St. Thomas Aquinas holds off WSM

BALDWIN — Two critical fumbles in the fourth quarter enabled the St. Thomas Aquanis Falcons to pull out a heart-clutching 35-28 bi-district win over the West St. Mary Wolfpack here Friday in the State Class 2-A bidistrict playoffs.

West St. Mary entered the evenly matched contest as the 15th seed playing host to the 18th seeded St. Thomas Aquinas.

The two highly-regarded opponents square off in the first half in an emotionally-charged battle as the score was knotted at 14-all at the half.

West St. Mary’s Mason Robinson raced 38 yards on a fumble recovery to give the Wolfpack a 6-0 lead.

A short time later, Javeon Francis sprinted 13 yards before kicker Scott Sledge booted the extra point, sending St. Thomas Aquinas outfront by a narrow 7-6 margin.

Jontrey Tillman darted untouched 45 yards for his first touchdown on the night, giving WSM a 12-7 advantage. Quarterback Tre’vell Dixon tacked on the two-point conversion, sending the Wolfpack outfront by a 14-7 margin. Tillman scored on runs of 45, 7 and 17 yards to help the veteran-ladenWolfpack keep pace with the scappy the Falcons.

STA’s Steven Wronkoski returned a punt 56 yards before Sledge booted the extra point as the Falcons drew even with the Wolfpack at 14-14 in the second quarter.

In the third quarter, Tillman again made his presence felt with a 7 yard TD, sending WSM to a 21-14 advantage.

Breland Dillion scored on a 1-yard run before Sledge’s kick lifted the Falcons to a 21-20 cushion.

Francis helped send the Falcons to a 35-20 lead with a pair of fourth quarter touchdowns. Francis plowed over from two yards out for a score before the Falcons recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff a short time later.

Francis made good on a 14-yard TD scamper, giving the Falcons the 35-20 edge.

Tillman, who raced 17 yards for a late-game TD, tacked on the two-point conversion as the Wolfpack closed the gap to 35-28 with 3:49 remaining in the contest.

A valiant defensive effort late in the fourth quarter gave the Wolfpack one final opportunity to knot the game with time running out.

West St. Mary gained its final possession with 1:07 showing on the clock with the ball at its own 22.

After an off-sides penalty against STA, the Wolfpack faced a first-and-5 from the 27. Two plays later, Dixon fired a bullet into the waiting hands of Tillman for a 15 yard gain. After a pair of incompleted passes, the Wolfpack faced a difficult situation on fourth and 20 before an errant snap was recovered by the Falcons ended the dreams of a comeback victory.

West St. Mary finished the season with a 6-5 overall record.

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