St. James grinds past Louisburg
By Jim Bradford PrepsKC senior writer
Chris Gomez wasn’t really sure what to do when he ended up with the ball in the end zone Friday night in Louisburg.
The St. James Academy senior decided quickly just to lie there for a second and enjoy the moment.
See, Gomez is one of those unsung stalwarts along the defensive line. He’s not used to scoring touchdowns. In fact, he hadn’t scored one since his flag football days way back in grade school.
When he pounced on a Nate O’Brien fumble in the end zone, capping a decisive third quarter, the Thunder were on their way to a hard-fought 12-6 win at Louisburg.
“I came off the ball and looked right,” Gomez said. “Then I saw Connor (Moore) come flying past me and hit (O’Brien).
“(Moore) hit him hard and the ball just dropped right out of his hand, straight down to the ground. I jumped down on it and it popped into the end zone and I jumped on it again. It was great.”
The play came on the second to last of the third quarter, a quarter in which St. James scored all of their points on their way to the win.
“This is just a testament to what we are doing out here as a team,” said St. James head coach Tom Radke. “They are a big, physical team that came out and hit us hard.
“But I love the way we stepped up in the second half.”
Radke said that the physical nature of the game might have had the Thunder in a bit of shock from the outset.
“I think we were sort of shocked,” he said. “It took us a half to remember what we are all about and how we can play. We played our (tails) off in the second half.”
St. James is now 5-0 on the season. Already, that’s a school record for wins, but they aren’t content with stopping now.
“It’s satisfying,” Radke said, “but it’s just one step. We have to make sure we get ready for the next step.”
The Thunder got on the board first midway through the third quarter, using a Jansen Keyes t Alex King 71-yard hook up to put the Thunder at the Wildcats 5-yard line. Two plays later Jansen snuck in from the 2 to break the 0-0 tie.
Louisburg had trouble getting out of its own way all night long. Both St. James touchdowns came courtesy of turnovers and the Wildcats (3-2) put the ball on the ground seven times, losing four of those fumbles. They also committed six costly penalties for 40 yards.
They were able to get on the board in the final two minutes of the game on an O’Brien to Daniel O’Connor 10-yard touchdown pass.
The Thunder recovered the ensuing onside kick and melted the final 1:25 of the game to hang on for the win.
The two teams battled to a 0-0 standstill in the first half, but it was more of the missed opportunities than it was stellar defense.
Louisburg drove deep into the Thunder territory I the final minute of the first half, but Luke Hupp coughed up the ball on a 1-yard line and Moore pounced on it in the end zone for a touchback.
On the ensuing drive, St. James drove all the way down to the Louisburg 22 before a holding penalty stalled the drive. TJ McKiernan intercepted a Keyes pass four plays later on a fourth down pass across the middle.
Louisburg continued to shoot themselves in the foot later in the first half as they were handed the ball on 30-yard line after Chris Chase intercepted another Keyes pass. After the Wildcats got down to the 21-yard line, a loss of one on a pass into the flat and an 8-yard loss on a sack left the Wildcats with a fourth down play from the 30. An O’Brien pass into the end zone was too long.
Louisburg had 121 yards of offense in the first half to just 99 by the Thunder. Louisburg finished with 225 yards of total offense. St. James had a total of 236, with 71 of that coming on the one long pass play.
Louisburg hosts Baldwin next Friday night while St. James continues its tour of the Frontier League with a matchup with another Class 4A heavyweight Eudora.
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