0 early in the third quarter, with Belding’s third victory of the season firmly in hand in front of a large homecoming crowd, the senior left guard was called in as a running back for the next play.
On second and one, six yards from the end zone, Riches took the hand-off from his quarterback and, like a man on a four-year mission seeing the end, busted through the trenches, rumbled, stumbled and crashed into the end zone to get his first touchdown of his career.
“Oh, many, it felt great. I’ve been waiting four years for this moment,” said Riches, the team’s captain, after Belding beat Wyoming Lee 39-8.
The Wyoming Lee Rebels came in to Rudness Field with a winless record, scoring a total of 20 points total on the season, but put up a fight against Belding the first half, with many flags and tempers being thrown around the field. Riches, enjoying his final homecoming game, was having none of it.
“If you look at the final score, yeah, it was great, but the first quarter, not so good,” he said. “I could tell that some of our teammates didn’t take them seriously, that’s one thing I had to huddle them up on the sideline and talk to them about. Coach (Joe Schwander) has been preaching all week about that it doesn’t matter what their record is or how bad or good they look on film, you still got to go play and play hard.”
Early in the first quarter, Belding forced an interception at midfield, but the offense stalled, having to punt. The Redskins defense came back and again forced another turnover, this time a fumble at the Rebels’ 5-yard line. The Redskins’ offense wasted no time getting to the end zone as Josh Smith ran up the middle to score, putting Belding up 8-0 (two-point conversion good).
In the second quarter, tempers started to flare on both sides of the ball, forcing Schwander to take a timeout to settle his team down.
“You just try to tell them to keep their mouth shut, keep playing hard, keep doing the right things, and eventually things usually work out, and it did,” he said. “It’s frustrating, at times, when a quarter goes slow like that, but you keep trying to do the right thing and thats what they did.”
Belding’s offense would strike three more times before halftime. James Daniel scampered 25 yards to get Belding’s second touchdown (two-point conversion good), and, after a botched punt by the Rebels, putting the Redskins in scoring territory, Dylan McMaster came up with a 24-yard touchdown catch to push the Redskins’ lead to 23-0.
Belding’s defense was able to pin the Rebels deep into their own territory, and, after another botched punt, got the ball back at the 15-yard line with 18 seconds left. The Redskins would kick a 30-yard field goal as time expired to lead 26-0 at halftime.
By the third quarter, Schwander was able to give his second- and third-string players playing time, even bringing up two junior varsity quarterbacks to take some snaps.
“I think, in general, our student body, our team, just the amount of enthusiasm and excitement they have with what’s happening on the football field, it’s a fun thing to be a part of,” said Schwander about the win, which put the Redskins in a tie for first place in the O-K Silver Conference. “They’re all excited, lots of energy, we got all our guys to play a lot tonight, which is awesome, you dream for that every week.”
After Riches’ touchdown run that put Belding up 33-0, Simone D’Errico capped off the Redskins’ scoring with a 79-yard run to make it 39-0.
Wyoming Lee scored on a touchdown pass with 38 seconds to go, also getting the two-point conversion.
Statistics were not available by press time.
Homecoming King and Queen crowned
At halftime, Maxwell Walker and Olivia Stephan were named Belding’s homecoming king and queen, respectively.