By Andrew McCulloch
The Eagles welcomed Huffman Hargrave to Granger Stadium Friday night in what was a showdown between two undefeated teams. The Falcons were coming off of a road win against Galena Park last week, while the Eagles were still riding the momentum gained from their 40-17 thrashing of Santa Fe.
When all was said and done, the Eagles moved to 4-0 with a convincing win by a score of 52-28.
The team had a specific game plan in place for both sides of the ball to counter their talented opposition.
Senior defensive end Parker White noted the importance of stopping the run game and pressuring the quarterback.
“We had some special stuff ready for their run game,” White said. “We really got after him I think we had 7 sacks, some of the plays it felt like a race between me and Joe Lowery to get to the quarterback.”
Junior running back Christopher Zook stressed the importance of playing physically .
“The offensive game plan was just to play smash mouth football,” Zook said. “We needed to just hit them in the mouth and not give up any turnovers.”
Huffman’s offense proved that they were explosive, striking first on a 59-yard touchdown pass by quarterback Preston Townley with 7:50 remaining in the first quarter.
However, the Eagles responded quickly with an 81-yard touchdown pass from Michael Reul to Zook only 20 seconds later.
Zook found the end zone again on a one yard touchdown run to give the Eagles a 14-7 lead heading into the second quarter.
Both teams traded blows throughout the second quarter.
Huffman scored early in the second on a 14-yard touchdown pass from Townley.
Another one yard touchdown run by Zook put the Eagles back up by 7.
But the Falcons capitalized by recovering a muffed punt inside the 10-yard line and reached the end zone again.
The Eagles added two more scores within the final 2:30 of the first half; an 11 yard touchdown run by Andre Pradia and a 34 yard interception return for a touchdown by Travis Williamson.
They entered the half with a comfortable 35-21 lead.
Huffman came out in the second half looking to play catch up and scored on a one yard Townley touchdown pass.
However, this lead would prove to be insurmountable as the Eagles coasted through the rest of the second half, scoring the final 17 points of the game.
The Eagles had their most impressive all around performance of the year.
The offense was impressive both in the air and on the ground.
Quarterback Michael Reul played well, completing 11 of 17 passes for 227 yards and a touchdown. The rushing attack gained 254 yards.
Pradia posted an impressive 134 yards and two touchdowns on the night. Zook had 135 yards and three touchdowns, in addition to his 90 receiving yards and one receiving touchdown.
“I feel I played pretty well,” Zook said. “It was the best game that I have had so far this season but I feel that I still have a lot of room to improve.”
But Zook made sure to credit his offensive line, which provided excellent protection throughout the game.
“The offensive line really did a good job opening up big holes for Andre and I,” said Zook. “They did an awesome job and it shows because we had over 250 yards rushing.”
The offense was about as balanced as possible, getting significant contributions through the air in addition to the lethal rushing attack.
Junior quarterback Michael Reul explained that success on the ground led to more chances through the air.
“We figured out early that we could run it right down their throat,” Reul said. “I felt like we were running it so much that every time we passed the ball, we caught them off guard.”
But the story of the night was the play of the Eagle defense.
Senior Parker White and fellow senior Pearson Garnett both had sensational games, causing trouble for the Falcons the entire game.
” I feel like I had a good game, but there is always room for improvement,”White said.
The strategy was successful, as the defense sacked the quarterback seven times and allowed negative 32 yards rushing. The Eagle defense also forced Townley to throw three interceptions.
The Eagles appeared to have been playing their best football of the season thus far.
They maintained their undefeated season, improving to 4-0 on the year, a mark that has not been reached by a St. Thomas football team since 1969.
The Eagles enter their bye week in preparation of their toughest challenge yet, a road date with district rival St. Pius in the “Battle of Shepherd Drive.”
Both teams enter with unblemished records, jockeying for position to win the district crown.
While this match up poses to be the Eagles’ hardest yet, players are confident that the team’s physicality and attitude will prove to be the difference.
“This season is different from all of the others because we are a lot stronger and more physical than in past years,” Zook said. “This team really can go as far as we want to.
“This team has so many talented players that we can do almost anything as long as we stick together and work as one unit.”
White believes it is the team’s enthusiasm that separates it from teams of the past.
“We are definitely bringing a lot more energy, which has made practice a lot more fun, everyone on the team really just wants to win,” White said. “I am really proud of what the team has accomplished so far but we’ve only played four games.
“There is a lot more for us to do before we start patting ourselves on the back.”
The team knows that they are capable of greatness and have their sights on one thing.
“There’s no doubt in my mind we can go all the way,” Reul said.