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Business as usual for Bruins

As known all along, the St. Bede Bruins have been bumped up to Class 3A, if they reached the playoffs this season after making a successful run to the quarterfinals in 1A. The IHSA enrollment multiplier applied to any private school after winning one game in the playoffs ensured that.

And there’s been absolutely no discussion on the Bruins’ practice field about it as the Bruins prepare for Saturday’s game at Monmouth-Roseville. None.

“It’s pretty much business as usual. We don’t think they play anybody better than we have,” said St. Bede coach John Bellino, a veteran of 33 seasons at the Academy.

“I don’t think it really affects us. We play in a tough conference all year. We’re just going to compete and play our game,” St. Bede junior Michael Bellino said.

The Bruins linebacker added the Bruins have to step up their game come playoff time no matter what class they are in.

“Playoffs are always a big time. Obviously, we’ve got to play even harder than always,” he said. “We’re just going to keep working harder and every day and try to improve.”

The Bruins finished in a second-place tie in the Big Rivers Conference with Amboy/LaMoille but defeated the Clippers in head-to-head play. Their losses came to undefeated and No. 1, 3A-ranked Sterling Newman 27-6 and 6-3 Morrison (27-14, the defending state champion in 2A).

Monmouth-Roseville also brings in a 7-2 record, winners of six straight. The Titans fell to No. 7-ranked Macomb (4A) 27-12 in Week 1 and to 2A playoff entry Orion 21-18 in Week 3. Along the way, M-R has defeated two state-ranked teams — 8-1 St. Joseph-Ogden, a No. 3 seed in 3A, and 7-2 Rockridge, a No. 6 seed in 2A, as well as a third playoff team in 7-1 Carthage Illini West, a No. 5 seed in 2A.

Bellino said game films don’t show a lot of things, but one that stands out is the speed of M-R back Martel Hunter. He is their all-purpose player on both sides of the ball, rushing for 1,402 yards and 18 TDs and hauling in 11 receptions for 130 yards and three scores. He also leads the team with 84 tackles and three interceptions (one TD return) and has even recovered a fumble on a score.

“You can see he outruns a lot of kids on the field,” said Bellino, also noting the presence of 6-foot-5 receiver Trayvon Smith (4-61). “They’re a real solid football team.”

Mon-Rose coach Jeremy Adolphson said the same thing about St. Bede, calling the Bruins a physical football team and the biggest team they have played this year.
"I am extremely impressed with their defense.  They are not easily fooled and tackle very well.  Offensively they are huge on the right side and do a good job of utilizing their power game that way.  Their QB throws the ball well and they are more than willing to throw it at anytime to multiple receivers.
The key for us will be neutralizing their size with great technique and low pad level.  Our ability to throw the ball at key times will be necessary to create more space for our running game.  Defensively the key will be shedding blocks and tackling.  As always turnovers and penalties will play a huge role in the game if one team can take advantage more than the other." 
Michael Bellino said the Bruins returning from last year’s playoff run gained invaluable experience.

“It was awesome. Last year was really fun. One of best memories of my life,” he said.
“This year, a lot of us are back with a lot of experience. We know what we’re getting ourselves into. We’re just going to come ready to go.”

The secret to another successful playoff run will be threefold, the Bruins coach said.

“Obviously we have to stay healthy. That’s No. 1,” John Bellino said. “And you have to eliminate mistakes, and we have to play with intensity. Every game is an important game; every down is an important down.”

"I am looking forward to a great atmosphere Saturday night against a very good football team.  This why coaches coach and players play this great game," Adolphson said.

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