With its slow, grind-it-out style of offense, normally a 17-point second-half hole to dig out from would prove to be fatal for Belen Jesuit.
But somebody forgot to tell the Wolverines players that on Friday afternoon, as Belen stormed back from a 17-0 halftime deficit to stun Southwest 24-17 at Belen High in a District 15-8A showdown, with the winner enjoying a possible inside track to the district title.
The game-winner came with just 45 seconds left when Brandon Silvestry plunged over from 3 yards out to snap a 17-17 tie.
A desperation Southwest drive got to the Belen 37, but the Eagles had one last heave to the end zone that was batted down at the goal line by, of all people, Silvestry, who was playing deep safety.
“We knew they were going to go deep, and it was just a matter of knocking the ball down and making a play,” Silvestry said. “We knew we could do it at halftime. We had faith in each other that we could get it turned around, and you saw what we did out there.”
Southwest (2-1, 0-1) stunned Belen on the game’s second play when quarterback Deundre Pickett-White fired a slant pass to C.J. McWilliams, who split the seam and took off for an 80-yard touchdown that put the Eagles up 7-0.
Late in the first quarter, Pickett-White worked his magic again when he scrambled to the right and found Trevon Sands wide open for a 53-yard touchdown pass to make it 14-0.
But the Eagles offense would do very little the rest of the day.
When a partially blocked Belen punt in the second quarter set them up at the Wolverine 14, the Eagles were looking to grab a 21-point lead but were forced to settle for a Antonio Garcia 32-yard field goal and a 17-0 halftime lead.
“The first half was just an uphill fight, and we just told them at halftime, defensively we needed to get stops and knew we couldn’t get any more points,” Belen coach Rich Stuart said. “We also told them a turnover or two would help to give us a short field, and that’s exactly what happened.”
An eight-minute Belen drive to open the second half resulted in a Jake Ramirez field goal, which was followed by a partially blocked Southwest punt that gave the Wolverines their first short field to work with.
Joseph Garcia dove 3 yards for a score on the second play of the fourth quarter to cap a 35-yard drive, and it was 17-10.
After a trade of possessions, Belen (2-1, 1-0) got its second short field when, with just six minutes left, Pickett-White scrambled from his own end zone for a 10-yard gain but fumbled, and Sebastian Leiter recovered for Belen at the Eagles’ 14.
It took just three plays for the Wolverines to tie it, with Garcia going over again from 2 yards out to tie the game at 17 with 5:07 left.
After a Southwest three-and-out, Pedro Garcia returned a punt 20 yards, and with 15 more tacked on for an Eagles personal foul, Belen was set up at the Southwest 25 with just under four minutes left.
Eight plays later Silvestry took it over the goal line for the game-winner.
“We just weren’t doing anything in the first half, and coaches got on us at halftime to start playing our game, and that’s what we did,” said Belen running back Jose Llanes, who led the ground attack with 97 yards on 15 carries. “We just came out and did what we had to do. That’s why football is a 48-minute game. Grinding, crying, bleeding, and sometimes it just comes down to who wants it the most.”
“Our kids really grew up today,” Stuart said. “I’m really proud of them for the way they just kept battling out there and finding a way to do it. This was really big today and can really springboard the season.”