MORRISON – One thing about Brandon Belt, he’s got a flair for the dramatic.
Belt hauled in a touchdown pass – barely – with 1 minute, 18 seconds remaining to give Morrison a 12-8 victory against Dixon in an Alumni USA football game Saturday night in Morrison.
The Mustangs scored two touchdowns in the final 3:36 to overtake the Dukes, who had led since early in the second quarter. Morrison’s defense then had to hold off a late scoring threat by Dixon to earn its third alumni win in three tries.
“Dixon was definitely a challenge for us,” said quarterback Cory Bielema, a 1990 Sterling graduate who is a teacher and coach in Morrison. “I supposed it was a matter of knocking some rust off, getting some confidence, and running around and making some plays at the end. It’s tougher than it seems when you haven’t done it for a while, then you put on the pads and do it for real.”
Morrison’s winning drive covered 39 yards in just two plays. The first was a pass up the right sideline that was dropped by Gregg Wiersema.
The next one was the same play, only to the left side. It resulted in Belt getting behind the Dixon defense, and he was all alone near the goal line. Bielema lofted a perfect spiral that Belt grabbed, then bobbled.
The ball appeared to drop almost to his right knee before he was able to corral it for the go-ahead score.
“I saw the ball come in, and I kind of fumbled it,” Belt said, “but I held onto it enough to get across the end zone. I pinned it against my thigh, and held it there until I got across the line.”
Belt, Morrison’s offensive MVP, caught three passes for 69 yards.
On its previous possession, Morrison also got into the end zone, after going scoreless on its first seven drives. Nick Vandermyde capped off an 8-play, 66-yard march with a 4-yard plunge with 3:36 remaining in the fourth quarter.
On the 2-point conversion try, however, halfback Josh Vos was dragged down by Dixon defenders Lasean Richmond and Preston Lumzy to preserve an 8-6 lead for Dixon.
Needing a first down or two to likely wrap up the win, Dixon stalled after four plays. On 4th-and-20 from their own 20, the Dukes dropped back to punt. The punter was slippery quarterback Adam Love, who, after receiving the long snap, veered left and headed upfield.
He dove for what would have been a first down at the 40, but came up 1 yard short. He said the decision to run was his own.
“I was waiting for it, and saw that their outside linebacker was kind of cheating in,” Love said. “I cut outside of him, and I felt like I was running for days. I dove, but I didn’t make it.”
Love accounted for the lone Dixon score, a 2-yard plunge on the first play of the second quarter. Love set up the TD with a 42-yard run late in the first quarter to the Morrison three, where he was caught from behind by Morrison speedster Sammy Biggs.
The Dukes made things interesting the waning seconds of the game, as they reached the Morrison 25 with 7 seconds to play. On what turned out to be the game’s final play, Love dropped back to pass, but was forced to his right by a heavy Morrison rush.
The Mustangs’ Casey Tiesman, who had dropped a sure touchdown pass midway through the third quarter, got to Love and forced him to make a desperate pitch as time expired. Tiesman was named the most outstanding defensive player for Morrison.
Both team’s defenses were stout. Other than Love’s scrambling (11 carries, 97 yards), the Dukes managed just 67 more yards of offense. Love was Dixon’s offensive MVP.
Morrison was bogged down until getting something going toward the end. Andrew Devine, a linebacker, was the Dukes’ defensive MVP.
“They came out swinging,” Devine said. “It was a hard-fought game on both sides, and it was hot out there. Both teams battled till the end, and we just came up a little short.”
The Dukes’ Ryan Seible made the defensive play of the game when he caused and pounced on a fumble by Bielema to thwart a Mustangs threat with 8:20 to play in the second quarter.
More than anything else, however, the players enjoyed the game, and the thrill of putting on the pads again.
“When all this came to our area 2 years ago, there was a ton of interest and I wanted to get in,” Love said, “but my wife’s due date was the same day of the game. I got a chance to play last year, and was lucky enough to be healthy this year. It’s a multi-generational thing, and people coming together to play is a ton of fun.”
“It’s fun to get all the different classes together, kind of the best from each class, and see what we can do,” Belt added. “Just playing with the guys and pushing ourselves is a lot of fun.”
Star of the game: Adam Love, Dixon, 11 carries, 97 yards, TD
Key performer: Brandon Belt, Morrison, 3 catches, 69 yards, TD