FREMONT - If it seems like Calvert defensive back Billy Burns came out of nowhere, you'll have to pardon Fremont St. Joseph Central Catholic coach T.J. Buckley if he doesn't really care.
All Buckley knows is that Burns came from the wrong place at the wrong time to intercept a Kyle Veleba pass, mess up a most impressive second-half drive and provide a key moment in helping the Senecas preserve a 14-6 Midland Athletic League win at Don Paul Stadium Saturday night.
The win couldn't have been bigger for the Senecas, who improved to 4-4 overall and remained in a three-way tie for first with Mohawk and Carey at 4-1 with two weeks to go.
Equally important, the Senecas will climb in the Division VII computer rankings. SJCC had been at the top in Region 24 while Calvert had stood seventh coming into Saturday's showdown.
"It's another statement about our young men," Calvert coach Todd Fox said. "That is a great football team and if we can take care of business, there is a good chance that we might see them again.
"We took some hard turns early in the year," he said. "But things are finally coming together piece by piece."
Calvert quarterback Tyler Long completed just two passes in five tries, but both went for long touchdowns. He hit Donavon Stith for a 67-yard touchdown bomb and added a 61-yard score with a screen toss to Austin Ball.
The first one was a stunner with 7:39 to play in the first period. Each team went three-and-out on their first possession and the Senecas put the ball in play on their 33 following a Bennett Weickert 36-yard punt.
On the first snap, Stith broke open between three defenders about 30 yards down field and Long hit him in stride. Michael Smith hit the first of two PAT kicks for a 7-0 edge.
"The first series we had the ball, we saw what they were doing," Fox said. "I like to run the ball, but the coaches convinced me. We gave it a whirl and it worked out for us."
It stayed that way until midway through the second quarter when, after Long was stopped short on a fake-punt run, the Crimson Streaks took over on the Seneca 35.
St. Joseph pulled to within 7-6 when Veleba, who returned to quarterback for the first time since suffering an injury in the second game of the season, hit Hunter Harrison with an 8-yard scoring pass. But Corey Durbin's kick bounced off the left upright.
The Streaks had one more chance before the half, but turned the ball over on downs at the Calvert 39.
"We talked about it. Do we want to run the clock out?" Fox said. "But we said, 'Hey, let's try a screen.' Their D-line was pretty good and they were coming at us, so let's see what we can do. It was perfectly timed for us.
"That (St. Joe) TD was on me for going for it on fourth-and-1," he said. "I was kicking myself, but it's like our coaches said. (Gambling) is what we do."
The screen pass covered for him.
"They caught us in a blitz and it was a great call by their coaches," said Buckley, whose club fell to 5-3 and 3-2. "They did a great job scouting us. He made a great call. They beat us on two plays - the deep ball and the screen. And they controlled the line of scrimmage on defense."
From there, it was up to the defense.
The biggest challenge came midway through the third quarter. That's when the Crimson Streaks put together a 17-play, 73-yard drive that took 8:54 off the clock.
Other than Veleba's 7-yard pass to Jake Yeckley at the start, the march was strictly the result of a power running game that featured Weickert and Marcus Kerr.
But on first down from the Calvert 16, Veleba tried a pass in the left flat and Burns, whose name and number (16) weren't even on the roster sheet provided in the program, made a leaping grab.
"It was something (assistant coaches) saw upstairs and I decided to go with it," Buckley said. "It just didn't work out in our favor."
Burns, who transferred to Calvert from New Riegel after the football season began, had taken Ball's place on the defense after the latter had been injured on a running play the previous series.
"He's a great kid and he made a big play for us," Fox said. "He's been working hard and making strides in getting to know the game. He's getting better and better."
"(Burns) had gotten into a few games for us, but this was his first real pressure game and he did a nice job," defensive coordinator Pat Herron said. "We lost two guys, Ball and (Marcus) King, and we had guys come through. That's what it takes to win."
The Streaks had one more shot but ran out of downs on the Calvert 42. The Senecas then ran out the clock.
"I can't say enough about our defense. Coach Herron and his crew did a great job preparing us," Fox said. "Their defense played lights out and our defense played lights out. It was a good, old-fashioned slugfest."
And one of the biggest blows came from a guy who shall no longer remain nameless.