SIOUX CITY | Defense set up offense in the second half as Bishop Heelan resumed the series against metro rival West.
Playing the Crusaders for the first time since 2013, West gave the state’s fifth-ranked Class 3A squad a brief scare as quarterback Adien Belt threw two touchdown passes to Alec Nieman for a 14-9 lead. However, Heelan regained the lead shortly before halftime, then scored on three of its first four second-half possessions while picking up a 37-20 victory Friday night at Olsen Stadium.
Heelan (4-0) set up two of its second-half drives on takeaways. Four plays after Michael Rizk recovered a fumble at West’s 41-yard line, Deonte Walker rushed for a 24-yard touchdown, then nine plays after Danny Heller’s interception at West’s 46-yard line, Tommy Schiltz picked up the last of his two touchdown runs, a 1-yarder that produced a 31-14 lead.
“Our coaches told us to come out in the second half strong,” said Rizk. “We got that fumble right away and capitalized on it with a touchdown. I saw the ball on the ground and I say I have to get on that so we can get it to our offense.”
Heading into next Friday’s Class 3A District 1 opener at Memorial Field against Sergeant Bluff-Luton (3-1), Heelan’s defense has collected seven interceptions and nine fumble recoveries. The defense yielded 228 yards passing from Belt, but West (2-2) was kept off the second-half scoreboard until Nieman’s sixth touchdown catch of the season, a 59-yarder with three minutes left in the game.
“We knew that West was going to be a good opponent for us,” said Heelan Coach Roger Jansen. “We try to harp on these guys that you had better be ready to play. I’m not sure we were on our game for that first half.
“We did a lot of things well and we were pleased with how we threw the ball and how we ran the ball. We gave up some big plays, but West has some explosive receivers. But I thought we did a good job of competing. Every score they had, we responded. It was a good character win for this team.”
Passing was big for both teams in the first half as Heelan quarterback Brant Hogue went 20 of 36 for 194 yards while Belt was 9 of 18 for 133 yards. Hogue finished the night completing 26 of 46 passes for 318 yards while Schiltz rushed for 121 yards.
Belt, who passed for 214 yards and three touchdowns the previous Friday in a 54-33 win over North, completed six straight passes at one point in the second quarter. All of the passing was done in two touchdown drives that gave the Wolverines a brief lead.
Catches of 29 and 14 yards from Emanuel Tameklo (8 catches, 110 yards) set up Belt’s 21-yard touchdown pass to Nieman (5 catches, 102 yards). West’s defense, after forcing a three-and-out, then proceeded to go 71 yards on a four-play series that ended on Nieman’s 15-yard scoring catch that produced the 14-9 advantage.
Heelan then proceeded to score on a 16-play, 90-yard scoring drive that included 6 of 7 passing from Hogue, who hit five different receivers, including 6-foot-2, 210-pound Dawson Fenton’s 22-yarder to start the series.
Schiltz carried seven times in a drive that continued at West’s 3-yard line when the Wolverines were hit with a personal foul after a 29-yard field goal miss from Jesus Pena. Schiltz’s three-yard run and his two-point conversion run produced a 17-14 lead with 4:32 remaining before halftime.
“We had a good game plan going into this week,” said Hogue. “We have a lot of (receivers) and when they get opportunities, they make the best of them. Ben Schaefer, he’s had a good past two weeks. I hope we can keep building up on that.”
Schaefer had five catches for 90 yards for the Crusaders while Lane Longval had five catches for 48 yards. Six receivers had at least three catches.
“We felt we needed to be able to throw the football,” said Jansen. “Once we get into district play we have to be able to throw the football because if not, people are just going to load the box and it will make it tough to run the football.”
West will begin Class 4A District 2 action next Friday at Des Moines Roosevelt.