TORRANCE — Benching five defensive starters for breaking team rules wasn’t something first-year Bellarmine-Jefferson football Coach David Machuca wanted to do. However, Machuca chose to set an example and reiterate that conduct off the field is just as important as on the field.
Not having the quintet on the field hindered Bell-Jeff, which suffered a 49-32 nonleague road loss against Bishop Montgomery on Friday night.
“It’s about doing the right things in the classroom and on the field,” said Machuca, who reached his decision Wednesday and declined to disclose the rules that were violated. “We have a young team and we want to properly build the foundation of the program and you can’t do that by skipping steps.”
Bishop Montgomery (3-0) took advantage of the depleted Guards, scoring 21 first-quarter points and forcing Bell-Jeff (1-2) to play catch-up the remainder of the game.
The Guards, who lost their second game in a row after beginning the season with an intersectional victory against Monroe, had a difficult time stopping Bishop Montgomery running back Robbie Hou, who rushed for 249 yards in 34 carries and four touchdowns.
Bell-Jeff did its best to stay close with Bishop Montgomery, but the Knights seemed to have a response after each time the Guards cut into their deficit.
The Knights set the tome early, scoring on its first play from scrimmage when wide receiver Bryan Paredes caught a 35-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Louie Soto to make it 7-0 with 10:06 left in the first quarter.
On the ensuing possession, Bishop Montgomery’s Jarrett Balter intercepted a pass from Bell-Jeff quarterback Johnathan Porter at the Guards’ 35-yard line and returned it to the 7-yard line. Hou then scored two plays later to give the Knights a 14-0 advantage with 8:21 left.
“That put us in a tough spot,” said Machuca, whose team will have a bye next week before facing Chadwick in a nonleague contest Sept. 22 at Burroughs’ Memorial Field. “We had to stay positive and try to bounce back.”
The Guards did.
Mitch Kellogg scored on a three-yard run to trim the deficit to 14-6 with 3:28 remaining in the first quarter. Then, with 33.9 seconds left in the opening quarter, Soto connected with wide receiver Kenneth Ridgeway for a 24-yard touchdown pass to make it 21-6.
Hou then made it 28-6 on an 11-yard run with 5:41 left in the second quarter.
Seeking a spark, Bell-Jeff running back Josh Martinez (153 yards rushing in 18 carries) scored on an 86-yard touchdown run to bring the Guards to within 28-12 with 4:02 left in the first half.
“That was a great run by Josh, and he did everything we asked of him,” Machuca said.
The Guards continued to control play and closed to within 28-20 on a 46-yard touchdown pass from Kellogg to wide receiver Jalen Henry with 14.9 seconds left in the first half.
The momentum was short-lived, as Bishop Montgomery’s Robert Rodgers scooped up the kickoff and returned it 72 yards for a touchdown to give the Knights a 35-20 lead.
“We had the momentum and we missed some tackles,” Machuca said. “Maybe we let our foot off the gas on that play.”
A one-yard touchdown run by Kellogg made it 35-26 with 2:37 left in the third quarter, but the Knights got a 34-yard touchdown run by Hou to extend their lead to 42-26 with 58.6 seconds left in the third stanza.
Henry caught a 41-yard touchdown pass from Porter to bring the Guards to within 42-32 with 9:42 remaining in the contest. However, Hou completed his big performance with a three-yard run to close out the scoring.
Martinez said the Guards are continuing to adjust to Machuca’s system.
“He’s trying to get us prepared for [the Santa Fe League],” Martinez said. “We want to keep working hard and playing hard for him.
“We will hit the weights and get ready for our next game.”
Porter completed nine of 13 passes for 109 yards.