By Matt Nestor
Two minutes into the third quarter, there was definitely a big game feel at Hononegah High School Friday, Aug. 27.
The Belvidere North Blue Thunder had stood toe-to-toe with the Indians, matched them physically, and went into halftime only down 7-0. Then, they opened up the third quarter with a successful onside kick.
After starting on the Indians’ 44, quarterback Tony Tindle completed a 19-yard pass to Issac Garcia to move down to the 25-yard-line, and looked poised to move in for the tying score.
But the Hononegah defense, a definite question mark coming into the game, held strong, as they did all night, only giving up 3 more yards, and stopping the Blue Thunder on fourth down to keep the lead.
Hononegah scored on their next three possessions, racking up 359 rushing yards in the game, and cruised to a 28-7 victory in the season-opener.
“It’s a blow as a defense,” Hononegah senior linebacker Skylar Purifoy said about the onside kick. “The offense is ready to go out there and get another score. We’re hanging our heads down. But I talked to the guys in the huddle, told them to keep their heads up and go get us the ball.”
The stop was the key for the Indians to finish off Belvidere North. Quarterback Chase Robinson ripped off 24-yard and 18-yard runs in a five-play drive after the stop, capped by a 4-yard touchdown by sophomore Manny Silva.
Robinson led the Indians with 78 yards rushing and chipped in 45 yards passing. Silva rushed for 49 yards. Bryan Rothmaler scored two touchdowns while rushing for 47 yards, and Carlos Hendrix also added a 3-yard touchdown.
Fullback Tyler McBride also ran for 56 yards for the Indians.
Shutting down the Blue Thunder was an impressive feat for the Indians, who only returned three starters on offense. Belvidere North uses a spread offense that is often tough for an inexperienced defense.
“It’s fun, but it’s definitely tough,” Purifoy said of opening against North. “They have so many different options they can do. There is always at least three to four guys who could run the ball or throw the ball. So, you have to watch out. We studied film hard, we practiced hard, and we got prepared for every option.”
For much of the night, Purifoy and the Indians’ defense frustrated the diverse North offense. Tindle, who completed only 4 of 15 passes for 47 yards, was hurried all night, and running back Austin Smaha was met almost immediately every time he touched the ball.
Smaha was able to run for 95 yards on 16 carries to lead the Blue Thunder. But most of that was gained on a 52-yard touchdown run that accounted for North’s only score of the night.
“The second half, they came out ready to play,” Purifoy said. “We had one bad play, and we weren’t ready on that play.”
In other NIC-10 action:
→ The Boylan Titans started out slow behind two new quarterbacks. But 27 second-half points helped the Titans put away the Harlem Huskies 41-7. Chris Miller scored three touchdowns for Boylan, two on the ground and one in the air. Keith Purifoy rushed for 27 yards, had 46 yards receiving and scored the only touchdown to lead Harlem.
→ Andy Nichols racked up 125 rushing yards for Guilford to help lead the way in a 26-14 victory over East. Dontrel Chance added 115 yards and Gerry Ford ran for 75 yards helping Guilford rack up 343 rushing yards. Zach Mutton and Wes Short both scored touchdowns for East.
→ The Freeport Pretzels jumped out to a 27-7 halftime lead over the Jefferson J-Hawks, then withheld a strong Jefferson push in the fourth quarter to hang on for a 30-20 win. Freeport quarterback Alex Bennett threw for 252 yards and four touchdowns, three of which were caught by Brandon McShane. Joe Ward threw for 62 yards and a touchdown for Jefferson.
→ Belvidere put up 31 points in the first quarter and 51 in the first half on their way to a 58-14 win over Auburn. Running back Marcus Gooden ran for 69 yards and four touchdowns, while quarterback Troy Vandenbroek was a perfect 5-5 for 42 yards and two touchdowns. Terrence Bell scored both touchdowns for Auburn, one on a 79-yard return and the other from 1 yard out.
From the Sept. 1-7, 2010 issue