BOURBONNAIS, Ill. — St. Ambrose earned what head coach Mike Magistrelli called a "confidence win."
The Fighting Bees beat Olivet Nazarene 17-7 despite losing starting quarterback John Benckendorf to a hamstring injury in the second quarter.
Magistrelli said Benckendorf is expected to miss two to six weeks with the injury. It's the second straight game the Fighting Bees have had a quarterback injury as Dino Borrelli broke his collarbone against Saint Francis (Ind.).
Freshman Declan McDonald played in relief, throwing for 34 yards and rushing for a 1-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter to put the Bees up 17-7.
"He came in and did a great job of running the offense," Magistrelli said. "That's a difficult situation to be throw into as a freshman in your first varsity action and a big game and a tight game."
The Bees also lost senior defensive end Ryan Zitkus to a knee injury in the game. Zitkus entered Saturday leading the Bees with six tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks. Magistrelli said his status is uncertain moving forward.
The win snapped a three-game losing streak for the Fighting Bees (2-3, 2-0) who remain atop the Mid-States Football Association Midwest League standings.
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"I think it brings a lot of confidence that we can find different ways to win, we can win with all three phases and we can win with all sorts of adversity," Magistrelli said. "Guys played extremely hard."
Defensively, the Fighting Bees held the Tigers (2-4, 1-1) to 277 total yards and only 75 on the ground. St. Ambrose also had five takeaways, its first setting up the first score of the game.
On a punt attempt, the Tigers snapped the ball over the head of the punter and into the end zone. The ball was recovered by Blake Wittman for a touchdown to put St. Ambrose up 7-0 at the 5-minute, 14-second mark of the first quarter.
The Tigers tied the game in the second quarter on a 23-yard touchdown pass from Jordan Lawton to Jalen Dunnigan.
St. Ambrose retook the lead on a 32-yard field goal from Tom Gillen in the third quarter, then put the game away on the McDonald touchdown run.
The Bees rushed for 253 yards on the day, with four different runners finishing with over 40 yards.
"With the offensive line and the running game leading the way, we did what we had to do to win a football game," Magistrelli said. "It's a great team win. The confidence we can pull out of this is huge."