The St. Bernard High School Vikings were close enough to a comeback victory that they could taste it, but visiting Verbum Dei High School managed to hang on for a 34-31 non-league win Friday, October 6th.
Coming off another close loss by three points to El Segundo High School in the previous week, the Vikings (0-5) were eager to capture their first victory of the season against the Verbum Dei Eagles (2-3).
After trailing Verbum Dei 34-16 early in the fourth quarter, the Vikings went into comeback mode, as junior quarterback Ryan Simpson ran 17 yards to put St. Bernard in scoring position.
Simpson capped the drive with an eight-yard touchdown pass to junior wide receiver Steve Jones to cut the Eagle lead to 34-23 with six minutes remaining in the game.
With St. Bernard needing another quick score, junior kicker Steven Locke attempted an onside kick and junior Dennis Hope successfully recovered the football for the Vikings at the 50-yard line.
The key play set up another scoring drive for St. Bernard that ended with a one-yard touchdown run by Simpson, who finished the game nine-of-20 passing for 94 yards.
Viking junior running back Adam Long then ran for the two-point conversion to put St. Bernard within a field goal at 34-31 with 3:21 remaining in the game.
St. Bernard attempted an onside kick once again in the next kickoff but did not have the same success this time, as Verbum Dei recovered.
The Eagles put a stop to the Viking comeback effort and were able to close out for the victory, keeping St. Bernard winless in the season.
While the Vikings were trying to catch up throughout the second half, the game appeared to be going their way early in the first quarter.
At the end of their first drive, the Vikings recovered a punt at the Verbum Dei 28-yard line. St. Bernard then got into scoring position at the three-yard line, but Long was stopped by the Verbum Dei defense just short of the goal line on fourth down.
When the Eagles took over on downs at the one-yard line, Hope tackled Verbum Dei running back Sean Merritt in the end zone for a safety to give St. Bernard its only lead of the game at 2-0 with 6:42 remaining in the first quarter.
Senior quarterback Curtis Wilson, who finished ten-of-16 for 216 yards passing, gave the Eagles their first lead at 6-2 late in the first quarter with a long 50-yard touchdown pass to senior Reginald Dunn.
Verbum Dei jumped ahead 14-2 after an eight-yard touchdown pass by Wilson to Dunn and a two-point conversion run with 1:48 left before halftime.
A Viking touchdown was nullified due to a holding penalty in the ensuing drive, but St. Bernard managed to score anyway when Simpson connected with running back Byron Brown for a three-yard touchdown pass to cut the score to 14-9 at the end of the first half.
The Eagles maintained their advantage with a one-yard touchdown run by Wilson to take a 20-9 lead in their first drive of the second half.
St. Bernard looked ready to respond when junior Derl Howard returned the kickoff to the Verbum Dei 20-yard line, but the Vikings lost a fumble in the next play.
The Eagles capitalized on the turnover by stretching their lead to 28-9 on an 18-yard touchdown pass by Wilson to Dunn.
But a two-yard touchdown run by Long with only 16.3 seconds remaining in the third quarter cut the Eagle lead to 28-16 and kept the Vikings’ comeback hopes alive.
St. Bernard will now focus on its preseason goal of competing for the Del Rey League title.
League play for the Vikings will begin against host Harvard-Westlake High School at 7 p.m. Friday, October 13th.