The Southwestern Trojans ran their winning streak to 17 straight games over rival Falconer on Friday night, using a trio of running backs and a strong defensive effort to post a 35-16 victory in the renewal of the longtime series.
Hunter Peterson led the way with 104 yards on the ground and scored three touchdowns; Kevin Bellardo added 89 yards and two scores; and Nick Swanson chipped in with 34 yards and one TD as the Trojans ran their record to 4-3.
''We just kept them off the field,'' Southwestern coach Jay Sirianni said.
Southwestern’s Nick Swanson fights for extra yardage after being tackled by an unidentified Falconer player during Friday’s Class C South football game at Charles A. Lawson Field. See additional photos at cu.post-journal.com.
P-J photo by Jay Young
And that ball-control effort kept Falconer's top running back, Cody Dustin (90 yards, two TDs), on the sidelines for much of the first half.
''By the time he could get the ball in the second half they were down three scores,'' Sirianni said. ''That was big.''
A turnover on the opening kickoff didn't hurt the Trojans' cause either.
While attempting to return the deep kick, the the Falconer return man bobbled the ball and it was recovered by Peterson who then scored on the first offensive play from 4 yards out. Tanner Hoose's extra point gave the hosts a 7-0 lead just seconds into the game.
The Golden Falcons' offense responded well following the costly turnover. On their first set of downs, junior quarterback Ryan Dustin ripped off a 60-yard score on an option keeper that energized the Falconer sidelines. However, the Golden Falcons were victims of bad luck yet again, as the huge play was called back on a chop-block that was contested by the coaching staff. On the next play, Trojan linebacker Swanson recorded a sack that forced a fourth and long.
The exciting early play continued on the Falconer punt, which was muffed by Josh Ulinger and recovered by Cody Dustin of the Golden Falcons. Thanks to solid rushing by Cody Dustin and DaShawn Jackson, Falconer was able to move the ball into scoring position with six minutes to play in the first quarter. Cody Dustin recorded his first touchdown of the game on a 1-yard run. A similar play resulted in a successful two-point conversion for the Golden Falcons that gave them an 8-7 lead.
Swanson put the Trojans into great field position on the subsequent kickoff return after shaking a tackle and breaking loose to the 45 yard line. Southwestern faced second and long following a holding penalty, but quarterback Noah Weinstein completed a 25-yard pass to Mike Sandbloom on the following play. With a fresh set of downs, the Trojans were moved into the red zone after a facemask penalty on Falconer. Facing third down, Weinstein completed a pass to Swanson out of the backfield for 10 yards. After a timeout by the Golden Falcons, Bellardo put the Trojans up, 14-8, on a 3-yard rush followed by another extra-point boot by Hoose.
Falconer started the second quarter at its own 35-yard line, and was unable to move the chains after a missed pass and two stalled rushes by Jackson. Facing fourth and inches, Coach Dan Krenzer decided to give his offense a chance to stay on the field. Despite Falconer's stout offensive line, Bellardo was able to get good penetration and stuff Cody Dustin on a run up the middle.
After the turnover on downs, Weinstein was able to move the ball downfield on a 40-yard screen pass to Peterson. Facing first and 23 after a holding penalty, Bellardo received a misdirection handoff and made his way 36 yards to the end zone making the score - after a Hoose extra-point kick - 21-8 with 7:30 remaining in the second quarter. After that, Sirianni elected to squib kick the remainder of the game, not wanting to give Jackson any return opportunities.
After getting the ball back, the Golden Falcons kept the game close as Jackson had a rush of 37 on the left edge, moving Falconer to the Southwestern 15. On fourth and 2 the handoff went to Cody Dustin, who made his way to the end zone. The two-point conversion by Ryan Dustin trimmed the Trojans' lead to 21-16.
Despite keeping the first half close, the Golden Falcons failed to find the end zone in the second half.
"We stuck with them in the first," said coach Krenzer, "but the second got away from us a little bit."
On their first possession of the the third quarter, the Trojans put together a six-play drive that was capped off by a Swanson rushing touchdown. On the following possession for Southwestern, Bellardo led the Trojans down the field while Peterson added his second score of the evening with seconds to play in the third quarter. Bellardo left the game early in the fourth as a result of knee injury and did not return. Cody Dustin was held to just two carries in the second half, as the Golden Falcons shifted to the passing game to try and keep pace with Southwestern.
NOTES: The character athletes for the game were lineman Jacob Stimson for the Golden Falcons and Kyle Moran for Southwestern.