St. Thomas was unable to stop senior running back Logan Flannery Saturday and was ousted from the NCAA quarterfinals for the second consecutive season, falling 12-7 to Bethel.
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Flannery, the 2010 MIAC Most Valuable Player, rushed 38 times for 200 yards and one touchdown and became the MIAC’s all-time leading rusher with Saturday’s performance. Flannery has now had more than 100 yards rushing in his last 5 games.
Things started off in favor of the Tommies, taking only four plays to move the ball down the field for a touchdown. Junior running back Colin Tobin carried the ball on all four plays, and on his third carry, he broke a tackle up the middle and raced for a 46-yard gain. Tobin found the end zone from two yards out on the next play, giving the Tommies a 7-0 lead in the game’s opening minutes. Tobin finished the game with 28 carries for 122 yards and one touchdown, shouldering the load because senior All-American Ben Wartman was injured.
After the opening touchdown, neither team could get much going as they traded possessions. Near the end of the first quarter, Bethel junior quarterback Josh Aakre attempted to fool the Tommie defense by going deep, but senior Bryan Villar made a diving interception that halted the Royals’ drive.
St. Thomas hit a rough patch midway through the second quarter when a Bethel player ran into freshman punter Garrett Maloney and injured him. There was no penalty on the play, but the injured Maloney was taken off the field.
After St. Thomas was called for a face mask penalty, sophomore running back Kevin Lindh broke a 25-yard run that set up Flannery’s 1-yard touchdown. Lindh, the Royals’ second option at running back, finished the game with nine carries for 62 yards.
The Tommies caught a break when Bethel decided to go for a 2-point conversion instead of kicking the extra point after Flannery’s touchdown. Rolling out to his right, Aarke tried to find an open receiver, but the pass failed as junior linebacker Willy Baregi knocked the ball down, preserving a 7-6 St. Thomas lead going into halftime.
Bethel opened the second half like a completely different team. After the Royals’ defense forced a quick punt from the Tommies, Bethel marched 96 yards down the field for a touchdown.
Flannery was virtually unstoppable on the drive, bringing Bethel down to the one-yard line. Aakre capped the drive off with a one-yard quarterback sneak, but once again, Bethel failed on the 2-point conversion.
After the Tommies failed to get anything going offensively, Bethel put together another big drive midway through the fourth quarter, taking the ball all the way down to the Tommie 20-yard line. When things started to look bleak for the Tommies, Baregi came up with a big third-down sack on Aakre. The sack led to a 32-yard field goal attempt by sophomore kicker Nick Love, but Love missed the kick far left, setting up the most important drive of St. Thomas’ season.
The Tommies were able to move the ball 15 yards, but were unable to convert on a fourth and five. Turning to their bag of tricks, which has been effective all year, the Tommies attempted a running back pass with Tobin, but his pass was intercepted by junior David Vavra, which put an end to the Tommies’ season.
When the two teams met in October, defense was the story, and Saturday’s game was no different. Bethel held St. Thomas to 54 yards passing, while Bethel was only able to pass for 18 yards.
St. Thomas junior wide receiver Fritz Waldvogel suffered an injury in the game’s opening minutes and never returned. Waldvogel had one catch for six yards in the Tommies’ only loss of the season. St. Thomas finished the year 12-1.
Bethel has won three consecutive playoff games on the road and will travel to Alliance, Ohio to take on Mount Union in Saturday’s NCAA semifinals.
Ryan Shaver can be reached at email@example.com.