BURBANK—Josh Martinez called it the best game he has had individually, and understandably so.
Really, it’s safe to say that few players have had the kind of game the Bellarmine-Jefferson senior running back mustered up Friday night at Burroughs High’s Memorial Field.
Without starting quarterback Johnathan Porter for the remainder of the season, it’s not a surprise that Martinez touched the ball on 37 of the team’s 53 offensive plays. Behind a solid showing from the offensive line, the play-calling proved effective.
“Our O-line stepped up,” said Martinez who missed last week’s game against Salesian. “Before the game, I told them it’s all heart. They pulled through for a win and came through for me.”
Bell-Jeff Coach David Machuca dialed up just four passing plays — all incompletes. His strategy going into the game was relatively simple.
“It’s no secret that Josh is getting the ball,” the first-year coach said. “Prove that you can stop it, and if not, we’re going to keep giving him the ball.”
Martinez accounted for all of the team’s first-half points with two touchdowns and a pair of two-point conversions. The two teams traded touchdowns and were knotted at 16 going into the halftime break.
The Saints (5-3, 1-2 in league) took their first lead early in the third quarter on a field goal, resulting from a blocked punt. The Guards (3-5, 1-1) answered on the ensuing possession with Martinez’s third touchdown, this one from two yards out.
There would be four lead changes thereafter with Martinez and St. Anthony’s Latrell Flowers each scoring two touchdowns and one-upping each other. It would be Martinez, however, who would get the final score with 3:38 remaining.
A Bell-Jeff defense that has struggled all season came through with preventing another St. Anthony score and clinched the game, giving the ball back to the offense to kneel on it.
“I have confidence in my defense,” Machuca said. “Last week against Salesian was lopsided, but I thought our defense played well. We knew that if the offense limited mistakes then our defense would be OK.”
The Guards will look to sustain the momentum as they travel to play St. Genevieve next week and close out the regular season at St. Monica. For now, Machuca and his team will enjoy a win the coach called “huge.”
“Our seniors have never won a homecoming game, so we really wanted this one,” Machuca said.