St. Thomas More was in an unfamiliar position Friday night before its game against Douglas. At 3-2 the Cavaliers were on the outside looking in at the playoff picture in Class 11A.
STM got the win it needed.
The Cavaliers forced three Douglas turnovers in a 24-13 win Friday on the road, to spoil the Patriots' homecoming.
"They understand their roles now, and when you do that and the team can come together good things happen," STM coach Wayne Sullivan said. "We scored 24 points on a very tough defense, who’s gotten better every week. We’ve made some adjustments, we’ve done some things that I think are working now and defensively we were ready to go."
Running back Jake Larson, who had 185 yards rushing on 14 carries and two touchdowns, said the Cavs came into the game with the mindset of the game being a playoff matchup.
"If we lose this game we don’t make the playoffs, we have to win or we don’t make the playoffs," Larson said. "Our line was doing a great job blocking, blocking was huge this game."
The first quarter of the game was scoreless, but the Cavs finally got on the scoreboard after a interception recorded by Riley Olson. One play after the pick, quarterback Ryder Kirsch found Jacob Hyde for the score to make it 7-0.
Although the Cavs forced Douglas quarterback Dan Hand to throw three interceptions in the first half, the Patriots would not go away. Later in the second quarter the Patriots drove down to the 7-yard line.
From there it was the Ross Skinner show.
On a tipped pass Skinner grabbed the ball out of the air for his second interception of the game.
"When we were backed up against the end zone I thought ‘something has to happen or these guys are going to go in and score,’ because they’re a good team, I’ll give them that, they play ball well," Skinner said. "Our coaches always told us tipped ball in the air, go after it."
At halftime the score was still 7-0.
Despite forcing three turnovers Douglas was very much in the game, and Sullivan said the Cavs knew they needed to make adjustments in the locker room.
"The front five was telling us what they thought would work, we went to it and had some success," he said. "Larson ran really well, but hats off to our front five. I’m proud of the team effort, they are jelling at the right time, a lot of boys are contributing and we’re playing a lot of sophomores even, everyone is putting in effort."
STM hasn't enjoyed it's usual level of dominance during this 4-2 season that has included a 30-14 loss to Tea Area and a 43-13 loss to West Central.
"It’s really important. We didn’t want to go 3-3, that was the biggest part of it," Skinner said. "We had heard that this team was dominating east river and we just wanted to prove we could do our best out there too."
The Cavaliers will host Hot Springs next Friday while Douglas (2-4) will travel to face Spearfish.
Early in the third quarter Douglas was able to strike. A 25-yard touchdown run with 9:21 left in the quarter from Trevor Sorenson tied the game. Sorenson finished the game with 95 yards on 18 carries.
The score would remain tied for the rest of the quarter, until early in the fourth a 33-yard field goal put STM in the lead 10-7.
On the next STM drive, Larson broke a 26-yard run that he capped off with a 2-yard touchdown. With 8:25 to play STM had a 17-7 lead.
Douglas would have a response, a 10-yard touchdown pass from Hand to Sorenson made the score 17-13, after Douglas was unable ble to convert the two-point play.
The Cavaliers had one final play that was able to end Douglas. Larson took a toss and was able to get by the Douglas defenders and scampered for an 80-yard touchdown run with 2:01 to play in the game, effectively ending the game.
"They scored on a toss and if our defensive end or linebacker fly inside, it’s pretty simple to run a toss for a touchdown when there’s no one out there," Douglas coach Dan Maciejczak said. "That’s the hard part because our kids played hard, we just were making some dumb mistakes and that’s what cost us."
Mistakes like that have haunted Douglas this season according to Maciejczack.
"We’re killing ourselves, that’s the bottom line," he said. "We can play with anybody, we’ve proven that, we can be in football games but we can’t afford the costly penalties. It’s not our effort. The kids are working hard, we just have to learn how to finish a whole series or drive and get some points out of it."
For STM, the season might be finally going in the direction it has wanted.
The Cavs are now 4-2 and will host Hot Springs next Friday while Douglas falls to 2-4 and will be travelling to Spearfish.