What Steve Said: Steve Bubalo 11/3

Steve Bubalo

By Steve Bubalo PrepsKC Senior Writer
Posted: November 3, 2017 - 7:40 AM

There’s been some exciting playoff games these first few weeks on the Missouri side but I’m not sure anything to this point would be able to top what I witnessed this past Friday night at Kearney High School, as St. Joseph Lafayette upset fourth-ranked Kearney 38-32.

It had all the makings of a great playoff game. There was the fired-up underdog team looking for an upset. There was a comeback. There was a weird, random event midway through the game, as the lights in the entire stadium went out just before a play. There was some late-game drama. And not to be left out, there was a standout performance.

By the end of the first quarter I thought I was about to cover a blowout. The Bulldogs came out strong, sprinting to a 21-6 lead, but the difference in the game ended up being Fighting Irish quarterback Diego Bernard.

The senior quarterback had the best single-game performance I’ve seen so far, this season, and he did it against a Kearney defense that was coming in allowing just a shade under 16 points per game. Bernard was a delight to watch. With the Bulldogs taking away any semblance of a running game for the Fighting Irish, the pressure was on Bernard and he delivered.

Whether he was doing damage with his arm or his legs, he was nearly unstoppable. There aren’t many plays more exciting than a running quarterback evading pressure and taking off. Bernard did that on multiple occasions, including a dazzling 44-yard touchdown run on a pass play where nobody was open. In all, Bernard had a hand in all six touchdowns Lafayette scored on the night.

His last one put the finishing touches on the win and came on the defensive side of the ball when he returned an interception for a touchdown in the final minutes. It was the perfect capper for Bernard.

And, really, for Lafayette. That final score capped another comeback. After trailing 21-6, they briefly took the lead before falling behind again, 32-26. I was impressed by their ability to keep fighting back, on the road, against a high-quality opponent. Head coach Bart Hardy told me afterward it was a total team effort, and while Bernard was a stud, he was right. Bernard’s wide receivers made some big plays and got open for him multiple times when he was scrambling. The offensive line gave him time to throw most of the night and had some key blocks on a couple of running plays that were effective, while the defense forced some key turnovers and got some big stops after falling behind early.

“There’s no quit,” Bernard told me of the team afterward.

It doesn’t get any easier for the Fighting Irish tonight when they travel to Platte County, but they’ve proven they can go into enemy territory, have their backs against the wall and still pull out a win.

That game was everything that is great about playoff football. It was hard to see a talented team in Kearney have its season come to an end, but it’s always an enjoyable ride watching an underdog pull of a stunner.

I can’t wait to see who pulls off the next upset or has a standout performance when it matters most.