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Title Run for Bishop Amat

Football: McCleskey's 83-yard touchdown in fourth quarter does the trick as Lancers hold off Loyola, 20-14, in crucial Del Rey League showdown.


For all the great running backs that have played for Bishop Amat High, from Eric Bieniemy to Daylon McCutcheon, from Rodney Sermons to Mazio Royster, it was Donnie McCleskey who came through Friday night with an electrifying 83-yard touchdown run that will last forever in Lancer lore.

McCleskey's touchdown run with 8:27 left in the fourth quarter on a sweep play broke a tie and lifted Bishop Amat to a 20-14 victory over visiting L.A. Loyola in a battle for first place in the Del Rey League at La Puente.

"He's one of the best backs in California," Coach Mike DiFiori said of McCleskey, who rushed for 160 yards in 21 carries and scored all three touchdowns for Bishop Amat (7-1, 2-0).

Loyola (6-2, 1-1) rallied from a 14-0 halftime deficit to tie the game on Bo Renaud's 13-yard touchdown run with 1:41 remaining in the third quarter.

Bishop Amat's first three possessions of the second half resulted in punts after three plays. Loyola had all the momentum when McCleskey got the ball, headed left, turned on a burst of speed, broke toward the middle and raced into the end zone.

"Every time Donnie touches the ball, there's a chance he'll go into the end zone," DiFiori said.

Said McCleskey: "Our 10 other guys on the field blocked for me to get me free."

McCleskey has rushed for 1,516 yards and scored 22 touchdowns this season.

"He's as good as there is," Loyola Coach Steve Grady said. "He never quits. He's fast, elusive and makes good moves."

The Lancers played without 10 players suspended for trespassing at 2:50 a.m. last Saturday morning on the campus of rival St. Paul. None of their key starting players sat out, but their long snapper did, and his absence helped ignite Loyola's rally in the second half.

On punts, Bishop Amat had been snapping the ball to quarterback Mike Lange, who would lateral to punter Eric Eichhorst. But on the Lancers' first possession of the second half, Scott Willard of Loyola broke through to block the punt, giving Loyola the ball on the eight-yard line. Chad Slapnicka soon scored on a three-yard run.

Crucial to the Lancers' victory was the play of defensive end Tim Murphy.

Murphy was a one-man wrecking crew. He knocked the ball loose from Loyola quarterback Adam Gonzalez on the opening series to set up a Bishop Amat touchdown and twice recorded sacks on third down to halt Cub drives.

It seemed Cardinal Roger Mahony might have been a bad luck charm. He was on the Loyola sideline for the first half when the Cubs fell behind, 14-0. He switched to the Bishop Amat sideline in the second half.

McCleskey scored both Lancer first-half touchdowns on runs of four and seven yards. Loyola's defense has struggled at times in surrendering big plays, and Friday was no exception.

In the first half, McCleskey broke off a 31-yard run. Andrew Soto caught a 22-yard pass on third down and Anthony Lugo had a 16-yard reception on third down.

Bishop Amat, whose only loss this season is to Mater Dei, needs only to defeat Alemany next week to win the Del Rey League championship and complete a transformation from a 2-8 team in 2000 to a Division I playoff contender.

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