LA VERNE — It was a late and auspicious start for the Bellarmine-Jefferson High football team.
With host La Verne Calvary Baptist already two games into its schedule, the Guards' season debut was filled with growing pains to the tune of nine turnovers and a 28-point early deficit.
When all was said and done, Calvary Baptist came away with a 58-20 eight-man football win over Bell-Jeff on Saturday afternoon at Damien High, but the Guards and coach Fred Martinez took it in stride with their sights set on moving forward.
"We're exactly where I thought we were," said Martinez, whose team went 2-7 in 2016 with an appearance in the CIF Southern Section Division II Eight-Man playoffs. "We're inexperienced, our fundamentals are down. … We have to catch up with both.
"But we didn't quit, you saw that out there."
Calvary Baptist (3-0) built an overwhelming first-half lead that produced a running clock for most of the second quarter and all of the second half, but the Guards (0-1) kept coming.
The biggest highlight for the Guards came from senior Canaan Williams, who had a 73-yard kickoff return for a score in the first half and a one-yard touchdown run followed by a two-point run to conclude the scoring and the game.
"Finishing strong was definitely a major thing," Williams said. "Even though the game didn't go well, we had something positive for morale."
Bell-Jeff's Ronald Jurok had a 75-yard kickoff return for a score, as well. Jurok dropped the kickoff, but collected the ball, weaved through the near sideline and cut to the center of the field where he found a wide-open field.
Alas, Jurok's touchdown came with Calvary Baptist already leading, 28-0, with five minutes still to play in the first quarter.
"I think a lot of the guys were nervous," Williams said of the shaky start. "There were a lot of adjustments we had to make. We'll get it."
Calvary Baptist quarterback Adriane Lecesne had touchdown runs on the first two drives before a Jeremiah Frisco touchdown score. Following Frisco's score, Bell-Jeff had one offensive play that it fumbled away. Thereafter, the Guards didn't run another offensive play in the first half until the last drive of the game as they had two touchdown returns for scores and fumbled away another kickoff return.
Lecense had two touchdown runs and two more passing and Frisco had a pair of scoring runs as Calvary Baptist scored on all seven of its first-half possessions to take a 50-12 halftime lead.
Calvary Baptist won the teams' 2016 meeting by a 35-28 score, as the Guards are still growing through some transfer departures and only suited up 14 players in the program's fifth straight loss.
"We always believe our kids have to have adversity," Martinez said. "They have to deal with adversity, they have to overcome adversity and they have to conquer adversity."