At the start of the 2012 season, it's a fair statement to say that not many people would have predicted that the Walsh Jesuit Warriors would start out 0-4.
After four tough losses, the Warriors finally came out on top Friday night, cruising past the visiting Padua Bruins, 35-7, in both teams' North Coast League opener at Conway Memorial Stadium on the campus of Walsh Jesuit.
Walsh came right out of the gate on jumped on the scoreboard, as Sophomore Pat Ford capped off a 63 yard drive with a 33 yard touchdown pass to Senior Crissean Caver, and with Mike Knoll's extra point the Warriors were ahead 7-0 less than two minutes into the contest.
Padua nearly answered right back, as they drove all the way down to the one yard line of the Warriors, before a fumble was recovered by Ryan Budny of Walsh to thwart the Bruins' chance.
"When you get the opportunity on the one yard line like that, you have to punch it in," said Padua Head Coach Tony Shuman. "What a great answer that would have been."
The Warriors took advantage, as they marched down the field with a twelve play, 82 yard drive that was ended when Senior Zach Kordich stormed into the endzone on a one yard scamper, and Walsh led 14-0 after the first quarter.
The Walsh defense was spectacular in the 2nd Quarter, as they held the Bruins to just 25 yards of offense. Immediately after a Padua punt, Senior Doug Lewis tossed a 44 yard bomb to Caver in the endzone, giving the Warriors a commanding 21-0 lead at the half.
"I thought we had opportunities to make plays early on," said Shuman, in his 7th year as head coach at his alma mater. "In the big moments, whether it was a key call or a chance to get on the loose ball, right from the opening kick I feel that that they made some key plays. We weren't able to make key plays. They took what was a tough game where they had the advantage and blew it into a game where the advantage was too big for us to overcome."
Another Padua fumble, this one recovered by Walsh Junior Bryan DiCillo, led to a one yard touchdown run to put the Warriors ahead 28-0. Lewis then intercepted a pass on the ensuing Padua drive, and things did not look pretty at all for the Brown and White of Padua.
"We had to come out in the 2nd half and answer the bell," said Shuman. "Effort wasn't the problem. We had great effort and a tight team out there. We're going to be ready to step up to the next challenge. It's my job as coach and all of our jobs as coaches to find to way to get better."
DiCillo, who has been instrumental for Walsh Jesuit all season, continued to dominate the Bruin defense as he scored on a 21 yard scamper less than four minutes in the final quarter. The Junior finished with 71 yards on 11 carries, in addition to being a part of more than ten tackles on the defensive side of the ball.
"This feels great," said DiCillo of the victory. "We've had a rough season so far so it feels good to come out with a win.
"Our run game was going well and our pass game was going well," continued DiCillo, as the Warriors totalled 249 yards on the ground and 103 in the air. "We did everything right today."
Padua finally got on the scoreboard when Sophomore Nick Medaglia scored on a sweep play, running 26 yards for a Bruin touchdown. Senior Matt Bahnij's successful extra point was the final scoring of the game, leaving the final score at 35-7 Warriors.
Kordich was just as big on both offense and defense as DiCillo was for Walsh, as he ran for 95 yards on 16 carries in addition to numerous tackles. Ford completed three of eight passes for 61 yards.
For the Bruins, Senior Nick Mog completed four passes for 35 yards as well as rushing for 36 yards. Sophomore Brett James was 6 of 12 for 52 yards, and Senior Will Hughes and Medaglia combined for 62 yards on the ground. Seniors Michael Kleem and Brandon Sforzo each recovered fumbles for the Bruins. Senior Vinnie Minosky compiled 162 yards on six kickoff returns.
"You only want one kickoff return per game if you're doing everything right, but unfortunately we had a lot of kick returns today," said Shuman. "That unit did well. The defense at times played real well. Offensively in certain areas we were able to do things and expand our offense."
Walsh Jesuit improves to 1-4 on the year, while Padua drops to 2-4 overall.
"I always tell people, you have to look at teams' schedules and who they play," said Shuman. "North Coast League teams play great teams out of conference. [Walsh] lost to some very good teams and had some tough ball games."
Next up for the Bruins is a home game against the Knights of Archbishop Hoban at Padua Stadium for Homecoming. Kickoff is at 7pm.