When the season started Belen coach Rich Stuart expected his experienced offense to be the unit doing most of the heavy lifting early in the season. So far, it’s been the other way around.
Belen’s defense, which returned only two starters from last season, stepped up big again Friday afternoon, making four stops in the red zone against Ferguson and pitching a 20-0 shutout.
Senior Gabriel Seda, a two-way starter for the Wolverines as an offensive lineman and linebacker, led the charge. He picked off Falcons backup quarterback Cristian Martinez at the Belen 5 with 4:06 left in the third quarter.
"Defense really stepped up big today,” Stuart said. “Our offense was struggling a little bit and you’ve got to give Ferguson credit. They did a heck of a job and made it tough on us. I think we were losing momentum a little bit there when [Seda] made the pick."
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Said Seda: “We've just been working really hard on defense, studying all their plays, calling out everything. I've been playing both ways so I don't have every chance to play defense. But coach told me he needed me and I just went in and stepped up."
Belen took a 7-0 lead on a 20-yard touchdown pass from Lucas Pola to Diego Ortega with 8:33 to go in the opening quarter. But Belen’s offense stalled after that. Kicker Javan Rice, a junior, booted field goals of 40 and 41 yards in the second quarter.
Leading 13-0, Belen ended up driving right down the field after that and scoring the game-sealing touchdown on a three-yard run by Don Chaney Jr.
The 5-11, 175-pound freshman who has an early scholarship offer from the University of Miami and three other FBS programs led the Wolverines with 79 yards rushing on eight attempts.
He also made a huge mistake late in the first half on a punt return when he dove for a ball that had bounced behind him. Ferguson pounced on the ball at the Belen 20 with 22.8 seconds left.
But the Wolverines (2-1, 1-0) stepped up and stopped the Falcons (1-2, 0-1) twice from the two-yard-line on the final two plays of the first half.
Next week Belen faces its rival Columbus. The Wolverines have never beaten the Explorers.
"We're not where we need to be, I'll be honest with you,” Stuart said. “We've just got to play a complete game against them. They know us so well. If we play like we did today we're not going to have a shot. We have to do better across the board offensively and special teams.
“To beat them, they're man-for-man better than us every year. We just have to play a perfect game, turnover-free game and get a few turnovers on their end we can get it done."