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NewsTribune Football Notebook: St. Bede has knack for pulling out close games

Bruins have won 4 games by 6 points or fewer

Multiple times this season, the St. Bede football team found itself in close games or trailing in the second half.

Four times, the Bruins pulled out the victory.

“I really think it’s our great senior leadership and the never-quit attitude our seniors display every day,” St. Bede coach Jim Eustice said. “That’s been the message since day one back in July and carrying through from the spring. They just don’t quit, and they believe in themselves.”

In Week 2, St. Bede rallied to beat Erie-Prophetstown, 15-13, on a last-second field goal by Stephen Shaver.

The Bruins were held scoreless until the fourth quarter and trailed, 7-0, before rallying to take a 12-6 lead. E-P jumped back ahead, 13-12, with 2:52 left before driving for the winning score.

St. Bede pulled out wins of 13-7 over Newman in Week 4 and 13-7 over Bureau Valley in Week 6.

The Bruins had another comeback victory Friday, rallying from 12 points down to beat rival Hall, 15-12.

“They just stayed the course and didn’t panic,” Eustice said about the Hall game. “They kept encouraging each other and said, ‘Keep on fighting.’ We made a couple adjustments at halftime on both sides of the ball, and things worked out.

“We did a couple things on defense to stop them. As we went through that long drive in the third quarter, we knew we were going to be OK after that. Offensively, we just shot ourselves in the foot the first half. We just played better offensively [in the second half]. The kids made plays and believed in themselves. It’s how we’ve been doing it all year.”

SHORT WEEK FOR THE TROJANS

Mendota is facing an abnormally short week to prepare for its regular-season finale.

The Trojans lost, 24-7, to Newman on Saturday and must turn around and play at St. Bede at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, but Mendota coach Keegan Hill said, “it’s the way it lies, and we have to play it the best we can.”

“It speeds it up,” Hill said. “I think the kids will probably like it because they won’t have to listen to us as much.”

Hill said he expects his team to be extra motivated after losing on senior night.

“We have seniors who wanted to win [Saturday],” Hill said. “I think we’re going to be even more prepared for our next game. These kids care and want to play really hard for each other.”

LOOKING TO BOUNCE BACK

La Salle-Peru coach Jose Medina said the Cavaliers’ 31-7 loss to Morris was “the second week in a row we didn’t do a very good job.”

Medina said the Cavs also didn’t play well in their 34-13 win over Woodstock in Week 7.

L-P (5-3) will look to bounce back as it travels to Kaneland (4-4) on Friday.

“We just have to stay focused during the week,” Medina said. “We have to bring some more intensity and more emotion at the start of the game. I think if we do that, we can be successful next week.

“We’re going to Kaneland, and we have to get at least one more [win].”

LUKE STORY RETURNS

After having shoulder surgery in May, St. Bede senior Luke Story wasn’t planning on playing this fall.

But after watching the Bruins, he decided to return to the field.

Story made his season debut Friday, running for 27 yards on eight carries and scoring both of the Bruins’ touchdowns in a 15-12 win over rival Hall. He also caught two passes for 29 yards.

“The doctors cleared him a few weeks back,” Eustice said. “He wasn’t going to play at all. He had been coming around and was watching us, and he missed it. It was something he wanted. We took him back with open arms. He had to go through the number of days of practice you need. He’s done that. He’s been practicing with us for three weeks with the target of coming back for Week 8. We really think he’s going to help us out in our run game and help out a little bit on defense.

“The kids are happy he’s back. He’s happy. He’s hungry. It’s not very often you get an all-conference player back in Week 8. We’re pretty happy about it.”

HALL SHOWS POTENTIAL

Hall has shown the ability to compete with top teams this season.

The Red Devils (1-7) gave undefeated Kewanee its toughest challenge in a 24-22 loss, and Hall has stayed close with St. Bede (15-12), a playoff team, on Friday, and Mendota (43-34), a playoff-eligible squad, in Week 5.

“We played to the level that we can,” Hall coach Nick Guerrini said about the close games. “We have a lot of young kids. In those games, you can see the desire they have to be out there and play at that level. Some games, we don’t find that fire. [The St. Bede game] was another one of those games we stepped up to the plate, but we find ways to lose games.”

Guerrini said the Red Devils have a young roster, and he hopes the experience they’re gaining will pay off with wins in the future.

“We’re going to keep working with the young guys,” Guerrini said. “We have a real good senior group we’ll graduate, but with a lot of younger guys, they’re getting a lot of experience they probably wouldn’t get in other years. The ability is there. It’s getting more game time and understanding the level we need to play at for four quarters to get over the hump. I think we’re definitely going to be there.”

Hall hopes to end the season on a high note against Bureau Valley (2-6) on Friday.

“We’re staying positive,” Guerrini said. “We’re going to practice hard like we have all season. We’re getting prepared. The mentality is still there. The want is still there. We’re going to come out and play hard.”

IHSA PLAYOFF PAIRING SHOW SET FOR SATURDAY

The IHSA Playoff Pairings Show is from 8-9 p.m. Saturday on the IHSA TV Network, which will be on WEEK out of Peoria, KGCW in the Quad Cities and WCUI and WMEU in Chicago.

The 256-team playoff field and the brackets for all eight classes will be revealed during the show.

There will be a pre-pairings show from 7:30-8 p.m. and a post-pairings show from 9-10 p.m. on the NFHS Network with Shaw Media’s Steve Soucie along with radio broadcaster Jim Taylor and recruiting guru “Edgy” Tim O’Halloran.

Princeton (7-1) and St. Bede (6-2) have locked up playoff berths, while L-P (5-3) and Mendota (5-3) also should hear their names called Saturday and could guarantee a spot with wins this week.