Justin Baker recaps Kennedy Catholic’s rally against Bethel
When the game was on the line for Kennedy Catholic against the Bethel Braves on Friday night at CenturyLink Field in front of an energized crowd, on a game being televised nationally on ESPNU, it was the Lancers’ defense that stepped up.
Clinging to a 25-20 lead late in the third quarter, Kennedy Catholic’s defense held Bethel on a fourth-and-one in the red zone.
It was a crucial stop for the Lancers. A year ago? It probably wouldn’t have happened. For as good as Kennedy’s offense was last year, the defense was a weak point for the team.
“That’s so clutch,” said Kennedy Catholic receiver and Cal commit Justin Baker. “The most important thing this year was to get stops on defense. Our offense is going to score, that’s a fact. So if our defense can get stops, that really puts us up there to be one of the best teams out there.”
Kennedy Catholic took advantage of the stop, when Huard found Baker for a 30-yard touchdown to put the Lancers up by 12. Kennedy Catholic eventually held on for a 32-27 win over a scrappy Bethel squad from the 3A PCL.
“We’re bigger, older, and we’ve been in the weight room,” said Lancers’ coach Sheldon Cross. “Our defense played great. We’ve spent so much time on it. We knew we were going to be better and I’m proud of our defense. We punted the ball and played field position and ran the ball tonight.”
Kennedy Catholic 5-star quarterback Sam Huard, a UW commit, finished 15-of-28 passing for 313 yards and four touchdowns. While there were plenty of explosive plays, there were also some early missed chances for the Lancers on offense, which saw limited time on the field due to Bethel’s time of possession on offense.
“This environment, this crowd, it was electric,” Huard said. “It got really loud at times. Once you get into it, it’s just a football game. The field is the same length and all that and you just have to play your game and settle down. I think it took the offense a little bit to kind of settle down and find our rhythm. Credit to Bethel’s defense, they played well. We settled in and did our thing.”
Junior Will Latu was the star of the show for Bethel, scoring four rushing touchdowns and tallying 71 yards on 24 carries. Bethel junior quarterback Kekoa Visperas was solid in his debut for the Braves, completing 19-of-34 passes for 224 yards.
Huard found Baker for two touchdowns, Jabez Tinae for one and Reed Shumpert for another.
“We’ve been prepping for this game for so long,” Baker said. “Everyone knew about it, everyone was excited about it. It was just the first game of the season, some new guys in. Towards the end of the game, we found our rhythm and it’s just going to carry on until the end of the season.”
It wasn’t all perfect for Kennedy Catholic, which racked up 20 penalties for 165 yards in the game.
“We need to have better discipline, 100 percent,” Baker said. “There were so many penalties. We just needed to clean some things up, catch everything, make throws.”
Still, it was an encouraging sign for Kennedy Catholic to win the game partly with stout run defense and running the football on offense. Senior running back Zaire Lozolo tallied 136 yards on 19 carries.
“Zaire was so consistent and reliable, made great runs and blocked,” Huard said. “And our offensive line played great tonight.”
BETHEL 7 7 6 7_27
KENNEDY CATHOLIC 7 12 6 7_32
B – Will Latu 1 run (Cameron Schweyen kick)
KC – Justin Baker 91 kick return (Michael Snyder kick)
B – Will Latu 3 run (Schweyen kick)
KC – Reed Shumpert 30 pass from Sam Huard (kick failed)
KC – Jabez Tinae 11 pass from Huard (conversion failed)
KC – Tinae 85 pass from Huard (conversion failed)
B – Will Latu 1 run (conversion failed)
KC – Baker 30 pass from Huard (Snyder kick)
B – Will Latu 1 run (Schweyen kick)
Passing: B – Kekoa Visperas 19-34-0-224. KC – Huard 15-28-1-313.
Rushing: B – Will Latu 24-71; Visperas 8-35; Prince Malo 1-0; Peter Latu 5-(-6). KC – Zaire Lozolo 19-136; Tinae 1-15; Huard 1-(-2).
Receiving: B – Cameron Parker 6-91; Puka Sokimi 7-69; Malo 1-33; Peter Latu 5-31. KC – Tinae 6-151; Junior Alexander 2-58; Baker 3-55; Shumpert 3-42-1; Lozolo 1-7.