The St. Thomas Aquinas Saints ended the season of the Pittsburg Purple Dragons on Friday night at Hutchinson Field, winning 28-21 on a 24-yard touchdown pass from Paul Heit to Clayton Henning with 2 minutes, 18 seconds remaining.

The St. Thomas Aquinas Saints ended the season of the Pittsburg Purple Dragons on Friday night at Hutchinson Field, winning 28-21 on a 24-yard touchdown pass from Paul Heit to Clayton Henning with 2 minutes, 18 seconds remaining.

Pittsburg intercepted Heit on three straight Aquinas possessions — Joe Wimmer picked off a pass Heit airmailed over the middle on the first play of the fourth, Marcus Striplin made a sensational grab for a pick and Jornell Fondren nabbed another overthrown Heit ball. However, the home team could not sustain a time-consuming, scoring drive after its opportunities.

“You get three turnovers in the fourth and you’ve got to take advantage,” Pittsburg head football coach Tom Nickelson said. “We were unable to do that and you’ve got to give their defense credit. They were stacking the box going man and we had to get on the edge and make some plays. We were just unable to do that tonight and it was kind of atypical of our offense. We’ve been pretty efficient and effective this season and we couldn’t make those big plays when we needed tonight.”
After the first interception, Pittsburg went for it on fourth down, calling a fake punt from backup quarterback Spencer Bernhardt, and Aquinas broke up Bernhardt’s pass.

After the second interception, Pittsburg gained two first downs on a 12-yard catch by Fondren and a 16-yard run by Striplin, but a 7-yard loss on a bad pitch to Striplin derailed the drive and forced a Bernhardt punt.

After the third interception, Jimmy Ritz caught a pass and worked his way for a Pittsburg first down, but the drive stalled out and Bernhardt went back to punt. A bad snap forced Bernhardt into a no-win situation and the rugby-style punter’s kick was blocked and recovered by Aquinas at the PHS 26.
A couple plays later, Henning caught his touchdown pass from Heit.

“They played hard and when you play hard, you create your own breaks,” Nickelson said. “You’ve got to give a lot of credit to Aquinas. They came down and beat us on our home field and they played a very good game.”

Aquinas took a 21-14 lead in the third on a 3-yard touchdown pass from Heit to Michael Baska on a fake field goal.

On its eighth drive of the game, Pittsburg tied it up at 21 on a Joe Wimmer 1-yard quarterback sneak. A 13-yard run by Striplin and a 38-yard catch and run down the left sideline by Bernhardt helped set up Wimmer’s rumble.

Striplin led Pittsburg with 147 yards on 20 carries. Striplin, Wimmer and fullback Anthony McNeely each scored rushing touchdowns. Bernhardt caught five passes for 77 yards.

“I’m extremely proud of the boys,” Nickelson said. “They played hard every game this year and nobody can question their effort and their heart. We just didn’t quite get it done tonight against a good team. I’m disappointed for them because the boys worked so hard and they deserved all the success they got. I just wish they would have got one more.”

Pittsburg ends its season 6-3 overall and 1-2 in district, one win away from a state playoff berth.

SAINTS 28, PURPLE DRAGONS 21
STA    0 14 7 7 — 28
PHS    7  7  7 0 — 21
Scoring summary
PHS — Anthony McNeely 1 run (Nick Powers kick) 8:33 1Q
STA — Luke Martinez 13 run (Derek Rodgers kick) 10:18 2Q
STA — Neil Haas 3 pass from Paul Heit (Rodgers kick) 5:23 2Q
PHS — Marcus Striplin 16 run (Powers kick) 1:38 2Q
STA — Michael Baska 3 pass from Heit (Rodgers kick) 5:42 3Q
PHS — Joe Wimmer 1 run (Powers kick) 1:29 3Q
STA — Clayton Henning 24 pass from Heit (Rodgers kick) 2:18 4Q
Team statistics
                           STA        PHS
First downs           13        18
Rushing yds.        39        221
Passing            18-32-3    11-24-0
Passing yds.        207        131
Total offense        246        352
Penalties-yds.     3-30        3-25
Fumbles-lost        3-0        3-0
Individual statistics
RUSHING — STA, Luke Martinez 15-63, Erik Benson 2-7, Zack Martinez 1-2, Nick Williams 2-2, Paul Heit 1-(-12), Team 2-(-23). PHS, Marcus Striplin 20-147, Anthony McNeely 15-69, Joe Wimmer 9-27, Team 2-(-22).
PASSING — STA, Heit 18-32-3-3-207. PHS, Wimmer 10-22-0-0-92, Spencer Bernhardt 1-2-0-0-39.
RECEIVING — STA, Williams 7-97, Clayton Henning 3-51, Brandon Nachbar 3-22, Martinez 2-24, Ryan Weese 1-7, Michael Baska 1-3, Neil Haas 1-3. PHS, Bernhardt 5-77, Striplin 4-35, Jornell Fondren 1-12, Jimmy Ritz 1-7.