The inability to finish one drive within spitting distance of the end zone is grounds for football regret.
By TODD ENGLE
Special to The Star
When it happens twice, it’s an open invitation for trouble.
Football karma nearly bit St. James Academy in the backside in Thursday’s game against Eudora. Some big plays and a steady rushing game allowed the Thunder to escape with a 27-21 victory at St. Thomas Aquinas High School.
St. James Academy, 4-2, built a 27-9 lead by midway through the fourth quarter due to a penchant for the big play and the dual-threat capability of quarterback Alex King. King ran for 170 yards and two scores, including a 59-yard touchdown jaunt.
“We love to make it 50-50, catch the defense off guard both ways. I thought we did a pretty good job tonight of it,” King said. “Making big plays is the No. 1 thing we did.”
King threw for 158 yards, including a 30-yard touchdown strike to Ryan Hand. That touchdown came on the first play of the Thunder’s next possession after failing to score from 2 yards out.
“We said ‘We’re gonna come back, we’re gonna do something special,’ ” King said. “The first play we made that big play, and it lifted us up.”
It seemed like more than enough, especially after the Eudora offense went stagnant when senior quarterback Andrew Ballock was knocked out of the game midway through the second quarter with an apparent ankle injury.
But the Cardinals, 4-2, were still in the game because St. James Academy twice failed to score in the first half when it the ball within 2 yards of the end zone. One drive ended on downs, the other on a lost fumble.
Grant Elston, who is a starting running back for Eudora, stepped in at quarterback and found his groove in the fourth.
Elston threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to J.T. Howell with 5:49 to play. Eudora then forced a punt, and Elston came up big again, this time connecting with freshman Mitchell Ballock for a 24-yard score with 3:11 to go.
Mitchell Ballock finished with nine receptions for 194 yards and two touchdowns, but neither he nor the Cardinals touched the ball again after his second score.
“We were piecemealing everything together. We’ve got a guard who doesn’t play guard. We’ve got a quarterback who doesn’t play quarterback,” Eudora coach Kevin Kopecky said. “He’s usually a tailback. Just one of those nights, you know?”
The Thunder controlled the line of scrimmage most of the night, but St. James Academy coach Tom Radke wasn’t happy that his team didn’t capitalize with more points.
“We thought we dominated this game. We gave up some big plays because they’ve got some athletes that got behind us,” Radke said. “But we felt we dominated that game, and the score is not indicative of what we have on this team right now. We’re a little upset about it, but we’ll take the win.”
It would be bad karma not to.