High school football: St. Thomas Academy’s last run beats Mahtomedi

Whenever St. Thomas Academy and Mahtomedi meet on the football field as of late, high drama seems to ensue.

Last season, it was a four-overtime affair in which the Cadets finally came out on top.

But that, it turned out, was only a prelude for what transpired when the two teams crossed paths again Friday night in Mendota Heights.

St. Thomas Academy, which had won its first five games by an average margin of 28.4 points, had to come from behind in dramatic fashion against the Zephyrs — scoring on a 2-yard touchdown run by junior running back Love Adebayo as time expired to beat the Zephyrs 18-13.

The score came after the Cadets had lined up for a field-goal attempt by junior Mark Rogalski. But three consecutive defensive offside calls on Mahtomedi put the ball on the Zephyrs’ 2-yard-line, and St. Thomas Academy opted to go for the touchdown.

“It happened fast,” Adebayo said. “I got to the line, and it was like a blur. Suddenly I was in the end zone, and we had won the game.

“Our fullback made a great block, and our offensive line pushed everyone in. I saw the outside was open, and I just took off.”

St. Thomas Academy – ranked No. 3 in the state in Class 5A – improved to 6-0. Mahtomedi – ranked No. 10 – dropped its second straight game and fell to 4-2.

“In the heat of the moment, kids try to make plays,” Zephyrs coach Dave Muetzel said of the penalties on his team. “That’s what happened there.”

The game-winning drive came after St. Thomas Academy threw an incomplete pass on fourth down that gave Mahtomedi the ball back at its own 44, leading 13-12 with 2:18 to play. But a fumble seconds later provided St. Thomas Academy with another chance, giving the Cadets the ball back at their own 41.

“I was really pleased with the way our defense played tonight,” St. Thomas Academy coach Dan O’Brien said. “Aside from four or five plays we wish we could have back, they played an outstanding game. They made the plays when we needed them.”

Mahtomedi trailed most of the game but managed to take the lead for the first time when sophomore quarterback Charles Brandt scored on a 2-yard touchdown run with four and a half minutes to play.

That followed a 94-yard kickoff return by senior Gunnar Woods in the third quarter that cut the Cadets’ lead to 12-6 – a play that came immediately after Adebayo had scored on a 2-yard run to put St. Thomas Academy on top 12-0.

“I think I died about three times tonight,” O’Brien said.

“Anytime we play these guys, it’s a battle. I’m not sure which was more stressful – the four-overtime game or this one. I think it was this one by a little bit.”

Adebayo, who had 10 carries for 81 yards in the first half as his team built a 6-0 halftime lead on a pair of field goals by Rogalski, said being tested the way they were Friday will be good for the Cadets down the road.

“I think this shows we’re a really good team that doesn’t give up,” Adebayo said. “We didn’t blow anybody out tonight. We needed to win a hard-fought game, and we did it.”

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