By: Ross Laorenza
St. Thomas wins convincingly 47-12 on the road at Trinity. The improve to 8-0 on the season and remain the only undefeated team in Division II. "As a coach I was a little anxious to start the week," said St. Thomas Head Coach Eric Cumba. "It was curious how we would come out and how we would start. We were sloppy to start but we responded well," Cumba added.
The Saints had excellent field position to start their first drive after a failed onside kick by the Pioneers. Facing a 3rd and 6 from the Trinity 39, QB Stephen Hedberg (#14) connected with a wide receiver Trevor Martin (#3) up the seam for a 30 yard strike. Three plays later Martin motion into the backfield and took the snap from under center, rushing left for a 3-yard touchdown run.
After the Saints defense stopped Trinity on three straight runs, their special teams units came up big. Trinity faked a punt and snapped the ball directly to QB Pat Mackey. Mackey passed to the right for Javell Desir, but Desir was swarmed by three Saint tacklers resulting in a turnover on downs.
A quick five play drive yielded a long field goal attempt, but the kick sailed wide. Score is still 7-0 Saints.
Trinity would take over at the 20 after the miss, but a high snap resulted in a bad Quarterback/runningback exchange and the ball fell to the turf. Matt Elliot (#58) pounced on it for St. Thomas and the Saints regained possession at the Trinity 15 yard line. Hedberg scored three plays later on a keeper to the left. Extra point was good. 14-0 St. Thomas.
The next St. Thomas possession proved to me how talented the team is. After two 15 yard penalties the Saints were facing 1st and 40 at their own 27 yard line. Hedberg connected with Martin for a 38-yard catch and run to erase the huge yardage deficit. Martin took a hand-off of the next play 21 yards picking up the first down in the process. Although the drive didn't result in points, the focus it takes when your facing a 1st and 40 it impressive.
Trinity senior running back Saikou Bah (#20) got the Pioneers on the board showcase his blazing speed to get the Pioneers on the board. He rushed 81 yards up the right sideline out running two Saint defenders into the end zone. Trinity failed to convert their 2-point try. 14-6 St. Thomas.
The score stayed that way for roughly 15 seconds. St. Thomas responded with a one-play drive of their own. Hedberg found Nate Grunbeck (#21) out to the left and Grunbeck did the rest, racing for a 60-yard touchdown reception. It was the perfect counter punch to the Bah run, and took away any momentum Trinity looked to gain. Great play call. Extra point good. 21-6 Saints.
Trinity's next possession could not have gone worse. Bah was stuffed on first down for a 1-yard loss, Mackey fumbled the second down snap and backed the team up to the 6 yard line, then was tripped up and sacked at the one. A punt from the back of the end zone set up St. Thomas with 1st and 10 at the 19.
A holding penalty would back the Saints up 10 yards, but it didn't matter. Tim Bouchard (#4) took the next play 29 yards up the left sideline for a touchdown. Extra point was blocked, but the Saints held a commanding lead 27-6.
An interesting decision by the Pioneers coaching staff; faking a second punt, from their own 21 failed when Trevor Martin leveled the ball carrier a two yards short of the first down.
Stephen Hedberg made quick work of the Trinity secondary. One play, 29 yards, touchdown pass to Tom Bouchard (#48).
Another touchdown by Grunbeck in the closing seconds of the half put this one far out of reach. At the half, St. Thomas: 41, Trinity: 6.
The Saints utilized their back-ups in the second half on offense. Sophomore Cade Bausman (#1) added a 40 yard touchdown and was greeted with a big round of applause by his teammates. Saikou Bah added a second rushing touchdown for the Pioneers, but it wouldn't be enough for a senior night comeback at Gill Stadium. Final score: St. Thomas: 47, Trinity: 12.
We awaits the rankings from the NHIAA, but Coach Cumba is hopeful his team's performance tonight will earn them the #1 seed in D-II. Trinity was the toughest team on their schedule, in my opinion, and they handled them easily tonight. The playoffs are another test for the Saints teams that will look to make it back to a title game for a second straight season.
From Gill Stadium in Manchester, New Hampshire; Ross Laorenza: New Hampshire Notebook