Analysis | Friday Night Drive

Newman preparing for toughest challenge yet in undefeated St. Bede

Newman’s Gabe Padilla looks for yards against Rockridge Friday, Sept. 2, 2022.

After a 33-8 loss to Rockridge in Week 2, Newman had quickly put the game out of mind and essentially hit the reset button for its Week 3 game against Orion.

With a 13-12 Week 3 win over the Chargers, the Comets did exactly that, and now, they head into Week 4 with a much sunnier season outlook, sitting at 2-1 instead of 1-2.

Newman coach Mike LeMay and his players know last week’s win wasn’t the prettiest, but if it brings them one step closer to the playoffs, they’ll a take a boost in the win column however it may come.

“It was ugly. We know that, and the kids knew that, but at the end of the day, a win’s a win, and I think it changes your whole morale and the way you come into stuff with that being a win. If it’s a loss, it’s a lot more going back to the grind,” LeMay said. “Everyone likes to win, but we always say, ‘At the end of the day, the scoreboard shouldn’t matter. It’s indicative of how you played and how you felt.’ And our kids gave tremendous effort, and they finished in high-pressure situations. And I think that was the big moving forward thing, so I feel like it was a big deal for us coming back into this week.”

“It was a little bit of a struggle last week, but we were just happy we were able to take the 2-1 instead of the 1-2,” senior lineman Adam Morgan said. “But definitely, our keys this week are to get better after that little bit of struggle, and I think now that we’re in Week 4, I think we’re going to start getting ready to go.”

This week, the Comets host 3-0 St. Bede at Roscoe Eades Stadium. After a 28-14 Week 1 win over Sherrard, a 41-20 Week 2 win over Erie-Prophetstown, and a 34-20 Week 3 win over Kewanee, the Bruins sit atop the Three Rivers Mississippi.

Dual-threat quarterback John Brady is back to lead the St. Bede offense this year, after passing for 1,699 yards and 14 touchdowns, and rushing for 700 yards and seven touchdowns as a junior in 2021.

With playmakers on the perimeter to contend with, and a quarterback that can run and pass with equal effectiveness, the Newman defense will have to be prepared for anything and everything come Friday.

“Their record speaks for itself, 3-0. They have a dynamic quarterback. He throws the ball, runs the ball. I mean, that’s a pretty important position in football in general, but they definitely utilize him, so it’s a challenge this week,” LeMay said. “They have some nice receivers on the outside, and defensively, they seem to tackle very well, they’re fundamentally sound, they line up and they play fast. So it’s going to be a challenge, for sure, with this group coming in. Hopefully we’ll be ready to go, just making sure we’re prepped and being in the right spots.”

“I just know that they’re off to a good run right now, and right now we’re focused on them,” Morgan said. “We came off kind of a bad win last week, and I think now this week, we’re fired up and ready to go. And this week’s practice is going to be big for us because we’re gonna want to take on a team that’s got competition, so I think we’re ready this week.”

To snap St. Bede’s winning streak and improve to 3-1 this week, Newman will need to cut down on its penalties and sustain drives longer, both to put up more points and keep the defense rested for when it’s most needed.

“The big thing for us offensively is we’ve been kind of stagnant, and we’re starting to just fine-tune some things and make sure that we are progressing and getting our reads correct, and we’re blocking,” LeMay said. “Last week, we did much better blocking. We weren’t able to sustain things, and last week the penalties killed us when we did get stuff going, but we made up for that. So a big goal this week is to not be a big penalized team, and minimize the mistakes. And that way, we can execute a lot more efficiently and hopefully keep the ball a little bit longer, so we can keep our defense fresh when in those high-pressure situations.”

Senior running back/linebacker Gabe Padilla sees improvement in the defense with each passing week. With a high-powered offense coming to town Friday, the strength of that unit will be put to the test.

“I feel like week-to-week, our defense gets stronger and stronger,” Padilla said. “We always have our backs against the wall, and we always rise when we need our defense.”

If the offensive line can win most of its battles up front, the Comets believe they’ll have a chance to win.

Being decisive and taking the yards that are there will also be important, from a running back’s perspective.

“Keys to winning this game are that our linemen need to block and running backs need to hit the hole,” Padilla said. “And just all together, we all need to play as a team.”

“Definitely gotta stay low, that’s one of the keys for our linemen,” Morgan added. “And for this team, blocking is probably our theme again this week, like we said last week. We gotta be ready.”