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Daily Herald's 2017 Season Coverage
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updated: 9/23/2017 12:24 AM

Nazareth pulls out win against Benet

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By Gregg Voss
Daily Herald Correspondent

With five fumbles -- three lost -- and 11 penalties for 120 yards, Nazareth practically begged Benet to steal the teams' East Suburban Catholic Conference tilt Friday night.

The problem for the Redwings? An anemic offense that registered just 69 total yards, including minus 13 on the ground. Plus they had to deal with the loss of starting quarterback Matt Boyle, who injured the thumb on his throwing hand midway through the third quarter and gave way to sophomore Colin Gillespie.

All that conspired to hand Nazareth a 24-14 victory, which improved the Roadrunners to 5-0 overall and 3-0 in the ESCC. Benet, which had six drives go three-and-out and had two others end via interception, fell to 3-2 overall and 2-1 in league.

It wasn't all bad news for the Redwings. The defense held Nazareth's quarterback tandem of seniors Zach Stevens and Bobby Grimes to just 90 total yards passing and picked off Stevens once.

Plus, Benet took a 14-7 lead with 8:35 left in the second quarter on a 24-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown by linebacker Connor Burke. That play came exactly 11 seconds after Boyle hit senior Jack Eschenbach for a 32-yard touchdown pass.

But that scoring flurry was virtually the entire offensive output this night.

"It's definitely frustrating," Benet senior linebacker Devin Petersen said. "The thing is, you have to credit the offense, we lost our quarterback and they still fought. And you have to give credit to our D-linemen, because they fought.

"It's one of those things where it comes down to the wire. It's a one-play game."

That's true. Nazareth had a 17-14 lead entering the second half and basically played to a draw with Benet until there was 4:10 left in the game, when junior Devin Blakley got loose for a 25-yard touchdown run. He dashed up the middle, broke two tackles and scampered into the end zone. Grimes' extra point set the final score.

Blakley rushed 18 times for 106 yards, but that's a bit deceiving, considering 25 came on that play. Take that away, and the Benet defensive line -- defensive ends Griffin Sturtz and John Benish, and defensive tackles Matthew Kipp and Jackson Stephens, all juniors except for Kipp -- held the Roadrunners' most dangerous offensive player to a pedestrian 81 yards and 4.5 yards per carry, and the single touchdown.

"I think our whole defense played hard tonight," Benet coach Pat New said. "They had a big play, a defensive score, so you can't really ask for more. We won the turnover battle but lost the game. It was a tough loss for us."

Before getting hurt, Boyle went 7-for-12 passing for 54 yards. His favorite target was Eschenbach, with 3 catches for 54 yards.

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