CAMBRIDGE — It’s unlikely Cambridge senior Tyler Curtis drifted off into a daydream or was caught picking dandelions in practice earlier this week.
He looked like a coach on the football field Friday night.
Curtis, using some pointers from the coaching staff, sniffed out an inside slant during an early interception and returned it 35 yards for a touchdown that set the tone in Cambridge’s 14-7 victory over Belleville in a Capitol South Conference game.
“I was where I needed to be and they threw it where they shouldn’t have,” Curtis said. “It definitely changed momentum. It woke us up in the beginning of the game and that really helped. It just appeared and it came right to me.”
Curtis also scored on a 36-yard catch-and-run screen pass for a touchdown in the second quarter as the Blue Jays (6-1 overall, 2-1 Capitol South) held the Wildcats (4-3, 1-2) scoreless in the final three periods in their quest for a third straight conference title.
“We set that as a team goal every year,” Cambridge coach Mike Klingbeil said. “One of our goals was to be a three-time defending conference champ. We’re really in the driver’s seat. And our kids are really fired up about it. We’re just fortunate enough to be in this position.”
Belleville marched down to the 33-yard line in the game’s final seconds but couldn’t convert what would have been a Hail Mary-type play. Sophomore quarterback Trevor Syse dropped back and tossed up a deep pass, but none of his teammates could get near it. It was intercepted in the end zone as time expired by Cambridge’s Andrew Downing.
Needless to say, the play was enough to raise Klingbeil’s heart rate a bit more than usual.
“Hopeful anxiety would be a great way to describe it,” he said.
The Wildcats had three turnovers and two high snaps that resulted in huge chunks of lost yardage during key moments.
“A lot of mental errors,” Syse said. “That’s one that we could have easily had if we just do the things we’re supposed to do. We were in the game the entire time.”
After Curtis’ early interception on Belleville’s opening possession, Cambridge appeared ready to build on its momentum by making a stop on the next possession. But Belleville junior Sean McDermott booted a 48-yard punt down to the 4-yard line, the first play in a string of events that benefited the visiting Wildcats.
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After Belleville forced a three-and-out, a poor punt and targeting penalty on Cambridge gave the Wildcats the ball on the 6-yard line. Two plays later, junior Sawyer Fahey punched it in to tie the game at 7.
Cambridge answered right back with what proved to be the winning score on Curtis’ screen play.
“We try to use those plays against really aggressive defenses,” Klingbeil said. “We hoped the guy covering him got lost in all the masses out there and he did. I didn’t think it would be as big of a play but it turned out for us.”
Belleville 7 0 0 0 — 7
Cambridge 7 7 0 0 — 14
C — Curtis 35 interception return (Stein kick)
B — S. Fahey 2 run (Syse kick)
C — Curtis 36 pass from Stein (Stein kick)
First downs — B 10, C 7. Rushes-yards — B 36-89, C 24-63. Passing yards — B 126, C 151. Comp-Att-Int — B 13-23-3, C 10-18-0. Total yards — B 215, C 214. Fumbles-lost — B 0-0, C 1-1. Penalties-yards — B 4-51, C 3-24.
Rushing: B, S. Fahey 21-153. C, T. Curtis 16-51. Passing: B, Syse 13-23-126-3. C, E. Stein 9-17-142-0. Receiving: B, Pier 5-45. C, J. Marty 4-62.