There was not going to be any kind of runaway on a cloudy, breezy night at Aloha Stadium.
Saint Louis, ranked as high as No. 10 nationally, appeared to be on the brink of a rout of No. 15 Bishop Gorman (Nev.). Two early TD strikes by Jayden de Laura helped the Crusaders roar to a 21-0 lead midway through the second quarter.
The visitors would not relent. Ultra-athletic QB Micah Bowens led the Gaels on a scoring drive, tossing a 12-yard TD pass to Washington commit Rome Odunze with 2:55 left in the first half.
Bishop Gorman then buckled down defensively and Bowens scored on a 16-yard keeper with 4:15 to go in the third quarter, pulling his team within 21-13. After Saint Louis’ offense stalled again, Bishop Gorman had the ball late in the third quarter.
That’s when the Crusader defense came up with the biggest play of the game. Bowens’ lateral throw to RB Jaydn Ott was dropped, and when the Crusaders didn’t hear a whistle, they kept motoring. Two of them tackled Ott, who had stopped playing. He fumbled, and Nick Herbig scooped up the ball for an 11-yard return and a crucial touchdown.
Saint Louis led 28-13 with 19 seconds left in the third, and the Gaels never threatened again in an eventual 31-19 loss.
“Me and Lawai (Brown) saw the running back and hit him, and we finished off the play just like our coaches tell us at practice. You always play to the whistle,” said Herbig, a commit to Wisconsin. “Coach Cal (Lee), all of our coaches tell us that every day.”
Lee, who coaches the linebackers and played the position in college, was stoked.
“Oh, I was happy. Who wouldn’t be? They kept playing to the whistle, and that’s how you play the game. Don’t stop until you hear the whistle blow,” he said. “Any time you score defensively, that’s big.”
Lee had emphasized to his defense the need to keep Bowens contained. Speedy as the Crusaders are, Lee came into the game believing Bowens is the best QB they’ve seen at this juncture of the season.
“Well, we did at time. That was a big point of our practices, to make sure he doesn’t scramble because he can run the ball,” Lee said.
The longtime coach and many of his veteran players took the win in stride, even over a program that was the unofficial national champion in 2014-16.
“It feels good. I feel good whenever we win, if it’s Bishop Gorman or it’s Alabama, you’ve got to feel good,” Lee said.