Saints win slugfest

Ryan Wallace/PrepsKC

By Ryan Wallace PrepsKC Senior Writer
Posted: September 8, 2017 - 11:45 PM



 

What had the makings of an EKL shootout early on quickly settled into a September slugfest between St. Thomas Aquinas and Blue Valley North, with the Saints pushing ahead by games end for a 28-14 victory.

Each squad tallied scores on first possessions, both unique to their style.

Aquinas struck first on a nine-play drive keyed by a big Jayden Russell reverse call. The end around would set up an eight-yard Cameron Jackson touchdown, his first of two scores on the night, as the Saints displayed their ability to motor down the field with a ground attack.

For the home Mustangs, Andy Sims’ offense needed just three plays to equalize, capitalizing first on a 62-yard pass play from quarterback Graham Mertz to Grant Hamel. A play later, it was Mertz connecting with senior receiver Dylan Freberg in the end zone on a 21-yard rollout that stunned Aquinas.

“Yeah, that’s a good offense (North’s) got,” admitted Aquinas head coach Randy Dreiling afterwards, very pleased with his defense’s effort. “I was a little upset that we couldn’t, you know, ice the game a little more but I’ll take a 14-point win.”

In Blue Valley North’s view, they weren’t without chances. The Mustangs defense finished the first half by forcing Aquinas into two punts and an interception, coming at the hands of senior linebacker Thatcher Robertson, but failed to capitalize as an offense. Then, when North was able to cross the goal line in the second half, still trailing 14-7, the big pass plays were called back for penalties, frustrating Sims in postgame.

“It sounds odd, but they gotta make those mistakes,” said Sims in the loss, pointing out a roster that returns playmakers but also lack a wealth of experience. “Of course, you’d like to make them with a win.”

“I think when we go back and watch film tomorrow, we’re going to see a lot of self inflicted wounds.”

As North’s up-tempo system stalled, largely due to a relentless pass rush from the likes of Mathew Roberts, Javier Derritt, and Bo Meisenheimer, Aquinas’ physical offensive front began to drain the Mustangs in the third quarter. Dreiling used a combination of quarterback Will Swanson (two touchdowns on the night) and Jackson, plus the athletic legs of Tristan and Adam Davis to throw a variety of run reads at a defensive line, anchored by star Miles Emery, that was quiet for much of the evening.

“That was the plan from the start- to wear them down and wear them down until we eventually won it,” a victorious Jackson said after a big performance.

The win sets up a massive match-up with rival Bishop Miege next week for Aquinas back at home. The Stags are coming off a 48-0 blanking of Gardner Edgerton and have outscored both opponents to date by a total of 103-10. Still, sophomore Roberts believes this undefeated Saints team, who will be without its all-around standout Russell after he was ejected during the first quarter of this game, is prepared and ready for the challenge.

“Miege is one of our biggest rivals but if we come out the way we did tonight and a little bit better, we can do it,” Roberts said of an upset that would shake up the EKL.

As for the Mustangs, now 1-1, they’ll return home next Friday for a 5:00 showdown with neighbor Blue Valley and a Tigers team that rebounded for a big win over Blue Valley West.

“I think if we focus on ourselves and make some improvements technique wise or, for me, in play calling – I didn’t do a great job calling a game tonight – and see what things I can improve just like my boys, we’ll be in good shape moving forward against another tough team next week,” finished Sims.