Football offense continues to struggle in defensive showdown

With the reigning state champs, Graham Kapowsin, coming to town, the Lions were prepared for an uphill battle, and it certainly felt that way under the Friday Night Lights on Memorial Field. The Lions still have yet to score at home; however, the stellar defense has provided competitive games all season. The game felt much closer than the box score indicated; however the Lions could not get anything going on offense. Falling to 1-3, Bellarmine is now in danger of missing the playoffs for the first time since 2019.

The Lions enter Memorial Field to thunderous applause. (Photo courtesy of Liam McDaniel)

On a crisp autumn night on Sept. 23 the sky was clear and the Lions were ready to get underway. They received the opening kickoff, and that first play would set the offensive tone for the rest of the game. Returner Spencer Truebenbach slipped at the 15-yard line, and what followed was the Lions first of many 3-and-outs.  The Lions defense did what they’ve done all season, forcing a quick stop through Senior defensive end Alec Alvarez in his first game of the season. Joey Bambrick moved the chains for the Lions on a 14 yard run which was the biggest run of the night for the Lions. What followed was offensive stagnation and poor tackling from the defense leading to a 59 yd touchdown by —— marking the first score of the game for either side.

Hoping to ignite a dormant offense, head coach Brian Jensen handed the reins over to sophomore quarterback Dawson Hedrick, whose first play similarly set the tone for the rest of the game; a muffed snap set the Lions back to the 3-yard line which led to a long 4th down and a short punt giving the Eagles an easy six points.

The teams line up at the line of scrimmage ready for the play. (Photo courtesy of Liam McDaniel)

The Lions went into halftime down 13-0, and Coach Brian Jensen made sure the student section knew it was “only a two-score game.”  However the game slowly became out of reach as it quickly turned into a three score game and the uphill battle grew steeper. The defense continued to keep the Lions in it with a big time hit by senior Gavin Ostrander to force fourth down at the end of the third quarter. Out of all people, it was punter Jacob Hundven who gave the Lions life with a fake punt leading to one of their only first downs of the game. However the hype was short lived as Hedrick fumbled the ball in Eagles territory.  On the bottom of the pile, sophomore Darien May ended up with the ball however the play completely derailed any momentum the Lions built. With one last chance to get points on the board the Lions failed to convert on a long fourth down and lose their second game at home and third of the year.

Punter Jacob Hundved (#30) runs for the first down on a trick play.
(Photo courtesy of Liam McDaniel)

When asked about the game senior Chris Carpenter said, “I think it was definitely a winnable game, but I think there were some things that we could clean up on our end to better our team for the future.”

It was not all negative though for the Lions as they continued to show elite special teams with a 59 net yard punt from Huntven and an electric defense who consistently get stops in large part due to their outstanding coverage down the field.  Joey Bambrick as well continued to lower his shoulder and run guys over throughout the game highlighted by a 14-yard run in the first quarter. Although pass protection continues to be a concern the offensive line for the Lions created holes and gave room for Bambrick to be the power back he is.

Despite many positives from Bellarmine the glaring weakness continues to be their inconsistent air attack. Tyler Stowers did not complete a pass on four throws and although Hedrick started with two completions ended, the night going 3-9 on passing attempts. With Hedrick taking over after the first few drives we are left to wonder if he will get his first career start on Saturday night.

Even with going 1-3 to start the campaign the lions are ranked #27 for 4A teams in Washington. This is in large part due to the strength of teams the Lions have faced up until this point. Although they have already played two powerhouses the Lions schedule is seemingly getting harder. The South Puget Sound League is far in away the hardest league in all of Washington and considered by many the most competitive league in the Pacific Northwest, with seven teams being in the top thirty and a staggering five teams in the top twelve. In fact the top three teams in the state all have homes in the SPSL and unfortunately for the Lions have to play the Emerald Ridge Jaguars and Puyallup Vikings who are ranked number one and number three in the state respectively.

Up next for the Lions will be the Curtis Vikings who are led by dual threat quarterback Rocco Koch. The Vikings have a 2-2 record on the season,  losing to the Sumner Spartans and the Emerald Ridge Jaguars. The Lions hope to replicate some offensive magic against the Vikings just how they did in their last away game racking up 23 points against the Roger Rams. When questioned about the upcoming game Chris Carpenter stated, “ We all know Curtis, they are our hometown rival, but it’s just another game, and another seven o’clock under the lights.”

Will it truly be like any other game this season? Or will the Lions stop their offensive woes and upset Curtis? On Saturday night at Curtis we will find out and see if the Lions can turn their season around.

The team gathers as the game ends. (Photo by Drew Albaugh)