Belvidere North survives, advances in playoff classic

Ronnie Oliver of Chicago Hubbard fumbles a pitch at the goal line at the end of the game against Belvidere North. North recovered the loose ball to seal the victory.  Photo by Matt Nestor
Ronnie Oliver of Chicago Hubbard fumbles a pitch at the goal line at the end of the game against Belvidere North. North recovered the loose ball to seal the victory. Photo by Matt Nestor

By Matt Nestor

Sports Columnist

It was such an intense football game, the coaches looked like they had worked just as hard as the players after the game.

“It was a heck of a high school football game,” Belvidere North Coach Curt Tobin said.

That pretty much summed up a 29-26 victory by Belvidere North over Chicago Hubbard in the second round of the IHSA Class 6A playoffs.

Before the game turned into a fourth-quarter shootout, it was a game that started off as a Hubbard blowout.

The Greyhounds scored on their first two possessions in the first quarter with ease. They first scored on a 1-yard touchdown run by Ronnie Oliver, and on their next possession, quarterback Quincy Skanes threw a 31-yard touchdown pass to Kevin Collins.

“I thought we were going to do a lot better at the beginning of the game,” Belvidere North quarterback Tony Tindle said. “I know I made a lot of mistakes. But our defense stood up, and we capitalized on everything they did.”

The Blue Thunder was able to respond at the start of the second quarter when Tindle went in on a 2-yard plunge. The game stayed there until the half and through much of the third quarter.

That is when the fireworks started.

The frantic final minutes started off when Tindle found Zackery Stinson on a screen pass. Stinson dropped a similar pass on the previous possession, but this time he caught it and went 86 yards for a touchdown to tie the game.

Hubbard, who ran for 193 yards as a team, responded with a methodical drive, led by Oliver, who finished it with a 5-yard touchdown. But after the touchdown, special teams started to let the Greyhounds down.

A penalty pushed the extra point try back, and faced with a longer kick, it was pushed right and gave Hubbard only a 6-point lead instead of 7.

After stopping the Blue Thunder on the next drive, special teams again let the Greyhounds down. After the returner missed a punt and it bounced over his head, he muffed an attempt to gain control, and Belvidere North retained possession.

“Little things. Penalties,” Hubbard coach Elton Harris said. “We usually don’t have penalties like that. But we won’t blame the refs, we made mistakes.”

The Blue Thunder took full advantage, and Tindle, who threw for 334 yards, found Dylan Roberts in the end zone for a touchdown. The extra point gave the Blue Thunder a 1-point lead.

Hubbard didn’t take long to respond. It only took 18 seconds and a 69-yard run by Oliver for the Greyhounds to regain the lead. But with the missed extra point earlier, they were faced to go for two. They failed, and only led 26-21.

That’s when Tindle found Roberts on their miracle reception.

Earlier in the game, a deep pass down the middle by Tindle was intercepted by a defender who leaped high into the air. The Blue Thunder went back to the same play, and the defender was there again, high in the air.

“I was thinking, ‘Oh, man, this is going to be a bad play,’” Roberts said. “But it turned out to be a great play for us.”

It turned out to be the game-winning touchdown and a 58-yard reception after the ball just missed the outstretched arms of the defender, and Roberts raced into the end zone.

“I don’t think I have run harder, honestly,” Roberts said. “That’s the hardest I’ve ever tried in my life.”

But the game was still not over. Hubbard had more than 2 minutes left and two timeouts, and after a big pass play from Skanes to Evan Pegues, the Greyhounds found themselves at the North 7-yard line.

But Oliver never got a clean grasp on a toss play on first-and-goal, and Ryan Karns recovered the fumble for North to seal the victory. Harris said the game was lost well before the fumble, though.

“We know as long as we have time on the clock, we can score,” he said. “We just didn’t play good defense at all. You gotta play good defense if you want to win a state championship.”

The victory leaves the Blue Thunder as the only NIC-10 team left in the playoffs. They will play Crystal Lake Prairie Ridge in the next round. For the new program, there is a great sense of pride in their success.

“We’re so happy we pulled out this win in our third season,” Roberts said. “As a team, getting our second win in the playoffs feels good.”

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From the November 11-17, 2009 issue

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