Three lead changes in the last seven minutes shows just how close state No. 14 Bellarmine of San Jose and state No. 23 Del Oro of Loomis were to each other in a Friday night matchup. It was an improbable 34-31 win for Bellarmine and a second straight tough loss to a strong opponent for Del Oro.
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Just before the start of Friday’s Honor Bowl matchup in Loomis between host Del Oro and Bellarmine of San Jose, a pesky wasp was bothering several people on the Del Oro sideline.
It would dip and dart in-between futile slaps at it. The wasp was hard to see, but it was there and it took several minutes before it finally buzzed away.
Bellarmine’s team is full of running backs, receivers and defensive backs who are like that wasp. They’re hard to see, quick and tricky and definitely bothersome for the opposition.
One of those players, senior running back Devon Buenrostro, came up with the final slap to Del Oro when he beat two defenders to make a grab of a pass from senior quarterback Troy Martig and then sped for a 29-yard touchdown with just 33.7 seconds left that gave the Bells (ranked No. 14 in the Cal-Hi Sports state rankings and No. 2 in the Bay Area) a 34-31 triumph.
Making the play more painful for the Golden Eagles (who came into the game at No. 23 in the state) is that it came on a fourth down and 12 situation. If one of those defenders had been even able to knock the ball away, it was game over and game won for their team. Instead, it was a second straight loss for Del Oro in the last minute of a game.
In last week’s game, the Golden Eagles fell 22-15 to Punahou of Honolulu, Hawaii when Punahou scored with five seconds left and after getting an interception with one minute remaining.
“It was a section playoff game type of feel to it and almost state championship level,” said Del Oro head coach Casey Taylor. “We just really wanted to win it. I thought the last drive for us would do it, but we just couldn’t make that one last play.”
A late turnover also doomed Del Oro once again. With its defense having stuffed the Bells on five straight possessions in the second half and the offense having taken a 24-21 lead, the game changed with 7:56 left when Golden Eagle QB Stone Smartt was hit and fumbled, which was recovered by Bellarmine’s Isaac Oshana at the Del Oro 20-yard line.
A penalty against Del Oro also moved the ball halfway closer to the end zone and the Bells responded with Martig scoring on a 12-yard quarterback keeper. That gave Bellarmine a 27-24 lead with 7:13 left.
Smartt came back from that turnover and directed the Golden Eagles on a 80-yard scoring drive as they re-claimed the lead. He had three completions to get the ball to the Bells’ 39-yard line where senior running back Dalton Gee came through with a 39-yard touchdown. At that point there was 3:21 on the clock and Del Oro was in front 31-27.
Other than Martig’s TD run, Bellarmine’s offense wasn’t showing in the second half that it could drive the field 80 yards of its own. But the Bells did behind Martig, who picked up one first down with a 16-yard scramble and set up the game-winning TD pass with a 25-yard completion to Kyle Macauley and an 18-yarder to Vincent Fernandez.
“If we hadn’t gotten that fumble, we would have lost,” said Bellarmine head coach Mike Janda. “I don’t think we even had a first down in the second half at that point. They made some great adjustments against us at halftime, but fortunately we made plays at the end.”
“We did make good adjustments at the half,” Taylor added. “We really didn’t do a good job against them on first down in the first half. It’s hard to simulate what they do in practice and they have so many quick, fast players.”
While Martig’s final touchdown pass capped a huge night for him (he earlier scored for the Bells on runs 4 and 3 yards), University of Colorado commit Trey Udoffia had a spectacular night for Del Oro. He caught a 39-yard TD pass from Smartt for the team’s first score and later hauled in a 66-yard TD pass from Mason Hurst after he got the ball on a handoff.
The two players were given MVP honors for the game by Honor Bowl organizer Mark Soto, who also led pregame and halftime festivities saluting first responders on the anniversary of 9/11 and the memories of local soldiers who lost their lives in battle.
Udoffia also finished unofficially with six catches for 162 yards. Martig was sacked four time to limit his rushing, but as a passer he was 10 of 21 for 163 yards.
That 39-yard TD run in the fourth quarter helped Gee go over 100 for the game with 23 carries for 117 yards. Smartt threw three interceptions, but still wound up 15 of 30 for 193 yards.
“What I liked best is that we really competed against a very good team,” Janda said. “We have a heckuva league schedule coming up where every night may be like this. It was a good tuner.”