Blue Valley West scored two touchdowns in a seesaw fourth quarter, holding off a gutsy late charge by St. Thomas Aquinas for a 24-17 East Kansas League victory at Aquinas on Friday.
The thrilling second half began with Aquinas nursing a 10-7 lead. Then late in the third quarter, the Jaguars drove to the Saints’ 8 yard line, where the Aquinas defense stiffened. BV West lost two yards in three plays, giving senior Troy Burgett the opportunity to tie the game with a 27-yard field goal with 1:44 left in the period.
The Jaguars quickly went on offense again, beginning an 11-play, 55-yard drive on the final play of the third quarter. The go-ahead TD came on a 10-yard pass from quarterback Ryan Ralston to Cale McMakin, making the score 17-10.
“It was an out route, and I beat my man in the (right) corner of the end zone,” McMakin said. “I caught it with one hand, tipped it, tipped it again and caught it.”
Before the game, the Jaguars’ coaching staff wasn’t sure that McMakin could even play.
“I sprained my ankle on Wednesday,” he said. “It didn’t affect me once the game started. The pain went away.”
It took just six plays for the Saints to tie the game, on a 61-yard drive.
With 5:34 left in the game, Danten Cosentino connected with senior wide receiver Ryan McNellis on a 28-yard touchdown pass.
But BV West responded with a six-play, 73-yard drive, the key play coming on a 47-yard pass from Ralston to McMakin.
“It was a go route, and it was a perfect ball from Ryan,” McMakin said.
Ralston got the touchdown on a 1-yard quarterback sneak on third down.
On their final possession, the Saints managed two first downs, but the clock ran out when Cosentino was sacked on third and 8 from the BV West 41.
“This was a gut check for us,” Jaguars coach Scott Wright said.
The Jaguars were without senior running back Grant Garcia, who rushed for over 200 yards in 35-7 win last week at Topeka Washburn Rural, senior inside linebacker Jared Jacobson and junior receiver Luke Curtis.
“We had our backs against the wall,” Wright said. “This showed the character of our team.”
Junior Jon Reams started in place of Garcia. He had five carries for 15 yards in the first half, but came with 62 yards on nine carries in the second half.
“He was trying to do too much in the first half, but came back with some big runs in the second half,” Wright said.
Ralston scored two touchdowns on quarterback sneaks and was 10-of-23 passing for 200 yards. He didn’t have an interception.
Aquinas’ McNellis had touchdown catches of 28 and 51 yards.
By beating the Saints for the first time in the last five years, the Jaguars improved to 2-0 overall and 1-0 in league play. Aquinas fell to 0-2.