BELLEVILLE — Hartland coach Brian Savage went into Friday’s KLAA football title game at Belleville knowing two things: Belleville was loaded with offensive talent, and injuries had stripped the Hartland offense bare.
The Tigers scored on their first seven possessions before bringing in the second string, handing the Eagles a 46-9 loss.
An injury to Sam Clay, who took over at quarterback when Brad Sollom was lost for the season earlier this month, stripped the Eagles of their best running alternative to halfback Joey Mattord, who had averaged more than 200 yards rushing over the previous three games.
On Friday, Mattord was held to 32 yards on 14 carries.
“They sent everybody to Joey,” coach Brian Savage said. “They knew Joey was what we had left and knew we weren’t going to throw the ball with guys who weren’t passers.”
With Clay sidelined, Ben Baker and Gabe Warr each took snaps at quarterback for the first time in their high school careers. Warr threw only two passes, one on the next-to-last play of the game, for 16 yards.
Savage praised his team’s effort, despite it being outgunned, and also had praise for Belleville quarterback Brady Underwood, a freshman who was 13-for-16 passing for 209 yards and three touchdowns and who ran for another one.
“That kid is elusive, and we had some pressure on him,” Savage said. “Our kids did a good job of covering him, but they would hit a lane and take off and evade us. It’s tough to cover a kid like that.”
Nathan Dibert accounted for all nine of Hartland’s points. on field goals of 40, 46 and 51 yards.
“It was great to get him some long field goals, and he came through on every one of them,” Savage said. “We also got a chance to practice some onside kick. We just have to get them.”
The Eagles gained 123 yards in total offense, 29 on them on the last two plays, compared to 396 for Belleville, which pulled its starters after making it 40-3 in the third quarter.
“We’re going to forget about this,” Savage said of the loss “WE were happy to be here. Every other team in our division would like to be in the championship game. it didn’t go how we wanted it to go, but we’re still 7-2, and I’m pretty proud of this team.”
Now, beside who plays quarterback next week, the Eagles’ attention is focused on Sunday night, when they find out who their opponent will be next week in the first round of the playoffs. It could very well be Howell. whom the Eagles beat 29-7 at Hartland during the regular season. The matchup, if that’s how the draw goes, would be at Hartland.
“We’ll figure it out on Sunday night and see ho we play,” Savage said.
In the meantime, the Eagles were content to forget Friday as soon as possible.