Salesian High's last-ditch pass as time expired.
But when Leiphardt landed, the Mustangs' Eric Galdamez had the
ball in his hands, and was looking at an open 10 yards to the end
In a split-second, Leiphardt regrouped and dived to trip up
Galdamez at the Guards' 9-yard line, preserving Bell-Jeff's 22-14
Santa Fe League victory at Memorial Field, and, most significantly,
keeping the Guards in contention to win their first outright league
championship since 1954.
"Derek is my man," said Bell-Jeff (8-1, 3-0 in league) Coach
Rolando Aguirre, whose team plays host to Cantwell-Sacred Heart at 7
p.m. today at Memorial Field in the regular-season finale for the
Santa Fe League crown.
"We weren't getting it done at first, but we came together as a
team and Leiphardt came through like he's done before."
After blowing out its past two league opponents, 102-0, Bell-Jeff saw a return Saturday to its early-season dramatics. Trailing, 7-0,
at the half, the Guards emerged from the locker room with the look of
a team on a mission.
Fielding the second-half kickoff at his own 34-yard line,
Bell-Jeff's Xavier Avila saw a swarming wall of Salesian defenders,
and lateraled to an alert Leiphardt, who raced 66 yards to put
Bell-Jeff on top, 8-7.
"That kickoff return seemed to get us on track," Aguirre said. "I
told the guys at halftime that they had to make something happen, and
they came right out and did it."
The Mustangs (3-6, 1-2), though, were not about to roll over.
Quarterback George Guerrero's 10-yard scoring strike to Alan De La
Cruz put Salesian back up, 14-8, with 2:12 left in the third quarter.
The fourth quarter, however, belonged to Bell-Jeff, and to the
player in whose hands the Guards would find their fate.
Leiphardt's 40-yard touchdown run with 7:20 remaining tied the
score at 14, as Adrian Anetema was stuffed at the goal line on a
two-point conversion try.
Led by linebackers Anetema and Jake Nelson, Bell-Jeff's defense
silenced Salesian on its next series. And when the Guards got
possession with just under two minutes to play, it was no mystery who
would be getting the ball.
With 32 seconds remaining, Leiphardt capped a 37-yard scoring
drive by punching it in the end zone from four yards out.
The play gave the senior standout a team-high total of 61 yards on
But Leiphardt was not quite finished for the night, as he would
make the defensive play to save the game.
"This was the most important game we've won all year," said
Aguirre. "I can't wait to play the next one."
Anetema rushed six times for 56 yards and quarterback Matt
Magallon added 36 yards in eight carries on a night when Bell-Jeff's
passing game was ailing.