The clock read 50 seconds.
The burden of 14 years of pressure, disappointment and emotions were avenged in less than a minute.
Covering 20 yards and relying on the left foot of sophomore Jack Brady, the Eagles’ last offensive drive against Strake Jesuit, for at least one year, changed the perception of St. Thomas football. The Eagles defeated the Crusaders 17-14 to earn their first win against their rivals since 1997.
While the offense struggled for much of the second half, junior quarterback Michael Reul remained positive.
Starting the final drive on the Strake 40-yard line, Reul maintained his composure and remained focused on the task at hand.
“When I got on the field I knew I needed to get anywhere inside the thirty,” Reul said.
The start of the offensive series was not encouraging.
Like much of the second half, on the first play of the drive junior Doug Sauter dropped a pass that would have brought the Eagles 26 yard line.
46 seconds to go.
“It was kind of frustrating,” Reul said. “It would’ve been perfect and it went through Doug’s hands. He made up for it the next few plays.”
Indeed, the junior receiver did just that.
The next play, Sauter caught the ball and ran past two Strake defenders before being tackled at the 24 yard line.
The clock dwindled down to 19 seconds before Reul was able to spike the ball.
Now the Eagles were inside the 30 yard line, just as Reul hoped. A field goal was possible, and Brady knew it.
“I was a little nervous,” Brady said. “I just tried not to think about it.”
Sophomore Eli Bacilla, Brady’s long snapper, felt the pressure of the moment.
“Jack and I were standing on the sidelines worried sick,” Bacilla said. “We knew this was going to come down to me and him for one play.”
The sophomores’ moment would have to wait a little bit longer though, as the Eagles attempted one last pass play.
Junior Rawlings Elam caught the ball this time and was immediately tackled at the 19 yard line.
After Reul spiked the ball, just six seconds were left in the game.
Then, Brady, who did not even kick point-after attempts — the Eagles tried two-point conversions after both touchdowns scores, which coach Tim Fitzpatrick insists is to throw opponents off of their game plan — was thrust into one of the biggest moments in Eagle football history.
It was the first action Brady saw all game. An injured hip flexor kept him from kicking off.
“I was pretty unhappy about not getting to kick off or anything,” Brady said. “I was joking with Bacilla that the only way I would get in the game is on a last second field goal, but it actually happened.”
As the two trotted onto the field, Brady hoped the snap and hold would be okay.
He just wanted a chance to make what would end up being the deepest field goal of his varsity career so far.
Elam caught Bacilla’s snap, spinning the laces forward and placing it on the tee.
Brady got his chance.
“I had confidence he was going to make it, but I couldn’t watch it,” Reul said. “I hid behind Doug, and he had to tell me when he made it. It was the craziest moment of my whole life.”
Brady delivered. The 36-yard kick sailed through the uprights with 4 seconds left.
“I saw the kick go through perfectly and everyone was screaming,” Bacilla said. “Knowing that we just beat Strake for the first time in forever was an amazing feeling.”
While fourteen years is not quite forever, it is a long time.
Fitzpatrick was an assistant coach in 1997 when the Eagles last beat Strake. According to him, back then the Eagles, not the Crusaders, were the ones expected to win every year.
He said this time, in his first year as a head coach, given the magnitude and fashion of the game, this win is more meaningful than the last one.
“This has been a long time coming,” Fitzpatrick said. “It’s a monkey off our back. Now we’ve started our own streak.”
Indeed, ending the fourteen-year drought of losing to Strake warranted celebration. It warranted the cheers. It warranted students pushing up against the railing of the stands.
It warranted the Eagle football team screaming and high-fiving on the sideline, and they did so — except for one player.
After the delivery with his left foot, there was only one thing left on Jack Brady’s mind — to quietly pick up his tee.