Jordan Roberts, Defensive Excellence Lead St. Thomas Tommies Victory

St. Thomas TommiesTwo months ago the St. Thomas Tommies rolled into Collegeville and came out with a 35-14 victory over the St. John’s Johnnies. It was a contest dominated by St. Thomas, and one that the Johnnies claimed was a kind of wake-up call. The team had grown significantly since then, but so had St. Thomas, and that showed Saturday afternoon in the second round of the NCAA Division-III football playoffs, as the Tommies dominated once again, downing St. John’s 38-19.

St. Thomas took the opening kickoff and marched the length of the field in nearly eight minutes for the score. Running back Jordan Roberts led the way, carrying the ball nine times on the drive for 49-yards. Roberts helped to convert a fourth and 1 at the Johnnies 17 with a five-yard run and QB John Gould kept the ball on fourth and 2 at the Johnnies four and nearly scored. Roberts scored from one-yard out one play later and it was 7-0 St. Thomas.

The Tommies defense was nothing short of awesome, forcing a fumble that gave the offense the ball right back. The Johnnies did not record a single first down until their fourth possession, and by that point St. Thomas led 22-0.

The Tommies second score came a little over three minutes into the second quarter. St. Thomas moved quickly to the St. John’s 27, but back-to-back penalties moved them back 15-yards, setting up a first and 25. No problem for Gould, who went up top to Ryan Bradley. The pass couldn’t have been thrown any better and Bradley was able to shield the defender so that only he could make the play. He made the catch at the goal line and went in for the score to make it 14-0.

On the next possession for St. Thomas it was two huge plays that really got the drive going. On third and 6 at the St. John’s 40, Gould kept the ball and ran for 15-yards and a first down. On the next play Roberts carried the ball up the gut for 17-yards, setting up a first and goal at the eight. Two plays later Roberts went to his left and scored his second one-yard touchdown of the game. A successful two-point conversion made it 22-0.

St. John’s recording a first down finally got their offense some momentum. Senior Nick Martin’s picture perfect pass down the seam found the hands of Zack Sundly and he rumbled for 32-yards and a first down. Three plays later it was Martin again, this time finding Nick Simon on a post for the 38-yard touchdown to put the Johnnies right back into the game.

The St. John’s bench came alive, but that excitement would not last long. On the ensuing kickoff, Jack Gilliland received the ball at the 17, and then weaved his way 76-yards to the Johnnies seven. The return man made two huge cutbacks, and broke several tackles before finally going down. Three plays later Roberts scored his third one-yard touchdown of the game and it was 29-7 heading into half.

The Johnnies attempted one last drive to try to get some points on the board before the half ended, but came up short. More importantly, Martin was hurt and would not return.

On the second possession of the half for St. John’s the game continued to get worse. Johnny Benson was sacked on third and 7 from his own four, resulting in a safety. Jesse Addo made the play to make the score 31-7.

St. John’s would finally get back on the scoreboard. A Sam Sura two-yard touchdown run cut the deficit to 31-13.

Again, the Tommies came right back. St. Thomas was held to three-yards on the first two plays of the drive, but then Gould came up with his magic touch. The quarterback kept the ball, and then raced 62-yards for the touchdown. That made the score 38-13.

St. John’s would add one last late score. Benson’s 10-yard pass to Josh Bungum capped off a five play drive. The two-point conversion failed and the game ended 38-19.

The Johnnies had their chances to get back into this game earlier, but two huge second half interceptions killed both drives. Jordan Young made the first at the St. Thomas 32, and Mozus Ikuenobe recorded the second on the very next possession at the Tommies 38.

Roberts finished with 126-yards and 3 TDs on 33-carries. Gould added 85-yards on the ground, and threw for 1o7 more on an 8-14 performance with 1 TD rushing and one passing.

The St. Thomas defense held St. John’s to just 49-yards rushing, and 260 total yards of offense. The Tommies intercepted two passes and forced a fumble.

Next Saturday the St. Thomas Tommies welcome Wabash in the third round of the NCAA Division-III playoffs.

By Robert Pannier