Reporter: Ellie Galgano / Videographer: Michael Ewen
An announced crowd of 12,903 watched a thriller as St. John’s needed overtime to pull out a 20-17 win Saturday afternoon, at Clemens Stadium in Collegeville, Minn.
St. John’s running back Kellen Blaser dove into the end zone for the game-winning touchdown in the first period of overtime. A delayed signal from the referee caused a moment of hesitation before thousands of St. John’s fans and players rushed the field.
Senior kicker Brady Beeson had given St. Thomas its first lead of the day as the Tommies got the ball first in overtime and went up 17-14. But that lead was short lived as St. John’s quickly covered the 25 yards to the end zone for the game winning score.
“They did a great job upfront,” said senior linebacker Tommy Becker about the Johnnies’ overtime drive. “We knew we had to get a stop. We just didn’t get it done.”
Senior tight end Jake Friederichs caught a touchdown pass from sophomore quarterback Greg Morse with two seconds left in regulation to tie the game at 14 and force overtime. St. John’s defense smothered the Tommies throughout the game and held St. Thomas scoreless into the fourth quarter. But 14 unanswered points gave St. Thomas a chance in overtime.
Touchdowns by St. John’s running backs Kellen Blaser and Jakob Redding gave the Johnnies a 14 point lead through most of the game. It wasn’t until 10 minutes remained in the fourth quarter when St. Thomas got on the board and Morse and senior wide receiver Tony Margarit hooked up for a 32-yard touchdown.
The quick strike cut Johnnie’s lead in half and finally gave a dormant Tommie crowd something to cheer about.
“We knew we had some plays that if we executed, we could get them on,” Margarit said.
St. John’s ran the clock down in the fourth quarter and was set to punt with just under three minutes remaining. But the snap was botched and rolled all the way to St. John’s 19-yard line where St. Thomas recovered and took over.
Yet it took nearly every second for the Tommies to tie it up. And with two seconds to go, St. Thomas did just that and grabbed all the momentum heading into overtime.
St. Thomas had the first possession in overtime and after stalling on third down, the Tommies settled for a field goal.
From there it was up to the Tommie defense led by Becker’s eight tackles. St. Thomas held St. John’s to 78 passing yards and 245 total yards.
“We felt good after the field goal,” coach Glenn Caruso said. “Our defense had been lights out.”
But in the biggest defense sequence of the game, the defense came up empty. St. Thomas was forced to look on as the Johnnies celebrated what St. John’s stats keepers said was the first overtime game in school history.
The second largest crowd in Clemens Stadium history watched the 10th-straight time the Johnnies have beaten St. Thomas at home dating back to 1986.
The win cements St. John’s (7-0 overall, 5-0 MIAC) atop the MIAC standings as the team remains undefeated. St. Thomas (5-1, 4-1) drops into second place and will need some key wins the rest of the year to earn a playoff spot.
“It’s one loss and we still have four [games] left,” Becker said. “We’ll probably see this team again down the road.”
Jordan Osterman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org