BELOIT - Senior Kevin Griffin provided Beloit Memorial's football team with a terrific first-half spark Friday night.
His teammates kept the momentum rolling in the second half.
Griffin charged up the middle to block a Madison East punt. While he couldn't corral the bouncing ball before it bounded out of the end zone, the resulting safety gave Beloit a 9-7 lead.
That was just the start for the Knights, who pulled away to a 37-13 Big Eight Conference victory.
"We knew East wasn't the greatest team, but we still have to play like they were Sun Prairie," he said. "To play this well and win on our home field means a lot. We have the power and people to keep doing it, We just have to play like a team."
Griffin and the Beloit defense delivered plenty of big plays as he recovered a fumble and safety Jaron Coleman contributed a pair of interceptions. But they had to share the offense as the Knights ran the ball with authority.
The Knights' running game churned out 360 yards on 52 carries, five for touchdowns. Radonis Smith (13 carries, 76 yards) and Fred Davis (12-for-64) got most of the carries in the first half and senior Eric Bridges celebrated his return to the lineup by running 12 times for 130 yards and a score.
Head coach Rodney Wedig's first congratulations after the game went to senior guard Jhalen Banks and sophomore tackle Aiden Wright.
"At the half we made some offensive adjustments and we started running behind Banks and Wright," Wedig said. "They opened holes and our backs ran hard."
Both teams had managed a touchdown in the first half, along with numerous turnovers and penalties. East took a 7-0 lead on a 5-yard run by CJ Dean on the first play of the second quarter. A fumble recovery by Griffin, a 5-foot-10, 280-pounder, set up a 24-yard TD run by Smith. Brayan Valenzuela's PAT tied the game.
Griffin's blocked punt and safety gave Beloit the lead.
"I came in pretty fast and just hoped for the best," Griffin said.
In the second half, the Knights took advantage after a shanked punt gave them the ball at the East 35. They scored in six running plays with quarterback Gannon Rand scoring on a 13-yard run. Valenzuela's PAT made it 16-7.
Enter Bridges on Beloit's next possession, after sitting out last week with an ankle injury. He took it five yards on his first carry and 65 on the next. Rand eventually scored on a 2-yard keeper for a 23-7 lead.
"I thought we could use a spark and (Bridges) certainly gave us one," Wedig said. "It's great to have that kind of depth at running back."
East quarterback Ian McCosky scored on a 41-yard scamper with 1:39 left in the third quarter that cut it to 23-13, but the Knights got a 6-yard TD run by Bridges and 5-yard TD run by Garrett. Valenzuela booted all the PATs for the 37-13 final.
"If you're a fan of offense you didn't like the first half much, but at halftime we were able to adjust some things," Wedig said. "We were able to play the field position game because we got some turnovers and we ran the football so well."
• NOTES: Two-way starter Matthew Wedig left the game in the first quarter when a teammate's knee caught him in the shin. He returned in the second half, however. ...Rand was just 4-of-10 for 79 yards through the air, but he and backup Shelvin Garrett combined for 11 carries for 74 yards. Rand had 6-for-24 and Garrett 5-for-50.
• UP NEXT: Beloit Memorial is at Middleton Friday.
• BOXSCORE: Beloit Memorial 37, Madison East 13.
Mad. East......0 7 6 0 - 13
Beloit Mem....0 9 14 14 - 37
ME - Dean, 4, run (Dean kick)
BM - Smith, 24, (Valenzuela kick)
BM - Safety, Griffin blocked punt out of end zone
BM - Rand, 13, run (Valenzuela kick)
ME - McCosky, 42, run (pass failed)
BM - Bridges, 6, run (Valenzuela kick)
BM - Garrett, 5, run (Valenzuela kick)
TEAM STATS: First downs - ME 8, BM 21. Rushing - ME 31-137, BM 52-360. Passes ME 4-19-3, 59 yards; BM 4-11-0, 79. Fumbles - ME 3-2, BM 3-2. Punts - ME 5-30.0, BM 2-37.5. Penalties - ME 8-45, BM 9-70.
INDIVIDUAL LEADERS: Rushing - ME, De. Clay 11-29, McCosky 6-73, Dean 14-36. BM, Bridges 12-130, Smith 13-76, Davis 12-64, Rand 6-24, Garrett 5-50. Passing - McCosky 4-19-3, 59. BM, Rand 4-10-0, 79; Garrett 1-0-0. Receiving - ME, De. Clay 2-44, BM Coleman 2-53.