Just two plays into the contest everything they had prepared for all week went out the window.
Dyson Cheney was knocked of the game on vicious hit Saturday afternoon, and things quickly went downhill for Belgrade in a first round State A playoff game.
The junior quarterback fumbled on the play, which Custer County quickly converted into a touchdown, and the Panthers never recovered in a 46-7 loss.
“He got rocked and he fumbled the ball on the play. They got it, they scored,” Belgrade coach Eric Kinnaman said. “We had a pretty good drive after that, but couldn’t sustain it and go with it.”
The Panthers (6-4), with Max Schumacher replacing Cheney under center, drove into the red zone on its second possession. But John Mears missed a long field goal attempt when the drive stalled.
Custer County countered with an 80-yard touchdown drive capped by a short run from Cameron Muri, who had also scored the first touchdown. Muri finished with scoring runs of 4, 3 and 8 yards.
With Cheney out of the game, Belgrade was unable to gain any traction offensively in the first half and trailed 32-0 at halftime.
“We were game planning with him being able to use his legs a little bit and spread them out and get the ball to Easton (Page) and Ethan (Major) the best we could,” said Kinnaman. “Once Dyson went out we really struggled. That was a big key to our offense, even throughout the entire year, him being able to use his legs.”
Page took over at quarterback to begin the third quarter and quickly picked up 14 yards on a keeper on the team’s first possession. But the multi-talented standout was injured in a pile up the next play and left the game.
The Panthers managed to score on the drive with Brylee Cage plunging in from a yard out on fourth-and-goal. But the offense sputtered the rest of the way.
“Max had a few mistakes here and there, but nothing really detrimental,” said Kinnamnan. “We had a few bad plays here and there and we couldn’t convert. We couldn’t execute when we needed to.”
Muri’s final touchdown gave the Cowboys a 40-7 lead, while Aidan Barrows capped the scoring with a 1-yard run late in the contest. Barrows also scored on a 4-yard run in the second quarter.
Custer County (7-3) controlled the contest with a ground attack that chewed up both yards and time en route to advancing to next week’s quarterfinals.
“That’s kind of how it’s been this season. In our losses the defense just couldn’t get off the field and our offense couldn’t execute and sustain drives,” said Kinnaman. “That’s a big killer when your defense spends 13-15 plays out there on a drive and your offense goes three-and-out.”
Custer County 46, Belgrade 7
Custer County 16 16 0 14 - 46
Belgrade 0 0 7 0 - 7
CC - Cameron Muri 4 run (run good)
CC - Muri 3 run (run good)
CC - Jess Bellows 16 run (run good)
CC - Aidan Barrows 4 run (run good)
Bel - Brylee Cage 1 run (John Mears kick)
CC - Muri 8 run (Carson Hunter pass to Bellows)
CC - Barrows 1 run (run failed)