COLFAX - For a fleeting moment, it looked as if DeSales was going to pull off a last-second touchdown and have a chance to go for the win here Friday against two-time state Class 2B runner-up Colfax in non-conference football action.
DeSales' Ryan Baumgart broke free on a post pattern to the middle of the end zone with 50 seconds left and the Irish down 20-13. Jeremiah Cox lifted a pass toward what appeared to be a wide open Baumgart.
It was not to be for the Irish as Justin Berarducci crossed from his safety position and picked off the pass. The Bulldogs ran out the clock to take a 20-13 win.
"We were kind of out of rhythm with our passing game (18-for-38) and never settled in," Irish coach Pat Graham said. "You have to give them (Colfax) credit for that. Jeremiah was kind of staring down his receivers. Ryan was open, but we had to find him a bit sooner. When they have a good secondary, you can't let balls hang up there. And Justin Berarducci made some big plays."
The Irish won the toss and deferred to open the game. The Bulldogs elected to play defense first.
DeSales almost made the Bulldogs pay for that decision as Cox connected on five of his first seven passes - two catches by Joe Duehn for 17 yards, two by Darryl Galloway for 17 yards, and one by Nick Wales for nine - as the Irish marched 56 yards in six minutes to the Bulldog 19 before the drive stalled.
Back came Colfax as the Bulldogs marched to the Irish 25 before Mat Zimmerman sacked quarterback Berarducci on a fourth-down attempt to end the drive and end a scoreless first quarter.
After an exchange of punts to open the second period, the Irish took over at their own 25.
The Bulldogs got a steady diet of Wales. Wales carried five times for 34 yards to lead the Irish to the Bulldog 30. Cox audibled into one last run and Wales broke off right tackle and battled his way for a 30-yard touchdown run. Galloway added the point after and the Irish led 7-0 with 6:52 left in the half.
"There's nothing better than when your line gets a big open hole for you," Wales said. "I was proud of my line. We knew Colfax would come out and blitz, and bring the pressure. They (the Irish offensive line) handled it really well."
On the ensuing kickoff, Colfax's Alvin Li busted a 78-yard return and the Bulldogs had the ball at the Irish 4.
Three plays later, Levi Hardy powered in from the 2, but an errant pitch nullified the 2-point attempt and the Irish clung to a 7-6 lead.
"The biggest key tonight was special teams," Graham said. "We were solid last week (a 39-7 win over La Salle) on special teams. This week we had three miscues that were the difference in the game. The big kickoff return, the punt return (in the third quarter), and the partially blocked punt (in the fourth). Those set up their scores and changed the momentum."
The Irish got the lead back following a Galloway 25-yard punt return midway through the third.
The Irish took over at the Bulldog 38. Luke Fazzari ran for four, Wales ran for 24, and Cox threw a jump ball to Baumgart in the end zone. Baumgart went up with Brady Ellis and took the ball away from Ellis and the Irish led 13-6 with 6:29 left in the quarter.
The Irish punted to Austin Corean to end their next possession. Corean caught the ball in stride at his 45 and sprinted to the Irish 1.
"On that punt, our sideline called ‘Peter' for us to get away from the ball," Wales said. "So we scattered from the guy (Corean) and he caught it and ran it down the field."
Li took it in from the 1 and Berarducci hit Jay Hart for the 2-point conversion and the Bulldogs led 14-13 heading to the fourth.
DeSales was forced to punt on its second possession of the fourth, but Colfax got a piece of the ball and the punt went 25 yards to the Colfax 45.
Berarducci hit Hart for 25 yards to highlight the drive and Jacob Altieri took it the last six for a 20-13 Bulldog lead with 1:45 left.
Isaiah Scheel returned the ensuing kickoff 35 yards to set the Irish up at the Bulldog 49 with 93 ticks left.
Cox-to-Duehn for 20 yards. Cox-to-Baumgart for seven more. Cox went to Baumgart for the TD but Berarducci made the interception to save this one for the Bulldogs.
"Our receivers in the two-minute O, made some good plays," Wales said. "Jeremiah had a heck of a game. We did some good things."
Wales ran for 160 yards, Duehn caught eight balls for 65 yards, and Galloway caught four for 37 to lead the Irish offense.
"The ability to run the ball was a bright spot for us," Graham said. "Their front seven is really good. Nick (Wales) was able to impose his will. He's a strong, physical kid, and he came on and did really well."
The Irish defense limited the Bulldogs to 169 yards of total offense.
"Our defensive line was great," Irish linebacker Wales said. "Colfax has always been a great team and their lines are big and physical, so we were counting on those guys (defensive line). We knew we had a tough challenge, and we came out and handled it well."
The Irish drop to 1-1 on the season and travel to White Swan to conclude the non-conference season Friday.
"It was good to get in a game with those guys and battle it out," Graham said. "Our kids played well. Our defense played well enough to win, unfortunately we made some mistakes in other phases of the game that were really costly.
"There were positives to build on," Graham concluded. "You're going to make mistakes, and you're going to work to fix them and keep getting better. Bottom line (tonight), we were one pass short, but you like to be in these tough battles as they'll make us better down the road."
Colfax 20, DeSales 13
DeSales 0 7 6 0 - 13
Colfax 0 6 8 6 - 20
DeS - Wales 30 run (Galloway kick).
Col - Hardy 2 run (run failed).
DeS - Baumgart 10 pass from Cox (kick failed).
Col - Li 1 run (Hart pass from Berarducci).
Col - Altieri 6 run (kick failed).
First downs 15 6
Rushes/yards 30-137 30-121
Passing yards 66 48
Passes (att-comp-int) 38-18-1 12-4-0
Punts 4-25.5 4-38.0
Fumbles-lost 2-0 2-0
Penalties-yards 5-35 9-60
RUSHING - DeS: Wales 22-160, Fazzari 4-4, Cox 2-4, Elmenhurst 1-(-11), Team 1-(-20); Col: Li 17-79, Hardy 5-16, Berarducci 5-27, McNannay 1-3, Altieri 1-6, Team 1-(-10).
PASSING - DeS: Cox 18-38-1 66 yards; Col: Berarducci 4-12-0 48 yards.
RECEIVING - DeS: Duehn 8-65, Galloway 4-37, Wales 2-4, Elmenhurst 1-1, Baumgart 3-24-1; Col: Li 1-14, Klaveano 1-0, Hart 2-34.