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St. Bede football coach John Bellino put an emphasis on the running game entering Friday’s contest against Orion at the Academy.
“We kind of committed to (the run) this week simply because we saw their defense,” the veteran coach said. “They played double corner. They really bang up on the receivers and make it real tough on you. We felt we might have to go there (to the ground game), and we did.”
Boy, did they.
The Bruins ran the ball a season-high 52 times for 221 yards as they ground out a 34-22 victory over the Chargers in a Three Rivers Conference South Division game.
“I think this week we were really fired up in practice,” St. Bede senior fullback/linebacker Michael Bellino said. “We knew we had to come out and get a ‘W’ this week. We were just really getting physical in practice. I think it showed on the field that we were ready to hit people and take it to them.”
The Bruins needed the win to become playoff eligible, but at 5-3 overall and 2-3 in the conference, John Bellino feels St. Bede needs that sixth win that would guarantee a postseason berth.
“Well, we think we’re going to have to get to six,” said John Bellino, whose team plays host to Sherrard (3-5, 1-4) in Week 9. “I think the days of (getting into the playoffs) with five wins with low (playoff point) numbers are over. With all the co-ops and the number of teams now, I think you’re going to need six. We’ve been figuring that for a long time. Our game next week is like another playoff game.”
The Bruins took a step toward that sixth win on the backs of Michael Bellino and Justin Shaw.
Bellino plowed through the Charger defense for 96 yards and four touchdowns on 16 carries, while Shaw sliced through Orion for 132 yards on 29 carries.
“My O-line did a great job of blocking,” Michael Bellino said. “Sam Halm was throwing some great blocks on their linebackers for me to cut outside. I can’t do it without them. It was a real team effort out there.”
Bellino put the Bruins on the board first with a 1-yard plunge with 3:10 left in the first quarter, and his 13-yard run with 3:22 left in the second quarter tied the game at 14-14 at halftime.
Out of the break, the St. Bede ground attack really took over.
Michael Bellino broke through the middle for a 17-yard run on the first play, and four players later, another 17-yard rush by the senior fullback put the Bruins up 21-14.
Following a fumble recovery by St. Bede’s Spencer Barnes, the Bruins marched 40 yards on 11 plays — 10 of them runs — and capped the drive with a 1-yard score by Bellino on third-and-goal from inches away to take a 28-14 lead.
“Obviously, your offensive line has to work,” John Bellino said about the key to getting the running game going. “I thought Michael ran really hard. We played real hard. We knew we had to win this ball game.
“Justin was really banged up at halftime and really hung in there. Jack Brady made some great plays under duress. That’s a good ball club we beat. I’m proud of our kids for responding, espevially since we’ve gotten knocked around the last couple weeks. We came back ready to play.”
The ground game eased the burden of the Bruin defense in the second half as St. Bede ran 36 plays to Orion’s 13.
The Chargers’ lone score in the second half came on a 53-yard pass from Blake Matson to Benny Terronez with 3:04 left to set the final score.
However, after recovering an onside kick, the Bruins ran the ball six times before taking a knee to run out the clock.
“The first half was a little shaky on a few things,” Michael Bellino said about the defense. “At halftime, we just really focused, brought it together, corrected a few mistakes we were making and really just came together and played hard.”
Note: Brady tied the school’s single-season record for passing touchdowns with 16 when he connected with Braidy Shipp for a 27-yard score with 3:57 left.
Kevin Chlum can be reached at 220-6939, or at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsEditor.
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