One for the ages
By David Svoboda
Ten minutes after the conclusion of the game between St. Thomas Aquinas and Bishop Miege Friday night, several hundred fans lingered in the stands, some still seated.
Had they fallen victim to the cold, so frozen as to be unable to move?
Hardly. If anything, they were there because they WERE moved.
In one of the most thrilling finishes one will ever see in a high school football game – let alone a matchup between two bitter rivals with a district title on the line – Aquinas grabbed a heart-stopping 27-24 win over Miege in a game for the ages.
Miege appeared poised to tie or win with a third down and goal from the Saint’s 3-yard line with time running down. And Stag QB Montell Cozart completed a desperation heave – rolling right and throwing back left – on that third down as time ticked away.
But Aquinas was able to swarm to the ball and make a game-saving tackle just outside the 1-yard-line with just over eight seconds left and the clock running.
Miege frantically ran its kicking team onto the field as the offense hurried toward the sidelines. But in the end the Stags could not get a snap off, and the game was over.
And the fans were in no hurry to leave.
With the win, Aquinas moved to 8-1 overall and 3-0 in district play. Miege fell to 4-5 and 2-1, but not for lack of effort. Cozart ended the night a phenomenal 35-of-59 for 343 yards through the air. But it was the extra yard he didn’t end up adding to his stats that hurt the most.
Even the coaches were exhausted when this one was through.
“We knew it was going to be a knockdown, drag out game and it was,” said Aquinas Coach Mike Thomas, who just so happened to be a member of the 1972 Miege State Championship team that was honored at halftime, with the coach in the locker room, now the leader of the opposition. “Congratulations to the boys on both teams. They just played their hearts out.”
As for Miege Coach Jon Holmes, his first experience as a head coach in this rivalry was one he’ll likely remember forever, though in a bitter defeat.
“To lose to a team like that the way we did was tough,” he said. “But the one thing our kids can be proud of was that we didn’t quit.”
Indeed they didn’t. And the Stags were seemingly climbing out of a hole from the outset.
Aquinas scored the game’s first 14 points before Miege ran off 17-straight to grab a short-lived 17-14 lead midway through the third quarter.
All those early scores did was serve as a warm-up act for a final quarter filled with thrilling moments and wild emotional swings.
On the first play of the final 12 minutes, Aquinas QB Danten Cosentino, who was momentarily knocked from the game with an injury on an earlier Saints’ possession, ran it in from 3 yards out to give his team the lead once more at 20-17 after the PAT sailed wide.
Cosentino’s heroics capped a seven-play, 95-yard drive that most would have considered stunning.
“We’ve got three really good quarterbacks, and one of the reasons we went with Danten is that he makes quick decisions and he’s really calm and cool,” Thomas said. “I was surprised he came back (from the injury), but was really glad he did.”
Thomas and Cosentino weren’t feeling good for long as after Miege went three and out, an errant Cosentino throw wound up in the hands of the Stags’ McKinley Johnson who returned the interception to the St. Thomas Aquinas 22.
Cozart and Miege went for the quick strike and connected, with junior Michael Murphy laying out in the back of the end zone for a circus catch – he landed in the high jump pit after dragging his feet along the back line for the TD. The ensuing PAT gave Miege the lead at 24-20.
But Cosentino and his offensive mates for Aquinas weren’t done yet, and their final scoring drive was an 88-yard thing of beauty.
Yes, the gritty junior led his team on 95- and 88-yard drives in the fourth quarter to take the lead and recapture it for good, sandwiched around his mistake that allowed Miege to momentarily snatch it from the Saints. Cosentino ended the night just 10-of-22 through the air, but he ended the contest with 237 yards and four pass plays of 34 yards or more – with a long of 57.
The 88-yard, eventual game winning march that ate up nearly 4:30 of the final stanza was capped off, appropriately, by a 5-yard scamper by the QB, who was understandably fired up as he reached the end zone for the 27-24 advantage after the PAT.
Miege would have two more possessions, the final one ending in the wild sequence that took place as the clock ran down and out.
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