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Coach Glenn Caruso must have caught the Halloween spirit.
On the eve of the October holiday, Caruso dug into his playbook bag and pulled out plenty of tricks on the way to a 43-6 win Saturday at Gustavus .
“We have a nice menu,” Caruso said of St. Thomas’ “special” plays in its playbook.
Today that menu included a running back throwing for a touchdown, a wide receiver throwing for a first down, an onside kick and a wide receiver running in a two-point conversion. St. Thomas showed off all those tricks and now gets to enjoy the treats: the distinction of being the first St. Thomas team to start 9-0 since 1923, an automatic bid to the NCAA playoffs and a MIAC championship.
“When I saw the last time St. Thomas won a conference championship was 1990 it made my heart hurt,” Caruso said.
Saturday’s win can replace that feeling with a very different one.
“It just feels good,” said junior running back Colin Tobin.
Tobin especially had reason to feel good after scoring twice for the Tommies on Saturday. His runs came from five and 11 yards out, but on a day when running backs and wide receivers were throwing as much as catching, Tobin’s runs seemed outstandingly normal.
“When a team feels they have to overcompensate to win, we can get them on some plays that they overreact,” Caruso said of calling special plays Saturday.
One of those plays resulted in St. Thomas’ first score. Senior running back Ben Wartman took a toss to the right on fourth down at the Gustavus 14-yard line, but instead of running, pulled up and threw to wide-open junior Fritz Waldvogel.
Later in the game, Waldvogel would get his chance to show off some quarterback skills. He caught what appeared to be a standard bubble screen, but held up before the line of scrimmage and fired a strike to junior Ricky Margarit for a first down.
“That’s just a fun play,” Caruso said.
Gustavus showed off a trick play of its own for the only Gustie touchdown of the day. Junior quarterback Logan Becker set up a tight end screen to junior tight end Cody Williams, who heaved the ball downfield to streaking senior Cody Sukalski for a 50-yard touchdown in the second quarter. Before that play, St. Thomas had led 14-0 after a 2-yard run by junior Dakota Tracy, so going into halftime the Tommies led by just eight.
But Waldvogel showed off his game-changing speed when he took the opening kickoff of the second half 96 yards for a touchdown to put the Tommies up 21-6. From there, St. Thomas tacked on a 5-yard touchdown and Tobin’s two touchdowns to run the margin of victory to 37.
Wartman and Tobin continued their impressive run of balancing the St. Thomas backfield. Both finished with 81 yards on the day. Wartman handled the majority of the workload in the first half while Tobin had all but one of his runs in the second half.
“I flip on the switch when I’m in there and I try to make a play,” Tobin said. “You have to be prepared at any moment when [Caruso] calls on you.”
The Tommies made plays on both sides of the ball for Caruso. St. Thomas had 430 yards of total offense, and the defense held its opponent to six points for the second straight week.
“It puts everyone at ease knowing we can go out there and get it done,” senior Tommy Becker said. “It’s really fun.”
The only real blemish on St. Thomas’ day was 92 penalty yards, 50 of which came in the first half.
“We just have to be more sound and work harder in practice,” Becker said about the penalties. “It’s the little things.”
Jordan Osterman can be reached at email@example.com.