by Andrew McCulloch
Friday night marked the 50th edition of the St. Thomas -Strake Jesuit football rivalry. A game of this magnitude could only properly have a story book ending, and this particular contest was no exception.
The game started out slow, with Strake striking first with a 25-yard touchdown pass mid way through the second quarter. But the Eagles responded with two scores of their own, a 38-yard touchdown pass from Michael Reul to Doug Sauter and a 6-yard touchdown run by Andre Pradia.
The Eagles took a 14-7 lead in to half time and looked to have sucked the enthusiasm out of the home crowd. The lead lasted for much of the third quarter, as the rock solid Eagle defense continued to break through into the backfield and cause the Crusader offense to falter.
However, Strake was able to tie the score with a touchdown run toward the end of the third quarter.
The game entered the fourth and the electricity in the air gave everyone in the crowd a sense of just how important this game was. The fans of both teams were on their feet and yelling at the top of their lungs, knowing every play could bring them victory or defeat.
The Eagles and Crusaders scrapped for every inch of turf and any opportunity to pull away from their opponent. Both offenses struggled to move the ball throughout the fourth because of the enormous amount of energy and determination shown by each defense.
Strake drove late in the fourth but was stopped on a crucial third down at the St. Thomas 20-yard line. With a long forth down awaiting them, the Crusaders sent out their kicker to attempt a 35 yard field goal attempt. The snap was good, the ball put in place, and as the kicker planted his foot, the crowd went silent, holding their breaths as the ball sailed through the air.
The kick sailed wide right and the Eagles were granted another chance, taking over at their own 20-yard line with 3:29 remaining. The offense gained 15 yards on the drive before being forced to punt on fourth down.
The Crusaders regained possession with 1:24 remaining at their own 22-yard line. Strake made a valiant effort on their last offensive series, but the Eagle defense was overpowering, making the most important stop of the game.
The Eagle offense received the ball at the Strake 39-yard line with only 0:44 remaining and no timeouts. Quarterback Reul completed several key passes that got the offense in field goal range and spiked the ball with 0:10 left on the clock.
On fourth down, head coach Tim Fitzpatrick sent out sophomore kicker Jack Brady to attempt what was the biggest field goal of his life. The ball was planted and Brady put all he had into it.
Silence fell over the whole stadium, as they watched the ball spiral through the air.
The kick went perfectly in between the goal posts with 0:05 remaining. The players stormed the field and the fans absolutely lost their minds, reveling in what they had just witnessed.
After the game winning tackle was made on the ensuing kickoff, it had been done. For the first time in 14 long years, St. Thomas had defeated their arch rival by a final score of 17-14.
Strake Jesuit’s 14-year winning streak was snapped on Friday night at Crusader Stadium, but St. Thomas started their own by winning the first of what could be many more against the Crusaders.