The only thing in St. Thomas More quarterback Caleb Holstein’s mind late Friday night was to waste as much time as possible.
Not what the defense was doing, not about the last two times STM and Parkview Baptist met in the playoffs and not about making any spectacular plays.
Just kill time.
And with about 30 seconds left to play, the Cougars’ sophomore quarterback dove over the scrum at the line of scrimmage, just barely extending far enough for the first down, effectively putting the game on ice for the 31-29 win in the Division II quarterfinals.
“Really the last two drives I thought we did a nice job,” said STM coach Jim Hightower. “We drove down there and got the field goal inside the 5-yard line and then drove to kill the last three and a half minutes of the ball game. Really, two good drives put together.”
While it was a little earlier in the postseason than the two powerhouses are accustomed to meeting over the past few years — both previous games came in the state championship with teams splitting the contests — it failed to disappoint.
Friday night was the tightest margin of the series between the No. 4 Cougars and No. 5 Eagles.
Parkview won the 2015 championship 24-21 while St. Thomas More won last year’s meeting by a more convincing 54-29 separation.
But it didn’t originally look as if that would be the case.
The Cougars opened the game with a methodical, 11-play, 80-yard drive capped off by Holstein’s 9-yard pass to his favorite receiver of the night in Mason Pesson.
Holstein and Pesson teamed up for 116 yards on 12 receptions. Holstein had 216 yards on 19-of-30 passing in total.
Parkview Baptist responded by digging itself into a hole with five early fumbles, two of which STM recovered and turned into points.
The Eagles were able to fix their ball-handling issues later in the game, but by then the damage was done.
“The early hole we dug ourselves kind of put us down the eight ball,” said Parkview coach Jay Mayet. “Had to get out of our own comfort and do some thing we weren’t necessarily wanting to do, but we just had to do.”
The Eagles fought back into the game with a potent rushing attack of quarterback Alexander Aucoin and fullback Kirby Parker in the second half.
The pair combined for four touchdowns — two each — and 224 yards on 24 carries, including Aucoin’s long run of 55 yards and Parker’s run of 35 yards for a score later on.
Parker’s final touchdown, a short 1-yard punch, made it a one-score game before Holstein clinched it.
“First half we didn’t adjust to their offense and the rhythm and the pace and the speed,” Mayet said. “I don’t think we trusted what we were practicing all week. Obviously when you’re playing a team like this it’s going to take a little time to get adjusted, but I think we came out and tried to do, individually, too much.”