Football team drops close game to St. Thomas Aquinas 28-21

While the team outgained Aquinas offensively, four turnovers proved too much to overcome

Ben Wieland, Mill Valley News editor in chief

The football team lost for the second week in a row, falling to St. Thomas Aquinas 28-21 Friday, Sept. 27. While the team was able to outgain Aquinas in total yards 380 to 352, four costly turnovers stopped them from pulling off a 14-point second half comeback. The team nearly pulled off a win against the Aquinas team that had dominated the first three weeks, winning their games by an average of 45 points. 

Despite the team’s close loss to a highly-ranked Aquinas squad, defensive line coach Aaron Cox is proud of his team’s effort. 

“Obviously, the game didn’t go our way, but very proud of our effort. Each and every game these guys come out and give everything they have,” Cox said. “Unfortunately, the game just didn’t go our way. That wasn’t for lack of effort.”

The team’s attack on the ground led the way offensively. With running back Quin Wittenauer limited due to a right ankle injury, running back Tyler Green took the bulk of the team’s carries, rushing for 137 yards on 22 carries. Quarterback Cooper Marsh tacked on 19 carries for 105 yards. 

The team also scored through the air — Marsh completed 10 of his 22 passes for 128 yards and three touchdowns. However, he also threw three interceptions. 

Quarterback Cooper Marsh led the Jaguar offense against St. Thomas Aquinas.

The team didn’t struggle to move the ball, but they did have some difficulty hanging onto it. Two interceptions, a fumble and a turnover on downs kept the team from putting points on the board on a few drives deep into Aquinas territory in the first half. 

The team’s turnover woes disappeared for most of the second half, but returned in a crucial moment late in the fourth with an interception thrown from the Aquinas nine. 

Defensive coordinator Drew Hudgins explained what the team needs to do to limit turnovers in the future. 

According to Hudgins, the team “needs to just keep focusing on ball security.” 

Offensively, Aquinas stuck with their triple option attack for most of the game. Quarterback Blake Anderson rarely threw, and Aquinas tried to force feed star running back Tyron “Tank” Young the ball. 

The Jaguar defense neutralized Young, holding the back who averaged 208 yards last season and put up five touchdowns in his last game to only 103 yards on 20 carries. Although Aquinas’s other playmakers occasionally found some big plays, stopping Young was a win for the team, according to defensive back Cole Clauder. 

Tackling was our number one priority this week and with a great back like him, we really needed to turn it up a notch,” Clauder said. “We tackled all week in practice, and I think it paid off tonight.”

Aquinas opened the game with an 80-yard touchdown drive featuring zero passing plays, a heavy dose of the triple option and a four-yard touchdown carry by Young. 

The team answered strong, though, with a six-play, 78-yard touchdown drive capped off by a three-yard touchdown pass by Marsh to wide receiver Kendrick Jones.

After Aquinas’s first drive, the defense tightened up, allowing only two first downs on the next three possessions. 

The offense continued to drive, but miscues prevented the team from reaching the end zone. On one drive, Wittenauer lost a fumble at the Aquinas 21. On another, the team turned it over on downs from the Aquinas 28. On a third, Marsh threw an interception from the Aquinas 20. 

Aquinas capitalized on the third mistake with a 78-yard touchdown carry by running back Charlie McCormick, and after a Marsh interception Anderson’s first completion of the game ended with another Aquinas touchdown. Three turnovers and a few big plays conceded defensively left the Jaguars trailing 21-7 at halftime. 

On the first drive of the second half, the team went back to the run game that had worked so well for them on their lone touchdown drive. They rushed the ball to the Aquinas 24, when Marsh threw his first pass of the drive for a 24-yard touchdown to wide receiver Zach Mills. 

Marsh kept firing on the next drive, scrambling for a massive 31-yard gain and finding wide receiver Ty Reishus for a six-yard touchdown, Marsh’s third of the game. The team knotted the score at 21, but the tie was short-lived. 

Young was able to punch in a five-yard score for Aquinas less than two minutes later, and at the end of the third quarter the Jaguars trailed 28-21. 

After a pair of punts, the Jaguars were able to drive down to the Aquinas 9, but a costly interception gave the ball back with only 4:34 to play. 

Aquinas was able to run out the clock and finish the game with a 28-21 victory. 

This is a great group of guys that show up every week. They prepare the right way and they play very hard.”

— defensive line coach Aaron Cox

The team lost their second straight matchup against a top-five team in the state by only a touchdown. Despite back-to-back losses — this week’s defeat and last week’s 42-35 loss to Bishop Miege — Cox is optimistic about the team’s next few games. 

“Our outlook [for the rest of the season] is awesome. This is a great group of guys that show up every week. They prepare the right way and they play very hard,” Cox said. “I think that we’re going to continue to see positive results from them because of the great attitude and effort.”

In their next game, the team will take on Blue Valley North on the road Friday, Oct. 4 at 7 p.m.

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