PALOS VERDES PENINSULA — Regardless of the outcome of Bellarmine-Jefferson High’s season-opening football game against host Chadwick, just taking the field was a victory after canceling the first three scheduled games of the season due to low numbers and a need for additional preparation.
However, despite the use of a running clock from early in the second quarter, the Guards were unable to make it to the final whistle, leaving the Dolphins with a truncated 44-6 victory.
Bellarmine-Jefferson (0-2), who took a loss via forfeit last week, started Saturday afternoon’s game with 14 players in uniform with pads. By halftime it was down to 12, and, when after covering a punt early in the fourth quarter two more Guards stayed down on the grass, first-year coach Lance Fauria called a stop to the contest with 10:30 left.
“This is hard to do with 14 kids,” Fauria said directly after play was halted. “The game is over now because we don’t have any more subs. That’s all we can do. The kids played as hard as they can.”
Chadwick (4-0) scored touchdowns on its second and third snaps of the game. The first came after the Guards were unable to get off a punt on the game’s opening possession, giving the hosts the ball 17 yards away from points. Two plays later, Peter Mavredakis ran it in from 11 yards out.
On the Guards’ next possession, they again failed to get off a punt, this time giving the Dolphins the ball one yard from points. On the next play, Mavredakis connected with Cole Freeman for a one-yard touchdown pass.
Bell-Jeff fumbled on its next snap, but the Guards defense stepped up. John Anulat knifed through the Dolphins line to tackle the ball carrier for a five-yard loss, eventually leading to a successful 22-yard field goal.
Two plays after that, the Guards offense had its moment. Quarterback Devoughn Roberts, a basketball player who had never played football before, lofted his second pass of the game over the top of the Chadwick defense into the hands of Miles Hopkins, who had broken free behind the secondary. Hopkins, another basketball player new to football, caught the ball and outraced the trailing defenders for a 74-yard touchdown at the 1:49 mark in the opening quarter.
“It felt great to see my teammate Miles open,” Roberts said. “I just passed him the ball and saw him run for the touchdown. It felt great.”
Chadwick answered immediately with another rushing touchdown and the score was 23-6 after one quarter. In the second quarter, the Guards finally got a punt off but saw it returned 32 yards for a score with 9:48 left. Soon after, the officials began utilizing a running clock. The Dolphins still scored twice more before halftime, at which point they had a 37-6 advantage.
Bellarmine-Jefferson did not fold coming out after the break and AJ Navarro intercepted Mavredakis on the opening possession of the third quarter. However, the Guards failed to get a first down and then had their punt blocked. One play later, Mavredakis ran for his second touchdown. The Guards once again could not get a first down, but they did manage to get off a punt. However, after stopping the Chadwick return, two Guards, including Roberts, stayed down after the play and Fauria, having seen enough, called a stop to the game.
It was Roberts who did the majority of the work for the Guards, playing in the secondary, at quarterback, returning kicks and punting, and he took a repeated pounding for his efforts. He was two of three through the air for 71 yards, the one touchdown and one interception, which the Dolphins returned for a touchdown. He also carried the ball 10 times for one yard.
“We don’t have enough guys,” Roberts said. “Some of us, it was our first time playing. We just came out to have fun.”
So 23 days after the original date the Guards were to begin their season, it began with a formidable foe in the Dolphins, who have now won all four of their games and are ranked No. 5 in the CIF-Southern Section’s Northeast Division, of which Bellarmine-Jefferson is also a member.
The Guards’ next game was scheduled to be on Thursday against Pasadena Poly, which is ranked No. 2 in the Northeast, but instead it will be on Saturday against Campbell Hall, which earlier this month forfeited a scheduled game against the Panthers. Poly will instead play Brentwood, the team the Guards canceled their Sept. 9 game against.
“That was an agreement we all made together,” Fauria said. “It felt like it was a better game for us and Campbell Hall.”