Special teams kept Belen Jesuit in the game.
And when the defense opened the door with a late turnover, the Wolverines’ resilience paid off.
Outgained by nearly a 4-to-1 margin, Belen Jesuit still managed to stay alive in a back-and-forth struggle with Southwest and prevailed 31-27 at Tropical Park.
Diego Ortega out jumped Te’Cory Tutson in the corner of the end zone to haul in a 20-yard touchdown pass from Lucas Pola with 31 seconds left.
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Ortega switched to a No. 23 jersey recently in honor of teammate Albert Perez-Abreu, who is out for the season after sustaining a skull fracture in a car accident prior to the team’s season opener in Ireland.
Perez-Abreu attended Thursday’s game and said he was happy his teammate, Ortega, was the one that came up with the winning catch.
“Ortega has made some big catches over the years for us but none bigger than that one,” Belen coach Rich Stuart said.
Belen’s defense held Southwest on downs on the final drive as time expired.
The Wolverines (3-2, 2-0 in District 15-8A) picked up a huge victory to move to the top of the district.
“This is our second comeback win of the season,” Stuart said. “Our kids know they can do that in those situations. I’m really proud of them because the game against Columbus last week really left us beat up physically.”
Belen erased a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter despite being out gained 441-195 in total yardage.
Freshman Don Chaney Jr. returned two kickoffs for touchdowns to help Belen open up a 17-6 edge early in the second half.
Southwest (4-1, 1-1) responded with 21 unanswered points led by Te’Cory Tutson’s two touchdowns.
Tutson finished with 160 yards on 22 carries to lead the Eagles, who ran for 282 yards overall.
Belen’s special teams, however, balanced things out for the Wolverines.
Gabriel Aparicio blocked an early field-goal attempt and an extra point.
And Belen’s defense came up huge late when an overthrown pass was intercepted by Ivan Pachon with 1:44 left.
Pola set up the winning score with a 32-yard strike over the middle to Chaney.
“We stress all three aspects of the game,” Stuart said. “We chose to kick it deep after we cut it to three and our defense came up big.”
Southwest running back Andre Stringfield left the game in the fourth quarter with an apparent ankle injury. He finished with 42 yards.
Quarterback JJ Jaramillo ran for 80 yards on 14 attempts and threw a touchdown pass for Southwest.