Joe Davidson

Del Oro loses to Bellarmine on late touchdown in Honor Bowl

Del Oro Golden Eagles Dalton Gee (5) runs with the ball during the first quarter against the Bellarmine Bells on Friday.
Del Oro Golden Eagles Dalton Gee (5) runs with the ball during the first quarter against the Bellarmine Bells on Friday. Special to the Bee

The goal is to absorb, learn and improve, and the Del Oro Golden Eagles are collectively waiting to reap better rewards.

A week after losing to Hawaii powerhouse Punahou in the closing seconds at Cal, Bee No. 3-ranked Del Oro took another frustrating loss on Friday, falling to Bay Area powerhouse Bellarmine of San Jose 34-31 late in Loomis in an inter-sectional game that could have CIF NorCal playoff implications in December.

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Troy Martig, one of five three-year starters for the Bells of the Central Section, dazzled in displaying poise, skills and grit. The senior quarterback rushed for scores of four, three and 12 yards out of the team’s double-wing, run-heavy sets. Then he won it with a 29-yard touchdown strike to Devon Buenrostro with 33.7 seconds remaining.

Martig sat out the previous play after getting rocked on a tackle by Justin Burrage, then returned determined to make a difference. Martig was the MVP for Bellarmine, as announced by Mark Soto, founder of the Honor Bowl, which raises awareness about the needs of military veterans and serves as a tribute to first responders on the 9/11 anniversary.

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Trey Udoffia earned the Del Oro Honor Bowl MVP. The Colorado-bound burner opened the scoring with a 39-yard touchdown catch from Stone Smartt and later caught a 66-yard touchdown from Mason Hurst on a trick play after Hurst took a handoff.

Del Oro (1-2) took its final lead 31-27 on Dalton Gee’s 39-yard touchdown run with 3:21 left.

Del Oro’s defense forced four successive Bellarmine three-and-outs to open the second half, but Bellarmine’s persistence endured.

Now Del Oro coach Casey Taylor hopes his team can endure this latest setback.

The Golden Eagles have for years scheduled powerhouse programs to test themselves.

“We want to see where we stand, see how good we are,” Taylor said Thursday in sizing up a first-time meeting with Bellarmine. Del Oro opened the season with 41-0 rout of Pleasant Grove-Utah, ranked No. 3 in its state.

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Friday’s game had much deeper meaning than wins or losses. Soto’s Honor Bowl theme has resonated across the state for several years now at different venues as he works to recognize the military, law enforcement and firefighters young and old, retired and active.

Del Oro players wore stars and stripes on helmets, and there was a 21-gun salute at the half.

Taylor uses football as a vehicle to real-life issues, urging his players to be active in their Placer County communities, whether reading to elementary school children or reaching out to veterans.

“We all know someone who has served,” said Taylor, whose grandfather was in World War II and father fought in Vietnam. “It’s an honor to be involved in events like this. It’s very important.”

Bellarmine is 2-0 this season against Sac-Joaquin Section championship hopefuls, rolling Franklin of Elk Grove 42-0 last week under famed coach Mike Janda, who won his 260th game Friday.

He said this is one of his finest teams. It’s not hard to see why.

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