by Beau Brady
STH football used to be a way of life, and the football players are on their way to making that happen again.
This season changed the hearts and minds of many students and athletes. The team finished the regular season with a record of 6-5, the first time in five years that the program finished the regular season with above a .500 record.
Finishing second in district with a record of 4-2, the Eagles hosted a playoff game against the 2-8 Trinity Christian Academy Trojans.
A year ago, students would never have believed it if someone told them that the football team would host a home playoff game next year. They would have laughed at that thought.
But things change. And slowly, too, do people.
“No one outside of the football team expected this,” junior running back Derek Martin said. “This year is a statement that we have made that shows that we are a team that is here to compete in the future. St. Pius better watch out next year because we are coming to take the title.”
The Eagles hosted the first home playoff game since 2005 against a very well coached TCA team.
The Trojans’ record was 2-8 going into the playoff round, but the team had one of (if not the) toughest schedule in all of TAPPS.
At the half the score was 7-6 in favor of the Eagles, who notched points on a screen pass to Martin for a 27-yard score. TCA also had a touchdown but missed the extra point which kept the Eagles up by 1 at halftime.
In the second half the Eagles could not get anything going. The Trojans ended up scoring two second-half touchdowns tie a 19-7 bow on the playoff victory.
“It was a tough loss, that’s for sure,” senior Will Gutkowski said. “We had some trouble getting momentum and we just never could get much going. Nine out of ten times we would have won the game, but sometimes things just don’t go your way.”
“It really is tough to go out after a game like that, especially for the seniors,” Gutkowski said. “It is a great start for the program and I know that the juniors will step up and lead the team to victory next season. It was a great season for us and it was a great accomplishment for the seniors to change the ways around the locker room and on the field. I feel like we proved a lot this season and that the team will grow on the success.”
“I know that we really proved that St. Thomas football is back,” senior Bobby Garcia said. “The coaching staff and players that we have are good enough to achieve a state title and I think that in the next year or two St. Thomas will have another state title under their belt. It is unfortunate that I will not be a part of that, but it’s a good feeling to know that I was part of the class that turned the program around for the future.”
“I am going to miss Friday night lights and being out on the field every week,” Garcia said, “but I am excited to see what the football team will achieve next year, even though unfortunately I will not be a part of it. I am also going to miss giving my pre-game speeches.”
The team had another slow start to the season, and it looked as if it was going to be a repeat of last year and recent years, but the seniors changed the attitude in the locker room and turned the season around.
This year was filled with ups and downs, including a last minute comeback and a last minute comeback attempt.
In the fourth quarter against Beaumont Kelly, the Eagles had the ball on the 28 yard line with one last chance to go for a touchdown and a game winning effort. It was either make a field goal and go into overtime or score and head back to Houston with a win.
Sophomore quarterback Justin Sebo threw one last deep ball to sophomore Cavan Biggio, who made a miraculous catch on the 2 yard line and reached over the pylon for a last second game-winning touchdown.
The St. Pius game started just as the games in the past with the Panthers up by 21 points at half. It looked like the game was going to be a blowout. However, the Eagles had other plans. In the second half the Eagles started to look like a whole new team. They came back and had another chance to put together a game winning drive. Unfortunately this time it was not meant to be. They lost the game, but proved that they are able to compete with any team in the district.
“I guarantee you that in the years to come, St. Pius will not have a winning record when playing us,” junior Peter Foreman said. “Things are turning around for the better and we are going to remind St. Pius who runs Shepherd.”
The Eagles finished the season with a 6-6 record, winning three times as many games as last season. The goal for next year: win state.