It was old time football day between the St. Thomas Tommies and the Gustavus Adolphus Gusties. A snowy, blustery day in St. Paul made throwing a challenge forcing both teams to turn to their ground games to pull this one out. That heavily favored St. Thomas and their bruising back, No. 34, Brenton Braddock.
For the first four possessions of the game neither team was able to overcome the elements. On the Gusties second drive they were able to move to the Tommies 29, but the drive stalled their when Mitch Hendricks’ pass to Matt Boyce in the end zone fell just out of his reaching, turning the ball over on downs.
Finally on the Gusties third possession they would breakthrough, and it would be their ground game that would be leading the charge. RB Luke Martinez carried the ball on four of the team’s first six plays of the drive, gaining 42 yards. Hendricks had a huge gain of his own on a quarterback keeper, rumbling for 17-yards before being brought down at the St. Thomas 27. On second and goal at the 1-yard line, Martinez went straight up the middle for the touchdown, giving his team a 7-0 lead.
The Tommies responded right away with a 16-play, 71-yard drive that ended when Braddock scored from five-yards out to tie the score. The back had 12-carries on the drive for 40 yards, and helped maintain possession for his team when he gained 3-yards on a fourth and 2 play from the Gustavus Adolphus 22-yard line.
On the Gusties next possession it looked like they were going to be forced to punt right off. Hendricks was sacked for a 9-yard loss on the first play, and on second and 19 his pass to Gabriel Boyce fell incomplete. That brought up third and 19, and when pressure came, Hendricks took off racing 17-yards before finally stepping out of bounds. He was 2-yards short of the first down, but a late hit after he had gone out drew a personal foul call, and gave the Gusties a fresh set of downs. Two plays later Luke Martinez made a series of great moves and bowled over a few defenders on his way to a 34-yard gain down to the Tommies five. Hendricks then kept the ball and scored to put Gustavus Adolphus back on top.
Back the other direction the Tommies went. Starting from their own 34, St. Thomas went on another long drive, this time going 11-plays for 66-yards before Braddock scored from 5-yards out to tie the game. Braddock had 6-carries on the drive for 24 yards. QB John Gould had two key pass plays on the drive, including a 27-yard pass to Cole Kelly that took the ball to the Gusties 18.
GAC had the ball with 3:06 left in the half, but where forced to punt after a three-n-out. This became one of the key moments of the game. The punt was caught in the wind and sailed just 19-yards before going out of bounds at the Gusties 45.
With 1:16 left Gould and Braddock came up huge for St. Thomas. The running back took the ball on the first two plays, gaining 19-yards. Gould then kept the ball, racing 10-yards to the GAC 16. Braddock and Gould exchanged carries on the next two plays for five yards each, making it first and goal at the 6-yard line with nine seconds left in the half. On the next play Gould went back to pass and found Charlie Dowdle for a touchdown putting the Tommies up by 7.
The Tommies received the opening kickoff of the second half, and despite the weather conditions, Gould was going to prove he could overcome the elements. His pass on second and nine gained 6-yards. A 1-yard run by Gould made it fourth and 2 at their own 39, and Coach Glenn Caruso decided to go for it. Gould kept the ball and ran directly behind his big offensive line, picking up just enough to record the first down. Four plays later he hit receiver Jack Gilliland for 17-yards and a first down to the Gusties 30-yard line. One play later the Tommies QB passed to Braddock in the flat for 10 more yards. With first and 10 at the Gusties 20, Gould scrambled to buy a little time before finding Charlie Dowdle in the corner of the end zone for the score.
On their next possession the Tommies returned to Braddock to lead the way. Beginning the drive at their own 44, Braddock’s first carry went for 36-yards before finally going out of bounds at the Gusties 20-yard line. The back then took the ball again, this time taking it to the house for the score. Dowdle ran in the extra-point for two, and the Tommies led 36-14.
The Gusties turned the ball over on downs on their next possession, giving the Tommies the ball at the GAC 45. The first two plays yielded no gain, but on third and 10 Gould completed a pass to Dowdle in the flat for 20-yards, giving St. Thomas a fresh set of downs. Braddock then got the ball and scored from 25-yards out to put the Tommies up 43-14.
Gustavus Adolphus needed a big drive from their offense if they were going to get back into the game. Hendricks went to the air completing 4 of 6 passes, including a 30- and a 26-yarder to Gabe Boyce. On second and goal from the 3-yard line, Martinez battered his way up the middle making it 43-21.
The Gusties defense held the Tommies offense, forcing a punt and giving the GAC offense the ball at the 20-yard line. Hendricks first pass went incomplete, but then he completed the next three, moving the team 51-yards down to the Tommies 27. The QB then went up top to one of his favorite targets, Matt Boyce, for the touchdown, cutting the deficit to 15.
The game was getting close and the Tommies needed a spark. They turned to Braddock to get it. His first two carries yielded eight yards, setting up third and 2 at the Gustavus 47. The Tommies back was handed the ball on the next play and broke outside, going the distance for the score to make it 50-28.
Gustavus Adolphus was not done by any means. Hendricks first pass to George Buchner was for 25-yards, and 15 more was tacked on after Buchner was hit out of bounds. Martinez then caught the next pass from Hendricks for 15 more, putting the ball at the Tommies 5-yard line. Two plays later Martinez went up the middle for the score, his third touchdown of the game.
Gould was replaced by Matt O’Connell on the next series, and he would lead the team toward their final score. Braddock carried the ball on the first three plays, gaining 13-yards. O’Connell then kept the ball on the next play, making several key moves before finally being brought down 32-yards later at the Gusties 1-yard line. Following a 5-yard penalty, O’Connell kept the ball and moved to his left, scoring from 6-yards out to make it 57-35.
The Tommies have scored 140 points in the last two weeks. For the game they had 504 yards of total offense, 370 of it on the ground. St. Thomas was especially effective on third and fourth down, converting 10-16 third downs and both fourth down attempts. They finished with a time of possession of 35:57, which was really the difference in the game.
Gould finished with 134 yards passing on 11-15, with two touchdowns. Braddock was the big star, carrying the ball 41 times for 261-yards and five scores. Dowdle had 6-catches and two touchdowns.
Hendricks was 18-33 passing for 298 yards and a touchdown, and he also ran 10 times for 54 more and a score. Martinez had 19 carries for 110 yards and three touchdowns. Gabriel Boyce finished with 7-catches for 102 yards, and brother Matt made 4-catches for 91-yards and a touchdown.
The Tommies moved to 8-2, and will find out Sunday night if they made the Division-III playoffs, a very likely possibility. The Gusties lost their fourth straight game, dropping to 6-4, but showed they have a lot of promise for next season.
By Robert Pannier