Stags riding high again

Kyle Palmer/PrepsKC

By Kyle Palmer PrepsKC staff writer
Posted: September 25, 2015 - 11:38 PM

Bishop Miege looks ready to start another 16-game winning streak.

The Stags stunned Eastern Kansas League rival St. Thomas Aquinas with 27 unanswered points in the second quarter—putting up three touchdowns in the final two minutes of the half—to break open what had been a tie game, eventually rolling to a 41-21 victory over the Saints.

It was an emphatic response for the defending 4A Kansas state champions, who had their 16-game winning streak end last week in a 42-35 loss to Blue Valley.

Video courtesy of Time Warner Cable Sports Channel

“It was a tough week for those guys. We gave up more than 400 yards last week. So we challenged them this week and they came out in that first half and did a great job,” said Miege coach Jon Holmes. “This is a rivalry game for us, so it’s a good one to get, especially at home.”

For a quarter, the teams were evenly matched. On the first play of the second quarter, Aquinas quarterback Karter Odermann snuck in from one yard out to tie the score 7-7. But it would quickly unravel.

“I coached the worst half of my life, called some stupid plays. We were grinding the ball, but we couldn’t get them off the field. It was just a disaster of a first half,” said Aquinas coach Randy Dreiling.

Really, the disaster was the second quarter.

After Aquinas tied it, the Stags’ barrage began on the ensuing drive when Dawson Downing dove in from four yards out. It was the senior’s second score of the game, after he scored on a 3-yard run on the Stags’ opening drive.  

It was a welcome return for the senior, who had amassed six touchdowns and 288 yards in Miege’s first two games before missing last week’s loss with a broken hand.

“We feel he’s the best back in the city. He does a great job, wants the football. He battled through that hand all game long even though it was hurting him,” Holmes said.

For his part, Downing said he felt energized after scoring early.

“I had been kind of limited in practice, trying to work out the soreness. It was a bit hard getting back into it, but it was good to establish the run game early.”

Miege stuffed Aquinas on fourth-and-6 on the Saints’ next drive and took over at their own 29. From there, the Stags ran an efficient drive that lasted a little less than four minutes. Downing capped it off with his third touchdown, a one-yard push into the end zone on fourth down.

Downing has now scored nine touchdowns in the first month of the season.

At 21-7, the game still felt in reach for Aquinas, but two critical mistakes by the Saints in the final two minutes of the half proved to be the turning point.

Punting on the next drive, the Saints couldn’t stop a gaggle of red-clad Stags from bursting through the line to block Alex Speckin’s kick.

“Only the third blocked punt of my career,” mused Dreiling.

Sophomore Joe Watskey picked up the loose ball at the 26 and rumbled into the end zone. Though the extra point was blocked, the Stags suddenly had a 27-7 lead and the home fans were in delirium.

It would only get crazier.

Just a few seconds later, Odermann’s pass was picked off by freshman Dylan Downing, Dawson’s younger brother. He made a twisting, stumbling return to the Aquinas 10. Two plays later, Carter Putz found Jafar Armstrong in the back corner of the end zone. And just like that, Miege had a 34-7 advantage going into the locker room.

“There were more openings in the secondary because of Dawson’s running,” Putz said. “I believe all our receivers are great and it’s pretty easy when they’re working hard to find them. All the credit to those guys.”

Putz found Armstrong in the end zone again on the first drive of the second half. Miege stormed down the field in a bit over 90 seconds after taking the kickoff out of the break. Putz hit both Danny Murphy and Nolan Gray for completions of 36 and 34 yards respectively. And the sophomore signal-caller capped the drive with a 15-yard touchdown toss to Armstrong.

That made it 41-7. From the start of the second quarter, then, the Stags had scored 34 unanswered.

Putz has been a revelation so far this year, replacing Ryan Willis who is now at the University of Kansas. Coming into this game, Putz had passed for more than 800 yards and tossed 10 touchdowns compared to only one interception.

Aquinas seemed to find a rhythm after that, though. The Saints scored the next two touchdowns on runs by Odermann and running back Sam Ramaekers.

“We were able to move the ball the whole game,” Dreiling said. “I’m proud of our team. In the second half, we did as well as we could do moving the ball, but we dug ourselves too big a hole.”

Next week, Miege travels to Blue Valley West, and Aquinas hosts Gardner-Edgerton.