Center Sean Martinez of the St. Monica's boys varsity football team runs with the football in between a couple of defenders from the Bellarmine-Jefferson boys varsity football team at Corsair field located on the campus of Santa Monica College on Saturday October 30th 2010 which served as the home field for St. Monica's as St. Monica's hosted Bellarmine-Jefferson in a league game and won 16-8 (photo by Morgan Genser)

CORSAIR FIELD — Halloween came a night early for St. Monica’s football team.

The St. Monica Mariners beat Bellarmine-Jefferson 16-8 on a Saturday night filled with plenty of spooky calls and plays in the form of penalties and turnovers, not to mention a scary moment where the second-string quarterback went down with an injury.

Back-up Sam Holguin, however, would return after just a play on the sideline and the Mariners went on to win the game, improving to 5-3 overall and 1-1 in Santa Fe league play. The Guards fall to 2-7 overall and 0-3 in league.

Senior Michael Doherty saved the game for the Mariners with an interception in the endzone with 48 seconds remaining, denying Bell-Jeff a potential tying touchdown.

“I just read it well, I guess,” said Doherty after the game.

“That was a key interception. Thank God for that play,” Head Coach Larry Muno said.

St. Monica, who did not score after the first quarter, had plenty of chances to build a hefty lead, however, with a pair of interceptions returned for touchdowns being called back on penalties. Also, a pass to senior Jamal Young was wrestled out by Bell-Jeff’s senior Micah Shirley to force a fumble, one of St. Monica’s eight, at the goal line.

“I think we should have scored a lot of points, but we didn’t,” Muno said. “We turned the ball over a ton and we had a ton of penalties, the things we emphasized in practice this week.”

Doherty attributed the turnovers to playing under a different offense with starting quarterback Matthew Partyka out after being knocked unconscious in last week’s loss to league rival Salesian. Holguin got the start, but normally plays wide receiver.

“That’s small school football,” Muno said, citing St. Monica’s small student population. “You have to put guys in positions that they’re normally not used to playing.”

Also keeping St. Monica from building momentum and continuing potential scoring drive was an unusually high number of penalties, especially holding and unsportsmanlike conduct calls.

Senior Solomon Niumataevalu was ejected from the game for an unsportsmanlike conduct call, his second of the game, early in the fourth quarter.

Niumataevalu had been having a busy night, on both sides of the ball. Late in the first quarter, Muno pulled Holguin and ran two back-to-back direct snaps to Niumataevalu. The 250-pounder rumbled down the field for 13 yards on his first attempt and another 15 on his second.

After a two-yard rush by junior Sean Martinez, Holguin took a keeper 20 yards to the endzone for St. Monica’s second touchdown of the game.

With seconds to go in the first, Niumataevalu sacked Bell-Jeff quarterback Chris Issakanian in the endzone. Niumataevalu’s safety was St. Monica’s final score of the game.

Holguin, who actually played quarterback two years ago, had a rough game, Doherty said.

“He stepped into a difficult situation,” Muno said. “I thought he played well.”

Muno added that Partyka will be back next week.

Holguin also threw for a touchdown midway through the first quarter. The 19-yard pass found senior Kyle Farber in the endzone. Farber also had an interception, one of the St. Monica defense’s five.

Bell-Jeff’s only touchdown came in the third quarter on an 8-yard pass to Shirley. Shirley took the pitch to the outside on the next play for a two-point conversion.

With their first league win, St. Monica keeps their hopes for their first playoff since 2003 alive. Next week, the Mariners will face St. Genevieve, currently second in the league. And with their starting quarterback suiting up for this week’s practice, St. Monica will have its offense back in order.

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