Turnovers, big sacks, goal-line stands — the Thomas More Prep-Marian defense did it all on Friday against previously-unbeaten Syracuse.
It added up to a dominant 32-0 shutout win on homecoming at Lewis Field Stadium.
"Our goal coming in was to shut them down, give them nothing," TMP coach Jay Harris said. "That’s pretty much what we did."
Harris said the defensive line paved the way for the Monarchs, who stymied what had been a potent rushing attack for the Bulldogs to open Class 2A District 7 play on a strong note.
"It starts up front with Kendall (Walker) and Kolton (Hagans) and Michael (Hale)," Harris said. "Those three guys just did not let them having anything inside. They don’t get a lot of credit they deserve. They tie things up, let linebackers flow, they do a great job down there. They got in a quite a few tackles as well, but they really set things up for the linebackers."
TMP outgained Syracuse 312 to 70 yards, putting up over 250 yards of offense in the second half as they pulled away.
The Bulldogs’ heavy defensive line made it tough for the Monarchs to run inside early, but TMP adjusted and found some big gainers on the outside.
"We saw some things outside and worked on that," Harris said. "They shifted a little bit to cover that up and we went back inside, and then the inside was open. It was just a good job with the assistant coaches seeing that and relaying that information to me."
TMP marched down to the 1-yard line on its opening possession, only to see the Bulldogs’ stuff a pair runs to keep the Monarchs’ off the board.
But the Monarchs forced a quick three and out, and Kade Harris returned to a short punt to the 10. TMP cashed in, with Harris beating the Bulldogs around the corner for a 4-yard TD run.
With the Monarchs still up 7-0 late in the first half, TMP junior defensive back Andrew Schwartz delivered the highlight of the game.
Schwartz picked off an errant screen pass at the Bulldog 22-yard line. Schwartz appeared to be wrapped up but he kept churning forward for several yards before finally breaking away from the grasp of the Bulldog tackers and heading into the end zone for a pick-six.
"I saw the screen set up, went around the back, (the ball) flew over his head and I grabbed it," Schwartz said. "Kept churning the feet. Just hoping (the tacklers) fell off."
"He did an excellent job there," Jay Harris said. "Just was not going to be denied to get to the end zone."
The Bulldogs threatened to get on the board in the closing moments of the half after quarterback Jay Gould hit Enrique Gamboa for 66 yards. But Kade Harris tracked Gamboa down from behind at the 3-yard line. TMP pushed back the Bulldogs back to the 8 after a sack by Matthew Vahling and Bryce Seib, and the Monarchs stopped a run on the last play of the half to keep Syracuse scoreless.
"That was big. That changes the whole attitude in the locker room at halftime," Jay Harris said. "Hold them out, guys are fired up, they’re intense. You don’t know what it would have been like if they would have scored. That was very big emotionally."
TMP’s defense continued its dominance in the second half, and after a scoreless third quarter, Harris scored on a 19-yard run early in the fourth quarter. Bryce Seib added a 8-yard touchdown run with 7:55 left and the Monarchs capped off the scoring on Harris’ 6-yard touchdown pass to Zach Meis with 6:42 remaining.
Abby Rueschhoff was homecoming queen and Ian Chiu was king for the Monarchs. Chiu had an 18-yard reception late in the game to set up the Monarchs’ last touchdown.
Kade Harris rushed for 126 yards while throwing for 110 yards.
Next week at Ellis, the Monarchs will look to notch their fourth win on the season for the first time since 2011, when the Monarchs went 5-4.
"The excitement is incredible. The confidence is growing, game by game, practice by practice," Jay Harris said. "They’re confident in what we can do. They’re understanding what we’re trying to do. And it’s fun to have the excitement in the school, too —not just in the program, but the whole school."
"It feels so much different than any other year," Schwartz said. "We’ve always been down at this point of the season as we’ve had really hard schedules and caught some Ls in the beginning. This year we’ve stuck with it, fought, and we’re 3-1."