For the second time in two years, Saint Thomas Academy entered the state Class AAAAA football tournament with high hopes and an undefeated record but saw its bid for a championship dashed in the opening round.

Last year, the Cadets ran up against fellow unbeaten Mankato West and lost 21-14. This time, they faced a tough Mahtomedi squad and fell by the same score in overtime.

STA knew going in that the game against Mahtomedi would be a dogfight. The conference rivals had slugged it out in the regular season, with the Cadets winning 28-14. Coach Dan O’Brien said heading into state that their previous battle was a lot closer than the score indicated and that his club would need to play its best to beat Mahtomedi a second time.

The Cadets, who went into the game following blowout victories over Apple Valley and Two Rivers in sectional play, lost this time despite holding Mahtomedi to zero yards passing. Instead, the Zephyrs rode their ace running back Corey Bohmert, who carried the ball 46 times for 284 yards and three touchdowns. The scores came from 20, 14 and 1 yard out, with the last one being the difference in overtime.

The Cadets had proven all season that they could mount a good ground game of their own with senior running back Love Adebayo and junior Savion Hart. But the Zephyrs simply kept possession of the ball for too long.

“I told the kids that they shouldn’t let one game define their season,” coach Dan O’Brien said. “We worked hard, but unfortunately things don’t always go the way you want them to.”

Mahtomedi led by 14-7 at the half before the Cadets drew even in the fourth quarter when senior defensive back Jonny Miller returned a loose ball off a botched punt for a 1-yard touchdown. With junior
Declan Wilson’s conversion kick it became 14-14.

 

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The Cadets got good yardage out of Adebayo and Hart as each amassed over 100 yards. But the closer STA got to scoring, the tougher Mahtomedi’s defense became. It also didn’t help that the Cadets uncharacteristically turned the ball over twice during regulation while inside Mahtomedi’s 15-yard-line. Plus, there was a fruitless trip down to the Zephyrs’ 8 in overtime.

“They got us. They made more plays than we did,” O’Brien said. “And we didn’t tackle as well as we would’ve liked to. We couldn’t get the ball in when we got close. Whenever they needed to make a stop, they made it. It was a tough one, but you have to take your hat off to them. They were solid.”

This was the fourth consecutive and 26th overall state tourney appearance for STA, which has a 20-2 record for the past two years. The Cadets were the state runners-up in 2018 and 2019 (there was no tournament in 2020).

“I told the kids that they shouldn’t let one game define their season,” O’Brien said. “We worked hard, but unfortunately things don’t always go the way you want them to.”

— Bill Wagner

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