Saints win track meet, 64-52
“I’m not waking up until Tuesday,” joked Vail Christian quarterback P.J. Bevan, after Saturday’s opening-round playoff game between the Saints and Genoa-Hugo.
And, if Bevan does, indeed, sleep until Tuesday, he might well think that Saturday’s game was just a beautiful dream.
Heck, everyone who played in or saw Saturday’s game between Saints and Pirates probably can’t quite believe what happened.
Vail Christian 64, Genoa-Hugo 52.
This was football, people, not basketball.
“I go from playing hockey playoffs where it’s 1-0, 2-1, close games, not much scoring to 64-52. It’s a little different,” Bevan smiled.
Both teams combined for 1,222 yards of offense. Bevan accounted for 504 of those yards himself, not to mention Pirates quarterback Brian Nestor, who ran for 330 yards on 23 carries, including five touchdowns. The two teams combined for 82 points in the second half.
“I’d like to say we made some defensive adjustments at the half,” joked Saints coach Bob Isbell. “I have never seen a game like that. Back-and-forth. Back-and-forth.”
You’re not alone, Bob. And, to imagine that this game was scoreless after one quarter.
So, the Saints move on to face Holly, who upset Simla, 14-6, in Round 2. But, before the Saints take that next step, not mention figure out where Holly is – and that’s a doozy of a trip – a look a what was easily the most memorable football game in Saints’ history.
“That kid is incredible.’
Vail Christian knew what the Pirates’ offense was bringing. The Saints just couldn’t stop it. Nestor got outside and ran all day long.
“That kid is incredible. Goodness gracious,” Isbell said. “He just ran. We never stopped him. We knew we had to stop him. But, to tell you the truth, I didn’t know he was that good.”
Both teams mounted long drives on their first possession, only to fumble. While the score doesn’t show it, the Saints’ defense had big plays in the form five turnovers – two fumble recoveries each from John McGee and Will Guffey and a pick from Kyle Morris. Vail Christian was plus-4 in the turnover category.
Bevan started the scoring with an 80-yard swing pass for six to Robbie Brgoch. The Pirates responded immediately when Nestor ran back the kickoff 77 yards to give Genoa an 8-6 lead.
On the Pirates’ next possession, their running game established itself. Nestor, Shane Stum, and Dane Wimmer pounded away. The trio combined for 529 yards on the day. On this drive, Nestor scored from 20 yards out making it, 14-6.
Kyle Morris followed with a big 49-yard kickoff return, but the offense stalled and was facing fourth-and-12 from the Pirates’ 39. Isbell sent in a play called, “The Phelan-ator,” named after longtime Battle Mountain coach Pat Phelan.
In theory, the play calls for a reverse to Robbie Brgoch, whowould throw it to Bevan, who would find Rex Roberts all alone for six.
In reality, it was a no-go. Wimmer got pressure on Brgoch. Bevan was blanketed. Brgoch kept it himself, beat Wimmer, got some key blocks and just got the first down.
“I knew I couldn’t throw that ball. I couldn’t get it across,” Brgoch said. “We had to make something happen. We had some blocks downfield. Nate (Simon) was throwing his shoulders. We got it done in a fourth-down situation.”
That was clutch. On the next play, Bevan fired to Matt Seatvet, who made a gorgeous catch for a 26-yard touchdown.
“They had things going their way and, all of a sudden, Robbie busts that and we get a first down by a foot,” Isbell said. “Then, we get the touchdown. That was probably the biggest drive of the game.”
It was also emblematic of how the Saints’ receivers played all day. Roberts likely had the biggest day with six catches for 159 yards and two scores. But Brgoch also went 100 yards through the air and Seatvet 78 yards, including a clutch 52-yard catch in the track meet that was the second half.
“The receivers played awesome,” an appreciative Bevan said. “Matty, Rex and Rob came down with some incredible catches today. We had them up the middle. We had them out wide. We had them on screens.”
