The thought hit senior lineman Jason Debalso as the bus pulled out of Belvidere Friday night after a frantic finish and Mountaineer win that kept their division title quest alive. Debalso asked fellow senior and linemen Zach De Leon if he recalled a frighteningly similar play to the one they’d just helped stop on the same field in 2009 when they were freshman.
That finish made for a unhappy bus ride back to Somerset County after that overtime loss. This time, the Mountaineers were in the celebrating mood, though the bus soon turned quiet on the long ride since this was a team that had expended just about every bit of energy it had.
DeBalso and De Leon, then Jon Diamond stopped quarterback Logan Welles at the goal line with five seconds to go in regulation to secure a 33-28 victory. Debalso, a defensive tackle and offensive lineman, was in on 12 tackles. He’s this week’s Courier News Player of the Week.
Belvidere nearly spoiled Bernards’ chance to play for the Mid-State 38 Union Divison title Friday night at home against New Providence. Now 4-0 overall and 3-0 in division play, the Mountaineers will be out to upend New Providence (4-0, 3-0) for the title. Bernards won the Mid State Hills title season, but moved over with Belvidere to the Union this season. New Providence has won the last two Union titles.
Debalso and De Leon were among the freshman playing with the junior varsity three years ago when a quarterback dive had beaten the Mountaineers in overtime. No chance of it happening this time, however.
“It was a straight dive, but the pile didn’t go anywhere and you could tell by his (Welles’) expression that he knew he wasn’t in,” said the 6-foot-1, 285 pounder. “The refs actually placed the ball back a bit at the one.
“They quick counted us, but we were determined to stop them, it came down to heart because we were tired and gassed,” added Debalso.
Not gassed enough to handle more than one County Seater.
“He took on three blockers and opened it up,” said Bernards’ coach Jon Simoneau. “Zach’s kid couldn’t get through his area. Three of their guys were occupied.”
The Mounteaineers front of Debalso, De Leon, junior Will Kenny and senior Phil Gaburo were kept busy by Welles, who led Belvidere (2-2, 1-2) on a 14-play drive. During the final two minutes, Welles completed three third-down passes to sustain the series.
The severe test was something new for Bernards, which had outscored its first three opponents 151-28.
“It was good for us to be tested and to have come through with the win,” Debalso said.