The quick strikes cut hard and cut deep.
Behind four touchdowns from distances of 30 yards out or more, the St. Thomas Aquinas Saints outdistanced Gardner-Edgerton, 35-14, Friday night as the Trailblazers hosted the season-opener for both EKL teams.
Aquinas senior quarterback Will Swanson threw for two of the Saints’ five overall touchdowns, while going 6-of-7 for 200 yards in the passing game.
“We’re obviously very disappointed,” said Gardner-Edgerton head coach Marvin Diener after the game. “Our kids played hard and we’ve got good players, but in our execution we weren’t very congruent, and —when you play teams that good — you just can’t have that many breakdowns and survive. They just take complete advantage of a breakdown and it happened both offensively and defensively.”
Aquinas’ offense benefitted from opportunities created by a talented Saints defensive backfield that tried to make the Blazers’ offense one-dimensional.
“A lot of credit is due to STA,” Diener said. “They run a physical, good defense. They have very good corners that allowed them to put a lot of people in the box because those guys could handle our outside receivers.
The Saints put up 14 points in each of the contest’s first two quarters, scoring in the first quarter on a 40-yard scamper by junior fullback Cameron Jackson and on a 9-yard wide-right run by senior tailback Adam Davis. 2nd Quarter scores came on a deep 74-yard pass down the middle from Swanson to senior receiver Jack Morrissey and a 30-yard Swanson strike from Swanson to senior tight end Joseph Clune.
The Saints increased their lead to 35-0 on their first possession of the second half when senior tailback Drew Hicks scored on a 36-yard run.
However, the Trailblazer defense stiffened from that point on and the offense responded with two scoring drives of their own.
With 9:48 remaining in the 4th quarter, GEHS senior tailback Keegan Michael capped off a Blazer 10-play, 45-yard drive by plowing in from one-yard out, making the score 35-7.
After the Blazer defense forced a three-and-out from the Saints, the Trail Blazers needed only five plays for Keegan to score once again — this time on a 7-yard dash with 5:36 remaining to make the score 35-14.
However, the Saints were able to burn out most of the remaining time on a ball-control drive, keeping the final deficit at 21.
Despite his team’s first half struggles, Diener did see some positives in the Trailblazers’ play but was disappointed that the team’s offense and defense could not coordinate their best efforts.
“I just feel miserable that the overall appearance wasn’t better,” stated Diener, “because there were a lot of things going on that were very close. We just didn’t help each other out. Both sides of the football — at times — did what we needed. There were times that the offense made the first downs, kept the clock moving, and gave the defense breaks, but that was when they (STA) scored on quick scores. And when the defense got their first few three-and-outs, that’s when they needed the offense to flip the field and do things like that. We just didn’t help each other out at all.”
“I really believe this is a good football team,” said Diener, “and that we’ll be one of the best teams at the end of the season, but I’m disappointed that we didn’t show we were closer to it tonight.”
Offensively, the Blazers were led by Michael who — in addition to his two touchdowns — also rushed for 58 yards on 16 carries. In his debut at quarterback for GEHS, sophomore Teven McKelvey carried the ball 19 times for 69 yards, while going 4-of-16 for 70 yards and 2 interceptions in the passing game.
The Trailblazers received another standout defensive performance from senior linebacker Tyler Henry who recorded 3 tackles for loss, including a QB sack of 6 yards. Senior defensive back Austin Bond also recorded a sack, while senior defensive back Jensen McDermott, senior defensive lineman Emilio Oropeza, and junior linebacker Jonah May each recorded a tackle for loss.
Saints’ big plays too much for Trailblazers in season-opener