HAMMOND — Sixth-ranked St. Thomas Aquinas had its hands full with Northlake Christian’s Josh Landry in their District 9-2A showdown Friday night. But the Wolverines had no antidote for STA quarterback Cameron Dantzler.
And it was the Falcons’ brand of poison that was more lethal as the Falcons overpowered Northlake 56-20 to take command of the district title chase.
Dantzler, a Mississippi State commitment, propelled the Falcons with 17 carries for 241 yards and four touchdowns, and he also went 8-for-13 passing for 170 yards and an 80-yard touchdown.
Brad Lewis added 129 more rushing yards on 19 carries with three TDs of his own as St. Thomas Aquinas (8-0, 4-0 9-2A) moved to within one more win of clinching at least a share of the district championship.
“The coaches have been saying we’re the hunted right now and everybody is coming for us, so we’ve got to come out and play hard,” Dantzler said. “We have to come up big every Friday and play big. I’ve got to give credit to the offensive line, the whole offense, all 10 of them. The defense, the coaching — I have to give credit to everybody.”
Landry kept the Wolverines (6-2, 3-1) viable for a while with 26 carries for 168 yards and one TD. NLC quarterback Matt Whelan added 108 passing yards (8-for-21) but also threw two costly interceptions as Northlake stayed with the Falcons for a half, but couldn’t hang after that.
“Minus No. 4 (Dantzler), I think you have two football teams that are pretty evenly matched,” Northlake Christian coach Tony Agresta said. “All I know is, there was a minute to go in the first half, and we’re going in to take the lead. No one would know it looking at the scoreboard, but we had our chances tonight.
“Toward the end, with as many two-way players we have going for us, it caught up to us. I think (No.) 4 (Dantzler) was the difference, though.”
Already ahead by 11 at halftime, the Falcons put it away by scoring touchdowns on their first four possessions of the second half. A nine-play, 66-yard drive off the second-half kickoff ended with a 2-yard touchdown run by Lewis for a 35-17 lead.
St. Thomas then stood up a 13-play Wolverines drive that reached the Falcons’ 4 before the Wolverines had to settle for a 24-yard Landry field goal that made it 35-20 with 2:18 left in the third quarter.
St. Thomas then reeled off an 80-yard touchdown bomb from Dantzler to Brady Becerra that made it 42-20, got an interception from Reed Bolton that set up Dantzler’s 14-yard scrambling keeper TD for a 49-20 lead with 8:51 to play and tacked on a final score on a 32-yard power sweep touchdown by Lewis with 5:51 to go.
St. Thomas led at halftime 28-17 but had to rally to get there after the Wolverines had come from behind to take a 17-14 lead. Down by 14-7, Landry kicked a 33-yard field goal to pull Northlake to within 14-10, then Dylan Cook recovered a Falcons fumble at the Northlake 39 to set up Landry’s 18-yard touchdown run that put Northlake ahead 21-17 with 3:19 left in the half.
But Dantzler led STA 69 yards in six plays to regain the lead on a 4-yard touchdown sweep by Brad Lewis with 1:50 to go in the second period.
The Falcons then thwarted a Wolverines drive that reached the STA 15 before Brett Bass stepped in front of a Whelan pass and picked it off, returning it 41 yards to the Falcons’ 47.
It took St. Thomas four plays from there, with Dantzler hitting Mason Miller for 25 yards, then scrambling 27 yards to score with 16 seconds remaining in the half to give St. Thomas an 11-point halftime lead the Falcons would not relinquish.
“Great game-changer,” STA coach John White said of the Bass interception. “They go up 17-14 and grab the momentum — boom, we score. We get a pick — boom, we score. Third quarter, score — 35-17. That was huge.
“We’ve got a solid team here,” White added. “All one through 22 is pretty good. We talk about being the hunted in our district this year. We’ve responded well.”