The Santa Clara Bruins football squad didn’t allow an extremely rare 3:15 p.m. kickoff on a scorching-hot Friday to throw them off their game this past week. Playing visitor against the Menlo Knights — whose home field doesn’t have actual lights — the Bruins metaphorically put out the lights on the Knights, earning a hard-fought 16-14 victory. Santa Clara improves to 2-1 with the win and are feeling good about the direction their team is heading as a daunting De Anza League schedule looms in the distance.
“It was one of those grind it out kind of ugly wins,” said Bruins Head Coach Burt Codera. “I think we are starting to figure our identity out a little bit. Teams have to learn how to win these types of games. I don’t know if we’d win this game last year. So, I was really proud of the effort.”
Santa Clara fell behind 7-0 on the first drive, but touchdown receptions from senior wide receiver Joseph Hernandez and junior tailback Isiah Ketton put the Bruins up 13-7. Sophomore Dino Beslagic added a field goal that proved to be the difference. The Bruins went up 16-7 and held on late with Menlo scoring a touchdown in the final minute, but the Knights were unable to come up with an onside recovery on the following kickoff.
“The defense, we came out flat on the first drive as they scored on us,” said senior corner and wide receiver Bailey Mungaray. “The offense came back and tied it up and that’s when the defense picked it up.”
Bruins safeties Anthony Taber and Austin Bragg both came away with interceptions and the defense came up with a big goal-line stand as part of a strong performance on that side of the ball.
“The defense took over in the second half, we had a goal-line stand, first and goal on the four and they held them,” said coach Codera. “We had a couple big stops and turnovers.”
On the offensive side of things, first-year starting quarterback Rocco Rolih IV was accurate and protected the football, allowing the team to win the turnover battle.
“Rocco did a great job taking care of the ball, no turnovers were huge for us,” added coach Codera. “He made good decisions all day long. He moved the chains on a lot of third-and-long situations. He spread it around to about five different receivers.”
“He’s doing a great job,” echoed senior left tackle Nick Martinez on Rolih. “He couldn’t play last year because of his injury and for him being a first-year on varsity and getting used to the players, he’s been great. It’s been great having him, he’s a great leader. He wants to work hard every day. I’m happy to block for him.”
“He’s definitely stepped up since his freshman year,” added senior left guard Matt Martinez, on Rolih. “The injury took a toll, but him as a leader, he’s always pushing us. And he’s my quarterback, always gotta make sure he’s safe.”
Santa Clara will look to improve to 3-1 on Saturday, Sept. 21 when they travel to Los Altos. The following week the Bruins open up their league schedule when they play at Fremont on Friday, Sept. 27.