How many high school games are lost on the lack of a good kicking game? It's so hard to find a kid who is willing to put the time in to perfect the art of kicking the football. On top of that a lot of high school coaches don't spend enough time in practice on that all important phase of the game. Coach Eric Cumba head coach of the St. Thomas Saints doesn't have that problem because he has a highly recruited nationally ranked kicker in #5 Hayden Middleton.
"I knew I would have to call on him to make a big kick for our team" coach Cumba said after the game. "I didn't know it would be a kick as important as this one!"
In a wonderfully played match up between two teams who gave it everything that they had, Middleton was the difference maker when he came out on the field with 4.7 seconds left in the game and calmly nailed the winning field goal right down the middle giving the Saints a dramatic come from behind win over the Hanover Marauders 29-28.
Middleton has made that kick thousands of times in his dreams!
"I have dreamed about making that kick ever since I was a little kid" Middleton said after the game.
I have a feeling this will not be the last game winning kick this young man makes in his career. Middleton was not phased by what he just did for his team. The kid has ice water in his veins, he was born to be a kicker. After going to a couple of kicking combines last summer he is getting interest from a very high level. There is no doubt you will see Hayden kicking on Saturday afternoons.
This game had it all! The stars from both teams played their hearts out putting up one big play after another making this game with the playoffs up for grabs the game of the year in Division 4. We also saw a young St. Thomas freshman quarterback # 3 Trevor Martin led his team in dramatic fashion down 28-26 in a Tom Brady like drive for the winning field goal.
St. Thomas trailing since early in the first quarter got the ball with 1:52 to go in the game and the ball on their own 35. Martin completed two huge 4th down passes to his all state Mr. Versatile RB/WR Ryan Monette for first downs keeping the drive going. The second big 4th down pass thrown down the middle into the teeth of the coverage went for 27 yards and got the ball down the field for Middleton to come out and do his magic
Martin who had his coming out party going 5 for 10 with 97 yards throwing the ball and had 44 yards on 6 carries 1 touchdown running the ball. Martin played great but the star on this team is Ryan Monette. What Monette lacks in size in makes up for in heart and a true knack of slipping tackles and making defenders miss. Monette had a couple runs were the Hanover defense had him completely surrounded and he somehow he eluded them to pick up extra yards. Monette finished the day with 179 yards on 22 carries 2 TD's running the ball and 3 catches for 85 yards.
Hanover played like a team that didn't want their season to end. After St. Thomas scored on a 25 yard touchdown run by Martin on their first drive of the game the Marauders took control of the game. The Cavallaro to Rothwell-Ferraris connection is one of the best QB/Receiver combinations in the state. With St. Thomas putting and extra eye on Rothwell-Ferraris, Cavallaro's other pass receiver #89 Noah Huizenga went for 32 yards and Hanover's first score on the night tying the score at 7-7.
Cavallaro hit Huizenga again from 9 yards to give Hanover the lead that they didn't give up until the final play of the game. Huizenga had a big night with 3 catches for 107 yards and 3 touchdowns.. Rothwell-Ferrais also had 3 catches for 58 yards overall Cavallaro had an excellent night throwing the ball completing 7 of 16 177 yards and 3 touchdowns.
With Cavallaro having success throwing the ball Hanover was in the drivers seat but everything changed late in the 3rd quarter. Hanover up 28-19 Cavallaro had to leave the game with a ankle injury. The momentum arrow pointed back to the Saints with Monette taking control with some of his dazzling runs. Sophomore #14 Connor Austin replaced Cavallaro which forced Hanover to abandon their spread attack. St.Thomas was able to close the lead 28-26 on a Monette 34 yard touchdown run.
Cavallaro sitting on the bench surrounded by the medical staff knew his team needed him. Somehow he found the strength to block out the pain and went back in the game. St.Thomas down by 2 drove the ball inside the Hanover 10 but the young freshman quarterback missed a hand off which gave the ball back to Hanover. Cavallaro at quarterback but limited with his ankle injury went to the run to close out the game.
Hanover running back Carl Keating and Rothwell- Ferrais were able to move the ball on the ground from the 5 all the way into St. Thomas territory. Somehow if Hanover could have mustard one more first down they would have been able to run out the clock and win the game. On a 4th and 3 the St. Thomas defense came up with a big stop and took over on downs at the Hanover 35.
This set the stage for the dramatic final drive and Middleton's third field goal of the game. Coach Cumba knows the odds of winning on the road at Plymouth next week are not very good but he said that this win was just as meaningful as last years championship game because of the effort that his team displayed Friday night.
The playoffs are set in D4 with Windham at Trinity and St. Thomas at Plymouth. With the way Trinity handled Windham on Friday a Trinity at Plymouth championship games looks like the possible scenario. How much has Trinity improved since their early season loss at Plymouth? Do they mix things up and spread the offense? We will find out in 2 weeks. My predication is for a lot closer game than the first encounter. That being said Plymouth will still be the favorites.
Congratulations to both Bill Raycraft of Windham team and Eric Cumba of St. Thomas for getting their teams into the playoffs after moving up a division from last year.