GAME 10 – Hotze Field Inside Granger Stadium
St. Pius X 49
Eagle Football 52
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Quarterback Peyton Matocha ‘19 put on a dazzling display of talent, skill, precision, will and want with seven touchdowns including four in the third quarter when Eagle Football seized control to rally for a stunning 52-49 shootout over St. Pius X to reclaim the district championship, a fifth in seven years.
The Eagles fourth straight victory earns them an undefeated district crown to finish the regular season 5-5 with their fifth win in seven games. St. Thomas hosts a first round of the TAPPS Division I playoff against Plano John Paul II Friday, November 16, 7:30 p.m. at Hotze Field inside Granger Stadium.
The major mojo was supplied by Matocha. In his 32nd consecutive varsity start and final regular-season game at home, the maestro orchestrated one of the more memorable and improbable Eagle wins with a primo performance that ranks among the best and brightest in the generational rivalry.
Matocha ran and threw for 416 yards with a pair of first-half touchdowns, then broke off a 64-yard scoring romp on the first snap of the third quarter that ignited an outburst of 22 unanswered points and a 29-point Eagle third quarter. The first of his four rushing scores in the period tied the game at 21-21 after a two-point conversion pass to Josh Crissmon ‘20.
Two plays into the fourth quarter Matocha delivered a strike to Crissmon in stride running away from the Panther secondary for a 50-yard lightning bolt to give St. Thomas a 49-35 advantage with their fifth touchdown in five series after halftime.
Head Coach Rich McGuire
“Peyton is best high school quarterback I have ever seen. He doesn’t have the most statistical records, is not the highest rated, doesn’t project to college with the highest ceiling, but he’s the best quarterback on the field I have ever seen. He’s the whole package. That run out of the gate in the second half gave us an immediate jolt. The game-changer. At that point, we knew we could win.”
Kicker Paul Langemeier ‘20 booted a 36-yard field goal with 7:22 remaining that increased the margin to 52-42 and provided the eventual winning margin.
WHENEVER THERE IS ANY DOUBT, THERE IS NO DOUBT
Houston Touchdown Club Ironman of the Year nominee Dylan Dixon ‘19 dived inches from the turf to seal the outcome in the final two minutes with a clutch interception in Eagle territory for the game-saving title-clinching defensive stop and the third SPX turnover of the game.
“I was very confident coming into the game. Our offense has a tremendous belief they score on anyone. I told them at halftime (down 21-13), put up a touchdown, we’re going for two to tie it and it will be an entirely different game. And it was.
“Operating with the lead we knew we could match them score for score. It was the opposite of so many of our early games when we were constantly fighting from behind and just couldn’t get the stop we needed to get in front of the score. Bottom line, one of the most emotional and satisfying wins I’ve ever been a part of.”
For the fifth time in seven years, the Eagles have triumphed in the regular-season finale with SPX to emerge as the district kingpin. From 2012-15 Eagle Football won four straight runaway decisions by a combined score of 144-62, the last two by a count 87-33. In a stretch beginning in 2011, St. Thomas captured five straight head-to-head victories and six in seven games.
WHEELER STILL ROCKING
Leading rusher Ian Wheeler ‘19 continued his scintillating senior season that unleashed a resurgent storm of St. Thomas confidence heading into the postseason, carrying 19 times for 169 yards along to break the 1,000-yard mark while adding three receptions for 57.
Early in the second quarter trailing 14-7 Wheeler bolted out of the pack at the line of scrimmage and angled right-to-left for 68 yards before he was taken out of bounds at the brink of the end zone. Four plays later Matocha cashed in to slice the margin to one.
On the second possession of the second half Wheeler again rolled for big yardage, a 39-yard gain and again just shy of the touchdown. Matocha’s sneak capped an eight-play 80-yard march that gave Eagle Football the lead for good.
TIMING IS EVERYTHING
The opportunistic Eagles took full advantage of a series of Panther turnovers, miscues and mistakes along with a litany of crucial and at times back-breaking penalties.
Early in the second period, Christopher Gentempo ‘19 and Adam Desroches ‘21 slammed the Panthers short of a fourth-down conversion in St. Thomas territory. On the next defensive series, the Eagles forced a fumble with SPX threatening on the verge of the red zone. In between Eagle Football elected to take a Langemeier field goal off the board when the Panthers were flagged for off-sides. Matocha promptly scored to close the count to 14-13.
On their first defensive series of the second half with the scored knotted at 21-21, the Eagles recovered a SPX fumble in the end zone. Less than two minutes later Matocha bullied his way in from short range to finish an eight-play drive fueled by a Panther holding penalty that kept the possession alive after a third-down incompletion. The Eagles never relinquished the lead and stamped an epic outcome in the series.
STAGGERING START, FURIOUS FINISH
The Eagles were stung throughout the first 12 minutes … first, the opening kickoff returned 100-yards plus for a touchdown … then an interception on the first offensive possession … then surrendering a quick-strike 78-yard score for a 14-7 deficit followed by a three-and-out series that had St. Thomas teetering on first-half collapse.
TALE OF THE TAPE
The Eagles were turnover-free following their first series while racking 587 totals yards with 26 first downs, an equal dose of 10 rushing, 12 passing and four through penalty.
The Eagles are hosting a TAPPS playoff game for the seventh time in eight years. In the most recent playoff at Granger Stadium, Matocha threw two first-half touchdown passes as a sophomore in his postseason debut but the Eagles couldn’t sustain a 23-21 second-half lead and fell 42-23 to eventual 2016 state champion Bishop Lynch. The defeat snapped a five-game playoff win streak at home.
STATE OF PLAY
The sky may not have been falling when the Eagles dropped their opening three games and five of their first six but it was raining butcher knives.
And from the lowest ebb came the turn of the tide.
The Eagles discovered a strategy to shore up the defensive lapses that plagued them when even token resistance was not offered. The high octane scoring machine kept churning at PS4 levels.
Hope re-emerged in a full-frontal force of four straight district wins with a wave of never relenting momentum that included taking a sledgehammer to their most recent opponent’s pride. McGuire has preached culture, service and process. The turnaround tour steers into the playoffs.
“We have so much juice right now. We have really turned it around the last six weeks. If our offense can continue to click the way we have most of the season, the way we did in the second half tonight, it’s going to be fun. I’ll take our chances against anyone.”
Eagle Fight Never Dies!