Two thousand ninety-six. That’s how many days it had been since SLUH had beaten Chaminade before their 35-26 win in their MCC opener this past Friday night.
After getting torched for 42 points in Week 1 against MICDS, the defense came out of the gates looking to make a redemptive statement, led by senior linebacker Tavion Sullivan and junior linebacker Louis Kertz, who each finished with 15 total tackles and a sack.
Chaminade elected to receive the kickoff, trying to make a statement with their Oklahoma State skills player Cam Epps, but the defense for the Jr. Bills forced a quick three and out.
Despite the quickly reversed possession, SLUH went three and out as well, neither team able to find any traction on offense during any part of the first quarter.
The Jr. Bills got the crowd into the game with 3:00 left in the first quarter when they unveiled their Loko Punt unit, which lined up sophomore Ryan Wingo at punter. Wingo took the snap and converted the 4th and 8 on their own side of the field on a designed fake run.
The Jr. Bills marched inside the Chaminade 15-yard line, but the momentum they had gained diminished in a heartbeat when Luke Johnston threw an interception over the middle of the field, his first pick of the season.
The Jr. Bills’ defense again got off the field in just three plays, and it looked like the offense would finally put the game’s first points on the board, yet, with 9:36 remaining in the second quarter, for the second consecutive possession, the Bills turned it over inside the Chaminade 15, a fumble as a result of miscommunication in the backfield.
The defense, again, stood rock solid, forcing its fourth consecutive three and out.
Wingo took the punt back to the house for what the entire stadium believed to be the first score of the game, until everyone saw the referee’s yellow flag lying on the turf for a block in the back against the Jr. Bills, which negated the touchdown.
SLUH started deep in Red Devil territory, but their first half trend of carelessness persisted, as the Jr. Bills fumbled once again as a result of miscommunication in the backfield.
Chaminade’s fifth offensive drive of the game proved to be their most successful drive to that point as they marched into Billiken territory, but faced a fourth down on the 33. Being too long for a field goal and not enough field to punt with for the Red Devils, they elected to push the envelope and go for it. SLUH’s defense came up with a clutch stand, bending but not breaking, and giving the offense the rock back.
With 3:48 remaining in the second quarter, the crowd finally saw the fireworks they had been craving as senior running back Derrick Baker took the first play of the drive 68 yards to the house to put the Jr. Bills up 7-0.
Baker credited the O-Line and the receivers blocking as one of his keys to success.
“Running behind the nice blocks I received was really a win for me,” he said.
On the final drive before halftime, the Jr. Bills’ defense showed flashes of Week 1, shooting themselves in the foot by allowing a third and 22 conversion and then committing a horse collar personal foul on another third down that drive. Epps was able to sneak across the goal line for a 1-yard score which evened the game at seven heading into halftime.
Coming out of the break, the Junior Bills pieced together a three minute drive and, with 9:01 remaining in the third quarter, senior wide receiver Chris Brooks lined up as the wildcat, but there was another error snap.
Rather than surrender the ball to Chaminade as we did in the first half, Brooks picked up the ball and made four men miss en route to a 4 yard rushing touchdown which made the score 14-7 Jr. Bills.
The Jr. Bills looked like they could run away with the game for a second as, on the first play from scrimmage following Brooks’ touchdown, senior safety Phillip Bone corralled a tip drill-esque interception, the first turnover the defense had forced all season.
Yet, this burst of momentum stalled as the Jr. Bills punted on their next two offensive trips.
Chaminade got the ball back and went to work on the Jr. Bills’ fatiguing defense. They marched inside the 10 and Epps finished the drive with a 9-yard touchdown, his second of the day, to knot it up at 14.
At this point of the game, the offenses for both teams sparked to life, and, on the very next drive, senior Isaac Thompson took a handoff up the middle 50 yards for a touchdown which pushed the Bills’ lead back to seven points.
Chaminade came right back down the field and scored a touchdown with 4:52 remaining in the game, Cam Epp’s third touchdown of the night.
Yet, after everyone had taken the kick for granted, Chaminade’s place kicker’s boot was blocked by a soaring Isaac Thompson who hopped the linemen to barely graze the ball which, of course, altered the field goal attempt.
Feeding off of this momentum, Wingo waited at the 10-yard line for the kick which went straight to him as he took it to the house for 90 yards to put SLUH up 28-20.
Chaminade wasn’t going quietly into the night as they marched down the field with ease and secured Epps’ fourth touchdown of the night.
Yet, being an eight-point game, the Red Devils were forced to go for two to tie the game.
Epps attempted to roll out to his right and gain an edge in order to meet the pylon, but the defense of SLU High stood tall and pushed him out of bounds before he could cross the goal line.
The next drive sealed the victory for the Jr. Bills, solidifying the first tally in the win column, after a 62-yard run for Baker—who finished the contest with 14 carries for 206 yards—that set up a 1-yard QB sneak touchdown for quarterback Johnston, who finished the day 8 for 13 passing for 84 yards.
Senior kicker Thomas Ziegler added the extra point to make it a two possession game, and fellow senior Tommy Etling intercepted Chaminade on a deep ball which allowed the Jr. Bills to enter victory formation for the first time this year.
“It feels great to win against Chaminade and have the first win of the season contribute toward the MCC,” said Baker, “it’s just special to be a part of the team that could do it … I’m just proud to be a part of something special.”
Yet, amidst the celebratory atmosphere at SLUH once the clock showed 0:00, there was an empathetic pain from the team in regard to Thompson who had to be helped off the field and was in clear pain.
It was later revealed that Thompson, a Mizzou commit, would require season-ending knee surgery after he awkwardly got tangled up and hit the ground on a crucial pass break up late in the fourth quarter.
Thompson was a starter on both sides of the ball for the Jr. Bills. He was someone who fired the team up with an irreplaceable energy each time he stepped onto the field.
In his honor, the football program has adopted the motto of #DoItFor0 which means each member of the team putting Thompson on their back for the remainder of the season by affecting the outcome in all three facets of the game, something Thompson excelled at.
Coming off their thrilling win against Chaminade, SLUH will take the field tonight at 6 p.m. at home against Class 3 opponent Normandy (1-1).
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