St. Thomas Aquinas had more fumbles than touchdowns Friday night, but the Saints still beat Blue Valley North 35-14.
“I honestly lost count how many fumbles we had. Hopefully we got it out of our systems,” Aquinas head coach Randy Dreiling said. “I’ve never seen anything like that.”
Aquinas put the ball on the ground seven times, losing five of those fumbles. But when they could keep track of the football, the Saints maintained a powerful offense.
Running back Drew Hicks scored two touchdowns, and a Joseph Clune 79-yard touchdown reception from Will Swanson provided the highlight of the night for Aquinas’ blowout victory.
Aquinas had just been slapped with a chop block penalty midway through the second quarter, sending the offense back to its own 21-yard-line with the score tied 7-7. But Swanson dropped back and threw deep to Clune, his 6-foot, 242-pound tight end wide open in the middle of the field. With a burst of speed, Clune rumbled downfield, taking several defenders down with him, three by stiff arm.
The Saints took a 14-7 lead off his 79-yard touchdown rumble, with 6:13 to play in the second quarter. It was the second of five straight touchdowns they would score to take a commanding lead.
“I was just surprised he had enough breath to get there,” Dreiling quipped. “That was a great throw, a great catch, and (Clune) is just a load to bring down.”
Hicks, who has five total rushing touchdowns on the season, ran for two in Friday’s first half. The second, coming with 2:27 to play in the half, came after Hicks broke through the defense near the midfield and got several blocks to spring free and give Aquinas a 21-7 lead.
“My blockers had a lot of pancakes, and a lot of people (were) on their ass tonight,” Hicks said. “It was nice. I wouldn’t have had two touchdowns without them.”
Blue Valley North got off to the best start, and held a lead for the majority of the first half. Both teams had traded possessions lasting fewer than 30 seconds (North on a three-and-out, Aquinas on a fumble). But on North’s second try, the Mustangs put together a 62-yard drive, capped by a Cole Chapman 3-yard touchdown pass to Payton Thielmann.
That 7-0 North lead lasted until Hicks’ first touchdown run, a 37-yarder with 9:03 remaining in the half, which tied the game.
After the early lead, not much else went right for North, who gave up 35 straight points. Those Aquinas scores included long touchdown receptions of 79 (Clune) and 49 yards (Swanson to Mason Howard), and runs of 37 and 49 yards (both Hicks). John Schnieders added a 39-yard run of his own midway through the third quarter to solidify Aquinas’ lead.
“Where a lot of defenses struggle is they focus on one thing, like we did tonight,” North coach Andy Sims said. “We gave up some long ones, but you have to help your defense out. You have to put (Aquinas) in positions where they can’t be so balanced and come with the play action.”
For North offensively, the Chapman-Thielmann connection was the only time the Mustangs put points on the board, until 3:57 remained in the game. Chapman bulled over the goal line on 3rd and inches to close the gap, 35-14.