As members of the St. Bede football team ran off the field Friday night — many with tears streaming down their faces — Michael Bellino stopped near the back of the end zone.
The senior couldn’t bring himself to cross the end line, so he paced back and forth.
He knew once he left the field, he’d have to take off the Bruin jersey and likely never put it on again.
Bellino and the Bruins suffered a heartbreaking 15-14 loss to Sherrard on Friday night in a Three Rivers Conference South Division game in Peru, dropping St. Bede to 5-4 and putting the Bruins’ playoff chances in jeopardy.
“We lost, that’s all I can say,” St. Bede coach John Bellino said.
The Bruins (2-4 TRC South) finish the season with 36 playoff points. In each of the last four seasons, 38 playoff points or more was the cutoff for 5-4 teams. The last time 36 playoff points was enough was 2008.
“Maybe,” John Bellino said about the playoffs. “But I don’t think we have enough points.”
The Bruins may be left on the outside looking in after a bizarre finish Friday that featured three turnovers and two lead changes in the final four minutes.
With four minutes left and St. Bede trailing 7-6, quarterback Jack Brady was intercepted on the first play of a series and Sherrard’s Dwight Swartz returned it all the way down to the Bruin 2-yard line.
The Bruins stuffed quarterback Clayton Bjustrom on first-and-goal.
On second and goal, Jacob Gross ran into the end zone on a jet sweep, but the Tigers were called for holding.
After an incompletion, the Bjustrom threw a screen pass on fourth down, but the ball was tipped and St. Bede’s Justin Shaw grabbed it and raced 90 yards into the end zone, causing bedlam on the Bruin sidelines as “Chelsea Dagger” blared.
But Sherrard wasn’t done yet.
The Tigers (4-5, 2-4 TRC South) took over at their own 28-yard line down 14-7 with 2:58 left.
Bjustrom threw short pass after short pass to lead Sherrard down the field until the Tigers — whose only motivation was being a playoff spoiler at 3-5 entering the game — pulled out a trick play.
Bjustrom threw another short pass to Jake Kissner who then pitched it backward to Nathan Kelly who took it 41 yards down to the Bruin 3-yard line.
On first-and-goal, Kelly pushed his way into the end zone to pull Sherrard within a point.
After two timeouts, the Tigers came out to go for a two-point conversion and the win.
Bjustrom threw a short pass to Kelly who forced his way forward and stretched his arm over the goal line to put the Tigers up 15-14 with 1:50 left.
“It was a great play by (Shaw), but we didn’t hold them, so it makes no difference,” John Bellino said. “They just passed the ball right through us (on the winning drive).”
On the third play of St. Bede’s ensuing possession, Brady was picked off again, and the Tigers knelt three times to run out the clock.
Before the final four minutes, points were hard to come by.
Neither team managed to score in the first half before Brady connected with Sam Halm for a 27-yard touchdown pass with 34 seconds remaining before halftime. The extra point was missed to send the Bruins to half up 6-0.
“Every time we made a big play, we got a penalty,” John Bellino said about why the Bruins struggled to get the offense going. “We’re just not blocking well. We’re using our hands too much. (We made) dumb mistakes we should have corrected already.”
Kevin Chlum can be reached at 220-6939, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsEditor.