Friday 5A semifinal matchup between Olathe West and St. Thomas Aquinas Saints got off to a great start for the visiting Owls. They recovered a surprise onside kick to open the game. Things quickly went downhill from there, as STA marched to a place in the state championship game with a 67-21 win.
The Saints came into the game without their starting quarterback, Tate Raboin, and running back Tank Young. The undefeated Saints showed their depth as sophomore Blake Anderson stepped in and ran the offense like a pro.
“Blake Anderson obviously was incredible,” Aquinas head coach Randy Dreiling said, “he came in at quarterback and did a great job for us. Of course our backup running back was our rushing record holder before this year, so he is pretty capable.”
Anderson said he had the full support of his team this week.
“It’s crazy,” Anderson said. “I got a lot of help from the coaches and Tate [Raboin] in practice. I was able to get a lot of reps, and everyone was helping me out. The offensive line had my back the whole game and made things easy for me.”
Running back Cameron Jackson had three touchdowns on the night. The senior knows it’s next man up on their team.
“We run really deep,” Jackson said. “Everyone works hard at practice, so whenever anyone goes down there is always someone there to step up.”
The Saints are looking to avenge their loss in the 2017 state championship game.
“There is nothing like practicing the week of Thanksgiving,” Dreiling said. “That’s what your goal always is. You can’t win it if you don’t get there.”
Senior defensive end Ben Turla and Jackson both echoed their coach’s sentiments.
“That’s all we are going for this year,” Turla said. “Our motto had been ‘every week is the state championship,’ but next week is when it really counts.”
“After losing last year it hurt,” Jackson said. “Being back in the same place this year feels really good, and we hope we can finish it off this time.”
Watching warm ups you wouldn’t have known there was a trip to the state championship on the line. The Saints were loose from before the opening whistle.
“That’s how we play,” Jackson said. “We want to come out and have a good time. We work hard in practice all week and getting to play in late November makes us feel good.”
Teammate Turla agrees.
“We like to act as normal as we can before games,” Turla said. “In practice we get what we need to get done, but we also have fun while we do it. We like to bring that same attitude into game day.”
The Saints will need to stay loose when they face Wichita Northwest in the Kansas 5A state championship Saturday, Nov. 24 in Pittsburg, Kan.