Video by Miles Trump
St. Thomas beat Benedictine University (Ill.) 57-10 Saturday during the first round of the NCAA playoffs at Palmer Field. The team will play Linfield College of Oregon at noon next Saturday at home.
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“Overall, we’re pretty excited,” coach Glenn Caruso said. “I think our kids came out and focused on being the best they could possibly be.”
Along with scoring eight touchdowns and advancing to the next round of the playoffs, St. Thomas players also broke quite a few records during the game. Junior running back Colin Tobin set a new school record with his 91-yard touchdown run with 13:37 left in the second quarter. The previous record of 89 yards was set two times in 1973.
Senior running back Ben Wartman also set a school record for the most career rushing yards. He rushed 14 times for 149 yards, and he also broke the school touchdown record with 50 career touchdowns. He has rushed more than 4,000 yards during his time at St. Thomas, making him the third MIAC running back to do so. Wartman said the records were just icing on the cake.
“It wasn’t really at all about the rushing record,” Wartman said. “Most important thing always is the win.”
The team also set a school record for the most points during a postseason game.
The only time the Benedictine Eagles led during the game was at the beginning after the team’s kicker scored a 38-yard field goal. Then Tobin scored a touchdown with 7:21 left in the first quarter, and from there St. Thomas’ points kept going up.
Junior wide receiver Ricky Margarit scored with 3:21 left in the first, and then rushed the ball in for a two-point conversion to put the Tommies up 15-3. Then Tobin scored on his 91-yard run to up the score to 22-3.
“Our offense thrives on getting in a rhythm,” said junior quarterback Dakota Tracy. “And so how we wanted to approach this game is go out there, get a high tempo, be efficient and focus on each and every play one at a time, and we did that.”
The statistics backed up St. Thomas’ high-scoring performance. St. Thomas’ possession time was 27:15 to Benedictine’s 32:45, showing that the Tommies kept up a fast and furious scoring pace. St. Thomas led in rushing yards with 386 yards to Benedictine’s 30 yards. The Tommies also dominated in offense yards, with a school-record 644 yards compared to Benedictine’s 241 yards, and St. Thomas had 25 first downs while Benedictine had 16.
Even though St. Thomas’ game was rushing-intensive, the team’s passing game was consistent as well. Tracy completed 15 of 16 passes for 232 passing yards, a school record for passing efficiency.
In addition, sophomore kicker Tim Albright had a flawless game, earning the extra point for the Tommies all seven times he kicked.
After the Eagles scored with 7:34 left in the first half to bring the score to 22-10, Wartman started his touchdown streak. He scored three touchdowns in a row during the second and third quarter to widen St. Thomas’ lead to 33 points. On his third touchdown, he broke the school rushing record.
After Wartman’s three touchdowns, the Tommies led 43-10 and showed no signs of slowing. Sophomore tight end Jon Nelson turned a 7-yard pass from quarterback Dakota Tracy into a touchdown to bring the Tommies to 50-10, and freshman running back Willie Schneider capped off the Tommies’ successful day with a 1-yard run to increase the final score to 57-10.
The 20-degree weather may have deterred some fans, since the 1,620 attendance count wasn’t very high, especially for a playoff game. But Caruso said the team wasn’t too bothered by the chilly conditions.
“Mentally our kids handle it better than most. If I’m going to brag on our team for one thing, it’s on mental toughness,” he said. “[The cold] might have hindered some pass game, but very limited. We still threw the ball.”
He said the team will have practice all week, even on Thanksgiving, and will eat a Thanksgiving dinner together on campus as a team.
“If we can’t be with the family we were born with, then there’s no greater family to be with [than the football team],” Caruso said. “I know it’s trite in sport to say the word ‘family,’ but we’ve gotten where we’ve gotten because we’ve done it cumulatively.”
The players said they were glad to get more chances to play together as a team.
“It’s always great to get a win and stay together one more week,” senior linebacker Tommy Becker said.
Katie Broadwell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.