St. Vincent High School's varsity football team, known for its high-voltage offense, had to resort to a tenacious defense to hold off Cloverdale's muscular Eagles, 21-14, Saturday afternoon at Yarbrough Field.
Cloverdale's EagLes gave St. Vincent's Mustangs all they wanted or could handle on a warm summer afternoon. The Mustangs led, 14-6, at the half, and their defense shut the Eagles out over the final two periods.
However, a dramatic 97-yard fumble recovery return by the Eagles' Junior Campos turned the game around and forced the Mustangs to battle grimly to hold on for their second victory in three games.
Led by linebackers Michael Carroll and sophomore Sean Healy, the Mustangs were equal to the task.
Before it even got to the final dogged minutes, Carroll had come up wih a huge defensive play. With St. Vincent clinging to a 7-6 lead late in the second quarter, Carroll picked off a Josh Holder pass at midfield.
St. Vincent immediately drove in the opposite direction, going 41 yards to score on a 15-yard run by George Sammon.
Carroll had a hugh game, with 12 tackles, including 4 1/2 for loss, to go with his interception. He was particularly noticeable with several big plays as St. Vincent held on in the game's final stages. Healy was also impressive with seven tackles.
Cloberdale shocked St. Vincent at the game's outset, going 47 yards with apparent ease in its first possession.
The touchdown came on a 15-yard pass from Holden to Campos. It was one of only three passes the senior quarterback completed against the continually improving St. Vincent secondary.
The snap on the PAT kick try was fumbled, leaving Cloverdale with a 6-0 lead.
Things quickly went from bad to worse for the Mustangs. In their next two possessions following the Cloverdale touchdown, St. Vincent's record-setting quarterback Mitch Sheppard had drives ended by Cloverdale interceptions.
Fortunately for St. Vincent fans, the Mustangs showed two could play the thievery game. The first two Cloverdale possessions of the second quarter ended with Mustang interceptions, one by Patrick Garcia and one by Carroll and both led to St. Vincent touchdowns.
The first Mustang march covered 70 yards and was accomplished primarily behind strong running from Sammon, although a 22-yard pass connection between Sheppard and Carroll certainly helped.
Sheppard did the scoring honors with a 15-yard run. His PAT kick gave the Mustangs a 7-6 lead and they never again trailed, although things got more than a little hectic before they got done.
Carroll's pick set up a 45-yard drive and Sammon's touchdown.
St. Vincent players broke for intermission feeling pretty good about a 14-6 lead.
They were feeling even better when Cloverdale failed on a fourth-and-eight play at its own 28 and the Mustangs marched down to score on an 18-yard pass from Sheppard to Carroll.
It was the 13th consecutive game that the quarterback has thrown at least one touchdown pass.
St. Vincent seemed on the verge of putting the game away when it once again stopped a Cloverdale fourth-down play and quickly ran Sammon to the Eagle 3-yard line. But on a third-and-goal play, a little burp turned into a huge hiccup when the Mustangs not only fumbled, but Campos scooped it up and lit out for the distant goal line.