The Bishop Miege Stags don’t often start a season with three straight losses. They certainly have never done so in the 10 years under Jon Holmes as their head coach.
But that was the threat Friday night, and it was a very serious threat as the Stags (1-2) played host to undefeated St. Thomas Aquinas Saints (2-1) at Dixon Doll Stadium.
But as they often do, Holmes’ side pulled through, this time to defeat the Saints 23-20.
“It’s huge. I think for us the sky’s the limit,” Holmes said. “We know we’ve got a tough schedule, we know the way we work, the way we do things works, and we’ve got to get our kids to believe, and they believed tonight.”
It was Miege’s first win over Aquinas since 2017, breaking what the Miege team called “the curse.” Not a single player on the team attended Miege the last time the Stags topped their oldest rival.
And the victory came in an emotionally charged game that saw five lead changes, with neither team holding a lead by more than a possession.
The largest of those leads was a seven-point Aquinas advantage with just eight minutes left when junior running back Sean Carroll barreled in for a 7-yard touchdown, and then a two-point conversion.
Carroll carried the ball seven times on the drive that led to that touchdown, his second of the night.
The 203-pound running back proved why he’s one of the best in the state in his position, racking up a season-high 217 yards on 31 carries. It was reminiscent of former Saint Tank Young, who ran the show at Aquinas for several years and now plays at Northwest Missouri State.
“They did it with Tank the last three years and they ran all over us,” Holmes said. “And tonight we said it’s going to Carroll, he’s their horse, and our guys made stops when they needed.”
After an excellent 15-yard connection between Miege quarterback Mac Armstrong and junior tight end Daegan Jensen tied the game at 20-20, Aquinas took over the ball with just 5 minutes, 30 seconds remaining.
The first play of the drive started off on the usual script. Carroll charged up the middle, carrying Miege players with him. But that’s where things went awry.
A huge hit from 212-pound Miege senior Jake Welsh knocked the ball out of Carroll’s usually firm grasp, and Miege defensive lineman Kameron Durden was the first to pounce on it.
“When I first got the ball I already knew I was ready, my team was ready,” Durden said. “We’d already got off the ball, and we already knew that we were going to win. I had faith in my team, my team had faith in me.”
Durden’s faith paid off. Kicker Stephen Neenan put a 32-yard attempt through the uprights and gave Miege a 23-20 lead with four minutes left.
“We had to do this so we wouldn’t be 0-3,” Durden said. “We had to put a stop to this.”
Incomplete pass on fourth down for Aquinas!! Miege takes over on downs woth 53 seconds to go and that will be GAME. Miege defeats St. Thomas Aquinas 23-20 in an absolute classic! pic.twitter.com/XUJkArwWE3
— Shaun Goodwin (@ShaunGoodwinKC) September 18, 2021
It was emotional in the bleachers, too. The Miege student section had swapped out its typical royal blue and scarlet for a bright yellow.
Former Miege student and football player Joseph Pedrotti died in a tragic accident on April 2. His favorite color was yellow, and the student body had dedicated Friday night’s game to him.
“We did this for Joe,” Durden said. “Joe was a member of Miege, and we lost him recently. We did this for him.”