by Andrew McCulloch
Eagle Editorial Board
Despite both teams having solidified their playoff positions, the St. Pius X Panthers and St. Thomas Eagles waged a terrific battle last Friday night at Parsley Field.
On the back of a 40-yard touchdown pass with just seconds to go, the Eagles scored their second dramatic win over the Panthers of the season, the first coming on a fumble recovery in the endzone by senior defensive back Jarius Pollard in the waning moments.
The win capped an undefeated regular season for the St. Thomas Eagles, the first for the school in almost 50 years.
The Eagles opened a 17-7 lead in the first half courtesy of two touchdowns by sophomore running back William Heck. The first of those two was a 73-yard touchdown pass. Heck also scored a 63-yard touchdown pass against the Panthers and accounted for 406 all-purpose yards in the team’s two meetings this season.
With a touchdown midway through the third quarter, the Panthers cut the Eagle lead to 17-16 and the score stayed that way, as sophomore David Jones blocked a Pius extra point attempt.
But the Eagles recaptured the lead after senior quarterback Michael Reul connected with junior wide receiver Chris Winter at the 8:53 mark of the fourth quarter. The team attempted a two-point conversion in hopes of opening a two-score lead, but the play failed and it remained a one touchdown lead.
The Panthers went on a methodical drive down the field that ended with Timmy Ware plowing it in from two yards out. Panthers’ head coach Blake Ware had a decision to make: go for the two-point conversion and the win or play it safe with the extra point. Ware erred on the side of caution and the Panthers knocked down an easy extra point to tie the score at 23 a-piece with only 24 seconds left on the clock.
The Eagles took the ensuing kickoff out to their own 30 yard line and went to work with a mere 16 seconds to play. Reul fired a bullet to senior wide receiver Rawlings Elam for 30 yards on first down, stopping the clock with just seven seconds remaining.
With one timeout remaining, head coach Tim Fitzpatrick fooled everybody when he elected to go for the endzone instead of the field goal.
Senior wide receiver Chris Zook slipped past the Panther secondary and Reul’s pass lofted perfectly into his outstretched arms before storming across the goal line with one second on the game clock.
From a practical sense, the Eagles had little to gain from the win, having already clinched the TAPPS 3-5A district championship. However, the win gave the team its first undefeated regular season since 1969 and marked the official transition into a new era of Eagle football.
In a season where the Eagles made few mistakes and met every challenge, they head into the playoffs at 9-0.
The team has not turned the ball over since October 4 and racked up some of the most impressive offensive stats in school history. Heck soared past 1,000 yards rushing, an incredible mark in just nine games.
The Eagles will take on Dallas Bishop Lynch in the opening round of the state playoffs. The game will be played on Hotze Field at Granger Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 16 at 12:00 noon.