Bishop Miege used a strong and timely defense in defeating East Kansas League champion St. Thomas Aquinas 9-7 on Friday night in the Kansas 5A semifinals at Aquinas.
Miege limited the Saints to their lowest point total of the season and avenged a 27-24 loss to the Saints in the last regular-season game.
“Our defense played lights out tonight,” Stags first-year coach Jon Holmes said. “This is a dream for me. I played for the school, and now we are going to our first 5A state championship game.”
The Stags will be entering that state title game with a 7-5 record.
Holmes pointed to the defensive play of linebacker Brad Ivey, who didn’t play in the first game against Aquinas, and to the solid play of defensive linemen Russell Gray, Zach Mahoney, Kaelin Key and Joey Fisher.
As for the Miege offense, the Stags scored on a 67-yard, seven-play drive capped by a 42-yard pass from quarterback Montell Cozart to Michael Murphy with 11:53 left in the first half. The Stags, though, missed the extra point.
In the second half, the Miege special teams came up with a huge play. In the third quarter, Blake Schnieders blocked an Aquinas punt, and Miege recovered at the Saints’ 9-yard line nine.
Miege could not get the ball in the end zone, but Collin Carter booted a 25-yard field goal with 7:55 left in the third for the 9-0 lead.
The Saints got on the board late in the fourth quarter. After forcing Miege to punt from deep within its own territory, Aquinas took over on the Stags’ 29.
The Saints scored in four plays with the big play a 28-yard pass from quarterback Dante Cosentino to Devin Vickers to the 1.
After the Saints lost a yard, Cole Pickert scored on a two-yard run with 2:44 in the game. Ryan Weese added the extra point, and the Saints trailed just 9-7.
The Stags then put the game on ice, but it wasn’t easy. Miege was facing a fourth and 2 at its own 43. But Cozart got the Saints to jump offsides, and the Stags were able to run out the clock.
“We have been working on that play all year,” Holmes said.
Both teams had their opportunities.
The Stags had first and goal at the 1 in the first quarter only to fumble away the ball.
And the Saints certainly had a great chance to score in the first half.
After an interception by defensive back Hunter Swanson, Aquinas got the ball to Miege’s 4-yard and had first and goal with 30 seconds left in the half.
But three incomplete passes led to a 21-yard field-goal attempt, and the Saints missed on the try.
Aquinas played the second half without leading rusher Nick Williams.