The numbers were already impressive for St. Thomas Aquinas, and with its 6-0 win over Harmon on Saturday in the Class 5A state championship game, they became even gaudier.
Two straight titles. Eight in the last 11 years. A total of 16 state crowns.
Not enough? How about Saints coach Craig Ewing, who can now claim 30 – yes 3-0 – state championships between the boys and girls programs at Aquinas?
“That’s impossible,” said Ewing, who started coaching at Aquinas when it opened in 1988 and won his first title four years later. “There are times during all this when I think ‘I don’t know how we’ve done this.’ You have to give credit to the players, who buy into what you’re doing, and you have to be fortunate.”
Fortune may not have had much to do with Saturday’s win. The Saints were dominant.
Lasse Nilsen and Luke Kutey scored goals fewer than 2 minutes apart and gave the Saints a 2-0 halftime lead. Kutey added a second goal in the second half, just minutes after Joseph Skevington’s shot skipped through a group of Harmon defenders and into the goal. Nilsen and Kevin Feurborn capped the scoring in the final minutes.
Aquinas outshot the Hawks 17-4 and converted on all six of its shots on goal.
“We all came together in the middle of the season and decided this was what we wanted to do; we wanted to defend this championship,” senior Matthew Holland said. “We came out on top and it’s incredible.”
The Saints, with 12 seniors on their roster and two more out because of concussions, finish the season 19-2.
“This means we’re a part of a legacy that’s been going on for years,” senior Matthew Brown said. “To be a part of that is awesome.”
The loss ended a historic run for Harmon. The Hawks, who finished 18-3, made just their second trip to the final four and their first title game appearance.
Harmon looked to have cut Aquinas’ lead in half when Giovanni Calderon found the back of the net with just 3 seconds left on the first-half clock. The goal was waved off, however, thanks to an offsides call. All three of the Hawks’ second-half shots were saved by Aquinas keepers.
“We thought we saw it bounce off a defender, but they called it back,” Harmon coach Carlos Olivas said. “The kids were really down at halftime, but we came back out and played hard. Aquinas is obviously a great program and a great team. We have nothing to hang our heads about.”
Calderon scored both of the Hawks’ goals in Friday’s semifinal win and is one of nine Harmon seniors.
“I’m proud of this whole team and we’re all proud of ourselves,” Calderon said. “To finish in the last two in state is crazy. We have a lot of be proud about.”