Pacelli football coach Randy Grace stood on Friday night at midfield surrounded by his players, their parents and a host of Vikings fans.
For a moment, all he could do was nod his head in silence as the crowd around him celebrated Pacelli’s 14-7 win over Brookstone, ending an eight-game losing streak to the Cougars and giving the Vikings (5-0, 2-0) their most wins since 2007.
When he spoke, emotion filled his voice.
“When I came here, everyone said it was a career-ender,” he said. “They said Pacelli doesn’t have this or doesn’t have that. Pacelli will never have this or never have that. You guys just proved everyone wrong.”
The win doesn’t clinch anything for the Vikings yet. Five wins only ensures a .500 regular season — not the playoffs, not a winning season, not a region championship.
What it did, according to Grace and his quarterback Wyatt Peterson, was erase a lot of negative history over the past five seasons, including a 17-game losing streak in 2010-11, and signal that the program has made a big jump in the right direction.
“Brookstone beat Pacelli eight straight times,” Grace said. “They beat Pacelli bad. For our kids to overcome all of that says a lot about their character.”
“I think it’s a game-changer for the program,” Peterson said. “I really do. I think we were all feeling confident about our chance in this game, but there was still something in the back of our heads saying Pacelli can’t win this game. I think this changes the entire mentality for Pacelli.” Peterson was a big reason why.
Grace described his senior quarterback as a “general” on the field, making all the right calls in the option game, which worked to near perfection for Pacelli in the second half.
Despite being shut out over the first two quarters and turning the ball over twice, the Vikings ate up a lot of ground and time on two scoring drives after the break, including a 17-play, nine-minute drive to open the fourth quarter. The drive gave the Vikings the lead and left only three minutes, 14 seconds on the clock for Brookstone. Only one play on the drive surpassed 10 yards, and Pacelli converted two fourth downs.
Peterson ran eight times for 31 yards on the drive, including an 8-yard touchdown run to make the score 14-7. DeAndre Bowman carried three times for 22 yards on the drive, and KeAndre Ashley had an 18-yard run to set up Peterson’s touchdown.
“We had the ball for so long, like 10 minutes,” Peterson said. “To score like that and not give them a lot of time, that’s where we won the game.”
Peterson had another long touchdown run in the third quarter, this one 47 yards, to tie the game after the Vikings went into the half down 7-0. On the team’s second possession of the half, Pacelli set up for a third-and-3 from the Brookstone 47-yard line. Peterson ran for 10 yards, broke a tackle and then stiff-armed the final Cougars defender before racing the final 20 yards for a score.
“That was probably the most emotional play I’ve ever had,” said Peterson, who finished with 19 carries for 124 yards and two scores.
He completed only 4 of 10 passes and threw one interception in the first half before Pacelli adjusted to an option-heavy attack in the second half. Grace praised the Brookstone (2-3, 0-2) defense for its ability to shut down the passing game and basically eliminate the Vikings’ top receiver, Bryan Foster.
“All the credit goes to Brookstone,” he said. “We made some big adjustments at halftime and protected the football better. I was so proud of our guys.”
Bowman finished with eight carries for 48 yards in the game, and Ashley had 15 for 64. Grace also highlighted the play of his defense, from linebacker Malik Marble to defensive back Luke Dawahare to defensive tackle Chris Rehak, and more.
The unit intercepted one pass and had a big stop on fourth-and-short in the red zone to open the third quarter, setting up a shutdown performance the rest of the game. It allowed only 200 yards all game and just one touchdown, a 15-yard scamper by Brookstone quarterback Miller Page in the second quarter.
“They were great all night,” Grace said.
There will be no rest for the Vikings, though, as they face Marion County and Dooly County in two of their next three games, which will likely determine their playoff chances.
“It’s a great win, but we don’t have time to celebrate too much,” Grace said. “On Monday, it will be back to work.”
Friday at Pacelli
Brookstone 7 0 0 0—7
Pacelli 0 0 7 7—14
B—Miller Page 15 run (Page kick); 10:28
P—Wyatt Peterson 47 run (Kevin Jacobs kick); 2:03
P—Peterson 8 run (Jacobs kick); 3:15
Records: Brookstone, 2-3, 0-2; Pacelli, 5-0, 2-0. Next: Brookstone, Oct. 11 vs. Hawkinsville at home; Pacelli, Oct. 11 at Marion County.