by Andrew McCulloch
St. Thomas entered their night as the only undefeated team remaining in TAPPS 3-5A. But when the final buzzer sounded, St. Pius added a blemish to the Eagles’ record
Pius struck first on a 14-yard touchdown run by Nick Caine 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 quarterback towards the end of the first.
“It was not my plan to go into the game as a quarterback, but I practiced a lot more this week at the quarterback position,” Garnett said. “The offensive strategy when I am in the game is to run the football. I am not the best passer, but I can make plays with my ability to run the ball north and south.”
Garnett came in and had a 22-yard touchdown run, capped off by a successful two point conversion.
However, not everything went so well 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 to push the score to 14-8.
The Eagle 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 scampered for a 46-yard touchdown run midway through the third.
The Eagles entered the fourth quarter down 23-14.
The Panthers drove to inside the St. Thomas 10-yard line early in the fourth. A costly offside against the Eagles gave the Panthers another chance to score a touchdown, which they did.
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 two 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. Reul connected with junior running back Christopher Zook on a 60-yard touchdown pass in garbage-time to make the final score 40-30 Pius.
Although the Panthers won, the game was statistically dominated by the Eagles.
The offense was able to find holes throughout the Panther defense. Senior offensive tackle Alex Snyder anchor the Eagles’ offensive attack.
“The offensive gameplan was to hit them with the running game and then catch them off guard with a pass,” Snyder said.
Offensively, the Eagles were able to put up 368 total yards. Despite some early struggles, Reul played very well, finishing with 214 yards passing and a touchdown.
The Eagle defense’s objective to enter the game was simple.
“The defensive gameplan was to stop Kohl Stewart,” Garnett said.
The Eagles limited Stewart to 20 yards and no touchdowns through the air with four of 17 passing, all career lows.
However, Stewart was not completely shut down. He torched the defense on the ground, running for 123 yards and 2 touchdowns.
“We did stop him in the air, but he smashed us with his runs and scrambles,” Garnett said.
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.
The Eagles left a lot of points on the field, but they will have a chance for revenge when they host the Panthers for the final regular season game, in what could be the de facto district championship game.
“This game means a lot for the team, it showed us that we were complacent with being 4-0 and that we were not ready to play our game,” Snyder said. “It shows us that we can be beaten. I know that we will not play like we did last Friday when the rematch comes to St. Thomas.”