St. Thomas Aquinas had toppled the nation’s top-ranked teams in the past.
The Raiders nearly did it again early Saturday morning as they dueled for 48 minutes and three overtimes in Las Vegas with Bishop Gorman — the top-ranked team in the country in every major poll.
St. Thomas Aquinas was denied when Gorman running back Biaggio Walsh took a pitch to the left side, crashed into Aquinas linebacker Jaden Davis and carried him into the end zone for the winning two-point conversion that dealt the Raiders a 25-24 defeat in a game nationally televised on ESPNU.
The loss effectively ends Aquinas’ slim hopes of getting back into the national-championship picture. The Raiders (3-2) entered the game ranked No. 7 nationally by MaxPreps and No. 9 by USA Today.
Making matters worse, star receiver Trevon Grimes might have been lost for an extended amount of time.
Grimes, the Raiders’ five-star Ohio State University commit, sustained what appeared to be an injury to his left knee on the first play of the fourth quarter while attempting to catch a pass in the end zone that was intercepted by Gorman free safety Bubba Bolden.
Grimes was helped off the field by Aquinas trainers and later carted off the field with his left leg in an air cast.
Grimes had already missed two games earlier this season with an inflamed patellar tendon.
On the play, Aquinas receiver Mike Harley took a handoff from quarterback Jake Allen and threw a pass to Grimes in the corner of the end zone. Grimes stumbled on the play, allowing Bolden to step in front and intercept the pass.
Earlier in the game, the trick play worked for Aquinas as Harley squared up and threw a perfect 53-yard strike to Grimes that gave the Raiders their first points and a 7-3 lead with 8:58 left in the third quarter.
Walsh’s winning conversion came seconds after Gorman (5-0), which extended its winning streak to 45 in a row, chose to go for two following Ohio State University commit Tate Martell’s 10-yard touchdown pass to Jailen Nailor on a quick slant. The Gaels originally intended to go for the tying extra point, but elected to go for two after Aquinas jumped offside, moving the ball inside the 2-yard line.
St. Thomas had taken a 24-17 lead on a second-down, 1-yard plunge by Mike Epstein.
After Allen found Jordan Merrell for a 10-yard scoring pass on the first play of the first overtime to give the Raiders a 17-10 lead, Gorman faced a fourth-and-goal from the 7-yard line. Martell fired a low line-drive pass to Nailor on a slant in the end zone to force a second overtime.
The second overtime, however, is the one that befuddled Aquinas.
Following a goal-line stand in which linebacker Drew White led a charge that stopped Martell on fourth-and-goal from the 1, Aquinas had a chance to win the game with any possible score.
Aquinas coach Roger Harriott sent out the field-goal team on third down for a 25-yard field-goal attempt by Marco Salani.
Bolden leaped off over Aquinas long snapper Nico McDonald and got a piece of Salani’s kick, sending a wobbling line drive into the crossbar and keeping the Gaels alive for a third overtime.
Salani sent the game to overtime with a 24-yard field goal at the end of regulation, tying the score at 10.