I sat down with Matt Philichi, top ranked kicker in Washington State, to talk about Bellarmine Preparatory School’s upcoming game with Olympia.
Bellarmine Preparatory School is one of our pilot journalist program partner schools. The Bellarmine Lions are off to a great start in football, and I sat down with 2013 Pre-Season All State 1st team kicker to get his thoughts on their upcoming rivalry game with Olympia. Jeanne Hanigan, English I, AP Composition, & Journalism Teacher, has put out a Scoopshot task for the Olympia at Bellarmine game. Scoopshot is a free application for your smartphone through which you can earn photo credits in national articles and even sell your photos to local friends and relatives. USA TODAY HSS will be selecting the best photo or photos for our own coverage of this key game in Washington State’s playoff picture.
Joe Poppa: The Bellarmine Lions are 6-1 so far this season. You’ve had one close win at Lakes, but, many of your wins have been blowouts, including two shutouts back to back, and a three game stretch where Bellarmine outscored opponents 122-18. What aspects of this team contribute most to the success you’ve had this year?
Matt Philichi: The Lions are lucky to have a dedicated coaching staff who feel vested in our success. We also have teammates who spend most of the summer preparing in the weight room. Last year we relied a lot on our quarterback, Sefo Liufau, who now starts for the Colorado Buffaloes. This year, we have really focused on coming together even more as a team under our new quarterback, Lou Millie, and are working to develop other aspects of our game. We are continuing to develop a more extensive running game with the help of Nate Goltermann along with a stronger passing defense with our dedicated line.
Joe Poppa: Going into the game at Tumwater, our Massey Matchup predictor had Bellarmine squeaking out a win, 21-20. The actual result was 14-26 in their favor. Can you talk about a few plays during that game that were critical in the outcome? What has your team learned from the only loss of the season?
Matt Philichi: Tumwater definitely stayed on their game against us. We were pretty evenly matched, with our fate coming down to a few plays. We were tied with just a few seconds left in the first half. The Lions attempted a quarterback sneak on a fourth-and-goal from the 1 yd line. We were called for “aiding the runner” and were denied. Unfortunately, that served to shift the momentum.
With two minutes left in the game, we trailed 20-14. We needed to hold them to a three and out and get the ball back. It appeared that we had, but one of our defenders was called for a personal foul and the T-birds were given a fresh set of downs. They scored later in the drive, but the game was essentially over at the call.
We learned that we need to work on every detail of the game and be careful of penalties because it all matters when playing great teams like the T-birds.
Joe Poppa: Olympia comes to Bellarmine this week for one of the biggest games of the season. According to our Massey Matchup prediction, Bellarmine is favored to win at home 24-13. How are the Lions looking at this matchup? Talk a little about how you think you match up against Olympia.
Matt Philichi: Olympia has been one of our traditional rivalries and always comes ready to play. They are going to be tough to beat, even on our home field. They definitely know how to put points on the board. Since we lost one to Tumwater, we will need to play our best against a line like Olympia’s. I expect it will be a close one. Honestly with these games coming up and leading into the playoffs our team is focusing on holding each other accountable in order to keep this family together as long as possible.
Joe Poppa: You were named 2013 Pre-Season All State 1st team kicker by Seattle Times and Scout.com. Tell us a little about how you train and mentally prepare yourself for a game winning kick, like the one you had against Lakes.
Matt Philichi: During the spring and summer I also compete as a golfer. Most tournaments come down to one stroke as the deciding factor. I have become accustomed to that kind of stress and have had to develop mental toughness. I practice kicking the same way I practice my golf game. I take dozens of shots from different angles everyday as though I will be called upon to help my team make the game winner. I’ve been blessed to be able to do just that in both the 2012 and 2013 seasons.
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