Video by Zach Pagano
After St. Thomas’ 10-6 homecoming victory Saturday over Bethel, Coach Glenn Caruso summed up the Tommies’ season so far in a single sentence: “8-0 and good to go.”
THE GAME IN PHOTOS
The Tommies are 8-0 in the regular season for the first time since 1956. The victory made St. Thomas the sole leader in the MIAC conference. And with only two conference games remaining in the regular season, the Tommies are inching closer and closer toward a MIAC championship and undefeated season.
“We’ve worked three years to put ourselves in this position,” senior linebacker Tommy Becker said. “If we just keep working hard, good things will come.”
The last time a Tommie team won a conference title was in 1990. But after Saturday’s win over Bethel, the MIAC co-leader coming into Saturday, the 2010 Tommies are on the verge of ending that 20-year drought.
“We want to finish strong and get that championship,” said Colin Tobin, a junior running back. “It was one of our goals at the beginning of the year.”
Saturday’s homecoming game was a highly emotional contest against a resilient opponent, Tobin said. Both senior center Josh Ostrue and Tobin said the game is a precursor for the competitive environment of the postseason.
“It’s good experience for where we want to go,” Tobin said.
The game was dubbed by many as “the Battle of the Undefeateds,” but it turned out to be mainly a battle of the defenses. While both teams’ offenses normally average more than 33 points per game, only two touchdowns were scored Saturday, a 5-yard rush by Tobin and a 52-yard rush by Bethel running back Kevin Lindh.
The Tommie defense was on the field for 33:50 Saturday. Although it seemed that the Royals dominated time of possession, it worked toward the Tommies’ advantage, Becker said.
“I was thinking that they (the Bethel offense) were wearing down,” Becker said. “As the game gets longer, we get stronger.”
Bethel had a chance to score during a tense drive with 3:03 remaining in the game. On a first-and-ten from the Bethel 25-yard line, junior quarterback Josh Aakre’s pass was tipped by a Tommie defensive back, tipped again by a Royals receiver, and somehow intercepted by Becker. The Tommie offense then got a first down, and knelt the ball to run out the clock for the win.
St. Thomas’ defense gave up a total of 321 yards – the team averages 256 – but allowed only one touchdown and collected two interceptions, one by Becker and one by senior defensive back Brady Ervin, who now leads the MIAC in picks.
Bethel was St. Thomas’ toughest opponent in the final stretch of the regular season and the largest obstacle en route to a conference title. The Tommies travel to St. Peter, Minn., next Saturday to take on sixth-place Gustavus (2-3 MIAC, 3-4 overall). On Nov. 6, the Tommies will finish up the regular season at home against Carleton (2-3 MIAC, 2-4 overall).
And while a MIAC championship and undefeated season are now within sight, Ostrue said, the Tommies aren’t overlooking either of their next opponents.
“We’ve still got two weeks here to take care of,” Ostrue said.
Becker shared Ostrue’s sentiments.
“We don’t look back, we don’t look to the future. We’re right here in the present,” Becker said. “We’re going to enjoy this win and get back to work tomorrow.”
Miles Trump can be reached at email@example.com.