Bears Fall Just Short of Bellarmine in Season Opener

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Photo credits to Bob Dahlberg

The Bears suffered a heartbreaking defeat to the Bellarmine Bells on Friday Night. Despite rallying late in the game, they lost 17-14. 

Senior tight end Owen van Loben Sels sheds two tacklers

M-A started the game on offense, looking to get their weapons going early, however the drive stalled quickly when the Bellarmine defense came up with a big fourth down stop. The Bears’ defense was already playing in their own half, but were able to hold the Bells to a very long field goal, which put Bellarmine up 3-0 early in the first quarter. 

The Bears offense continued to struggle throughout the first quarter—junior quarterback Xander Eschelman fumbled while trying to make a play on a long third down and was sacked multiple times. Luckily, the M-A defense had all the answers for the Bellarmine attack, forcing them to miss a long field goal attempt, and keeping the score 3-0 at the end of the quarter. 

The second quarter seemed much more promising after senior safety Oskar Flodh intercepted the Bellarmine quarterback for M-A’s first takeaway of the season. Unfortunately, a broken screen play for the Bears  resulted in another interception, giving the ball right back to Bellarmine. After the M-A defense shut down the Bells’ offense on two straight drives, it seemed the Bears would be able to get on the board as they got the ball with great field position right before halftime. However, after two dropped passes and a sack, M-A still trailed by three going into the half.

Eschelman looks for running room

At the start of the second half, the Bells were driving down the field until a miscommunication on a handoff left the ball on the ground, and M-A was able to scoop it up to gain momentum right away. After a few nice throws by Eschelman, the M-A offense seemed to have caught their stride, until another fumble turned the possession back to Bellarmine. The Bells took advantage of the momentum shift and scored a 40-yard touchdown, increasing their lead to ten. 

The fourth quarter started with the Bellarmine quarterback scrambling, and miraculously breaking multiple tackles to score another touchdown, making it 17-0 in favor of Bellarmine. Flodh said, “The defense made a lot of great plays, but gave up a few big ones that made the difference in the end.”

Despite the deficit, the Bears did not back down, with M-A’s first possession of the fourth quarter, Eschelman and senior running back Mordecai Langi helped drive the offense all the way down the field. Senior wide receiver Alek Marshall capped it off with an incredible touchdown catch over the top of Bellarmine cornerback. Marshall’s play put the Bears on the board for the first time this season, and cut the deficit to 10 with 9:36 left to play. 

On the ensuing drive, Flodh made his second impressive interception, reading the quarterback’s eyes the whole way and setting up the Bears’ offense on the Bellarmine 25-yard line. Multiple successful passing plays set up Eschelman to punch it in on a quarterback sneak with 7:17 left in the game. With the lead cut to just three points, the Bears fans were going crazy, and the defense needed to get a stop. 

Junior defensive end Devin Hyde gets around Bellarmine blocker

The final Bellarmine drive consisted of two spot measures, both of them going in favor of Bellarmine, a late hit call, and one extremely controversial pass interference call on a long third down, which allowed the Bells to run the clock out and seal the victory. 

Despite the loss, there were a lot of positives to take away from the game. The defense put on an impressive and physical display, and the offense really found their rhythm in the fourth quarter after a lackluster first half. Marshall said, “If you watched the game you could not question anybody’s effort, every single person left it all out on the field.” 

In terms of improvements for next week, junior wide receiver Angelo Marin said, “We just fell a bit short, we know our offense has to score a lot earlier next week, and the defense just needs to keep getting turnovers and making plays.”

The Bears will travel to Sacramento this Friday to play the Elk Grove Thundering Herd at 7 p.m.

Chase is a senior and in his third year of journalism. Chase is a sports editor and loves writing about sports events and music. In his free time, he plays soccer and hangs out with friends.

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