GAME ONE: Private High School Kickoff Classic, NRG Stadium, Home of the NFL Houston Texans
Strake Jesuit 56
Eagle Football 32
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Quarterback Peyton Matocha ‘19 threw for three touchdowns and Ian Wheeler ‘19 ran for a fourth but the Eagles were unable to overcome a 21-0 first-half blitz and fell for the second straight time in the series.
The Eagles trailed 7-3 in the tight ticks of the first quarter when they absorbed a 63-yard touchdown strike that raised the deficit to 14-3.
A holding penalty short-circuited the ensuing series before a Matocha punt pinned Strake inside its five-yard line. On the first snap, Strake busted a 96-yard run down the left sideline untouched to the end zone to raise the count to 21-3. Eagle Football would trail by 18 points on four separate occasions, 49-24 with 6:02 remaining and never seriously threaten after the first-half onslaught.
Head Coach Rich McGuire: “I liked the fight. We played hard … had the effort … just outmatched in some areas. Defensively we had some young inexperienced guys making their first starts on a big stage and it showed. But I told the guys moving forward to check the egos at the door, recognize where we have to improve, and handle the coaching that will drive that improvement. It starts Saturday morning in the video sessions. Football builds character and resolve … that’s what we’re looking for.”
While the very nature of high school football ensures that every team assumes a new identity every season, the faces that comprise the St. Thomas offense in 2018 look extremely familiar.
Matocha began his third consecutive varsity season as the starting quarterback and offensive catalyst fronting a group returning Wheeler plus four starters in the trenches. He completed 17-36 for 248 yards including a number of drops that would have sustained drives during the first half when the Eagles were losing control of the game.
Midway second period Matocha dialed up receiver Josh Crissmon ‘20 breaking loose from single coverage in the middle of the field for 41 yards and the scoring connection brought the Eagles within 21-10.
Matocha cashed in quickly when Strake fumbled the second half kickoff and Beamon Welch ‘20 recovered at midfield. Three plays after a pass interference penalty Crissmon was again the target. He was ruled to make a diving 31-yard right-to-left grab on the brink of the Strake end zone. Wheeler’s short-range plunge cut the margin to 28-17 with 10:25 remaining in the third quarter.
Matocha would add scoring tosses to Jordan Augustine ‘21 and Spencer Kryger ‘20 but the octane wasn’t near enough to keep pace. Defensively Eagle Football had no answer for a dominant line and dynamic running game. They allowed 673 yards of total offense including 406 rushing while surrendering 26 first downs.
“Their explosive plays and our lack of execution on offense really hurt in the early stages. Our strength is on offense and we knew we had to score to make this a shootout … weren’t able to match their firepower. But Crissman was really good. (Junior) safety Daniel Coco was in control of the back end most of the night … aggressively came up and made tackles. Our offensive front protected well enough … not a lot of immediate pressure. There are positives. And the biggest improvement all season routinely comes between games one and two.”
Kicker Paul Langemeier ‘20 supplied the first points of the season when he drilled a 35-yard field goal to cap the Eagles’ second series. The pivotal play in the drive was a fourth-down-and-two pass from Matocha to Wheeler that gained 26 yards to the Strake 22-yard line.
FRIDAY NIGHT FIVE
With the defeat, the Eagles still hold the overall advantage in the all-time series 29-25-1 including four victories in the previous six meetings.
The outcome was the return engagement to the 2015 series debut at NRG Stadium that drew a raucous crowd of nearly 10,000. The Eagles proved relentless in a 42-35 thrillarama fueled by six touchdowns from quarterback Michael Keating ‘16 (three passing, three running) including the pulsating payoff to Drew Guidroz ‘16 for the winning margin in the final seconds. The 2017 contest was canceled by an abrupt Hurricane Harvey hiatus and the wettest weather event ever to hit the continental United States in an assault on Greater Houston and the Texas Gulf Coast.
Texans head coach Bill O’Brien served as the coin toss captain during the pregame ceremony at midfield that included the Very Reverend Kevin Storey CSB, former St. Thomas President who was recently voted Superior General of the Basilian Fathers, and Keating who led the program to consecutive TAPPS state semifinal appearances in 2014-15 and back-to-back wins in the Strake series on late touchdown tosses in the closing maniacal moments.
The Eagles will honor Joe Little ‘18 throughout the 2018 season with a helmet decal after the Texas A&M freshmen tragically passed away in College Station days prior to the game. St. Thomas also debuted a back-to-the-future helmet logo representing the timeless Tom Eagle design.
The Red & White rocked a new uniform look, flashing their NIKE partnership negotiated early in 2018. The fiercely innovative program-wide agreement, unparalleled in school history, is supplying 12 varsity sports, with Eagle Basketball featuring the Jumpman logo as the Jordan Brand continues to expand both on the court and on the field.
STATE OF PLAY
Eagle Football will rely on the adage that one game obviously does not a season make, especially the first game, even against a generational rival. The priority is discovering the fervor of a Christian wrestling a lion to combine with the confidence of a lion wrestling a Christian.
A bit of the truth, the truth
That’s the price you pay
Leave behind your heartache, cast away
Just another product of today
Rather be the hunter than the prey
And you’re standing on the edge, face up ’cause you’re a
Eagle Football travels to Needville Friday, September 7 before the home opener at Hotze Field inside Granger Stadium September 14 against The Kinkaid School.
Eagle Fight Never Dies!