John Brady’s big day leads St. Bede past Riverdale

PERU – There aren’t many small school prep quarterbacks that are able to put together a day like St. Bede junior signal caller John Brady managed to have Saturday.

Brady connected on 10 of 16 passes for 289 yards and four touchdowns, including TD throws of 74 and 50 yards to senior Tyreke Fortney as well as tosses of 71 and 15 yards to senior Anton Cain.

Brady’s passing precision was the overriding linchpin in the Bruins’ 34-21 Three Rivers Conference crossover victory over Riverdale before a large homecoming crowd.

Brady’s electrifying output included 52 yards rushing and accounted for 88% of the Bruins’ total offense, which amassed 388 yards.

“John’s come a long way, and he gets better every week,” SBA coach Jim Eustice said. “He’s definitely a leader of this team, and I know he’s just going to keep on getting better. His performance today was excellent against Riverdale that played to the end with an offensive effort that was pretty good also. So hats off to them.”

During a game that was very close statistically, the Rams (0-5) had 383 yards of total offense behind 24-of-35 passing for 280 yards from senior quarterback Gage Hugart.

But Hugart could connect on only one long scoring strike while getting intercepted twice by Cain as the Bruins (4-1) moved to within one win of becoming playoff eligible.

“This was a great day for me, and my offensive line was incredible, giving me plenty of time to throw to amazing receivers like Tyreke (Fortney) and Anton (Cain),” Brady said. “We’re in a great spot right now, and to win a game like this on homecoming means a lot to me.”

On its first play from scrimmage, St. Bede busted out when Brady found Fortney in space for a 74-yard touchdown connection at 9:31 of the first quarter. Senior kicker Stephen Shaver’s point after put St. Bede ahead, 7-0.

Shaver added a 23-yard field goal with 29 seconds left in the first as St. Bede led, 10-0, after 12 minutes.

After a Bruin fumble early in the second quarter, the Rams embarked on an 11-play, 64-yard drive that took 7:36 on the clock and ended as Hugart took it to the house with a 19-yard touchdown run at 1:51 that cut Riverdale’s deficit to 10-6.

But after the Rams decided to try an onside kick, which was recovered by St. Bede at midfield, Brady found Fortney (four catches, 146 yards) once again, this time with a 50-yard dime at 1:36 that gave the locals a 17-6 lead going into halftime.

“Those two scores were big by Tyreke in the first half,” Brady said. “I just got the ball to him and he did the rest, so we were feeling pretty good at halftime.”

Riverdale took the second half kickoff and scored on its first play as Hugart delivered a ball down the right sideline to senior Cole Jennings (eight catches, 152 yards) for a 67-yard bomb at 11:42 that cut St. Bede’s lead to 17-14 after Hugart scored the 2-point conversion.

Brady and company countered quickly when he hit Cain on the second play for a 71-yard TD at 10:25 that gave St. Bede a 24-14 lead.

Later in the quarter, Brady found Cain again for 15 yards and a score at the 1:40 mark as the Bruins took command, going in front 31-14.

“Riverdale was keying on Tyreke in the second half after what he did in the first half so we decided to go to Anton,” Brady said. “Once again, the offensive line gave me so much time, and I was able to find him twice for touchdowns.”

In the final quarter, Shaver added a 26-yard field goal to push the Bruins lead to 34-14 before Noah Huizenga tallied for the Rams with 27 seconds left on a 4-yard scamper.

St. Bede (4-1) travels to Bureau Valley (2-3) on Friday.

“I don’t know the last time St. Bede football has been 4-1, but everything is right in front of us now in terms of making the playoffs,” Eustice said. “We’ve got a great group of kids here, and I’m proud of them for doing everything we needed to do today to win a tough ballgame. We’ll just keep getting better moving forward.”

Bill Lidinsky

Bill Lidinsky

Bill Lidinsky is an award-winning sports journalist and the recipient of the Illinois Coaches Association 2016 Sportsperson of the Year Award for his softball expertise and coverage.