PITTSBURG, Kan. - Coach Randy Dreiling and the Saints of St. Thomas Aquinas were able to what no team could since week one: stop the Wichita Northwest offense.
Northwest scored 84 points two weeks ago against Bishop Carroll. In sub-state last Friday night, they hung 67 on a vaunted Maize defense. Aquinas was coming off a 67 point performance of their own at sub-state. All signs pointed toward a shootout on the field in Pittsburg Saturday. The Saints defense had other ideas.
Northwest was forced to punt on four of their first five possessions, and over that time Aquinas reached the endzone three different times to take a 21-0 lead. That lead extended to halftime, the first time all season the Grizzlies were kept scoreless for a half.
Tank Young was unstoppable for the Saints, scoring two touchdowns in the first half and adding two more in under five minutes to open the second half. The latter two both good for over 60 yards. For the game, Young went off for 329 rushing yards to lead the Saints.
But after Young added his fourth score, things started to click for Northwest. The very next play from scrimmage, Roy Johnson took a handoff 64 yards down the sideline to get the Grizzlies on the board. After forcing a punt, it took Northwest two plays to add to it. Reagan Jones found his All-American Breece Hall over the middle, and Hall took it 77 yards to get the score to 35-14.
That score took us to the fourth quarter, where Jones kept them alive finding Zion Jones for a long gain on third and long. Breece Hall capped that drive with a 1 yard score to make it 21 unanswered points and cut the deficit to just 14.
But Aquinas would find themselves the next drive. Tate Raboin hit Jack Gabel deep for a 70 yard pass and catch to get the game back to a 21 point deficit.
Breece Hall would find the endzone for a third time on a hook and ladder play with Kiron Patterson, but Aquinas took the ensuing onside kick 50 yards to the endzone for the dagger.
It's the first state championship in school history for St. Thomas Aquinas, and 8th for head coach Randy Dreiling. Dreiling was the long time coach at Hutchinson, winning 7 titles with the Salthawks over the 2000s before taking the Aquinas job.
For Northwest, their year ends at 12-1, the best mark in school history. Head coach Steve Martin said it best following the loss about just how proud he was of his team.
"Did I want to win a state championship for my seniors that have kind of set this program in the right direction? 100 Percent. But I'm not gonna sit here and sulk in that one bit cause I'm proud of these guys."
"They're gonna remember us forever," said Hall. "We did so many great things here, I'm just proud of each and every one of those guys."