Benet ends up-and-down season with a win
With his back right on the goal-line, Benet senior quarterback Nick Bafia was limited to a just a few inches to find a proper spot to place his knee on Saturday afternoon.
But it was a fitting ending -- and place on the field -- for Benet to end an abridged season without a state playoff that included three canceled games.
Victory formation, in a season full of many downs, was the ideal way to end the season for the Redwings.
Behind a solid defensive effort, the Redwings posted a 3-0 victory over Nazareth in East Suburban Catholic play in LaGrange Park.
After Nazareth missed a potential game-tying 51-yard field goal, Bafia closed out the defensive battle with the final kneel down of his varsity career.
"That was a crazy game, in a rivalry game," Bafia said. "Both teams came out ready to play. I'm extremely proud of the team. I thought we battled all year long, through all the adversity and it showed today with this last win."
The Redwings (2-1) endured an up-and-down season full of emotions and doubt, but reveled in posting a shutout win on the road. The Roadrunners (2-3) had two late fourth-quarter drives stopped by Benet's defense, and managed just 38 yards rushing. Well after the victory, the Redwings remained on the field, even singing the school's fight song.
"This game kind of erased all the frustrations that we had in missing three games," Benet coach Pat New said. "I'm so proud of these seniors, just in how hard they played. Our defense played with great effort, getting a shutout against Nazareth is awesome. I'm so happy we were able to play spring football and we're excited about the fall."
As the potential tying field goal came up short with under 10 seconds left, Benet sophomore defensive end Pierce Walsh remained on the field for a few extra seconds before slowly strolling off, then stopping to high-five an assistant coach on the field.
"It was a great feeling, just getting ready for victory formation," Walsh said. "That was the best feeling in the world. This is huge, beating Nazareth and our rivals. I'm going to remember this for the rest of my life. The defense played great. Our secondary played really well."
Bafia, a senior, sparked the offense with his running, especially in the second half. His 41-yard run in the third quarter set up Will Benish's 22-yard field goal at the 3:46 mark. Bafia finished with 19 carries for 85 yards.
"After halftime, we said that I would have to run the ball a lot," Bafia said. "We were able to get it done."
Nazareth struggled building any sustained drives throughout the game. The Roadrunners used three quarterbacks, with junior Aidan Pieper taking the majority of the snaps. Piper passed for 190 yards, but Benet's defense registered two sacks, recovered a fumble and intercepted a pass off a deflection.
Nazareth coach Tim Racki, who has won seven state championships, admitted it was a bewildering ending to an unforgettable season.
"I told the kids that the pandemic really did a number on me mentally and I wasn't as gung-ho for spring football, but after the very first day out here, they recharged my battery and I was back to my normal coaching self," Racki said. "We were able to compete this year and everybody contributed."
Nazareth senior guard/defensive end Cristobal Gutierrez Jr, a Carthage College recruit, preferred to focus on the positives of the five-game season. Before the spring season, the Roadrunners had several key starters transfer. They lost four-star junior wide receiver and recent Michigan commit Tyler Morris to a torn ACL last week.
But the Roadrunners celebrated their careers on the field for nearly 30 minutes, including snapping a full team picture and senior-only picture with all the coaches at the 50-yard line.
"I'm just happy that we got to play anything at all," Gutierrez said. "I'm grateful to play with my boys for my senior year. All the state championships were fun, especially going down to the games. But being a senior and experiencing a season is unprecedented. Nazareth was great to me, gave me everything I wanted. I'm so grateful."