By Matt Nestor
Prep Sports Reporter
The game was tied at 7-7, but Belvidere was moving the ball against the Machesney Park Harlem defense, looking to regain the lead in their upset bid Friday, Sept. 14.
Belvidere Bucs quarterback Troy Vandenbroek threw what appeared to be a good pass to his favorite target, receiver Kane Steger. The senior got his hands on the ball. But luckily for Harlem, so did defensive back Joe Perry.
Perry wrestled the ball away from Steger, and returned the interception 70 yards for a touchdown. While Harlem pulled away late, scoring the final 19 points in a 40-21 victory, that was a first-quarter play that may have been the difference in the game.
“He caught it for me, and we had a wrestling match, and I ended up being able to pry it back,” Perry said. “I was told before the game to think of a play you want to achieve. That was a play I was thinking of, and I saw open field afterwards.”
It was part of a big defensive night for the Huskies (3-1) during the win. Harlem, despite giving up more than 400 yards of offense, was able to capitalize on five Belvidere (2-2) turnovers, converting most of those into points on a night when most of the offense struggled.
“They flew around all night long,” Harlem Head Coach Jim Morrow said of his defense. “A couple of letdowns, but pretty pleased with the way they played.”
It helped offset an offense that struggled most of the night. Morrow said that Belvidere gave different looks than his coaching staff saw on tape, which led to some struggles.
“They went away from their normal secondary look,” he said. “We had to adjust our play-calling a little bit and adjust to some things we didn’t prepare for. We just had to stay patient and take care of the ball.”
Most of the offense was provided by Kevin Witcik, who accounted for more than 200 yards of the Harlem offense and scored two touchdowns. Even on the game-clinching play, Justin Vanwambeke’s 53-yard touchdown run, it was Witcik who drew three defenders on a ball fake.
The Bucs played well, atoning for a rough previous week against Rockton Hononegah with 300 passing yards from Vandenbroek as well as 175 receiving yards from Steger.
Belvidere tied the game at 21 early in the fourth quarter, before Witcik and Vanwambeke accounted for the three final scores of the game.
Around the NIC-10:
• The battle for first place was easily won by Rockford Boylan Catholic (4-0), which got three touchdowns from DeMarcus Vines and cruised to a 42-0 win over Freeport (3-1).
• Hononegah (3-1) cooled off Rockford Auburn (2-2) as they got 186 passing yards from Joey Welsh and 70 rushing yards from Alex Martin in a 49-27 win over the Knights.
• Rockford Jefferson (0-4) jumped out to a 21-0 lead over Rockford East (1-3) behind running back Garret Perry. But Perry’s 219 rushing yards were not enough to offset a record-breaking night by Austin Young, who had a NIC-10 record 247 receiving yards in a 44-37 win.
• A punt return helped Rockford Guilford (2-2) on their way to 21 second-quarter points as the Vikings held off Belvidere North (0-4) by a margin of 34-25.
From the Sept. 19-25, 2012, issue