St. Thomas Aquinas had its starting quarterback in the lineup for the first time in over a month yet it was the Raiders’ running attack that fueled a 24-7 victory over host Dwyer.
Although junior Jake Allen started off the game throwing, it was running backs Jaxson Kincaide and James Charles who helped Aquinas take control against a Dwyer program which had knocked the Raiders out of the playoffs twice since 2011.
Aquinas, the defending Class 7A champions, move on to play host to the winner of Saturday’s Mater Academy-Sunset regional semifinal next week.
Friday, the Raiders ran for 272 yards and got two of their three touchdowns on the ground.
“Our coordinators do a great job of bringing a game plan and we’re going to contradict what the opponent is doing,’’ said Aquinas’ first-year coach Roger Harriott, whose team improved to 10-1.
“They gave us a pass look; we felt we could exploit that with the run.’’
The Raiders took a 17-0 lead into halftime, but Dwyer (10-2) took over at midfield with 3:45 left in the third after Allen was sacked and fumbled on third-and-18.
Dwyer charged down the field and scored to make it 17-7, putting itself right back in the game.
On the ensuing offensive play, however, Kincaide took a handoff at the 18 and went up the middle.
Dwyer stacked him up, but he kept churning and eventually broke free. There was no one in front of him and Kincaide sprinted up the middle of the field for a 82-yard score that put the Panthers away.
“I got tired but I told myself to keep moving my legs and get to the end zone,’’ said Kincaide, who had 162 yards.
“Coach tells me to run as hard as I can and Charles and I will see daylight. We thought we were going to pass on them.’’
On its third possession, Aquinas went heavy with Charles and Kincaide and marched down the field before settling on a 32-yard kick from James McCourt to open the scoring.
The second quarter was very nice to the Raiders as they put up 17 points to take a comfortable lead in at the half.
Up 3-0, Aquinas got the ball back when Dwyer’s Eli Matthews was swarmed by a host of Aquinas defenders and fumbled at the 45.
Aquinas quickly made Dwyer pay as it scored in five plays (all runs) with Charles charging in from the 2.
“We came out with the right mindset. We lost a tough game to them in 2013 and wanted to get it back,’’ said Charles, who ran for 120.
“We did it for the class before us, the guys who lost here.”
On the ensuing offensive play, Aquinas’ Colin Nace sacked quarterback Toddy Centeio for a seven-yard loss; two plays later, Asante Samuel picked off Nace giving the Raiders the ball deep in Dwyer territory.
The Raiders took advantage of Allen’s arm on what was a short drive into the end zone. Allen opened with a 21-yard pass to Michael Irvin to the 10. A few plays later, Allen and Trevon Grimes hooked up in the right corner of the end zone for a 6-yard score.
“We’re destined to complete an epic story,’’ Harriott said. “We want to solidify the last chapter, win a state championship.’’
STA - FG James McCourt 32
STA - James Charles 2 run (McCourt kick)
STA - Jake Allen 6 pass to Trevon Grimes (McCourt kick)
Dwy - Zach Wilson 2 run (Patrick Trepcos kick)
STA - Jaxson Kincaide 82 run (McCourt kick)
RUSHING — STA: Jaxson Kincaide 15-162; Jake Allen 4-(-23); Michael Harley 1-1; James Charles 18-120; Sam Bruce 1-2; Michael Irvin 5-21. Dwy: Marcy Atilus 8-31; Toddy Centeio 9-(-38); Cedric Tucker 1-0; Torey Brown 11-46; Eli Matthews 1-(-10); Oyeh Lurry-Davis 1-2; Zach Wilson 1-2.
PASSING — STA: Allen 10-16-0, 90. Dwy: Centeio 15-26-1, 177.
RECEIVING — STA: Bruce 3-7-0; Irvin 2-35-0; Trevon Grimes 1-16-1; Kincaide 1-12-0. Dwy: Isiah Johnson 7-97-0; Wesley Oldham 3-58-0; Cameron Jonas 2-17-0; Noah Mathews 3-15-0.