To call the first quarter of Friday’s annual ‘Holy War’ showdown a disaster for St. Thomas Aquinas would be a disservice to the word disaster.
The Saints committed penalties and a turnover. They fell behind Bishop Miege by two touchdowns, and came within mere inches of turning a routine kick return into a safety in the quarter’s final minute.
It was at that moment, down big and 99.5 yards away from the end zone, that Aquinas found itself.
The Saints dominated from that point on, and rolled to a 41-21 victory over arch-rival Miege.
Aquinas (7-0) beat the Stags (5-2) for the first time since 2010 and took a huge step toward sewing up the Eastern Kansas League title.
“We talked about being down at the team meeting last night,” Aquinas coach Randy Dreiling said. “I said I hope we’re down, and we show that we’ve got enough mental toughness to come back and beat them, and that’s what we did tonight.”
Being down is one thing. Being down 14 and pinned near your own goal line is another.
The Saints unfurled a methodical 11-play, 99-yard march that jump-started the offense. Aquinas scored 34 unanswered points, and found the end zone on five straight drives, excluding the last possession of the first half when it took a knee to get to halftime.
The Saints defense found its footing at the same time, holding the Stags to just one first down in their next four possessions.
“I made a couple mistakes, had that fumble, and it was a big competition. Everybody had a couple errors and we decided to clean that stuff up after that,” Aquinas senior quarterback Tate Raboin said.
The Saints dispensed with the formalities and proceeded to ram the ball down the field.
Sophomore running back Tank Young stands 5-7 and 166, at least according to the Aquinas roster.
“I got it when I was young. My auntie just gave it to me,” Young said with a smile about his nickname.
Young isn’t a big tank. He is an exceedingly tough one.
Young finished the game with 38 carries, 287 yards and three touchdowns on Friday. Aquinas got going when Young got going.
And when the Saints started the third quarter with the ball and a 21-14 lead, they turned to Young to pound Miege into submission.
Young got the ball on 19 of Aquinas’ first 23 plays to start the second half. His constant pounding set up two long scores, and he punched one in for good measure.
“The O-line did it all,” Young said. “We feel good, because we haven’t beat them in (a while).”
And, for what it’s worth, Young was feeling no pain. At least not in the immediate aftermath on Friday night.
“I feel good. I thought I would be sore, but I’m straight,” Young said.
Young made an impression last year. This year, every team left on Aquinas’ schedule knows that stopping him is the first step in trying to slow down this team.
“He’s something else, that’s all I got to say,” Dreiling said. “He’s the best kid, a humble kid. And just fill the Tank, baby. Fill the Tank.”
Aquinas has next Friday off, which should give Tank and the rest of the Saints plenty of time to refuel.