Football team to play for state title after win over Aquinas

Jaguars defeat Saints 45-28 in substate game; will play for first athletic state title in school history

Tori Aerni, JagWire editor-in-chief

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The student section quickly rushed from the stands to the field to join the football team in celebration after a 45-28 substate win over the Saint Thomas Aquinas Saints. This win advanced the football team to the 5A football state championship for the first time in school history.

This was the second time these teams faced each other this season, the Jaguars coming out with a victory in both games. With the Jaguars and Saints having played once prior to the substate game, according to head coach Joel Applebee, the team expected plays they hadn’t seen from Aquinas earlier in the season.

“You have to prepare for everything,” Applebee said. “[Aquinas] did a nice job of executing some plays that obviously they don’t run very often, but I was very proud of the way the kids responded when [Aquinas] had a big play.”

Senior offensive lineman Tyler Shurley said after playing Aquinas once this season, the Jaguars expected a hard-fought game by both teams.

“We knew it would be a battle,” Shurley said. “Their offense was good, our offense was good. We focused on completing every play and we were victorious.”

The Saints began the game with possession, attempting a field goal with 8:05 to play in the first quarter. The field goal was blocked and the Jaguars took possession. Junior linebacker Brady Garrison carried to the Saint’s 31-yard line. Senior kicker Andrew Hicks tried for a field goal minutes later, but fell only a few yards short, leaving the game scoreless.

At the end of the first quarter, the Saints added seven points to the board with a touchdown and successful extra point. The Jaguars trailed 7-0 to begin the second quarter.

Trailing at the end of the first quarter didn’t discourage the team according to senior linebacker Cole Morris.

“We knew [Aquinas] was going to make some plays,” Morris said. “It’s a substate championship, both teams are going to make great plays so we just had to bounce back … It came down to focus, making sure we got our jobs done so we could celebrate after the game.”

For Shurley, part of the reason this didn’t discourage the team is the expectation of difficulty in each game Applebee has set for the them.

“Coach [Applebee] tells us for each game, there’s going to be adversity. We were expecting it, we knew there would be some adversity, we just had to respond to it and we did. That’s a staple of our team — being able to respond when times are tough.”

Senior wide receiver Christian Jegen tied the game at 7 with a touchdown run at the beginning of the second quarter. A two-yard touchdown run by senior quarterback Logan Koch followed, putting the Jaguars ahead 14-7 with 9:06 to play in the first half.

The final touchdown of the half was completed with a pass from Koch to senior wide receiver Lucas Krull. This gave the Jaguars a 21-7 lead going into halftime.

Even with a lead at halftime, Shurley said the team took the game play by play.

“We have goals each week, and our goal this week was to complete every play. So were we thinking, ‘you’ve got a lead, but we can’t let that get in the way of competing.’ … We went in every play [acting like] it’s zero to zero and complete every play in full force.”

The Jaguars were the first to score in the second half, Koch throwing a touchdown pass to Garrison within the first minute of kickoff. This extended the Jaguars lead to 28-7.

Aquinas scored a touchdown with 6:54 to play in the third quarter, lessening their deficit to 28-14. The Jaguars quickly struck back with a touchdown pass from Koch to Jegen, putting the Jaguars up 35-14 with 6:18 until the end of the third quarter.

Each team added one more touchdown to the board in the third quarter, Jegen running 60 yards for the Jaguar touchdown, to make the score 42-21.

The Saints scored their last touchdown of the night with 10:25 to play in the game, bringing the score to 42-28. The last points of the game came from a field goal by Hicks, securing the win for the Jaguars.

Applebee said the motivation behind the win came from what was at stake — a chance to play in the state championship game.

“What the whole game was about [is what motivated us],” Applebee said. “Give yourself a chance to play in a state title game, that’s really all the motivation we needed.”

The Jaguars will face the Bishop Carroll Golden Eagles in the 5A state championship game on Saturday, Nov. 28 at 1 P.M. at Pittsburg State University. A win would give the Jaguars their first athletic state title in school history.

Applebee looks forward to this opportunity and credits the team for their hard work throughout the season.

“I’m very proud of the kids,” Applebee said. “It’s really all about them. They’ve put in the work, they deserve this. So here we are, and we’re excited about it.”

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