The moment St. Charles Catholic was looking for came early in the second quarter of its Division II semifinal game against St. Thomas More on Friday night but it proved to be fleeting.
Trailing 14-0, a 1-yard Phillip Tran run pulled the Comets to within 14-7 at the 9:05 mark of the second quarter.
On the ensuing kickoff, St. Thomas More’s Dalen Cambre fumbled, with Luke Brouwer recovering for the Comets.
The Comets were only 25 yards away from tying the game. It wasn’t meant to be as St. Charles eventually faced a fourth-and-25 from the Cougars’ 40 after a pair of penalties and the Comets were forced to punt.
Although the Comets failed to come away with points, a punt pinned St. Thomas More at its own 3-yard line.
That didn’t seem to faze the Cougars much as William Cryer bounced to his left in front of the St. Thomas More sideline on a 44-yard gallop to the SCC 42.
Three plays later, Grant Arceneaux hauled in an 18-yard touchdown from St. Thomas More quarterback Caleb Holstein for a 21-7 lead with 6:12 remaining in the second quarter and the Comets were never a factor from that point on, falling to the Cougars 49-7.
“We had two penalties. I don’t know what it was. It kind of backed us up and got us out of sync,” St. Charles coach Frank Monica said. “At least if we could have come out of it and be in field-goal range, it would have been better 14-10 at that particular time.
“They (the Cougars) are an explosive offense and we didn’t think that field goal would win it for us and we knew that. We had to score some touchdowns, and more importantly, we had to control the line of scrimmage, run the ball, and give our defense less snaps. Our defense took far too many snaps.”
Although the Cougars won by a wide margin, the sequence of events in the second quarter was a major factor in the outcome of the game, according to St. Thomas More coach Jim Hightower.
“That was a big series of downs when we were able to stop them and got the ball back and were able to go down and score. It made up for the fumble,” said Hightower.
On the possession to extend the lead to 21-7, the Cougar receivers, like they had done throughout the game, seemed to pick up just enough yardage on third-down pass receptions to keep drives alive.
“They did a good job and I thought our quarterback did a good job of getting the ball to the right people in the right spots,” Hightower said.
The loss ended St. Charles’ season at 8-4. The Comets, the No. 2 seed, were at 2-3 at one point in the season before reeling off six-straight wins going into Friday’s semifinal contest.
St. Thomas More, the No. 3 seed, advances to take on top-seeded University High in the Division II state championship in two weeks. U-High defeated No. 5 De La Salle, a district foe of St. Charles, 43-14.
The Cougars went into Friday’s game averaging 59.9 points per game and had not scored fewer than 43 in any game this season.
St. Thomas More amassed 500 yards of total offense against the Comets – including 247 rushing and 253 passing. The St. Charles defense went into the game allowing less than 10 points per contest.
Holstein was 20 of 25 passing for 234 yards and four touchdowns. Cryer rushed for 140 yard on 14 carries. Arceneaux topped Cougar receivers with five catches for 81 yards and two touchdowns.
Even with the massive offensive numbers against the Comets, the St. Thomas More defense came up big against SCC.
St. Thomas More’s defense held St. Charles to 125 total yards, including 61 rushing and 64 passing. Comets quarterback Justin Dumas was limited to 8 of 17 passing for 64 yards. SCC’s top ball carrier, Joe Chiarella, was held to 23 yards on 15 attempts.
The Cougars managed 33 first downs to 11 for St. Charles.
Cryer returned the second-half kickoff for an apparent touchdown but a penalty for a blind-side block against St. Thomas More ended up giving the Cougars starting position at the SCC 25.
Three plays in the second half, Holstein connected with Cambre on an 8-yard touchdown strike to extend the St. Thomas More lead to 28-7.
A 15-yard touchdown pass from Holstein to Arceneaux made it 35-7 after three quarters.
The Cougars added a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns on a 30-yard pass to Deion Senegal and a 3-yard run by Sydney Lindon.
St. Charles won the toss and elected to receive. The Cougars forced a punt and a short kick gave St. Thomas More the ball at the Cougars’ 47. Holstein eventually scored on a 1-yard sneak and St. Thomas More led 7-0 at the 8:15 mark of the first quarter.
“I think that was important,” Hightower said of the quick score. “Our offense has been leading the way all year and our defense is starting to catch up with them, and that’s a good sign. We got the quick score and it’s hard to play from behind against us.”
The Comets failed to convert on fourth-and-2 from the St. Thomas More 46 on their next possession. Three plays later, Cambre tossed a 19-yard halfback pass to Arceneaux to give the Cougars a 14-0 lead after one quarter.
The better team, Monica said, won on Friday night.
“They had a good offensive and defensive scheme. It wasn’t anything we hadn’t seen before, but they just did it with good people,” the St. Charles coach said.