Crushing overtime loss ends Eagles’ historic season with heartbreak

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It was not supposed to end this way.

A deep state tournament run seemed imminent, a state championship all but assured. And then, just like that, it was all gone. A grueling season of hard work that resembled the epitome of perfection was now over. The Eagles fell in the TAPPS state quarterfinals to the Fort Worth Nolan Catholic Vikings in overtime by a score of 20-14 in Teague, Texas, in what will go down as the most heartbreaking defeat in St. Thomas football history.

The team carried a 7-0 lead into halftime after an overwhelmingly defensive first half. Then at the start of the second half, senior quarterback Michael Reul  delivered a bomb to fellow senior wide receiver Christopher Zook for a touchdown.

The connection gave the team what appeared to be a commanding 14-0 lead well into the game. The way the impenetrable Eagle defense was playing, it looked like a shutout was nearly inevitable.

But then it started: the comeback.

Late in the third quarter, Nolan punched it in from a few yards out for its first score of the day and trimmed the St. Thomas lead to one possession heading into the fourth. The Eagles recovered well in the beginning of the quarter. The stalwart defense was back to playing smashmouth ball. The offense was moving the ball and, although not scoring, was still managing to drain the clock. All was well.

Then with just under three minutes to go, a Viking defender intercepted a lofting Michael Reul pass and took it 53 yards to the house for the equalizing touchdown. This was a devastating blow to the Eagles as a whole and they were now in desparation mode.

With time winding down, the offense put together an impressive drive against the stellar Nolan defense and marched down the field, but stalled just outside of field goal range. That meant one thing: overtime.

The Eagles got the ball to start the overtime period and unfortunately, their offensive woes followed them. After failing to make any meaningful progress, junior kicker Jack Brady came out for a go-ahead field goal attempt. But Brady’s 43 yard attempt into the strong headwind was nothing more than that: an attempt, as it fell short of the uprights.

The Vikings then took over needing any score for the win and powered it in on a seven-yard run to seal the deal. And suddenly, the best St. Thomas football season was over after a crushing defeat.

The immediate reaction was obviously one of heartbreak and despair. A perfect season and a shot at the school’s first state title since 1996 were both gone in an instant.

However, the season was far from a failure; it was a season of triumph and success. In fact, it was arguably the best season in St. Thomas history in the better part of three quarters of a century.

The last time an Eagle football team finished with a better final record than this season’s squad was the 1939 state championship team that finished a perfect 10-0. And that particular St. Thomas team was easily the greatest in school history outscoring its opponents by a combined 315-13 and pitching eight shutouts.

But this year’s team had plenty accomplishments of its own.

The Eagles defeated archrival Strake Jesuit for the second consecutive season, marking the start of the first St. Thomas winning streak in the series since 1982.
The Eagles also finished the regular season undefeated at 9-0, unbeaten for the first time in 74 years.

Finally, the team had two sensational victories over rival St. Pius and swept the season series, the first time in the TAPPS era that St. Thomas has won both regular season matchups. Now the Eagles have won four out of the last five over the Panthers.

Although the season did not end the way he had hoped, Reul was grateful for the spectacular senior season.

“As a whole, we had an incredible season. There were ups and downs, but we always came through. The Nolan game was a tough loss and a game we should have won. But still, I could not have asked for a better season.”
-Michael Reul, senior
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