Behind its strong offensive line, St. James Academy broke out the ground game early and often on Blue Valley on Friday at Bishop Miege High School.
The five-touchdown performance by running back Jack Petz helped propel the Thunder to a 35-28 win for its fifth straight victory and remain undefeated on the season.
With a well-calculated offensive attack and an opportunistic defense, there’s a good chance St. James (5-0) could make a deep run in 2017.
“We’re still establishing ourselves as an (Eastern Kansas League) player in the race, and it’s fun for the community,” St. James head coach Tom Radke said.
Petz put together more than 200 yards of total offense to go along with his five touchdowns, showing why he is one of the up-and-coming stars in the metro.
“I beat my (touchdown) record,” Petz said. ”It’s pretty exciting. I’m just trying to help the team get a win.”
Petz was the star on the stat sheet, but Michael Tujague provided another option out of the backfield, catching a few big passes to move the chains. Tujague finished the game with 125 yards of total offense.
“I sometimes come off really tired, so it’s good to have those guys come in there for you,” Petz said.
St. James quarterback Luke Heller provided a steady hand, scrambling around when needed and hit the open receiver when it was available.
“The kid just has a resilience,” Radke said of Heller. “He’s just a leader. He had a little bit of swag going into the game. He had a little extra juice and showed here tonight.”
Blue Valley fought back after giving up 21 unanswered points to start. The Tiger clawed within one score a few times thanks to some TD runs by Alex Totta and Eric Olson and two TD catches by Cameron Green. Still, the early deficit was too much to overcome.
“I think our kids lost a little bit of their hunger this week,” Blue Valley head coach Allen Terrell said.
“I don’t know if they underestimated St. James, because we have a lot of respect for that program, but you need that hunger especially in our league. Our kids were shocked by how hard they hit and how fast they ran and how hard they ran the football and how well they caught and blocked. You can’t be surprised in this league. Everyone in our schedule is able to beat us.”
Now fully on the EKL radar after beating perennial powers Mill Valley and Blue Valley, St. James turns it focus to one of its biggest games each year.
“We’ve got Aquinas next week,” Radke said. “That’s a big rivalry game.
“They’ve whooped us the last few times we’ve played them, so hopefully we can give them a game this week,” Radke said with a smile. “We’re just happy for the guys right now. It’s crazy to be 5-0 in the EKL.”