And Bevan had Roberts for 29 yards on the final drive of the half. Bevan then rambled for 27 yards and Brgoch capped it with a one-yard plunge. At the half, the Saints led 20-14.
Vail Christian opened the second half with an impressive 72-yard TD drive. Simon finished it on a 15-yard jaunt, which was finished by a sweet juke.
Genoa fumbled on its first play of the half and the Saints obliged quickly. Bevan found Roberts for 21 yards, and the Saints were seemingly cruising, 34-14.
That pass was just one part of a spectacular game for Bevan, He was 11 of 17 for 344 yards with four touchdowns by air. On the ground, he ran 12 times for 160 yards and two more touchdowns.
“Oh my gosh. He was incredible,” Isbell said. “He made some beautiful plays and he had a lot of time. The lineman gave him a lot of time and he made some great passes. Plus, the guys caught the ball so well. Everyone of those passes he threw down there, they got.”
The problem was that the Pirates were getting whatever gains they wanted on the ground. With 7:47 left in the third, Wimmer slammed home a touchdown. After the Saints went three-and-out, back came the Pirates. Nestor plunged in and, all of a sudden, the Saints were clinging to a 34-30 lead.
Then the track meet started. The Saints passed and ran. The Pirates ran. Both did so at will. Late in the third Roberts pulled down a clutch 52-yarder from Bevan, who then called his own number from the one. Saints 42, Pirates 30. Early in the fourth, Nestor flew 43 yards – Saints 42, Pirates 38.
Two minutes later, Bevan hit Roberts twice, including a 40-yard touchdown pass – 50-38, Saints.
Nestor needed one play on his next drive – 61 yards for six – and the Pirates closed to 50-44. The Saints reply? Four plays and a touchdown with Brgoch, running 39 yards for the score. Saints 56, Pirates 44.
“Coming back to the huddle, P.J. always reminds us, “We’re scoring on this drive. We’re scoring on this drive,'” Brgoch said. “The response comes back, “Yeah. Yeah.’ Once we get that ball in the end zone, we think it’s over. They bring it right back to us. That happened two or three times.”
And, it happened again with 2:07 left in the game. Nestor replied with a 40-yarder and 10 more yards for six.
“For any other team, that might be demoralizing, but we just keep coming,” Bevan said. “There’s no quit in this team.”
Down 56-52, Genoa attempted the onside kick, but it didn’t go the full 10 yards. Bevan called his own number, running 49 yards untouched, while pumping his fist, into the end zone for a 64-52 lead.
Saints’ “D’ to the rescue
With time running down, Genoa had to pass. Isbell gladly gave the middle of the field to the Pirates on screen passes to Wimmer. When the Pirates got to the 35, the Vail Christian defense made its stand. Andreas Bauer sacked Nestor on first down. Morris batted a way a pass on second down. Nestor got seven yards on third down, but it was curtains on Nestor’s Hail Mary on fourth down.
“They’d been running running plays the whole game,” Bauer said. “They had five or six passing plays. We can deal with those. The quarterback hesitates back there. So, when they came out with the last five passing plays, I knew the game was over right there.”
“We had some big plays. We were plus-4 in turnovers, which does the trick,” Isbell said. “We sacked the quarterback. The d-backs did a great job on the last play. That was big. Now, we get to take a knee, instead of dealing with another onside kick.”
Bevan took the knee and the Saints’ sideline and fans went nuts. The cameras came out. The hugs started. Bevan and McGee doused Isbell and the celebration continued into the locker room.
“One of eight teams (in the playoffs),” Brgoch said. “The Vail Christian Saints coming back from 5-3 last year and, now, we’re 9-0. It just shows how this group of kids, senior leadership, the young guys behind us, cheering us on, our awesome coaches, we get stuff done.”
“It’s incredible,” Bevan said. “We’ve said this so many times since we were freshmen and we’re there and we’re not stopping. We’re not stopping until we win it all.”
Chris Freud is the sports editor for the Vail Daily. Contact him at (970) 949-0555, ext. 614 or by e-mail at email@example.com.