It wasn’t always pretty but Blessed Trinity found their way past Westminster in their season opener at Titan Field, using three defensive scores and key turnovers to top the rival Wildcats 25-20.
“An ugly win is better than ugly loss, I know that,” said BT (1-0 overall) coach Tim McFarlin after the win, his second in two years over Westminster (0-1). “It was a sloppy game and really looked like the first game of the season in August, but our defense made some huge plays, our kids played really hard and I am proud of them.”
In a game that featured 17 penalties, three turnovers, and a bevy of miscues on both sides, Blessed Trinity found their first points of the season on a gift from the Westminster special teams unit.
Holding a touchdown lead early in the second quarter Wildcat punter Harrison Butker watched a snap sail over his head and into the end zone, resulting in two points and a safety for the home Titans.
Now trailing 7-2, Blessed Trinity took the free kick and got their offense clicking for the first time, marching 45 yards in five plays to take a 9-7 lead. Senior quarterback Spencer McManes connected on all three passes on the drive including a 13-yard touchdown strike to fullback Casey Bradley.
With three minutes to play BT linebacker Pat Jasinski added to the lead with what was the play of the night, stripping a Wildcat receiver and racing 38 yards to give BT a 16-7 lead heading into half.
Westminster fought back in the second half, cutting the lead to 16-14 in the third quarter, but every time they clawed close on the scoreboard a BT defender made a huge play.
Senior Nathaniel Maggio forced a safety in the end zone to pad the BT lead to 18-14 in the third quarter and the Titan defense thwarted the next two drives by picking off Wildcat quarterback Jack Forte on tipped balls -- the first falling into the hands of defensive back Carter McManes and the second being snagged by Jon Jon Yu after Maggio batted a ball in the air.
“It was a total team effort by the guys on that side of the ball, really they were the story of the game. Every time we needed a play they made it,” said McFarlin.
While the defense was making plays the BT offense was looking for answers in the backfield as they tried to replace senior tailback Jordan Denson -- who was lost to a knee injury a week before the game.
Senior Timmy Mertz carried the load in the first half with 34 yards on nine carries, but it was freshman Milton Shelton that provided the needed spark in the final two quarters -- rushing for 112 second half yards and a 33-yard scamper that put the game out of reach with just over two minutes to play.
“[Shelton] was able to give us an extra step in there when we needed it which was huge,” said McFarlin.
Forte added a touchdown run of three yards in the waning seconds but BT fell on the ensuing onside kick to bring the game to a 25-20 final.
Blessed Trinity 25, Westminster 20
WS 7 0 7 6 — 20
BT 0 16 0 9 — 25
WS: Nigel Walker 1 run (Harrison Butker kick)
BT: Casey Bradley 13 pass from Spencer McManes (Marc Nolan kick)
BT: Pat Jasinski 38 fumble return (Nolan kick)
WS: Walker 33 run (Butker kick)
BT: Milton Shelton 33 run (Nolan kick)
WS: Jake Forte 3 run (conversion failed)
15 First Downs 15
113 Rushing Yards 156
138 Passing Yards 75
251 Total Yards 231
11/26 Comp/Attempts 9/20
2 Interceptions 0
2/1 Fumbles/Lost 0/0
9/105 Penalties/Yards 8/65
3/46.0 Punts/Averages 5/37.0
RUSHING: Westminster — Walker 10-57, Forte 4-16, Reid Love 4-9, McClain Bradley 3-18, Jackson Egan 3-3, Connor Bennett 2-17, Cameron Seward 1-2, Harrison Woodward 1-2, Kyle Murphy 1-(-11). Blessed Trinity — Shelton 17-112, McManes 8-1, Timmy Mertz 9-34, Sam Roberts 4-9.
PASSING: Westminster — Forte 11-25-2, 138, Hunter Davis 0-1-0, 0. Blessed Trinity — McManes 9-20-0, 75.
RECEIVING: Westminster — Bennett 4-29, Bradley 1-(-1), Seward 2-27, Joe Bridges 1-15, Nelson Douglas 1-51, Jake Johnson 1-10, Hunter Davis 1-7. Blessed Trinity — Roberts 4-30, Mertz 1-9, Bradley 1-13, Chris Siebert 2-16, John Davis 1-7.