AMBOY — A running team that is forced to pass the ball usually is a recipe for disaster.
Such was the fate of the Amboy Clippers, whose normally potent rushing attack ground to a halt against St. Bede on Friday. The Bruins hit on just enough big plays to build a lead, then hung on for a 20-14 victory at the Harbor.
St. Bede is stout up front, and a pair of mean, agile linebackers, Brandon Pietrowski and Michael Bellino, were there to clean up any messes left behind. Amboy rushed 33 times for just 66 yards. Halfbacks Spencer Johnson and Cooper Nelson, who each had more than 500 yards entering the game, combined for 16 yards on 12 carries.
“They stacked the corners on us, so we couldn’t get the ball to the outside,” Amboy coach Gary Jones said. “Those two inside linebackers kicked our [butts] in the middle. They just took away our running game period. We threw the ball successfully, but we’ve got to be able to run the ball, and we couldn’t do it.”
“We shut a good running team down,” St. Bede coach John Bellino said, “and that was the key to the game.”
Amboy (6-1) struck first on a 68-yard pass from Tyson Powers to Nelson late in the first quarter, but St. Bede (5-2) responded with 20 unanswered points.
Austin Schwab scored on a 5-yard run early in the second quarter. A few minutes later the Bruins were on verge of another score. Schwab got the call from the Amboy 2, but he fumbled amid a huge pileup. The ball squirted out to quarterback Taggart Venegas, who went in untouched for a go-ahead score.
Up 12-7 at halftime, the Bruins went for broke on their first play of the second half. Venegas lofted a bomb to Brad Groleau, who outfought Powers for the ball, and the result was a 68-yard scoring play just 20 seconds into the second half.
“We opened up with that play in the first half and just missed it,” coach Bellino said, “and we thought we could come back to it. It was a big play.”
Amboy fought back two possessions later with a 6-play, 51-yard drive capped off by a 2-yard run by Bailey Appleman to narrow the deficit to 20-14.
The Clippers then reached the St. Bede 8-yard line midway through the fourth quarter, but a fourth-down pass play was snuffed out by Bruins defender Justin Shaw, whose sack ended the threat.
Amboy had one more chance, but a fourth down pass from the St. Bede 44 with 4:45 remaining was broken up.
Some savvy quarterback play from Venegas down the stretch salted away the victory for the Bruins.
Bobby Morrow rushed 17 times for 102 yards to pace the St. Bede attack. Venegas passed for another 112 yards.
Powers passed for 166 yards for Amboy, but the lack of a steady running game sealed the Clippers’ fate.
“We got a little one-dimensional there when they shut down our running game,” Powers said. “We’ve got to be able to run the ball better.”