Error-plagued Vikings fall short of postseason
Whatever lessons St. Laurence players may have learned from their mistakes Saturday afternoon won’t help them until 2014.
That was the painful reality for the Vikings after they dropped a 28-14 verdict to Chicago Catholic League White champion Fenwick at Morton West High School. St. Laurence needed to win its finale to have any hope of extending its season beyond Week 9, but a total of six turnovers undermined that mission.
There’s no question the Vikings were vastly improved in their second campaign under Harold Blackmon, but the coach wasn’t quite ready to declare himself satisfied.
“Maybe as time goes on, I’ll change my opinion of it,” Blackmon said. “But I judge success on the field by wins and losses, and we didn’t win enough. You’re never satisfied totally unless you go all the way [to the top].”
St. Laurence (4-5), which will not be offered a spot in the upcoming Catholic League playoffs, wasn’t without opportunities to upset the Friars. Fenwick scored touchdowns on each of its first three possessions — running back Robert Spillane notched all of the TDs — and required a total of just eight plays to do so, but the hosts grew relatively quiet after that.
While some damage was obviously done to the Vikings in the early going, St. Laurence may have actually inflicted a greater degree of it on itself over the entire course of the contest. The Vikes did answer one of the Friars’ first-quarter scores when Mike Sterna’s 4-yard reception successfully capped a 10-play, 80-yard drive.
However, St. Laurence also missed a short field goal and fumbled the ball away at Fenwick’s 2-yard line during the opening half. Another drop occurred at the Friars’ 44.
“We did not play up to our expectations,” Blackmon said. “It was a little disappointing to see us not take advantage of [scoring] opportunities. It’s something we have to focus on [improving] going into next season.
“The defense and offense have to complement each other. You can’t have only one side doing well.”
After a rough beginning, the Vikings’ prevention crew settled down enough to where Fenwick wound up with 40 fewer total yards than its visitors. The Friars, who also committed three miscues of their own, were blanked on the scoreboard over the final 30-plus minutes.
Keying the defensive effort for St. Laurence was senior Eric Sadowski, who had seven stops, four assists, one sack and a fumble recovery. Josh Smith (three solos, four assists) and Tom Lyons (two solos, six assists) were also among the tackles leaders, while Frank Miller and Julian Gonzales both made fumble recoveries as well.
The second half, in fact, could almost be classified as a comedy of errors, as both clubs practiced a slippery-hands routine. One fourth-quarter sequence featured, in rapid succession, a Fenwick fumble being sandwiched between a pair of Rich Schoen interceptions.
Schoen accounted for all three pickoffs of Bob Kelly, the first of which halted a Vikings trek at the Friars’ 6-yard line. Fenwick also missed out on padding its total in the third period when a touchdown got expunged by a penalty.
Kelly, who completed 25-of-48 passes for 293 yards, did strike paydirt once in the second half as he crossed the goal line on a 2-yard keeper. His toss to Pete Kopacz gave St. Laurence two more points on a conversion.
Kopacz, Miller and Sterna combined to catch 20 of Kelly’s aerials and gain 214 yards between them. Miller also paced the rushing attack with 50 yards on 19 carries.
Although the Vikings didn’t have enough in the tank to overtake the Friars, Blackmon appreciated his athletes’ refusal to cave in at the first sign of adversity.
“That’s one thing we’ve been better at: staying mentally attuned and not displaying that old attitude of defeat,” he said. “We had solid senior leadership and we improved in terms of mental toughness. Guys are getting a lot more comfortable in our system and we have a good group of guys across the board.”
One group that particularly prospered this fall was St. Laurence’s freshmen, who brought a Catholic League White title back to Burbank. With success enjoyed at the lower levels, Blackmon believes a foundation is in place for the near future.
And in spite of falling short of entry into the Class 7A tournament, the varsity program also laid some positive groundwork.
“Our goal is to just get better,” Blackmon said, “and we’ll use this year as a springboard going into next year.”
While the second-year leader didn’t directly criticize the league hierarchy for St. Laurence’s absence from the Catholic League playoffs, he believes the Vikings would have definitely benefited from an invitation.
“We need every single day of [extra] practice we can get,” Blackmon said.
St. Laurence 6 0 0 8 - 14
Fenwick 21 7 0 0 - 28
First downs 17 15
Yds. rushing 44 208
Yds. passing 293 89
Total yds. 337 297
Att./comp. 49-25 14-6
Fumbles/lost 4-3 4-3
Had intercepted 3 0
Penalties/yds. 1-8 6-60
Punts/avg. 3-26.7 5-26.2
FW — Robert Spillane, 1-yd. pass from Gino Cavalieri (Michael Cahill kick)
SL — Mike Sterna, 4-yd. pass from Bob Kelly (kick failed)
FW — Spillane, 60-yd. run (Cahill kick)
FW — Spillane, 3-yd. run (Cahill kick)
FW — Michael Hanrahan, 12-yd. pass from Cavalieri (Cahill kick)
SL — Kelly, 2-yd. run (Pete Kopacz, pass from Kelly)
St. Laurence Rushing: Miller 19-50, Gonzales 2-11, Kelly 5-(-17). Passing: Kelly 48-25-293, Sterna 1-0-0. Receiving: Sterna 7-67, Miller 7-52, Kopacz 6-95, Kolniak 3-55, Gamboa 2-24.