Flyers' defense shuts down Austin Regents
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There was just over three minutes left in the fourth quarter and St. Joseph faced a fourth and three from Austin Regents' 21-yard line. Clinging to a three-point lead, the Flyers' knew how important the play was.
St. Joseph head coach Kevin Auten called a timeout and made a very bold prediction.
"We're going to score," he said.
That's exactly what happened. Senior quarterback Jerry Vasquez, who had already thrown two interceptions, connected with fellow senior Eric Alvarez for a 21 yard touchdown that put the game out of reach of the Knights' grasp, 19-9.
"The game was on the line," Vasquez said about the play. "I was confident. I knew my teammates had my back and, I put it in their hands."
The loss was the first of the season for Regents (5-1, 1-2). It was just the second of the season for St. Joseph (2-4), but, most importantly, it was gave the Flyers a 2-1 record in TAPPS Division II, District 3.
"This was huge," Auten said. "This puts us 2-1 in district and gives us a good outlook to try and get one of those spots in the playoffs."
St. Joseph turned in its best defensive performance of 2012, giving up no offensive points to the Knights and just 131 yards of total offense.
Regents' nine points came in the opening minutes of the second half when Tony Kwiatkowski returned an interception 30 yards to cut the deficit to 12-7. Two plays later it picked up a safety when the ball was snapped to an unprepared Vasquez from the Flyers' 24-yard line.
Barclay Proctor prevented the Knights from scoring a touchdown by kicking the ball out the back of the end zone.
"A very, very smart play by Proctor," Auten said.
Proctor played a critical role on both sides of the ball, pounding his way to 75 rushing yards and the game's second touchdown.
Doug Wall put St. Joseph on the scoreboard first in the second quarter with a 13-yard run around the end after Vasquez faked the ball to Proctor.
It was a play the Flyers had run plenty of times before, but never with this much success. St. Joseph gained 158 rushing yards on the night and most of them came on the exact same play.
"It just so happens that we executed a lot better this week," Auten said.
The play also gave St. Joseph its second touchdown of the night when Proctor broke five tackles on a 13-yard run.
While the offense was able to move the ball, it was St. Joseph's defense which stood in the limelight of success. On the Knights' first six-possessions of the game, St. Joseph's defense forced one punt, three turnovers on downs, a fumble and an interception.
"We just turned up the heat," Auten said. "Turned up the intensity in practice and I felt like our kids could come out play. We understood we needed to play with more intensity."
Sometimes that intensity spilled over in the form of eight penalties that cost the Flyers 81 yards. None of the penalties, however, were bigger than the ones at the start of the fourth quarter.
Trailing 12-9, Regents drove down the field to within St. Joseph territory. After Alex Coleman sacked Grant Brown for a seven-yard loss, the Flyers were penalized for a sideline violation. Before the next play ran the Flyers were charged with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
Instead of facing third-and-17 from the Flyers' 46-yard line, Regents had a first and 10 from the 26.
The Knights actually managed to find the end zone, but the five yard run by Andrew Meynig was called back on a holding penalty. Two plays later, on fourth down, a triple reverse play by Regents went unsuccessful.
It would be the closest the Knights' offense would come to scoring all night.
There is some bad news for St. Joseph, however. Cameron Zafereo left the game midway through the second quarter with a hyper-extended knee. Vasquez, who completed seven passes for 81 yards, had his right leg wrapped in ice after game.
"I'm fine," he said. "I'll be all right."