Last year, the playoffs were just a far-off dream for Benet's football team. Following the Redwings' 17-0 East Suburban Catholic Conference victory over host St. Viator on Friday, they realized that dream and became playoff eligible with their fifth win of the season.
"Five and one feels great," Benet quarterback Jack Beneventi said. "The team made it clear after 1-8 last year that we wanted to have a huge season."
Beneventi's 71-yard touchdown pass to Jack Toner with 3:40 remaining in the second quarter was pretty much all the offense either team could muster in a penalty-filled first half. That play came on the heels of a 56-yard TD strike to Jack Euritt that was nullified by offensive pass interference.
"We saw that the corner would go inside, so we knew it would be open to the outside," Toner said of the scoring play.
"Jack made a great catch and a great move to get past the corner," Beneventi said. "The offensive line gave me all the time in the world."
"It's awesome," Toner said of becoming playoff eligible. "It's hard to describe. We've got lots of work to do. It's nice to get to 5 early. Then we can get a few more wins and get a high seed."
Even without the big play, Benet's defense kept the game under control and came away with its third shutout in 6 games this season.
"Defense is the strength of this team," Benet coach Pat New said. "The team has confidence in them to keep us in games."
Benet (5-1, 2-1) held St. Viator (3-3, 1-3) to 60 yards rushing and 110 passing, and intercepted Bobby Calmeyn 3 times.
On the Lions' first possession of the second half, they drove to Benet's 22, where Pat Runger intercepted a pass and returned it from his 5 to the 43.
On its next series, St. Viator drove to the 30 and Jack Schulte came up with an interception in the end zone, and Ryan Parks iced the game with a later pick that he returned from midfield to the 7.
"Their defense is as good as advertised," said St. Viator offensive coordinator Dan Paplaczyk. "We didn't execute when we needed to."
Jack Crain scored Benet's second touchdown with 3:23 remaining in the game, and John Duvic's 18-yard field goal capped the scoring.
"I told the guys that I'm a Sox fan and the '83 team was known for winning ugly," New said. "We were very sloppy, and we know we have to clean it up."
Defensively, St. Viator was able to stop Benet's running game, limiting the Redwings to 66 yards on the ground.
"We designed a couple of defenses for it and had a good idea on their tendencies," said Lions' defensive coordinator Dan Fitzpatrick. "They did a nice job, and we were on the field a lot.
"We weren't happy with how we played last week (at Notre Dame), and we challenged them this week," Fitzpatrick said. "I'm proud of them."
Next week, St. Viator goes out of state for a non-conference game at South Bend Washington, while Benet will face Nazareth.