Benet sees only the bright side after loss to Nazareth
It was abundantly clear after Saturday's regular-season finale against unbeaten Nazareth that coach Pat New and his Benet players are more the glass-half-full types.
The Redwings dropped a 27-8 contest to the defending Class 7A champion at Benedictine University, yet the program is excited and prepared to take its 6-3 record into the state playoffs. Playing without starting quarterback Colin Gillespie, the Redwings defense picked off all-stater J.J. McCarthy twice and also recorded a strip sack while trailing the CCL/ESCC Orange champion just 7-0 at the half.
But in the second half the struggling offense and the punting game allowed the Roadrunners to add three more touchdowns -- including McCarthy's second scoring pass to Tyler Morris -- en route to taking a 9-0 record into the postseason.
"I thought we played well. The coaches give us a great game plan every week and we just came into it like we've got to give them a fight," said Redwings linebacker Will Benish, who picked off a pass in the end zone to end Nazareth's opening drive. "I'm happy for the most part with the way we played on defense."
Safety Marty Garvin also picked off a McCarthy pass in the second quarter, and the Michigan-bound Roadrunners quarterback also lost a fumble before halftime. But Nazareth did open the scoring with a 32-yard scoring pass to Morris for a 7-0 lead at the half. Morris finished the day with 110 yards on 9 catches, including a pair of touchdowns.
On a day when the Redwings forced four turnovers, the hosts were eventually done in by four of their own giveaways and struggles in the punting game. Misplayed high snaps on punts led to a couple of short fields that Nazareth took advantage of in the second half.
"That's what I told our players at halftime, that our potential is there and they really showed that in the first half with just a tremendous effort," said Benet coach Pat New, who will take his team into the playoffs for an eighth straight time next week. "They played inspired football. I told them I was very pleased with their effort. We just unfortunately weren't able to capitalize on offense."
With Gillespie expected back for the playoffs, the Redwings are hopeful the team can be a tough out in the state tournament, especially if the defense plays the way it did for much of Saturday's game.
"There's no question (we're tested)," New said. "We played the defending 7A and 8A state champs two of the last three weeks. I made that clear to the kids. It does give you some motivation going in … no matter who you play (in the playoffs) we've played the best. So we're ready to go."
After Nazareth went ahead 27-0 late in the third quarter, the Redwings got on the scoreboard on a 21-yard touchdown run by Nick Johnson in the final minute. No. 3 quarterback Nick Bafia then connected with Sayre Chick for the 2-point conversion.
"It just shows what our defense can do," Benish said, reiterating how well the squad played against a potent offense in the first half. "If we play like that we'll be able to hang with anybody."