It’s been said that the true measure of a good football team is the way it performs in the last two minutes of a game. The Bellarmine Lions took that a step further on Nov. 17. Starting at their own 35-yard line with 4:05 left and the game tied 29-29, Sefo Liufau engineered a 57-yard drive to and Matthew Philici drilled a 25-yard field goal with one second left as the Lions advanced to the state 4A semi finals with a 32-29 win over Gonzaga Prep in Spokane.
“Our assistant coaches did a great job of putting together a great game plan that our players took advantage of,” said Lions head coach Tom Larsen.
The big issue facing the Bellarmine defense was how to stop the vaunted Bull Pup veer offense.
“Our scout team gave us a good week of preparation, showing much of their offensive tendencies,” said the Lions’ Calvin Chandler. “That went a long way in our success defensively.”
While the Lions’ defense contained the Gonzaga Prep offense early, Lou Millie would find the going tough against the Bull Pups in the first half of play, as the Lions’ vaunted ground attack was held to a mere 87 first-half yards. Bellarmine would dent the scoreboard first, though, as Luifau sneaked it in from a yard out with 1:31 to go in the first quarter for a 7-0 lead.
The teams would trade punches later in the quarter, and Bellarmine would take a 14-12 lead at the half. The Bull Pups would grab their first lead on the night as Griffin Hare – who would go over the 2,000-yard rushing mark on the season – found the end zone from 28 yards out for a 22-21 lead entering the fourth quarter. Never a team to panic, Luifau marched the Lions 56 yards in six plays to score, and with a two-point conversion took a 29-22 lead with 8:24 left.
The rest of the fourth quarter would provide more drama, as Gonzaga Prep quarterback Zach Bonneau would engineer a masterful 14-play, 80-yard drive to tie it with just over four minutes left. That’s when Liufau and the Lions launched the game-winning drive.
“With the game on the line, we put the ball in Sefo’s hands,” said Larsen.
“I could not be more of our team, and we can’t be satisfied until we can get to the finals and possibly win state,” said Chandler.
Millie finished with 39 carries for 203 yards and two touchdowns, finding lots of room in the second half. And despite the Bull Pups being able to move the ball a bit, the Lions were proud of the defensive effort.
“We adapted well to their fast-paced offense,” said West O’Brien. “We’ll have to bring all of the energy next week at the dome against a good Auburn team.”