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St. Thomas shook up its rivalry with St. John’s Saturday handing the Johnnies its worst loss since 1930.
The No. 3 Tommies, now 5-0, clobbered the Johnnies 63-7. Senior quarterback Dakota Tracy threw five touchdown passes, three to senior receiver Fritz Waldvogel, and ran for another. Senior running back Colin Tobin rushed for two more touchdowns.
St. Thomas coach Glenn Caruso said the team’s work from the last four years came together for this game.
“This was a senior class that came to me when I had nothing to show but the promise of a better tomorrow,” Caruso said. “I had a two-and-eight record that we overtook… Four years later, to come from ashes to this is remarkable.”
Perhaps the silver lining for St. John’s fans is that their team won’t have to face Tracy, Waldvogel and Tobin again.
Tommie seniors also dominated on defense. Linebacker Tony Danna racked up 10 tackles and two sacks, and linebacker Willie Baregi had a sack and interception.
“The seniors pave the way for us,” sophomore linebacker Harry Pitera said. “Guys like Willy Baregi, Tony Danna, Danny Kane. They show us how it’s done. I guess we’ve gotta carry the torch the rest of the way.”
The 56-point margin of victory is the largest in the history of the rivalry, which is in its 110th year. Unitl Saturday, 36 points was the biggest thrashing.
“I was surprised it wasn’t more competitive,” Caruso said. “The scoreboard might not reflect it, but that is a good football team with a lot of history and tradition. For whatever reason our guys came out with a lot of confidence today, and they backed that up with a lot of productivity.”
The game also set the record for highest attendance at O’Shaughnessy Stadium, with an estimated crowd of 10,420 almost 2,000 more than the previous record attendance. The temporary end zone seats thinned out significantly at halftime when the Tommies held a 49-point lead.
“The crowd was awesome. The atmosphere was great,” Tobin said. “The dedication on this campus to the football program is unbelievable.”
With a 13-yard catch on the first Tommie drive, Waldvogel became the career all-purpose yardage leader for St. Thomas, passing Gary Trettel’s total of 6,044. Waldvogel finished the game with seven catches for 131 yards and three touchdowns.
Waldvogel’s catch came on the only pass of the nine-play drive. Tobin had six carries for 23-yards on the drive, including a one-yard touchdown to put the Tommies up 7-0 with 9:54 left in the first quarter.
“We were running the ball well,” Caruso said. “That is as much a product of Colin Tobin in the first two series as it was the offensive line. We also got some really nice blocking on the edge from the fullbacks and the tight ends.”
St. Thomas continued to grind out yardage on the ground gaining 44 out of 47 yards on runs on the next drive. The three passing yards came on Tracy’s fourth down touchdown pass to junior tight end Logan Marks. The Tommies ran the ball 47 times in the game and threw 18 passes.
A holding penalty nullified a Waldvogel punt-return touchdown, but the veteran receiver got his first career touchdown against the Johnnies three plays later on a 31-yard reception in the corner of the end zone with seven seconds left in the first quarter. He now has scored at least one touchdown against every MIAC team.
After the Tommies forced another three and out, sophomore Harry Pitera blocked a St. John’s punt, and junior Jack Gavin scooped it up and went untouched into the end zone to give the Tommies a 28-0 lead early in the second quarter.
“I just came tight off the block and just put my hands up, deflected the ball, looked around, and I saw Jack pick it up and just scooped and scored,” Pitera said.
The St. Thomas scoring frenzy continued after a Baregi interception set the Tommie offense up on the St. John’s 13-yard line. The Tommies responded to back-to-back 15-yard penalties with a 19-yard touchdown catch by sophomore Kyle Whitley to take a 35-0 lead with 9:45 left in the first half.
Harry Pitera recovered a fumble on the next Johnnie drive, and the Tommie offense wasted no time. Tracy started the drive with a 32-yard completion to Waldvogel and ended it on a one-yard quarterback sneak touchdown. Pitera made several Johnnies miss on a nine-yard return.
“Back in high school I played some running back,” he said. “So running the ball like that was a little nostalgic.”
There was less than five minutes left in the first half when St. John’s offense first crossed midfield, but the Johnnies turned the ball over on downs two plays later.
Tobin bookended the first half scoring with a three-yard touchdown and went into the locker room with 111 rushing yards and two scores. He would finish with 146 yards.
Scoring frenzy slows in second half
The Tommie’s tried something new on their first drive of the second half; punting. Sophomore Garrett Maloney booted the ball for the first time in the game after a St. Thomas three and out.
But the Tommie offense wasn’t done. Waldvogel scored touchdowns in the left corner of the end zone on the next two drives. His second score of the game came when he beat single-coverage for a 25-yarder, and his third came on a one handed grab from 12-yards out.
“They stayed in that cover-three today and made us pass, and we passed,” Tracy said. “(Fritz) is a great player. If you give a great player a time to make a play on the ball he is going to do it.
With 4:10 left in the game, the Johnnies finally broke the shutout on a Colin Moynihan 11-yard touchdown run making the score 63-7.
“We always preach on finishing strong,” Pitera said. “It was great to hold them to seven points, but in the future we’re going to try to hold them to zero.”
The Tommies head to Minneapolis next Saturday to face Augsburg, the only other undefeated team left in the MIAC. Caruso said he “feels really good” about the direction of his team after blowing out the Johnnies.
“We had a really nice balance,” Caruso said. “They were confident, not overconfident. They were emotional, not over emotional. And I think they rode that emotional wave all the way.”
Dakota Tracy agreed.
“We’ll take a win any way we can get it, but what was it, 63-7? We’ll take that,” Tracy said.
Alex Keil can be reached at email@example.com.