CARSON, Calif. – Oceanside, with a swaggering, intimidating and hard-hitting defense, was punched continually in the gut by a gritty, determined and strong-scheming Bellarmine bunch from San Jose.
But when it counted most, the Pirates responded and escaped with a bitterly-fought and evenly-matched 24-19 victory in the CIF State Division I Bowl championship at the Home Depot Center on Friday night.
It was the second state crown in three years for Oceanside (14-0), which extended its state-best unbeaten streak to 39. For a team that was supposed to be middle-of-the-pack in the West Catholic Athletic League, Bellarmine gave it one heck of a run.
The Bells, in fact, had heavily-favored Oceanside on the run for most of the night.
But a 99-yard scoring drive early in the fourth quarter gave the Pirates their first lead, then a quick-strike 55-yard screen for another score keyed the victory for the Pirates, who feature six players who have committed to Division I programs and hadn’t allowed more than 14 points in a game all year.
Bellarmine, which lost four Division I players to graduation and were supposed to be rebuilding, finished 11-2-1.
The close game surprised most, but not Bellarmine coach Mike Janda who watched his team finish with more first downs (21-15) and total yards (300-288) and dominated time of possession (31:36-16:24).
“They had more speed and Division I talent,” Janda said. “But we fought and we fought and we fought. … I couldn’t be more proud of the boys.”
A perfectly-placed 13-yard touchdown strike by quarterback Quentin Clark between three defenders to Jerry Whitaker with 10 minutes, 17 seconds remaining gave Oceanside its first lead since early in the first quarter, 17-13, with 10:17 left.
The San Diego State-bound Whitaker led Oceanside with 42 yards rushing and 4 catches for 45 yards and a touchdown.
After a Bellarmine punt, Clark hit Rene Siluano with a middle screen and the fleet scatback sprinted 55 yards for what looked like the knockout blow, making it 24-13 lead with 7:25 left. Siluano broke a couple arm-tackles and made a beautiful move in the middle of the field before outracing the fleet Bellarmine secondary.
But the Bells went 83 yards in 13 plays capped by a 15-yard screen pass from Mike McGovern to Kyle Olugbode, who somersaulted into the end zone. A vicious block by Tim O’Hara sprung Olugbode (20 carries, 65 yards, two TDs). The two-point conversion failed, making it 24-19.
Oceanside’s Noah Tarrant recovered the onside kick, but after a three-and-out, Bellarmine had one last chance, taking over at its own 25 with 1:51 remaining. The Bells moved all the way Oceanside 32, but after three incompletions, Bellarmine had gallantly fell short and the Pirates had prevailed once more.
"It's been an incredible season," Oceanside coach John Carroll said. "It started out with one win and then it was 10 wins and then it was our sixth straight CIF championship and now state champions. We're going to find as many ways to celebrate this championship as we can."
Said Janda: “We were in an offense late we don’t normally run but had practiced hard all week. We just came a couple yards short.”
Utilizing its double-wing “scrum” attack, the Bells chewed up 14 minutes, 22 seconds on two scoring drives of 80 and 52 yards capped with touchdown runs of 4 yards by Kyle Olugbode and 3 yards from quarterback McGovern (20-69), the latter score made it 13-3 with 5:21 left in the half.
Impressive, considering Oceanside had allowed just 97 points all season.
"Defensively we struggled early trying to figure out their formation, but we got better as the game went along," Carroll said. "We made some adjustments at halftime and did a much better job of stopping them in the second half."
Oceanside responded by driving 63 yards but it drive stalled and the Pirates had to settle for a 24-yard field goal that was blocked by Kristoffer Olugbode.
The Bells recovered at the Oceanside 11, but on the first play Kyle Olugbode fumbled and Jake Fely recovered and returned to the 4.
On the next play, Tarrant ran it home, cutting the lead to 13-10. The score remained that way until the fourth quarter, when Oceanside came alive.
"I think this win says a lot for San Diego football," Carroll said. "Parker played real well earlier today, Cathedral won last year and we've won twice now. That puts San Diego at 3-1 in the state championships and that's not too bad."
Oceanside 24, Bellarmine Prep 19
Bellarmine Prep 7 6 0 6 - 19
Oceanside 3 7 0 14 - 24
O - FG, Velasquez 31, 9:17
BP - Kyle Olugbode 4 run (Dazzi kick), 1:00
BP - McGovern 2 run (kick failed), 5:21
O - Tarrant 4 run (Velasquez kick), 2:09
O - Whittaker 13 pass from Clark (Velaskquez kick), 10:17
O - Siluano 55 pass from Clark (Velasquez kick), 7:25
BP - Kyle Olugbode 14 pass from McGovern (pass failed), 2:31
Bellarmine: McGovern 20-69, Ky. Olugbode 20-65, Winnike 5-38, Kr. Olugbode 6-15. Oceanside: Whittaker 6-42, Holder 3-23, Tarrant 4-14, Taverna 1-13, Clark 3-8, Fely 2-3, team 1-(-1), Siluano 3-(-2).
Bellarmine: McGovern 9-18-0-113. Oceanvilew: Clark 13-20-1-167, Taverna 1-1-0-21.
Bellarmine: Demerritt 3-41, Garish 2-38, Ky. Olugbode 2-24, Robitalle 1-8, Kr. Olugbode 1-2. Oceanside: Siluano 4-89, Whittaker 4-45, Holder 3-41, Tarrant 1-7, Taverna 2-6.
Bellarmine: Demerritt 6, Le 6, Ky. Olugbode 4. Oceanside: Fely 13, Tarrant 10, Molesi 8.
First Downs: BP 21, O 15
Rushing att-yards: BP 51-187, O 23-100
Passing: BP 9-18-0-113, O 14-21-0-188
Total yards: BP 300, O 288
Turnovers BP 1, O 1
Time of possession: BP 31:36, O 16;24