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Jesuit rebounds to beat Sheldon, stay in playoff hunt

Published: Sunday, Oct. 28, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 2C
Last Modified: Sunday, Oct. 28, 2012 - 12:16 am

Jesuit's Devin Kelly usually lets his actions on the football field do his talking.

But the senior all-purpose player felt he needed to step out of character at Friday night's team dinner and again at halftime Saturday of the Marauders' Senior Day Delta River League game against visiting Sheldon.

After a penalty-filled first half, Jesuit trailed 13-10 in a must-win game to keep alive its playoff hopes.

"I challenged the guys," Kelly said. "I said we may have only two games left and for the seniors this may be the last game we play on our home field. So how do we want to be remembered? I was pretty fired up."

The 5-foot-9, 160-pound Kelly was pretty fired up on the field, too.

To start the second half, he took the kickoff at his own 15-yard line and dashed through several would-be Sheldon tacklers for a 50-yard gain – only to see his dazzling effort nullified by a penalty.

But he wasn't done, despite being so exhausted he had to lean on offensive lineman Rafael Aguilar to keep from keeling over.

On the next play, Kelly took a handoff from quarterback Thomas Sperbeck and weaved his way for a 51-yard gain to Sheldon's 15-yard line.

Three plays later, James Avila-Ellington scored his second touchdown on a four-yard run, and Jesuit never looked back in posting a 38-13 win.

The Marauders (5-4, 1-3) can earn a playoff berth Friday with an upset at No. 7 Oak Ridge (8-1, 3-1) in the regular-season finale.

Kelly plays wide receiver or running back on offense. He's an every-play defensive back and special-teams leader.

In addition to his 51-yard run, Kelly returned two kickoffs 35 and 55 yards, rushed two other times for 31 yards, caught a 14-yard pass and played ably on defense against quick, athletic Sheldon (3-6, 0-4). The Huskies compiled 331 total yards, including Curtis Joniel's 118 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 28 carries.

"Devin carries a big load for us," said Jesuit coach Marlon Blanton. "He's versatile and he's got some speed, so we're always trying to find ways to get him the ball."

Kelly, who played only defense last season, played so hard he had to leave the game for a stretch in the second half with a leg cramp.

But Sperbeck, Jesuit's remarkable quarterback-free safety, pinch hit nicely for him, returning a punt 81 yards for a touchdown to open the fourth quarter. It came shortly after he had scored on a 34-yard run.

"That's Thomas," Kelly said. "He's such a great player and a lot of fun to watch. He always puts the team on his back."

Friday's game against Oak Ridge will have a little extra meaning for Kelly. He lives in El Dorado Hills and grew up playing youth football with members of the Oak Ridge team that expects to challenge for a Sac-Joaquin Section title.

"I respect those guys. They have a great program up there," Kelly said.

First-year coach Blanton is pleased that his players still have a shot at the postseason entering Week 10 after a roller-coaster season.

Jesuit won four of its first five games before dropping consecutive league games to Ponderosa, No. 2 Folsom and No. 8 Pleasant Grove.

"It's been tough for these guys," said Blanton, who was hired late in the spring after longtime coach Dan Carmazzi stepped down to return to Christian Brothers, his alma mater. "They've had to deal with new coaches, a new system and a new way of doing things. I'm proud of these guys."

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