By Matt Nestor
Prep Sports Reporter
There is one thing you can do when you are in a big match-up that will guarantee your team a shot at picking up a win: holding on to the ball. The Rockford Lutheran Crusaders and the Belvidere North Blue Thunder both learned that lesson in tough fashion in week four. How both teams respond to their losses will go a long way to determining their fate.
For Lutheran, they will probably respond well to their loss against Winnebago. They are still a talented team that lost a 28-22 heartbreaker.
The Crusaders had their chances in the game and let them slip away. Winnebago also had trouble with turnovers, but if Lutheran had one less, maybe it would be the Indians we were focusing on.
With a 22-20 lead in the game, Lutheran was looking at a chance to put the game away. But sophomore sensation James Robinson fumbled the kickoff. Winnebago recovered, and quickly responded with a touchdown to take the lead.
There was one more chance for the Crusaders, but that drive also ended in a turnover, with a late interception by Winnebago, giving the Indians the chance to salt away the game and take early control in the Big Northern West.
On the surface for Belvidere North, their 31-10 loss to Machesney Park Harlem can’t be blamed on one thing, like turnovers. But when you dig deeper, you see just how costly they can be. Against the Huskies, the Blue Thunder didn’t look that bad. One of Harlem’s scores was on a 70-yard fake punt. Two others were set up by interceptions and good returns on those interceptions. So, the North defense only allowed 10 points when they were not put into bad situations.
North also moved the ball on offense. Quarterback Jace Bankford, who may be the second-best quarterback in the conference, threw for 301 yards and a touchdown.
But his two interceptions were killers. Both came after the Blue Thunder moved the ball down the field, and each one saw good returns that led to quick Harlem touchdowns.
Obviously, we can never know what would happen without those picks. There is no guarantee North scores, as there is no guarantee of stopping Harlem with a longer field.
But if those picks turn into Belvidere North points, all of a sudden, we have a close game on our hands and a chance for North to earn their third straight upset victory.
North will have plenty of chances left this season. They still have games with Rockford Guilford and Boylan left. But even with losses in both games, they still have a path to playoff eligibility. If Belvidere North loses to both Guiford and Boylan and ends up on the playoff bubble, they may look back to a night when two big turnovers kept them out of a game they could have potentially won.
From the Sept. 25-Oct. 1, 2013, issue