Belen’s football team was still fuming over its last-second loss to Ferguson this past Friday that cost it an opportunity to secure a district championship.
Three days later, the Wolverines finished the job.
Led by an effective running game and a defense that remained stout, Belen beat Ferguson 7-0 and then topped Southwest 7-3 in successive quarters of Monday’s District 15-8A tiebreaker at Tropical Park to win the school’s first district championship since 2010 and fourth all-time.
Belen (6-3), which plays its final regular-season game Friday at Monsignor Pace, will host Southridge (6-3) in the first round of the playoffs on Nov.14.
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“The kids were so angry after Friday because they felt they let one slip away,” Belen coach Rich Stuart said. “They played angry and didn’t want to lose the district championship.”
Southwest (8-1) secured the district’s runner-up berth later by defeating Ferguson 6-0 in the final portion of the tiebreaker. The Eagles will face Killian (9-0) in the first round of the playoffs in two weeks.
Ferguson (7-2) came up short of what would have been its second playoff appearance in school history.
Belen defeated Southwest in its regular-season meeting in late September by rallying from a 17-0 halftime deficit to win 24-17.
The Wolverines came back again to beat the Eagles on Monday night.
After Antonio Garcia’s 29-yard field goal put Southwest ahead 3-0 with 7:31 left, Belen put together an 11-play, 80-yard drive capped by Jose Garcia’s 2-yard touchdown run. The score was set up two plays earlier by a 32-yard run by Jose Llanes.
Southwest has not been scored on in the first quarter of any game this season. The Eagles were hoping their defense’s ability to start fast would help.
But missed opportunities cost them a chance to put the game out of reach.
On its field-goal drive, Southwest receivers dropped two passes, including a potential touchdown catch.
“It would have been great to get a district title,” Southwest coach Tim Neal said. “I think we got in our own way, and we seem to keep doing that to ourselves.”
In its first matchup against Ferguson, Belen scored quickly after starting a drive at Ferguson’s 31-yard line following an 11-yard punt into a strong wind. The Wolverines capitalized when Garcia plunged in from one yard out.
Belen ran for 129 yards combined for both quarters, led by Llanes’ 58 yards and Garcia’s two touchdowns.
“To beat Southwest over five quarters is a great job by this team,” Stuart said. “We were young last year on defense so that experience paid off. Our kids are smart and they made great adjustments.”
Facing elimination, Southwest had to turn around quickly and beat Ferguson to assure itself of its fourth consecutive playoff appearance.
The Falcons Gianni McCrea returned the opening kickoff 59 yards to the Southwest 40-yard line. But five plays later, Ferguson missed a field goal wide left.
Southwest made the Falcons pay moments later when Trevon Sands took a screen pass from quarterback Deundre Pickett-White and ran 43 yards down the sideline for a touchdown that lifted the Eagles to a 6-0 win.