Belding’s long road to the regional final

BELDING, Mich. -- Two years ago, Belding High School head coach Joe Schwander brought 14 sophomores up to varsity football. They went 1-8 that season.

Now seniors, those kids weren't exactly excited about the early call up two years ago.

"All of us wanted to play JV because we wanted to play kids our own age," senior running back James Daniel said. "Freshman year, we only had two sophomores on our team and played a JV schedule. So, we wanted to play kids our own age and win football games, but then we got the opportunity to come up here, and now, looking back, I think that was the greatest thing for us, because now we are playing varsity for the third year, and we are doing pretty well."

Last season the Black Knights won five games and qualified for the playoffs but fell to traditional power Ithaca in the first round.

"It was a matter of, first of all, getting them to believe that you guys are pretty good," sixth year head coach Joe Schwander said. "Last year helped. We were in some close games, (won) five and (lost) four, got in the playoffs, got beat pretty badly the first round, but I think all those guys realized physically we are not far off."

Belding has won nine games this season, six of them by 7 points or less, including both district playoff games.

"We are tough team, but we just believe in each other, and we don't give up," Trenton Collins says. "We know it is a game of football, and anything can happen. We don't stop. We always give it our all until that fourth quarter bell rings."

Friday night, Belding challenges defending Division 4 state champion Grand Rapids Catholic Central.

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