Behind a stout defensive effort and a short touchdown run from junior Shaq Richards, Belleville earned its first victory under first-year head coach John Dubuque with Friday night's 6-0 home triumph over West Side High School.
“It's good for our kids. The kids work extremely hard,” Dubuque said. “They've had a lot of turbulence over the last four months, losing their head coach (Chris Strumolo) and having a new head coach coming in. … It's good for them. They earned it.”
Offensively, Belleville (1-1) broke in a new starting quarterback, sophomore Travon Gravenhise, after junior Brandon Richardson suffered a season-ending injury in the opening loss to Bloomfield. Although the Buccaneers turned the ball over five times, it only needed to find the end zone once, which came on a 3-yard run from Richards after long runs from senior Steven Sanabria and junior Pedro Acevedo (who suffered a broken foot and will be out six weeks according to Dubuque).
Belleville gained only 173 yards in its first victory, but Dubuque believes he found a potential solution at quarterback in the 6-for-2, 200-pound Gravenhise.
“He only had three days to learn everything,” Dubuque said. “For what he could do out there, I was actually very impressed.”
Even more impressive was the Belleville defense, which limited an athletic West Side squad to less than 100 yards. Senior linebacker Daniel Giangrande led a swarming attack with six stops, while fellow senior linebacker Nicholas Smallstey was in on five tackles. In addition, seniors Bryan Gonzalez and Armando Ramos each contributed three hits and a sack.
“We kept them contained,” Dubuque said. “We had more of an umbrella coverage to keep them all inside. We did a nice job wrapping up. We didn't have any people play by themselves. It was always as a team.”
Although the Bucs face a big challenge Friday night at perennial power Livingston after already losing two of their top players to injuries, their first win in their first home game under Dubuque could establish some momentum for the latter part of this season.
“We talk about protecting our house. And it was at our house,” Dubuque said. “This was definitely good for our kids.”