The feeling is familiar for Sacred Heart Cathedral’s football team, but that doesn’t make the Fightin’ Irish’s loss to Bellarmine on Saturday at Kezar Stadium any less painful.
In 2010, the Irish proved they could hang with the West Catholic Athletic League’s elite, but could not put games away. They started 2011 in the same fashion, with a 14-7 loss to the Bells.
Everything seemed to be breaking Sacred Heart’s (3-1, 0-1) way, as the Irish defense held Bellarmine (3-1, 1-0 WCAL) scoreless until early in the fourth quarter, when the Bells cut the Irish lead to 7-6 on 6-yard touchdown run from senior running back Tim Crawley.
Then, the Irish blocked the ensuing extra point to cling to a one-point advantage.
Still in control, Sacred Heart quarterback Jack Harrington fumbled the ball on the first offensive play after the Bellarmine score, and the Bells recovered the loose ball at the Irish 27-yard line.
Four plays later, Crawley scored again, this time from 9 yards out with 9:10 remaining, to give the Bells the lead for good.
Scrambling to tie, Sacred Heart turned the ball over on downs on its final two drives of the game.
“We have them down 7-0 at the half and our defense played out of their socks,” said Sacred Heart coach John Lee. “We just came up short and we have nothing to be ashamed of. We just played the No. 2 team in the Bay Area, probably one of the best teams in the state and we had them. These guys played their asses off, but we handed it to them.”
The Sacred Heart defense was it’s strong point again against Bellarmine, but the Bells’ double-wing offense, designed to wear teams down, flourished in the final quarter.
Crawley’s two scores capped a 143-yard performance on 19 carries.
“We feel fortunate that we won the game,” said Bellarmine coach Mike Janda. “We try to control the clock and run the ball into the fourth quarter and it paid off today.”
The Irish offense put one solid drive together in the second quarter, riding the back of Valentino Miles, who ran for 41 yards on the drive capped by a 6-yard touchdown, but struggled the rest of the way.
Miles finished with just 58 yards on 11 carries and the Sacred Heart offense only gained 94 yards in the second half.
Still, the Irish were in it until the end, but will now have to focus on next week’s rivalry game against Archbishop-Riordan.
“It’s going to hurt now, and we’ll let it hurt, but we’re going going to get ready for Riordan on Monday,” Lee said.
For Bellarmine, which slugged it out with perennial power De La Salle in its only loss of the year, the WCAL slate only gets tougher.
“The league is very strong this year,” Janda said. “From top to bottom, every game is going to be like this. We saw some last night and there will be games like this every week, but somebody has to win at the end.”
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