Not this time

Mike Lavieri/PrepsKC

By Mike Lavieri PrepsKC senior writer
Posted: October 1, 2016 - 12:26 AM

Joe Clune broke off his designed route and it paid dividends as the St. Thomas Aquinas junior tight end hauled in the game-winning touchdown with 1:26 remaining to give the Saints a 40-33 victory against Mill Valley.

Clune said his coaches told him the Jaguars’ safety was pinching over and they were going to call a play to counter that.

“The high safety stayed back,” Clune said of the coverage on the game-winning play. “I cut over and Will Swanson threw a great pass to me in the end zone.”

Clune had three defenders chasing him and when he saw the ball he knew he was going to catch it when he got to it, but that wasn’t what he was thinking when the ball first went up.

“When he first threw it (I thought), ‘No way am I fast enough to get to that ball,’” Clune said. “Somehow I kept going and the ball kept hanging up there and I got to it. It felt great when I finally caught it.”

Saints coach Randy Dreiling chewed out Swanson, despite the touchdown, for not checking down on the play.

“He finds a way to get it done,” Dreiling said. “It was a great pass. I didn’t watch Will, he must have bought some time.”

The victory for the Saints is the first against Mill Valley since 2014 as the Jaguars won both meetings last year on their way to the Class 5A state title.

Mill Valley found itself down 14 with 9:42 remaining in the game. It led 19-18 after three quarters, but a Cameron Young fumble at his own 11 set up Aquinas with a short field. And on the next drive junior quarterback Brody Flaming threw an interception to junior linebacker Ryan Jurczak, who returned it to the Mill Valley 13.

Freshman running back Matthew Roberts gave Aquinas the lead back initially after Young’s fumble and Swanson added onto the lead with his second-rushing score of the night.

But Young made up for his mistake as he accumulated 191 yards on the ground on 27 carries including runs of 32 and 50 yards.

“We were losing and we needed something to help bring us back,” the sophomore running back said of his effort on the night. “I thought I had to take on a leader role, my coaches have been talking to me all week about it. Coach (TJ) O’Neill has really been pushing me this week.”

Young said his coaches told him to keep his head up after the fumble and move on to the next play.

The Jaguars made a number of costly mistakes including a muffed punt by senior defensive back Joel Donn that was recovered in the end zone by Aquinas junior lineman Sam Wolff midway through the second quarter.

With three games left before the playoffs, this game could have big seeding implications. The Saints not only hold a tiebreaker over Mill Valley, but a one-game lead as St. Thomas Aquinas moved to 4-1 while the Jaguars fell to 3-2.

Dreiling said his team has a huge ceiling, but they haven’t reached it yet. He likes where his team is at, but would like for his team to play a complete game and minimize the mistakes.

“That’s a very good team out there that we just beat,” Dreiling said. “Hopefully we get to see them again in the playoffs.”