Aquinas runs over Blue Valley Southwest

Ryan Wallace/PrepsKC

By Ryan Wallace PrepsKC Senior Writer
Posted: October 14, 2017 - 2:52 PM

Eight minutes before the first whistle signaled for St. Thomas Aquinas and Blue Valley Southwest to get underway, the chants from the Timberwolves student section began. Audible from the sideline, yells reminding the Saints offense of their eight fumbles a year ago, turnovers that resulted in a 30-27 upset win for Southwest.

By the second drive of the game, those chants went silent and hopes of a similar win on senior night were erased as visiting Aquinas bludgeoned the home squad by 34 points, 61-27.

“From the very first drive of the game, we didn’t stop them,” a frustrated Blue Valley Southwest head coach Anthony Orrick muttered afterwards. “It was like them running through nothing.”

“They’re just a physical team that got after us and took us out of what we wanted to do early.”

Much like the previous week against St. James, a powerful Aquinas offense dominated each time it touched the ball. Scoring the first six possessions (every drive of the first half and the first of the second half), the Saints rattled off touchdowns of every variety. Junior Cameron Jackson did most of the celebrating, entering the end zone four times on scoring plays within inches of the goal line and also option pitches from as far as 20-yards out. When quarterback Will Swanson (who scored himself on a four-yard keeper) saw vertical openings, Aquinas struck over the top too. Twice in the first half he found six-foot-three senior receiver Jack Morrissey for big gains, one that resulted in a 44-yard touchdown strike that put the visitors up 14-0 with 5:02 left in the first quarter.

“It’s not necessarily that we’re trying to spread the ball out, but we take whatever they give us,” said a pleased Randy Dreiling, Aquinas head coach, of an offense that once led 40-7 early in the third quarter. “I think our team’s getting better at finding out what the other team’s doing and taking advantage of that.”

Defensively for the Saints, the final score may display the most points the group has surrendered all season but that could be the only downside from Friday night. Blue Valley Southwest juniors Will Eldridge and Billy Bartlett entered as one of the state’s most lethal passing duos, leading the 5A class in passing yards and receiving yards as individuals. Four times in the first half though, they were relegated to the sideline after three and outs forced Orrick to punt. Take away Eldridge’s 80-yard delayed scamper through the heart of the Aquinas defense with 8:06 left in the first half, and it was a rough go for the now 3-4 Timberwolves.

“It’s enjoyable when you know that the other team is going to have to work to get points,” admitted Dreiling, complimenting his defense for a second week. “Can’t underestimate the value that defense staff does week in and week out.”

Despite Bartlett and Andrew Hill finding ways to get behind the Saints secondary late in the game, adding extra points to the scoreboard with their vertical speed, Orrick didn’t shy away from the fact they have to quickly put this loss behind them and not lose focus on the bigger task ahead – the 5A playoffs.

For Aquinas, there’s one more hurdle the Saints are eager to jump before rolling into the playoffs themselves – a senior night contest next week against rival Blue Valley.

“Blue Valley is always a good school and they’re always competitive – we love playing them,” senior safety Jared Flood said of next week’s battle for EKL bragging rights. “They’re going to give us a challenge but I think we’re going to be ready for them.”

“We’re really bound to win a state title this year,” added Flood of his 6-1 squad. “That’s our goal and we’re really striving for that.”