The 2020 schedule for Eagle Football is complete yet includes one notable and glaring gap – the annual clash with Strake Jesuit.

“(Head coach) Rich McGuire received a phone call from Strake that they are canceling the series,” St. Thomas Athletic Director Mike Netzel says. “The decision wasn’t a surprise because in recent years Strake has gradually and systematically reduced their participation with St. Thomas. First, they eliminated the yearly baseball game, then the basketball and soccer games were terminated. Football was the proverbial last shoe to drop.

“We are disappointed that more than 50 years of history and tradition is not being preserved. But it wasn’t our decision.”

The football series which launched in 1964 ends with St. Thomas holding the overall advantage 29-26-1. In 2015 Netzel and director of football operations Kenny Martin negotiated a bold move making NRG Stadium, the home of the NFL Houston Texans, the St. Thomas home venue for the showcase. The inaugural event drew a spirited crowd of nearly 10,000 as Michael Keating ‘16 connected with Drew Guidroz ‘16 in the final maniacal moments for a wild 42-35 scoring fest. The raucous win was the Eagles’ fourth consecutive victory in the rivalry with three coming in the game’s final six seconds.

“St. Thomas has always embraced the athletic relationship with Strake even after their shift to the (public school) UIL,” Netzel says. “It was much more than the competition. It was a celebration of Catholic education in Houston. But moving forward Strake has sided with a different set of values and priorities within its athletic department.  We’ve adjusted and are aggressively asserting ourselves to be stronger than ever. And St. Thomas will always hold great respect for the generations of graduates who have represented our institution and helped forge the singular identity that exists today.”

The ambitious football slate for 2020 includes an equal split of 10 home-and-away games, an expanded district race after TAPPS realignment, an October travel date to San Antonio, and a move of the annual series with St. Pius X away from the regular season finale.

The Eagles are aiming to maintain measurable momentum after finishing 2019 with nine victories in 11 games and reaching the TAPPS Division I state semifinals for the first time since 2014 and ‘15.

The season opener will renew a two-year set with a UIL 4A Division I outfit that concluded 2019 10-3 in the regional semifinals.

The Eagles will look to snap a two-game series skid after surrendering the deciding points in the final 90 seconds in 35-34 defeat at Hotze Field inside Granger Stadium.

Quarterback Maddox Kopp ‘21 tossed for 343 yards and three touchdowns in his second varsity start while receivers Josh Crissmon ’20 and Cameron Bonner ‘21 provided a series of game breaking moments. Kopp’s strike to receiver Spencer Kryger ‘20 pushed St. Thomas in front 34-27 inside of six minutes remaining in the game.

The home debut will feature Plano John Paul II fresh from the most successful season in its history. The Cardinals gained their first-ever TAPPS Division I state championship final while snapping a 58-game district losing streak that spanned nearly 10 years.

The transformation was crafted by head coach George Teague (yes, the former Dallas Cowboy, Terrell Owens-blasting safety) who played nine NFL seasons after being selected in the first round in 1993 by the Green Bay Packers.

Teague took over JPII in 2017 on the heels of three straight 0-10 seasons. He was chosen by the Cowboys as their 2019 Don Shula NFL High School Coach of the Year Award nominee.

The private school programs will meet for the sixth time in seven years with the lone interruption courtesy Hurricane Harvey in 2017. Eagle Football posted three consecutive season opening knocks over the Knights in that mix by a combined margin of 109-51.

Last season Kopp threw for 244 yards and two touchdowns, receiver Cameron Bonner ‘21 grabbed two scores, and a rejuvenated Eagle defense rarely bent and never broke in a 27-10 road victory at Barnhart Stadium.

A one-time district series will be renewed for the first time since 2011 when Eagle Football settled for a split of regular season games after a 50-0 runaway on the road. St. Thomas enjoyed a sweep in 2010, first 24-21 and then 17-7.

The Eagles will begin district competition at Hotze Field inside Granger Stadium resuming a brief series that flashed a 49-0 Red & White rout in 2014 followed by a 40-0 wipeout the next season.

The only home stop in three weeks will be a contest that has pivoted from non-district to district competition since 2017 with Eagle Football owning three consecutive wins.

Last season running back John Fontenot ‘21 left Central Catholic defenders flailing on the ground like gored matadors on his way to two short range touchdowns while a snarly, salty St. Thomas defense responded with two critical fourth quarter stops in a tight 21-19 victory that kept the surging Eagles undefeated in the district race.

The first-ever meeting with the private, non-denominational Christian school established in 1972.

The Lions are coached by former NFL receiver Henry Ellard who stared for 16 seasons with the Los Angeles Rams, Washington Redskins, and New England Patriots. He was a two-time All-Pro and three-time Pro Bowl selection who finished his career with 814 receptions for 13,777 yards and 65 touchdowns. Ellard later was part of the Rams coaching staff during their stunning Super Bowl XXXIV season. He spent 14 seasons as an NFL assistant including stints with the New York Jets and New Orleans Saints.

The Eagles will return home to face another 2019 TAPPS state semifinalist looking for a decided dose of deja vu for a third straight victory over the Apaches.

In 2019 Kopp riddled Antonian for 314 yards and two touchdowns in a first half detonation where St. Thomas plastered points on its first four series. The Eagles coasted to a convincing 41-27 dismantling in a game not nearly as close as the final indicated.

The clash that has routinely determined at least a share of the district championship. Last season Eagle Football used an avalanche of 40 consecutive points for a commanding 47-21 verdict to cement a second straight undefeated title, the sixth crown in eight years.

Kopp blistered SPX for a career best five touchdown passes, three in the final 2:27 of the first half, as the Eagles shook free from a shaky start to face plant the Panthers with an outcome so devastating it required an autopsy.

In 2018 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 to reclaim the crown.

From 2012-15 the Eagles captured four straight showdowns with the district title at stake by a combined score of 144-62. In the stretch dating to 2011, Eagle Football enjoyed five wins in a row and six in seven games.

Following an open date, the Eagles will conclude the regular season with a duel they have dominated in recent years. St. Thomas has collected nine knocks in 10 tries by a combined margin of 292-100.

Last season Kopp connected twice with Bonner for touchdowns and added another with Drake Martinez ‘21 two seconds before halftime as Eagle Football dominated a name-your-score 31-7 destruction.

2020 St. Thomas Football Schedule
(Home games bolded)

Aug 28: at Needville 7:00 p.m.
Sept 4: PLANO JOHN PAUL II 7:00 p.m.
Sept 11: KINKAID 7:00 p.m.
Sept 18: at Houston Christian 7:00 p.m.
Sept 25: at St. John XXIII 7:00 p.m.
Oct 2: SA CENTRAL CATHOLIC 7:00 p.m.
Oct 9: at San Antonio Christian 7:00 p.m.
Oct 23: ST. PIUS X 7:00 p.m.
Oct 30: off week
Nov 6: at Tomball Concordia Lutheran 7:00 p.m.

Eagle Fight Never Dies!