Catholic High football coach Dale Weiner stresses the importance of short-term memory when it comes to turnovers and losses.
It’s one thing to hear Weiner preach it. It was another to watch quarterback Ian Brian and the Bears defense do it to claim what may become a crucial victory.
Brian shook off two first-half turnovers to account for 244 yards as Catholic claimed a 35-17, come-from-behind nondistrict victory over second-ranked St. Thomas More of Class 4A on Friday night at Olympia Stadium.
“Coach Weiner always preaches to move on to the next play, especially when you play quarterback,” Brian said. “You can’t dwell on one or two plays. I believe in all my players. They have heart, and I’m so proud of them tonight.”
With the win, Class 5A Catholic (2-2) evened its record and gave Weiner his 299th career victory.
What was a tale of two halves featured numerous storylines. St. Thomas More (3-1) built a 17-14 halftime lead. A fumble by Brian led to one STM score. His pass to Clyde Edwards-Helaire in the end zone was intercepted by the Cougars’ Noah Fontenot with 20 seconds left in the half.
The play could have been a double negative: Edwards-Helaire suffered a turf toe injury on the interception. He scored one first-half TD on a 46-yard pass from Brian and ran 47 yards to set up the other. Edwards-Helaire had a game-high 75 yards on eight carries
No Helaire? No problem. The Bears changed the pace by using Brian, James Berrigan (17 carries, 70 yards, one TD) and Ben Miles (8-40) to pile up 293 rushing yards. The Bears scored on a 12-play drive on their first possession of the second half and completed a back-breaking, 17-play, 64-yard drive that gobbled 11 minutes, 38 seconds off the clock.
“I’m just so proud of this team,” Weiner said. “Our coordinators put in plans for (Friday night), and our guys executed. They practiced hard and believed we’re better than our record shows.”
And the Catholic defense? The Bears bent but did not break.
Will Bellamy completed 23 of 35 passes for 245 yards and one TD to pace St. Thomas More. Griffin Hebert caught six passes for 100 yards and a TD. But the Cougars couldn’t cash in when they opened the second half by driving to the CHS 28. On one play, Trevor Begue caught a pass at the back of the end zone and was ruled out of bounds. Conner Bowen broke up a fourth-quarter pass intended for Begue, who got behind the secondary after Catholic grabbed the lead.
“You can’t fault (STM quarterback Will Bellamy) at all. He threw a lot of catchable balls. We had that one drive in the second half where we needed to get points,” STM coach Jim Hightower said. “It looked like we had the guy in the back of the end zone. But it wasn’t called that way.
“We came in here with all the respect in the world for Catholic. They have a full complement of players, not just one (in Edwards-Helaire).”
Brian’s 1-yard TD pass to Chris Cameron gave Catholic a 21-17 lead with 3:54 left in the third quarter. Catholic limited STM to one first down before getting the ball back and embarking on the 17-play drive with 3:10 left in the third quarter.
A 4-yard gain on a fake punt by Brandon Fairbanks and Miles caught a pass that was batted up in the air for a first down in the red zone were key plays. Brian eventually scored on a 5-yard run that made it 28-17.
The Cougars got the ball back with 3:32 remaining. A Bowen pass breakup helped seal the win.
“I was supposed to be behind (Begue),” Bowen said. “But I got back there and made the play, which was all that mattered.”
The Bears took the opening kick and drove 80 yards for a TD. Daniel Guilbeau’s 26-yard run on a fake punt ignited the drive that ended with Edwards-Helaire turning a short pass from Brian into a 46-yard scoring play.
Bellamy completed his first eight passes, and STM countered with a 38-yard field goal by Bailey Raborn made it 7-3. The Cougars then cashed in after Brian’s fumble with Bellamy tossing a 33-yard TD pass to Begue, making it 10-7 with 12 seconds left in the first period.
A 47-yard run by Edwards-Helaire set up the next TD — a 5-yard pass from Brian to Cameron. The Bears led 14-10 with 4:07 left. STM had an answer. Bellamy’s 39-yard pass to Hebert set up a 4-yard TD run by Evan Trahan.
— This story was corrected on Sept. 29, 2015.