Stout defense lifts St. Bede over Newman

PERU – Stephen Shaver kicked a 30-yard field goal with 2:27 left and St. Bede defended its home field with a 13-7 Three Rivers Conference victory over Newman on Friday night.

The clincher came on Newman’s final drive.

Quarterback Cody Donna slipped dropping back for a pass and appeared to roll his ankle. He came out and J.J. Castle entered the game. Castle attempted a long pass that was intercepted by St. Bede’s John Brady.

The Bruins defense bent but never broke. It forced six turnovers. Then the offense put together a sustained drive when it needed it: 10 plays, four first downs and a pair of 14-yard rumbles by Jake Jackson.

“What a game, huh? Our defense was fantastic!” said St. Bede coach Jim Eustice.

The last time St. Bede beat Newman was Sept. 17, 2011; a 20-18 victory back when the two schools played in the Big Rivers Conference, the precursor to the Three Rivers.

Newman spent all its timeouts on the St. Bede drive, which culminated with Shaver’s field goal.

Since missing the first week because of a COVID-19 protocol, Shaver hasn’t missed a field goal or an extra kick. He had a game-winning kick against Erie-Prophetstown.

Tonight, in addition, he had three kickoffs reach the 21 or deeper. Pretty solid for a senior out for football for the first time.

“My teammates have believed in me more than I have myself,” Shaver said. “This whole season, being new to football, I was nervous. But they’ve helped me along the way to be sure. And it’s paid off.”

In the third quarter, Newman put together a 15-play drive that included two big second-effort plays. Gabe Padilla carried the ball — and a pile of tacklers — 10 yards for a first down. Then Ethan VanLanduit dove over the goal line with a tackler on his back for a 6-yard TD run. That cut St. Bede’s lead to 3, 10-7.

After the game, Newman coach Brandon Kreczmer said the turnovers, three fumbles and three interceptions were the difference. His team is 2-2 on the season.

“Can’t turn the ball over six or seven times or whatever it was, especially five in the first half,” he said. “You won’t be very successful. Effort was there, but that is what happens when you turn the ball over.”

St. Bede took a 10-0 lead into halftime.

Defensively, St. Bede kept Newman running backs from breaking a big run. Of Newman’s first 17 running plays, the longest went for 11 yards.

While St. Bede didn’t capitalize on each of Newman’s five first-half turnovers, it did move the ball and controlled the pace.

St. Bede also managed to keep its own miscues from turning into outright fumbles. On a fourth-down snap that went over QB Brady’s head, he managed to scoop it up and rumble forward 10 yards so it kept the ball in Newman territory.

On another high snap, Tyreke Fortney managed to tip it and bring it in for a 5-yard gain.

With 5:48 left in the second quarter, Newman’s Donna completed a pass over the middle to Owen McBride, but the ball popped loose and was recovered by St. Bede’s Ben Burke.

St. Bede took over on the Newman 35. Brady passed to Fortney for an 18-yard gain, then on the next play, Fortney took the handoff on a sweep. He got to the outside, moved down the near sideline, then cut back right near the goal line to elude a Newman tackler and take it in for a score.

Then with 1:46 left in the half, Ethan Sramek intercepted a Donna pass at the 20 and returned it to the 6.

Newman timeouts to freeze kicker Shaver had no effect, and he booted in a 23-yard field goal with 1.9 seconds left in the half.

Newman’s Donna was 4-of-8 passing for 33 yards. VanLanduit had 38 yards rushing, Brennan Cook 47 yards, Padilla 44 yards and Lyuando 29 yards.

For St. Bede, Brady was 4-of-11 passing for 56 yards. All his completions went to Fortney. Brady led with 69 rushing yards. Fortney had an electrifying 35-yard kickoff return in the third quarter.

St. Bede and Newman each had 10 first downs.

Troy Taylor

Troy E. Taylor

Was named editor for and the Gazette and Telegraph in 2021. An Illinois native, he has been a reporter or editor in daily newspapers since 1989.