Run out does the pass in Eagles’ season-opening 34-20 victory over 4-A Belaire

Tryve Brackin
SCORE A COUPLE… Could St. John Coach Cassidy Russo be telling Da’vante Williams to score a couple of touchdowns before kickoff of last Thursday’s victory over Belaire? The junior back did just that. He outran a BHS defender to the end zone for a 63-yard TD in the first quarter of the Eagles’ 34-20 win. He tallied later on a pass reception.

St. John High’s rushing attack got the best of visiting 4-A Belaire High’s passing game as the local third-ranked 1-A Eagles forged a season-opening 34-20 victory last Thursday at Green Devil Stadium.

The Eagles’ rushing attack produced four of the club’s five touchdowns and the locals came back from a very early 8-0 deficit to take the lead 13-8 with 1:47 left in the first period and never relinquished it.

A crew of four different backs chewed up 256 yards on the ground to maintain control in the contest, despite an outstanding passing effort by Belaire Bengal quarterback Kyle Boudreaux.

The Eagles finished with 279 yards of offense from the line of scrimmage and garnered a nifty 40-plus-yard kickoff return by senior Kade Yarbrough in the third quarter to overcome Boudreaux’s 16 of 25 and 167 yard passing effort.

The game opened with the upper classification visitors achieving their own kickoff return flare as James Baskin slipped through the Eagle specialty team for an 86-yard TD. A two-point conversion run by Boudreaux gave the Bengals an 8-0 lead with only 18 seconds off the clock.

St. John’soffense had a quick answer for the Bengals’ explosiveness as the Eagles caught the BHS defense off guard on the first play from scrimmage. Behind keen blocking, junior back Da’vante Williams found running room around the right side of the Bengal defense and took off on a 63-yard TD run. Conner Case hit the PAT boot and St. John cut the BHS lead to only 8-7.

Williams went on defense had helped stop a Belaire drive with some solid hits and was joined by sophomore defensive back Colby Landry, who also added a rockin’ hit.

St. Johntook over possession and moved the ball with what would become the first sign of their methodical rushing game. Kaleb Campesi, Warren Bates, and Williams took turns with positive gainers and then senior QB Michael Martinez went to work with a pair of key runs and a short pass to Bates. Runs by Tyler Shields and Bates got the Eagles down to the BHS 15 and Martinez went to the air. He found Williams wide open in the end zone and hit him with a 15-yard TD pass. The Eagles went for two, but missed. Still, they have a 13-8 lead and were never give up the points the remainder of the game.

Safety Case and linebacker Yarbrough came up with a pair of key pass breakups and Belaire, which was hit for 14 flags and 107 minus yards in the game, kept negating its positive pickups with mistakes. Williams finally ended a lengthy BHS offensive series with a pass interception at midfield.

The Eagles gave the ball right back to the Bengals on a fumble loss and the visitors threatened to get back into the scoring contest by moving down inside the SJHS 10. Big stops by Nathan Voisin and Yarbrough, plus a flag, kept the Bengals out of paydirt. Boudreaux attempted to throw into the flats and his pass fell incomplete. Williams swept in and picked up the pigskin and ran it to the end zone alertly thinking it could be ruled a lateral and fumble behind the line of scrimmage. The referees ruled otherwise, leading SJHS Head Coach Barry “Tut” Musemeche into a rare display of rage. Musemeche, after the first half horn, made sure to pay the officials a little visit at midfield to continue to stress his point.

The Eagles pulled off a nifty double handoff, criss-cross play with Williams ending up with the ball for a big play, but the Eagle drive stalled. Belaire launched their own threatening drive near the end of the half, but a key play by Voisin stopped their advance.

St. Johntook in the second half kickoff, established their running game immediately, and marched in to score a 12-point lead. Williams, Shields, Campesi, and Martinez took turns chewing up yardage behind an outstanding effort by the Eagle line. Martinez capped the drive with 7:19 left in the third period on a 4-yard run and Case hit the PAT for a 20-8 lead.

Despite pressure from Eagle pass rushers Voisin and Herman Fitch, Boudreaux directed the Bengals down the field for their second tally of the game. Gerome Springer out-leaped an Eagle defender and raced to paydirt for a 39-yard passing TD from Boudreaux and BHS cut into the Eagle lead, making it 20-14. However, Yarbrough had a quick answer with another big Eagle play. The senior found a hole down the SJHS sidelines and carried the ensuing kickoff down into Bengal territory.

Despite a penalty flag, the Eagles moved down the short field to score. Shields picked up the lost yardage on a pass reception from Martinez and then Williams, who finished with a game-high 131 yards on 13 carries, went eight yards for a first down. Martinez, Shields, and Williams took turns on runs, but Campesi capped the drive with a four-yard TD run. Case hit the PAT and the Eagles had a comfortable 26-14 lead.

In the final quarter Martinez capped a drive with his second rushing TD of the game, scoring from 15 yards out. Case’s PAT gave SJHS a 34-14 lead.

Belaire came back to score the final touchdown of the game as Boudreaux got them down within striking distance and Jordan Johnson grabbed a deflected pass in the end zone for a 6-yard TD play.

While Williams paced the running game, Martinez added key rushing yards and two TDs to go with a three of six passing effort and a TD pass. Campesi and Shields came up with some solid rushes to add to the attack.

Belaire ended up punting twice, while St. John never did have to punt away. The Eagle defense limited Belaire to 84 ineffective yards rushing as Boudreaux did most of the damage with his passing yards and two TDs.

Coach Musemeche commented after the game that both teams played very well and with a lot of effort. He also complimented Belaire mentor Lydell Key for his preparation.

The Eagles take their 1-0 record on the road tomorrow (Friday) night to the Covington area to play hosting Pope John Paul III. Eagle players noted in the preseason that the hosts were one of the hardest hitting teams they faced all last season. Coach Musemeche expects a tough road challenge for his St. John club.