By Jeff Weisinger
Special to S.F. Examiner
DALY CITY — Archbishop Riordan had a chance at history Friday night against Bellarmine.
Having not beaten the Bells during the regular season in nearly two decades, the Crusaders were down by one in the second overtime, and went for two.
Despite a running game that came through in short-yardage situations all night, first-year head coach Mark Modeste decided to have junior quarterback Azaan Ledbetter throw over the middle to his tight end Ian Ramese Tupulua. The pass was tipped away and Riordan fell 28-27, dropping them to 2-4.
“We knew they were built for that 10-yard type of deal,” Modeste said. “We felt that with the interests of the health of our kids and the way the game was probably going to go one way or the other, let’s just do it now. We did have a play set up and their kid made a great play.”
Modeste also added why he decided to pass in that game-deciding situation rather than run the ball.
“We ran dive too well and effectively (fullback Kemoatu Kefu) can move a pile,” Modeste said. “And usually, they’re going to bring extra bodies to that. Sometimes you’ve got to take a chance.”
Riordan’s players walked off the field distraught, as Bellarmine stormed the field to celebrate. The loss marks Archbishop Riordan’s 19th straight regular-season loss to Bellarmine since beating the Bells 31-14 in 2000.
Despite the loss, Riordan, overall, didn’t play badly, but couldn’t find an offensive rhythm. The Crusaders defense stepped up in big occasions, snagging a crucial interception in the second quarter to stop a Bellarmine drive and came up with a big stop on a fourth-and-seven at their own 13-yard line to open the fourth quarter. They also racked up five sacks on the night, three in the second half.
Junior running back Fazon Ruth, who’s on pace to set the school rushing record, wasn’t a huge factor on the night despite rushing for 91 yards on 16 carries with a 10-yard score on the first play in overtime.
Without playmaker Aden Jackson unavailable after being carted off of the field last week, wideout Leo Maranghi stepped up big, catching a huge 39-yard bomb on the second play of the game and a bigger 37-yard touchdown reception off of a play action by Ledbetter to put Riordan up 14-7 after their opening possession of the second half. He also scored Riordan’s second touchdown in overtime, boxing out his defender on a short pass from Ledbetter.
Maranghi caught four balls on the night for 85 yards with a pair of touchdowns.
“We’ve got players and it’s next man up,” Modeste said. “You’ve just got to find what all of your athletes and do and contribute.”
Both Riordan and Bellarmine traded touchdowns on their opening possessions of the game. Riordan scored on a short, two-yard touchdown run by Kefu, while Bellarmine responded on the following drive as Wade Smith found Reese Burrill on the run for a 20-yard score.
The Crusaders couldn’t hold onto a 14-7 lead in the final minutes as Ledbetter threw a crucial interception on the run with just under three minutes left to go and Riordan looking to run out the clock. Bellarmine took full advantage of the field position inside the Crusaders’ 30-yard line and drove down the field with ease, tying the game on a seven-play drive as Aizon Henry ran in the tying touchdown from four yards out with just over a minute remaining.