By Bob Kopp

BDR Sports Correspondent

ROCKFORD – Some teams slide and stumble into the playoffs after becoming eligible.

After securing a spot in the post-season with a “Chuck Tough” 20-19 triumph over feisty Freeport in the penultimate game of the season, the Bucs took a 27-6 lead into the 4th quarter against East High School and then emptied the bench in a game not remotely as close as the final 27-20 margin of victory that is expected to seal a favorable seed in the playoffs.

Despite heroics by E-Rab senior Marquez Brown who led all rushers with 267 yards including unmolested runs to the end zone from 4, 7, and 65 yards, the outcome was never in doubt with the deeply talented Bucs who played the game very close to the vest in anticipation of its expected deep run in the post-season.

Apart from its noticeably conservative game plan to misdirect scouts in the stands from the plethora of weapons in the Bucs arsenal, the game had moments of high drama.

Senior Tre Gooden opened the scoring with a determined 7 yard dash for a score that staked the Bucs to a quick 7-0 lead that stood through the first quarter.

After Brown’s first TD to draw East within a point 7-6, senior Justin Robles responded quickly and emphatically with a powerful, shifty, and swift kickoff return of 75 yards to put the Bucs ahead 14-6.

Just before intermission, senior Eric Munoz plowed in from the yard line for a 21-6 lead.

Junior standout Austin Revolinksi suffered a bruised hip just before half and sat out the rest of the game; joining injured presumptive all-conference defensive picks seniors Tyler Brunneau and Wyatt Danielson on the sidelines.

When senior all-conference defensive candidate Brett White relieved Revolinski behind senior all-conference candidate center Troy Snyder and put the Bucs ahead 27-6 on a nifty 25 yard weaving streak to the end zone, old Dandy Don could be heard in the distance, “Turn out the lights!  The party’s over!”

Brown’s two late TDs for the E-Rabs came as Head Coach Chuck Leonard emptied the bench with the curtain having fallen on the evening’s drama.

The Bucs finished their NIC-10 season at 6-3 and third in the standings behind Auburn and Harlem.

Two unexpected upsets and a loss in a torrential downpour prevented Belvidere from reaching pre-season expectations of a run for the conference crown.

Masterfully managing the talent and clock with a superb supporting cast of coaches, Head Coach Chuck Leonard now embraces higher expectations with a team that thirsts for a deep run into November.

With Munoz, Revolinski, and Robles as indisputable all-conference picks with any of the three being logical locks for league MVP, the Bucs have one of its deepest rosters in recent memory.

Having witnessed the shenanigans in overlooking state golf champion Madasyn Pettersen for NIC-10 MVP due to personal pettiness cloaked in pharisaical pretensions, many Bucs worthy of all-conference status and honorable mention at minimum will probably be disrespected.

The offensive line of seniors Gage Brewer, Matt Kopp, Matt Sanders, Troy Snyder, and Austin Ziriaxe has held its own throughout the season and excelled even against teams sporting multiple D1 recruits and prospects.

Aside from aforementioned offensive weapons, the best possession receiver in the NIC-10 senior Bryar Gunn has had able support from many folks doubling on defense as well as junior Will Morris and sophomores Phil Kolk, Shawn Dean, and Dalton Vaupel.

The defense led by seniors Brunneau, Danielson, Cameron Swimelar, Dayquan Coleman, Adan Gallegos, Andy Samboy, Yash Musabji, Angel Rodriguez, Alex Robelo, and supported by underclassmen Kolton Morris, Jackson Palzer, Adam Chosnyk, Danny Martin, Jacob Rodriguez, and Jacob Colson have brought to mind the best “bend-but-not-break” defenses in Buc lore.

Along with the hard work and contributions of seniors Habty Gardner, Luke Pierce, Kevin Ward, and Daniel Zavala, along with juniors Jaedon Mendoza, Jonathan Lopez, Jakob Erickson, Humerto Guevara, Jacob King, Jarrett Wolman, Chris Garcia, Michael Ankerholtz, and Louis Lares, the Bucs seem primed for the post-season behind Coach Leonard and his able assistants Keegan Hill, Jake Rankin, Phil Baker, Nate Byers, Chuck Leonard, Sr., Christian Leonard, Dave Kenley, Garrett Anderson, Dave Guse, Brian Lee, Al Hyser, and Ron Ramos.

Stay tuned for the announcement of seeding and sites as the Bucs stride to the playoffs with higher expectations.

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