Aquinas Downs Immaculata

Aquinas Downs Immaculata

Trojans Defeat Spartans for First Time Since 1973 in Thanksgiving Eve Clash

BRIDGEWATER, NJ – For the first time in 20 years, St. Thomas Aquinas and Immaculata took the field for a non-conference clash on Thanksgiving Eve.  Prior to Wednesday evening, there were only three Thanksgiving holiday games involving Big Central schools on the schedule.  Aquinas and Immaculata are looking to add a fourth.  In this meeting at the Torpey Athletic Complex, Aquinas downed Immaculata for the Trojans’ first win over the Spartans since 1973.

Early on Immaculata took the upper hand after stopping Aquinas on the Trojans’ first offensive possession of the game, and then drew first blood on a Mason Geis TD pass to Owen Blum with 2:46 left in the first period.  The Trojans, which didn’t score in the previous two meetings between the schools in 2002 and 2003, didn’t get on the board until the 6:40 mark of the second quarter on a Chase Young TD run to tie the game at 7-7.

On the ensuing kickoff, Immaculata’s Anthony Brown took the ball, found a seam, and broke into daylight for a 90-yard kickoff return that put the Spartans back up 14-7 with 6:29 left in the half.  Aquinas took over from there by scoring the last two scores of the second including a 6-yard TD run by Elijah Abass-Shereef and a one-yard plunge by QB Roman Blanks to take a 21-14 halftime lead.

The two Aquinas touchdowns to end the first half sparked a 35-0 finish to the game for a 42-14 victory.  Abass-Shereef, who went over 1,000 yards for the season, rushed 20 times for 180 yards, or 9 yards per carry along with 3 TDs.  Young, another 1,000-yard rusher for the season, had 24 carries for 128 yards and 2 TDs.  Blanks completed 4 of 9 passes for 38 yards in addition to his TD run.

Senior linebacker, Christian Magliacano completed a terrific season with 14 total tackles including 10 solos and two for loss while also intercepting a pass in the fourth quarter, and blacking a punt in the 2nd.  Davon Grant led the Trojans with three sacks.  Senior placekicker Jack Joyce was a perfect 6 of 6 on extra point attempts and was just wide left on a 46-yard FG attempt following Magliacano’s interception prior to the intermission.

Senior wideout and defensive back, Zacai Manigo made a huge contribution on special teams with a 62-yard punt return in the second quarter for an apparent touchdown, but it was called back due to a penalty.  Manigo also made two splendid open-field tackles on defense.  Cole Hayden tallied 59 yards on two punt returns including a long of 39.  Jake Laub turned in a monster performance on defense for the Spartans with 21 total tackles including 13 solos.

Hayden collected 12 total tackles including five solos and one for loss while Makail Muhammad collected 13 total tackles including 10 solos and one for loss in a losing cause.  After a scoreless third quarter, Aquinas pulled further away in the fourth with a TD by Young for a 28-14 lead, and two scores by Abass-Shereef to build up a 28-point advantage.

The Trojans’ running attack consisted of 54 carries from five different players for a total of 371 yards or approximately 6.9 yards per rush.  Abass-Shereef and Young combined for 44 of those carries for 308 yards, or 7.0 yards per rush and 83 percent of the STA ground game’s yardage.  Both senior RBs combined powerful inside rushing with a nifty elusiveness and unwillingness to go down.

Abass-Shereef reeled off two big runs during the course of the game.  The first one was in the second quarter up the Immaculata sideline to put the Trojans in the red zone for the first time.  Then, in the fourth quarter, Abass-Shereef took a handoff to the left side toward the Aquinas sideline and then cut back to the right before scampering 43 yards for a score that put the Trojans up 35-14 with 5:11 remaining.

On the Trojans’ final drive of the game following Magliacano’s interception, Abass-Shereef took over out of the wildcat with several runs.  The last two runs he had were perhaps among the toughest of the game.  Both carries were behind the left side of the Aquinas line and broke through several tackles.  

With the victory, St. Thomas Aquinas concluded its season at 10-1.  The only defeat was a 13-10 loss to DePaul Catholic of Wayne in the Non-Public B State Semifinals in North Edison two weeks earlier.  Immaculata concluded its season at 7-4.  The Spartans fell to Holy Spirit of Absecon (36-33) in the Non-Public B Quarterfinals on November 3rd.

The win also was the first time Aquinas defeated Immaculata in 50 years.  The Spartans had their five-game winning streak in the brief series snapped.  Prior to winning on Thanksgiving Eve, the Trojans had only defeated the Spartans in 1972 (32-6) and 1973 (27-0). Immaculata still leads the series 6-3.