It was another football nailbiter between St. Thomas Aquinas and Blue Valley, and this time it was in the Kansas Class 5A state playoff quarterfinals on Friday night.
When it ultimately mattered most, it was the Saints that prevailed 23-22.
The Tigers had one the previous meeting 29-28, Aquinas’ only loss of the season. The Saints will take their 10-1 record into the semifinals next Friday.
Aquinas junior quarterback Danten Cosentino scored on a 23-yard run around left end just 8 seconds into the fourth quarter. The extra point by senior Ryan Weese gave the Saints the 23-22 lead, and Aquinas was able to hold off Blue Valley the rest of the way. But it wasn’t easy.
The Tigers had the ball on their own 20 with 6:19 left. And they converted a fourth and 2 on a pass from junior quarterback Logan Brettell to junior Mikey Henson. After Henson caught the ball on the 35, he raced down the right sideline for 26 yards to the Saints’ 46.
After another first down, it was fourth and three at the Saints’ 28 when Brettell attempted another pass to Henson. But Henson was defended well by Aquinas senior Regan Nachbar, and the ball fell incomplete.
The Saints took over with 1:55 left and were able to close out the game, as Tigers were without a timeout.
“It’s a great feeling,” Saints coach Mike Thomas said of the victory. “These kids have worked so hard since last year. This is the first time we have beaten Blue Valley in four years.”
The Saints led 9-7 at halftime with all the points coming from Weese on kicks from 37, 32 and 45 yards.
“It was just a choice we made,” Thomas said. “It was just his second game kicking.”
The Tigers held the Saints leading rusher Nick Williams to just 13 yards on seven carries in the first half.
It was a different story in the second half.
Williams scored on a 60-yard run breaking a number of tackles on his way to a touchdown with 4:32 left in the third quarter. That gave the Saints a 16-14 lead.
Williams had 10 carries for 121 yards in the second half.
“He’s one of those kind of players who does it when it counts,” Thomas said. “And we challenged our offensive line to do a better job at halftime.”
The Tigers took an early lead in the game when the Saints’ Cosentino was sacked by junior Caleb Kjergaard. Cosentino fumbled, and junior Jalan Cooks picked up the ball and returned it 11 yards to the Saints 17.
Brettell then found Henson in the right corner of the end zone for a touchdown with 10:03 left in the first quarter. Brettell added the point after to make it 7-0.
The Saints moved the ball in the first half, but couldn’t find the end zone.
They had drives that stalled at the 19, 15 and 28, but Weese bailed them out with his three field goals.
The last field goal from 45 yards came as the gun sounded ending the first half.