By Brian McKim
The 2016 Irish football season got underway Friday night, Aug. 26, and it didn’t disappoint. After raining off and on all day, the clouds moved out and a rainbow was seen over the field soon after kickoff. Maybe it was a sign for what was to happen.
The Irish, playing without 316 pound senior Bryant Jorn, were able to stay within striking distance for three quarters before pulling out a last minute dramatic victory over the Nebraska City Lourdes.
The Irish were once down 18-0 early in the second quarter and they trailed 24-8 as they entered half time.
When asked what gave the them such trouble the first half Coach Goltz replied, “we made too many mistakes, we were sloppy with some penalties, which helped them keep some drives going.”
Everything seemed to change after the first half. Coach Goltz said they made some defensive adjustments that paid off. He also said that the coaches reminded the players that they had and entire half to play, and that’s just what they did.
The Irish first possession of the third quarter looked too much like the two quarters before. Quarterback Drew Bippes was picked off at the Lourdes seven yard line, to end the drive. The defense held, and on the next set of downs Bippes found Junior Noah Keller with a screen pass to the right side of the field. Keller cut against the defense and raced 63 yards for the touchdown with 5:47 remaining in the third quarter. The conversion attempt failed but the Irish had cut the deficit to 24-16. Nebraska City drove the field but was stopped by the Irish defense on the eight yard line after a fourth down pass fell incomplete.
In the fourth quarter, the Irish capped off a 12 play, 72 yard drive when Bippes hit Emerson Keithley for a 13 yard touchdown. With the score 24-22, it looked like the Irish had the Lourdes on the ropes. However the celebration didn’t last long as the Lourdes took the kickoff back 72 yards and scored a touchdown two plays later, making the score 30-22.
The Irish didn’t get their heads down though as they promptly drove 65 yards on just six plays which ended with Bippes hitting Christian Harring for a nine yard touchdown pass.
With just 5:47 to go in the game, the Irish trailed the Lourdes by just two points, 30-28.
Nebraska City was moving the ball on their next drive when Brandon Scheitel not only rushed the quarterback, he stripped the ball and returned it 25 yards down the field dragging opponents to the Lourdes nine yard line. With 1:46 to go, on fourth and goal, Bippes found Emerson Keithley again, this time right at the goal line. He was able to stretch over the pylon for the go ahead touchdown. The point after attempt failed but for the first time in the game the Irish had the lead 34-30.
After the kickoff, Nebraska City drove to the 11 yard line of the Irish. On first down, the quarterback ran to the eight yard line. That’s when the defense dug in. The next three plays, all pass attempts, fell incomplete. Sacred Heart took the ball over on downs, and took a knee to end the ball game.
”It was a team effort on both sides of the ball. We had some guys cramp up the second half so our depth really helped us,” said Coach Doug Goltz.
For the Irish, Bippes led the ground attack with 12 carries for 74 yards. Bippes also led the air attack completing 16 of 23 pass attempts for 243 yards and an outstanding five touchdowns. The receiving corps was led by Emerson Keithley who had, six receptions for 63 yards and two touchdowns. Noah Keller had three catches for 78 yards and a touchdown.
Emerson and Tristan Keithley both came up big on the defensive side of the ball each with 15 total tackles, followed by Austin Ahern who had nine stops of his own, including a quarterback sack.
Sacred Heart (1-0) will be on the road this week as they travel to Weeping Water (0-1) for a 7:00 kickoff.
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