St. James holds off spirited BV West

Steve Bubalo/PrepsKC

By Steve Bubalo PrepsKC Senior Writer
Posted: October 21, 2017 - 1:05 AM

The saying ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ can apply to a lot of things in life, even football. Just ask St. James Academy.

The Thunder had just watched their 28-19 lead over a fired-up Blue Valley West squad disappear Thursday night, evaporating into a 35-all tie with about two-and-a-half minutes left to play. Time for a hurry-up offense while taking shots down the field in the passing game? Nope. The Thunder did what they had been doing all game, slowly and methodically breaking down the Jaguar defense with Jack Petz and the ground game.

St. James went 60 yards in eight plays - five of them runs to Petz - and took the lead for good with just 25 seconds left to play when Petz barreled into the end zone from 9 yards out for a 42-35 victory.

“I expected us to pass a little bit,” Petz said. “But I had faith in my O-line and we kept running on them.”

Offensive Coordinator Matt Joshi had confidence, too, and he wasn’t going to deviate from the game plan.

“Coach Joshi takes it slow and steady,” Thunder head coach Tom Radke said. “He just said let’s keep going, let’s keep running. I think we wore them out. We were pounding and pounding. Jack was the man. He saved us tonight.”

After St. James went ahead 28-19 on a Luke Heller 24-yard touchdown run, the Jaguars responded with a touchdown of their own, led by backup quarterback Greg Riddle. Jake Kidd ran in for a 6-yard score and the two-point conversion was good for a 28-27 score.

But the final two drives are when Petz was at his best.

The Thunder answered the Jaguar touchdown with one of their own, as Petz carried the ball eight times for 56 yards on the drive, capping it with a 2-yard score for a 35-27 lead.

“We like to wear people out with him,” Radke said of Petz. “We didn’t get him the ball enough last week, so we made a conscious decision to get him the ball tonight.”

Petz was more than up to the task.

“They told me I was going to get the ball quite a few times tonight,” he said. “I was hungry. I just wanted to help my team win.”

Blue Valley West was more than up to the challenge on this night, as quarterback Keaton Goodale returned and led the Jaguars 73 yards and scored on a 3-yard run. He also converted on the two-point conversion with another run, making it 35-all.

But Petz was too much on this night. He added 44 more yards on five rushes on the final drive, including that game-winning score. That gave him 100 yards on 13 carries on the final two scoring drives.

“We were resilient,” Petz said of the offense. “We knew we had to pick it up each time they (Blue Valley West) scored. We were confident in what we had. The offensive line was amazing. There were holes big enough to drive a truck through.”

Early on, the run game set up some big plays in the passing game, as St. James’s first three touchdowns all came through the air via Heller’s arm. And despite the 1-6 record, the Jaguars kept it close throughout, as Goodale was a handful for the Thunder defense with his arm and his legs. But Petz and company wouldn't be denied.

“They’re a tough group,” Radke said of his team after they improved to 6-2. “It’s a senior-laden team and they don’t like to lose. They weren’t going to let this one slip away.”