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October 28, 2012

Bells alone atop WCAL

On a sunny afternoon in the Sunset, Bellarmine and St. Ignatius entered the day tied for first place in the West Catholic Athletic League. Both teams feature dual threat quarterbacks who were indeed playmakers for their respective teams. But in the end, the Bells' ground game grinded enough yards to give them a 35-28 victory and sole possession of first place in league play.

Scoring summary: In the first half, St. Ignatius converted on a turnover in Bells territory to take a 7-0 lead on a 15 yard pass by quarterback Jack Stinn. Bellarmine scored the next three touchdowns in the half as quarterback K.J. Carta-Samuels was responsible for the scores on a 38 yard pass, a 3 yard run, and a 35 yard pass.

St. Ignatius converted on another Bellarmine turnover in the third quarter to lead to an Elijah Dale rushing touchdown of 1 yard to cut the deficit to 21-14. Carta-Samuels ran for another 3 yard touchdown to make the score 28-14. In the ensuing possession, Albert Waters weaved 80 yards to bring it back to a seven point deficit at 28-21. Bellarmine's Joey Sanfilippo scored midway into the fourth quarter on a 29 yard run to increase the lead to 35-21. The Wildcats engineered an 11 play and 80 yard drive that was capped by a 3 yard Stinn pass to close the scoring at 35-28 as the Bells ran the clock out.

Unit Breakdown: Bellarmine has a balanced attack as Carta-Samuels is a legitimate dual-threat quarterback but he can be turnover prone as he had an opening drive fumble and two interceptions. The Bells have two underrated running backs in Kenneth Olugbode and Sanfilippo who helped pick up key yards to extend drives and eventually to run the clock out. In addition, the offense had some holding penalties that stalled out drives.

The Wildcats have a similar offense as the Bells as they also have an effective dual threat quarterback in Stinn who was apt at scrambling while his favorite passing target was 6-foot-5 receiver Andrew Vollert. Dale and Albert Waters are both undersized but tough, shifty runners. The Wildcats are not one dimensional and are a matchup challenge.

Defense: In the two key league victories against Serra and St. Ignatius, the Bells' opponents scored 34 and 28 points respectively. The defense was not spectacular but has played well enough in a bend but not break fashion. The Bells did give up a big 80 yard touchdown run to Waters where containment was broken in the secondary.

The Wildcats had given up a total of seven points in their previous two games. Bellarmine is the league standard right now. With season ending games against Serra and Archbishop Mitty, the Wildcats defensive level will be revealed in the upcoming matchups.

Special Teams: The special teams were fairly mundane. Bellarmine missed a PAT but offset that with a two point conversion. The Wildcats squib kicked it several times and could not recover the onside kick on their final kickoff.

Next Steps and Analysis: Bellarmine closes with Valley Christian and Sacred Heart Cathedral who have a combine one win in league play which Valley Christian had against Sacred Heart Cathedral. It may presumptuous, but crowing Bellarmine as WCAL champions is not that outrageous of a statement at this point. But for the Bells to make a deeper run in postseason, they need to limit the turnovers and play a more stout defense.

St. Ignatius has a tougher road with Serra and Mitty as losses to both drops them out of the top three in league play. The defense has to put up a similar effort comparable to the offense in these tough matchups. As the season winds down, these two matchups show the true grit of the team.

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