SAN JOSE — The Bellarmine Bells had plenty of reasons to pack it in this season. But they wanted no part of that, even as the losses and injuries piled up.
They lost four in a row before finally breaking the skid in their regular-season finale against Valley Christian.
Three weeks later, on a cold late autumn night at San Jose City College, the Bells were rewarded for their perseverance.
They captured the Central Coast Section Division II championship Saturday, edging St. Ignatius 21-14 as Ben Pfaff scored the decisive touchdown on an 8-yard run with 1:01 to play.
Bellarmine, once 3-6, is now 7-6 and bound for a Northern California regional next week. The matchups will be announced Sunday.
St. Ignatius finished 6-7.
“I am just so happy for these young men,” Bellarmine coach Jalal Beauchman said. “There were many points during the course of this season where these guys could have quit. We had struggles and it seemed like everything was going against us — injuries, illnesses. Just bad luck here and there in games.”
The championship game was no different. It was a struggle. But, as the Bells like to say, they ultimately were unstoppable.
“Ever since we were freshmen out here, we knew we were going to do something special,” said defensive lineman Jae’von Reels, who was a disruptive force all game. “The season is full of ups and downs — injuries, sickness. But our team had to bounce back one way or another. I am just so proud of the boys to come out here and battle all the way out and obviously won with the result we wanted.”
The play of the game set up Pfaff’s winning touchdown. Braden Cantlen’s jarring hit knocked the ball loose from a St. Ignatius runner and Brandon Broch pounced on it to give the Bells the ball 32 yards from the winning score.
Six plays later, Pfaff’s TD broke the 14-14 tie.
That it was Pfaff who scored the game-winner seemed appropriate, given that the senior overcame a severe high-ankle sprain to give the struggling Bells a boost down the stretch. He had 128 yards and the TD in 17 carries on Saturday, helping the San Jose school win its first section title since 2015 and eighth overall.
“It’s been a long season,” Pfaff said. “We’ve been grinding it out all year — going through a lot of adversity, a lot of injuries, a four-game losing streak. We really just kept faith in our teammates, our coaches. We kept faith in the work that we put in before.
“After that touchdown, man, it really hits home. Felt like it really came together. All that hard work, all that pushing through the adversity, it’s indescribable. It’s a great team win.”
St. Ignatius needed just three snaps to strike first. Soren Hummel dropped a third-down snap, picked up the ball and heaved it deep downfield. Pierce St. Geme caught it and dashed into the end zone, the 71-yard play giving the Wildcats a 7-0 lead.
Bellarmine answered on its next possession as Pfaff dashed 61 yards to move the ball to the 8. Two plays later, Jake Hanson scored from the 5 to even the score 7-7 with 8:50 left in the opening quarter.
St. Ignatius responded with another big play on its next series as Hummel connected with Moe Barnum for 58 yards to the 11. On the next snap, the Wildcats fumbled, the first of their four turnovers.
Later in the half, Broch intercepted a pass that deflected off a St. Ignatius running back, giving the Bells possession at the Wildcats’ 32. Nate Escalada followed with a 3-yard run on a quarterback keeper to put Bellarmine in front 14-7.
The lead lasted two plays as St. Ignatius tied the score when St. Geme caught a pass from Hummel in the right flat and sprinted down the sideline for an 80-yard touchdown.
“We knew it was going to be a tight game,” St. Ignatius coach John Regalia said. “Obviously Bellarmine is good. They’re well-coached and have some kids that can play. We knew it was going to be a four-quarter game and it was. Really proud of our kids.”
The first seven possessions after halftime (four Bellarmine, three SI) ended with punts. In the eighth series, Cantlen made the hit that forced the fumble and kept the Bells’ season going for at least one more week.
“It’s probably one of the greatest feelings I’ve ever had,” said Cantlen, a senior. “Like winning CCS, you’re never going to get this opportunity again in high school. It’s been great.”
Go to Source
Author: Darren Sabedra