Irish even record by shutting out Burton Bendle; Jesuit up next

In football, one week can make all the difference.

It certainly did for the Irish. One week after a mistake-prone performance cost it the season opener, Father Gabriel Richard looked like a completely different team, shutting out visiting Burton Bendle 30-0.

“I think we just focused a little more in practice this week,” head coach Matt Giarmo said. “We still made some mistakes this week, but we caused a lot more turnovers for them, which gave our offense a short field and allowed us to open up our playbook.”

He wasn’t kidding. Until late in the fourth quarter, Bendle had more turnovers than first downs.

On its opening drive, Bendle fumbled the ball, and Richard recovered inside Tigers’ territory. The Irish capitalized on the mistake, scoring an early touchdown on a 10-yard rush from Antonio Benedetto to lead 7-0 midway through the first quarter.

The short field for the Irish offense was a theme, as three of four of Richard’s scoring drives started in Tigers’ territory. Leading 14-0 after a touchdown from running back Jack Smith midway through the second quarter, the Irish got the ball back in Bendle territory after a short punt.

It took the Irish two plays to find the end zone: after a 12-yard completion from quarterback Mitch Foley to senior Luke Klinkhammer, Smith took the handoff, found the hole in the middle, and scored from 31 yards out for his second touchdown of the game. Richard converted a two-point conversion for a 22-0 lead with 2:16 remaining in the half.

Richard started the second half right where it left off. Griffen Kaiser and George White sacked Bendle quarterback Eli Urlacher, forcing a third-and-long, and more Irish pressure resulted in an ill-fated heave from Urlacher that was intercepted at midfield by Richard’s Joey Locricchio.

The Irish winged-t offense went to work after the interception, and five plays later the Irish were threatening deep in Bendle territory once again. On the next play, Foley called his own number and scored on a 15-yard run down the left sideline. Foley found Klinkhammer for a successful two-point conversion to increase Richard’s lead to 30-0 with 5:11 remaining in the third quarter.

Neither team scored the rest of the way. The Irish had three chances inside the Tigers’ red zone, but a fumble, missed field goal, and a holding penalty kept them from adding to the lead.

Giarmo said that the team got many contributions.

“A lot of guys contributed in little parts, and even big parts,” Giarmo said. “It was also nice to see a lot of the younger guys – freshman and sophomores – get in there and get some game experience.”

The Irish now will turn its attention to Detroit U-D Jesuit, the reigning Catholic High School League-AA champions. Giarmo reminded the team in a huddle postgame that they were ‘punked’ by Jesuit in last year’s 42-0 lopsided loss.

“It all starts with practice; you have to have a great week of practice,” Giarmo said. “U-D’s got amazing athletes and coaching. It’s never an easy game for anybody in our league against them. We have to rise to the challenge and play hard.”

The game is scheduled for 5 p.m. next Friday at Detroit U-D Jesuit High School, and will be closed to the general public due to COVID-19 restrictions.