Four key plays in victory to open its football season Friday symbolized the Warriors philosophy and encapsulated the entire evening; a 14-12 victory at Zion Benton.
, who spends much of his time on the defensive side of the ball, made two of those plays, both on offense. He scored the Warriors first touchdown in the first quarter and ran for a key first down in the game’s closing minutes.
The third critical play was a 54-yard touchdown run by sophomore Alex Wilson that provided Deerfield’s margin of victory while the fourth was an interception with 2:13 left in the game by Mason Lundberg that ended a ZeeBee drive.
Balder’s play stood out all over the field but it was on offense after the Warriors penetrated deep into Zion territory that he twice made plays critical to the victory. On fourth and two and the ball on the Zion 26 with 1:28 left in the game, the ZeeBees called their final time out. He then ran for five yards and a first down allowing Deerfield to run out the clock.
“He’s mister everything,” Coach Steve Winiecki said. “He’s everywhere we need him. When we needed that first down he got it for us. That play made the difference. When we needed a touchdown he got it for us.”
The touchdown came with 1:45 left in the first quarter as Deerfield was pushing toward the ZeeBee end zone despite a critical penalty. Balder ran for seven yards and a first down. He got the call again on a fourth down play. He carried it into the end zone for a 6-0 Warrior lead.
“I really got the blocks, our fullback made a big one,” Balder said. “I saw the hole open in front of me. The line made it easy.” He gave credit to his teammates on the fourth quarter first down play as well. A veteran, he understands how the offense works.
“We’re just going to keep running the ball and keep coming at you,” Balder said. “We know sooner or later we can break off a run like. We just have patience and keep sticking with it. It did the job it was supposed to do.”
That run came when Williams broke free for 54 yards and Deerfield’s winning score. He ran wide behind three blockers and started to get free. Then, he put his foot on the accelerator and the ZeeBees saw nothing but the back of his jersey.
“I got some good blocks and got outside,” Williams said. “Once I got outside I turned on the jets,” he added describing how to added speed when necessary to assure no Zion tackler was going to catch him.
Lundberg made his critical contribution late in the fourth quarter with Deerfield ahead, 14-12, and Zion-Benton moving the ball. A ZeeBee pass looked like it was going to hit its mark but it popped off the receiver’s hands. Lundberg was right there and grabbed the ball.
“We teach the defense to fly to the ball,” Winiecki said. “If they keep doing that they’ll be in the right place like Mason (Lundberg).” It was an experienced defense that kept Zion-Benton out of the end zone just enough. “We started 11 seniors on defense.”