Thunder stay alive
By Matt Gerstner PrepsKC staff writer
Apparently St. James Academy didn’t get enough drama in their six-game win streak to start the season.
But after dropping the first game of Kansas 4A District 3 play, the drama hit its max in the Thunder’s matchup Friday at Bonner Springs. The Braves had a chance to render St. James’ 6-0 start all-for-naught, but the visiting Thunder pulled out a 17-16 overtime win to eliminate Bonner Springs.
“We just didn’t want to have a crying game,” head coach Tom Radke said. “They’re all going to be crying games from here on out. It just comes down to how bad you want it. Our kids played tough tonight. We just like to win close, apparently.”
It was a grinder from the opening kickoff as both defenses stifled the opposing offenses early on. Drives that began promising would turn sour from penalties, dropped passes and lack of execution in a game that was thriller for spectators but sloppy for coaches.
“We had a lot of missed opportunities tonight,” Radke said. “We had a touchdown called back from penalties, some dropped passes. But I think our offense is just one play away from getting our swag back.”
The game remained scoreless until just before halftime when Alex King knocked a knocked a 34-yard field goal through to give St. James the 3-0 lead.
Bonner Springs would answer on the opening drive of the second half with Jason VanMaren hitting from 30 yards out to tie the game.
The “St. James swag” would show its first signs of life mid-third quarter. Led by running back Jake Bade, the Thunder would roll 69 yards before quarterback Jansen Keyes would punch it in for a three-yard score to put St. James up 10-3.
Bade would get the majority of touches the rest of the way out as the Thunder would try and control the clock. But facing elimination, Bonner Springs wouldn’t go down without a fight.
“We told our guys, ‘This is it,’ all week,” Braves head coach Lucas Aslin said. “This may be the last meaningful game you ever play in your life, and then you’re playing for pride.”
The Braves would get the ball back with 2:55 left in the game at their own 44 and put the quarterback Jordan Jackson’s hands, and he would not disappoint. Jackson would hit Jared Knernshield for 29 yards and then scramble down to the St. James 13-yard line. He would then find Thaddeus Glenn at the one before handing it off to Knernshield to tie the game at 10 with 55 seconds left.
The game would head to overtime, and the Thunder would get the chance to strike first. It happened quickly.
After an offsides penalty put the ball at the 5-yard line, Keyes would score again on the ground. The Braves had their chance to answer, and that’s when things got interesting.
On third and goal from the seven, Jackson would scramble to find Logan Terrell to pull the Braves within one. But instead of trying to tie the game, Aslin would keep his offense out on the field to throw the knockout blow.
“I told the guys, ‘This is not on you.’ If we (converted) then I would praise them, but if we didn’t, I’d be the goat.”
The St. James defense handed Aslin his horns, swallowing up Knernshield on a toss sweep in the backfield.
“There’s stuff we can fix, but we needed this game,” Bade said of the win. “We know what we can do as a team, and we know we can be the team that can be great.”
Radke admitted a bit of anxiety late in the game.
“I was a little nervous, but we’ve had so many of these games, I knew our guys could get it done,” he said. “I just had a good feeling.”
The win sets up another do-or-die situation for the Thunder next week against DeSoto, who dropped their second district game to Spring Hill, leaving the second and final playoff berth on the line in the Wednesday matchup.
“We know our backs are against the wall, and this is the seniors last year, so we have to practice hard and prepare,” Bade explained. “It’s going to be a fight.”
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