Bruins slip past Titans on a rainy homecoming day
PERU — The weather was miserable for everyone in attendance except for the players on the St. Bede Bruins football squad on Saturday afternoon. They slipped and slid their way past the Monmouth-Roseville Titans to record a 12-5 homecoming victory.
The rain came in shortly before the beginning of the game and continued virtually non-stop into the fourth quarter. The non partisan cheer that erupted when the sun momentarily poked through the clouds with three minutes left in the contest was among the loudest of the game.
“It was raining the whole first half, most of the second half,” junior Ben Bernabei said. “Just slippery, muddy, and the ball was so slick. It was hard to hold onto the ball. You had to hold on as hard as you can. It was hard to make cuts because you slip and fall in the grass. It was fun. It was a challenge. I had a good time sliding around after getting tackled.”
The fans left cold and wet, but the Bruins had little boy smiles on their faces after the 12-5 victory. In fact, the little boy came out in many of them as they played slip and slide in the sideline mud after the game.
“This is a huge win,” SBA coach Jim Eustice said. “I couldn’t be happier for our seniors. They’ll never forget when they come back for homecoming every year, they’ll always remember their senior homecoming game, in the mud,12-5. They’ll talk about it forever.”
It looked like the Titans may dominate the line of scrimmage as they began the game with a 6:14 drive that was concluded with a 27-yard field goal and an early 3-0 advantage. But that was the last time they were able to sustain a drive.
The Bruins' Jack Senica ran for a six-yard touchdown on the first play of the second quarter to give St. Bede a lead that would be threatened but never relinquished. From that point forward, it was a war of who was able to hold onto the ball.
The Bruins gifted the Titans with two points with just 27.6 seconds to go in the half as a long snap short hopped punter Tyler Marcinkus, skipping through his legs on the wet grass. He had no choice but to fall on it in the end zone for a safety. The Bruins carried a slim 6-5 lead into the second half.
One could say that the Bruins won the second half either 6-0 or 3-1. They outscored the Titans 6-0 to make the final score 12-5. But perhaps the more important statistic is that they won the battle of the fumbles with the Bruins recovering three fumbles on defense while the Titans only recovered one.
The score came courtesy of a 39-yard scamper to the right pylon by Bernabei. His touchdown was set up by two key Titan fumbles.
The first came with 8:05 left in the third quarter when junior Malcolm Roebuck, who had two fumble recoveries and a blocked punt on the afternoon, fell on the ball on the Titans' 22-yard line. The subsequent drive stalled out on the 3-yard line, pinning the Titans with their back against the wall.
The Titans responded by moving the ball, only to cough it up again, this time on their own 37. Forty-two seconds later Bernabei found himself with open field ahead and raced to the end zone.
“I was supposed to go up there and just get six yards,” Bernabei said. “I hit one guy and made him miss. I just saw wide open grass and I saw the end zone and went all the way. It was crazy. It felt amazing.”
Though there was no scoring in the fourth quarter, there was ample excitement including a poorly timed fumble which nearly did the Bruins in.
The excitement began when signals were crossed and the Bruins failed on a fake punt attempt that wasn’t meant to be, giving the ball to the Titans deep in St. Bede territory.
“We saw them line up a certain way,” Eustice said, “and I called a timeout. I said if they line up the same way, let’s go ahead and do that (the fake punt). They didn’t line up the same way and we still did it. That’s the youngness of our team. We should have just called the punt when they got out there.”
After earning one first down, the Titans were unable to convert on a fourth down pass play, even when receiver Jordan Cheek was wide open, turning the ball over to the Bruins with just 3:13 to go. It would take the Bruins just two first downs to run the clock out.
The Bruins successfully earned one first down, but then the unimaginable happened. Running up the middle, the wet ball was knocked from Senica’s arms and picked out of the air by the Titans with 2:23 remaining in the game.
But just 37 seconds later, senior Jake Darnell punched the ball away from the Titans and Roebuck fell on it to secure the victory for the Bruins.
“They were running sweeps all night,” Darnell said. “I knew it was going to be a sweep. I was just waiting for him to pick my hole and he ran in there. I hit him and I punched the ball.”
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