Big plays lead to big Football win

Photo by Mike Ekern
Photo by Mike Ekern
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Ten different players scored points as No. 4-ranked St. Thomas raced to a 41-13 halftime lead and won 58-13 at home over Bethel in Saturday's conference football action at O'Shaughnessy Stadium.

The Tommies (7-1 overall, 6-0 MIAC) rolled up 510 offensive yards and ran their conference win streak to 26 games. They need one win in their last two games against Gustavus and St. Olaf to secure an NCAA playoff berth and claim at least a share of their third consecutive MIAC crown.

St. Thomas blocked three kicks. One early PAT kick block by Mark Dowdle resulted in a two-point score by Luke Swenson for a 9-6 lead. Later a punt block and TD return by Chris Fondakowski put the Toms ahead 31-13. The Toms' Matt Mitchell also blocked a punt.

UST junior QB Jacques Perra threw for 286 yards and three touchdowns. The Tommie defense allowed just one touchdown and eight first downs, and limited Bethel to 122 total yards and 4-of-17 on third downs.

The Royals, who dropped back to punt 11 times, had 55 yards in rushing losses on sacks and bad snaps and finished with minus-7 run yards on 34 carries. Bethel came into the game leading the conference in passing but connected on just 11-of-24 for 129 yards.

Bethel (3-5, 3-3) scored on a 93-yard kickoff return in the second quarter by Joel Koenecke -- the first kickoff return TD allowed by the Tommies since the 2011 NCAA playoffs. 

St. Thomas had five special teams players score points: Bryan Steinsapir kicked a 43-yard field goal and six PATs; Vinny Pallini kicked a 21-yard field goal; Jackson Finn caught a two-point pass from Dylan Andrew; Fondakowski returned his punt block for six points; and Swenson returned the blocked PAT for two points.

The Tommies also converted a 30-yard fake punt pass from punter Robert Petitjean to Blake Weber, and had Perra execute two quick kicks on fourth down for a 45-yard average. Peder Olson forced a fumble near midfield after a good kick return on the opening kickoff, and Jack Dummer recovered to set up the Toms' first scoring drive.

Gabe Green caught four passes for 82 yards and a touchdown. Jeremy Molina had a short rushing TD and a short TD catch.