A step above

Nick Smith/PrepsKC

By Ryan Wallace PrepsKC staff writer
Posted: September 16, 2016 - 10:22 PM

Typically carried by seniors built for collegiate Saturdays and an aerial attack few secondary’s can defend, Bishop Miege walked away 48-21 victors of the 2016 ‘Holy War’ against St. Thomas Aquinas thanks to a running game spearheaded by a pair of undersized, backup tailbacks.

“You know, as funny as it sounds, yes I did,” chuckled Miege head coach Jon Holmes after the game when asked if he saw this type of performance coming from sophomore Ta’Von Tusa and freshman Brison Cobbins. “That’s why kids come to school here and that’s what kids want to do- get on the field and make plays.”

“Having Cameron Clark, our starter, banged up, we knew Ta’Von and Brison were going to have to step up and make plays and both of them did. We’re so proud of the way they played tonight.”

Down 7-0 to Aquinas out of the gate, Miege needed just 44-seconds to silence the Saints. Behind a key block from junior left tackle Jack Burns, the 155-pound Cobbins scampered 52-yards down the visiting sideline for the first of what would be five offensive touchdowns.

“I believe everyone knows we can run the ball now and that we’re balanced,” Tusa stated defiantly. “We’re dangerous.”

If that wasn’t electrifying enough, Cobbins, set up by numerous Tusa carries inside Aquinas territory, pulled another highlight reel run a minute and a half before the break. Running into a trio of Aquinas defenders against the home sideline, Cobbins was spun by his jersey and slung towards the ground. Amazingly, like a video game glitch, the rusher kept his balance without a knee touching the ground, slinging defenders past his body on a race to the opposite pylon.

“Watching them in practice, they’re both great players,” tight end and defensive end Joseph Gleason said in reference to the highlight touchdown that gave Miege a 34-14 halftime lead. “I knew they were going to play like that.”

“We had a couple of runs where we had them wrapped up,” a bewildered Aquinas head coach Randy Dreiling said during a postgame walk towards the locker room. “They just out played us. Out coached us, out played us… we didn’t do a very good job.”

Adding to Dreiling’s frustration was the inconsistent and inopportune play of his successful flex bone offense. 

Aside from the opening six-minute drive that ended with a Drew Hicks scoring plunge, the previously undefeated squad handed the Stags 21-points courtesy of a pair of fumbles recovered by Gleason and linebacker Dylan Downing, plus an interception that fell into the hands of fellow linebacker Joe Watskey.

“We scored one touchdown,” Dreiling reiterated with frustration about his offenses in ability to capitalize in the second half, despite the large deficit. “Nothing good about that.”

“We put the ball on the ground again,” he continued. “That killed us. I thought we had that problem alleviated.”

Aquinas wasn’t without opportunities though. Surging out of halftime, the Saints offense again found itself at the mouth of the same end zone they’d scored to start the first half.  But on fourth and two from the three, senior captain Colin Grunhard wrangled up junior Drew Hicks, handing the ball back Holmes’ potent offense.

“We needed to lock down on defense and I knew we’d be fine,” said the 5-foot-5 Tusa. “It was a great combination of both in the end. Without them, our offense wouldn’t have been able to be on the field and make big plays.”

“They hit a couple passes on us, but that’s a compliment to our defense that they had to throw it a little bit,” added Holmes. “One thing we talked about last year was how we jumped on them and then came out the second half and laid an egg. We told our guys, this is the seniors last time playing (Aquinas) so let’s give them one to remember.”

For heralded Missouri commit, Jafar Armstrong, it ended just as Holmes had requested. Blanketed by quality coverage for much of the game, the senior talent finished with the Stags’ final two scores, including an 82-yard kickoff return- the first special teams return score for Miege in five years.

“Blue Valley definitely helped us,” the fellow senior captain Gleason said with a smile, victorious for a fourth-straight time in the series. “It’s always tough losing, but playing to that level helped prepare us for tonight I think.”

“To come out here on our home field in our home opener and beat our rivals by that much, it’s a great feeling.”