For just a moment Friday, St. Thomas Aquinas appeared vulnerable. The Raiders’ first drive against Dwyer at Brian Piccolo Memorial Stadium lasted only three plays and went backward quickly with a pair of sacks on Curt Casteel.
Not much went wrong the rest of the way for St. Thomas Aquinas. The Raiders responded with another dominant performance for the final 41 minutes of a 35-0 win.
“As a team, we look forward to adverse moments,” coach Roger Harriott said after the blowout win in Fort Lauderdale. “We feel like that cultivates opportunities to get motivated. I think our guys responded well.”
The response came quickly and in massive chunks. St. Thomas Aquinas (12-1) forced a three-and-out on the Panthers next drive, then unloaded on offense. On the third play of the ensuing drive, Casteel found Marcus Rosemy on a slant in the middle of the field. The wide receiver turned upfield and took off for a 63-yard touchdown.
The Raiders took control. Dwyer (11-2) was simply overwhelmed by St. Thomas Aquinas’ speed and depth on both sides of the ball.
“I think that really set the tone for us,” Rosemy said of his first touchdown.
Rosemy, in particular, provided a matchup nightmare. He started off the Raiders’ next drive by hauling a deep ball for a 32-yard gain, then extended the drive with a 9-yard catch on a third-down play in the red zone. Running back Nigel White punched in a 2-yard touchdown on the next play.
Rosemy pulled in his fourth and final catch on St. Thomas Aquinas’ next drive. Casteel, who is orally committed to the Harvard Crimson of the FCS, threw a jump ball into the end zone, where both Rosemy and fellow wide receiver Xavier Restrepo leaped for the ball. The pass bounced off Restrepo’s hands and his teammate hauled it in as he fell to the ground.
The junior finished the game with four catches for 134 yards and two touchdowns. The four catches came on the first four pass attempts of the game for Casteel, who finished 6 of 8 with 159 yards and a touchdown, plus 22 rushing yards.
And against the Raiders’ stout defense, the Panthers never had a chance to climb back in. The shutout Friday was St. Thomas Aquinas’ second in a row and eighth of the season. Only twice all year has a team scored more than six points against the Raiders.
“We’re putting together a great effort,” Harriott said.
For the current version of St. Thomas Aquinas, the toughest bit of adversity came almost exactly a year ago. The Raiders’ season ended short of the state championship game with a road loss against Venice, which still stings the current roster.
Shortly after St. Thomas Aquinas wrapped up its running-clock victory, the Indians cemented the Class 7A semifinal rematch with a 57-32 win against Bloomingdale. Next week, the Raiders will have another chance for an even more emphatic response.
“At St. Thomas Aquinas, we take losing very personally,” Harriott said, “but at the same time we utilize it as learning opportunities to get better and be sure that we’re making the appropriate adjustments to not let it happen again.”