By Andrew McCulloch
St. Thomas entered Friday night as the only undefeated team remaining in TAPPS 3-5A. St. Pius entered after being toppled by La Marque the week before, ending their undefeated season.
By the end of the night, the Eagles had their first loss, falling to the Panthers 40-30.
The game started slowly, with Pius striking first on a 14-yard touchdown run late in the first quarter. The Eagles’ offense struggled to get going early in the game, but they got the spark they needed when senior Pearson Garnett stepped in at the end of the first.
The Eagles responded with a 22-yard touchdown run of their own by Garnett, capped off by a successful two point conversion. With the early success of Garnett, the Eagles continued the revival of their dual quarterback system.
However, not everything went so perfectly for the team. After stopping the Panthers on a crucial fourth down, the Eagles fumbled the ball in their own end zone after taking over on offense. Pius recovered the ball for a touchdown and pushed the score to 14-8.
The Eagles were down, but they were certainly not done fighting. The offense got possession with little time left on the clock and did not waste any of it, punching it in for a touchdown on another Garnett touchdown run. After the failed two point conversion, the score was 14 all heading into the half.
Pius came out of the half and began to pull ahead. The Panthers’ senior quarterback Kohl Stewart showed his ability on 46-yard touchdown run midway through the third.
The bleeding continued as the Eagles fumbled out of the back of their own end zone for a Pius safety just seconds later. In the span of only 84 seconds, the Eagles surrendered nine points and the lead. They entered the fourth quarter down 23-14.
The Panthers drove to inside the St. Thomas 10-yard line very early in the fourth. On a crucial third and goal at the two, the defense held them back forcing fourth and goal. But a costly offside against the Eagles gave the Panthers another chance and they took advantage of it, scoring another touchdown.
The Eagles found themselves in a 16-point hole with little time remaining. The offense drove down the field and got on the board with a 2 yard run by junior running back Andre Pradia. After another 2-point conversion, the deficit was reduced to eight.
But it was all too little too late for the Eagles, as Pius bolstered their lead with a 45-yard Kohl Stewart touchdown run and a field goal. Junior quarterback Michael Reul connected with Christopher Zook on a 60-yard touchdown pass in garbage time to make the final score 40-30 Pius.
Although the Panthers won, this was a game that was statistically dominated by the Eagles.
Offensively, the Eagles were able to put up a stellar 368 total yards. Despite some of the struggles, quarterback Michael Reul played very well. He finished completing 11 of 25 passes with 214 yards passing and a touchdown.
The Defense played very well for most of the game as well. They allowed 249 total yards, but shut down Kohl Stewart through the air. They limited him to 20 yards and no touchdowns through the air with four of 17 passing, all career lows. In Stewart’s 28 career starts, he has never once thrown for under 100 yards before.
The Panthers owned only two statistical advantages; turnovers and penalties. The Eagles fumbled twice, both times in the end zone. They also threw an interception and all of these turnovers resulted in nine points for Pius.
Although it was not a turnover, the Eagles also had a botched snap on a two-point conversion that took a potential two points away.
Turnovers were also huge in deciding this game. In addition to the offside penalty that gave Pius a “fifth” down, the Eagles had nine penalties for 79 yards, more than three times as many as their average penalty yards.
The offensive and defensive lines underperformed as well. The offensive line could not contain the Panther defense at all. They gave up far too many sacks and could not help establish a prominent running game.
The defensive line was no better though. They surrendered an abhorred 229 yards rushing and 6.5 yards per carry. Stewart himself was able to run for 127 yards and two touchdowns. The few times they did get into the backfield, they still managed to allow positive yardage.
This was a very sloppy game for the Eagles and they left a substantial amount of points on the field. The only good thing for the Eagles is that they will host the Panthers for the final regular season game, in what could be the de facto district championship game. However, the Eagles must go undefeated the rest of the way in order to win the district crown.