Cats Thump NGM 35-6 in Rivalry Game
September 2, 2021
The chestnut trees in my backyard are dropping their treasures, a sure sign of football season. But, when I drove into the parking lot at Belleville High School, the thermometer on my dash read 88 degrees, feeling more like southern Florida than Wisconsin. Still, it was time for the renewal of the NGM-Belleville football game, a rivalry game that has been played in all kinds of weather since 1930. Both teams are, of course, remnants of the old venerable State Line League which first began play in 1927.
The linguistically challenged, yet always quotable Yankee great Yogi Berra, once said, "It's Deja Vu - all over again." And on this evening he would have been "right" as these two titans did just play this past May 7th with Belleville squeaking out a 21-20 come-from-behind win to close the unique Spring COVID season. This game would be markedly different, as about the only mistake Belleville made was getting the tape of the National Anthem to play in full.
Belleville set the mood with high energy as they celebrated "Wildcat Football Reunion Night," encouraging all past players, coaches, cheerleaders, managers, etc., to attend. And they did, in droves. The community of Belleville always has been and always will be a "football town." Heck, any community that publishes four commemorative books on the history of just their football teams and then can list alphabetically every player (and each player's individual chronological history no less!) over one coach's 28-year tenure (that's 506 names!) is a football town by any definition. And it showed this evening as all that small town pride was on full display.
THE GAME. Last week, the Wildcats scored 41 points in the first quarter against a hapless Cambridge team. This game's first quarter was quite lacking in comparison. The senior twin Syse brothers, Trevor the quarterback and Carson the wide receiver, connected on their first play from scrimmage for a first down, moved the ball well, but could only manage a missed field goal in their first series. NGM was plagued with 3-and-outs most of the quarter as both teams fought to a 0-0 score.
The Cats came alive in the second, scoring 20 unanswered points. NGM's junior linebacker Jackson Eyler opened the quarter with a sack of quarterback Trevor Syse. Belleville's senior running back Dylan Posthuma responded as he took a draw pass 38 yards and also the next carry for six points. The PAT good, the Cats were up 7-0 at the 11:23 mark. At the 9:10 mark it was Syse and Posthuma teaming up again for a series of runs, this time Syse calling his own number and running in untouched for his first of three rushing touchdowns on the evening. (Syse would rush for 91 yards and throw for 130 more before retiring early in the fourth quarter). With another good kick, it was 14-0. The NGM offense was continually stymied with multiple 3-and-outs. That Wildcat front line defense of 270, 270, and 300 pounds proved to be a veritable wall of impenetrable beef. Belleville came back with a long drive on the legs of senior Anthony Nolden, junior Jake Fahey, and Posthuma moving to the NGM 2-yard line where Syse again called his number and scored. A blocked kick left the score at 20-0 with 5:16 to play in the half.
NGM's senior workhorse Nate Brandes left the game in the second quarter with an injury and did not return. Juniors Emery Johnson and Jackson Eyler split duties at running back and showed promise with great line play in front of them, moving the ball to the Belleville 5. Unfortunately for the team clad in white, they could not score and gave the ball back at the 1:45 mark. The score 20-0 would hold as both teams headed for their locker rooms. (Editorial Comment: Give me a team of 22 players each with the heart of NGM's 5'7" 135-pound Emery Johnson and I'll give you nothing short of a State Champion, guaranteed!).
Halftime held the reunion ceremonies as promised with many players, young and old, some with canes, in attendance. WFCA Hall of Fame Coach John Becker's 28-year career was repeatedly honored in appropriate fashion. The atmosphere was truly festive and respectful. All during the game Brian Lamboley, the voice of the Wildcats for 36 years, continually regaled the crowd with factoids of Belleville football history. Well done, Belleville!
NGM opened the 3rd quarter with a cleverly designed onside kick that the Cats recovered. Trevor Syse directed an offense that wasted little time when he scored on a run at 9:21. His kick made it 27-0. Midway into the quarter NGM, now in desperation mode, went for it on 4th and 5 while still on their own side of the field. A resultant sack of sophomore quarterback Max Marty gave Belleville the ball on the NGM 27. Several plays later it was the Cat's junior running back Davis Richter tight-roping the sidelines and bouncing off of multiple NGM defenders on his way to a touchdown. The try for 2 was good and, at 35-0 with 7:11 to play in the third, it was all over but the shouting.
Here, most teams would have folded their tent and gone home. But it was here that NGM showed grit. Quarterback Max Marty carried the ball on seven consecutive running plays, and, combined with some solid running from Eyler and Johnson, NGM got four first downs and reached the Belleville 11-yard line. Marty next threw a perfect high strike that only his receiver, junior A.C. Strok, could catch as he climbed the ladder for NGM's lone touchdown of the evening. Eli Zimmerman's PAT kick was wide left; an ensuing onside kick failed; and Belleville celebrated on their home field in triumphant fashion 35-6. Their advantage in total yards of 343 to NGM's 181, combined with their quick scoring in the 2nd and 3rd quarters, were the deciding factors.
Next week NGM travels to Brodhead to take on the Cardinals while Belleville will host Pecatonica. Game times are 7:00 p.m. See you there!
(Correction: Last week I inadvertently credited NGM sophomore Leyton Mihlbauer with the successful run of a faked fourth down punt, when it was actually junior Ethan Friedrich who carried the ball. Their numbers 17 and 12 somehow got confused in the scrum on the far side of the field. I apologize for the error and have now scheduled an appointment with my optometrist. Doc Wierwill)