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Roncalli rolls to season-opening victory

Aberdeen Roncalli’s Andrew Brennan, center, runs past St. Thomas More’s Peyton Young, left and Ayden Harris, right, on his way to a touchdown during Friday’s game at Swisher Field. Brennan scored three times in a 31-10 victory. Photo by John Davis taken 8/20/2021

Aberdeen Roncalli set the tone early, changed the momentum midway through, and finished with a strong statement victory at Swisher Field Friday evening.

Roncalli led from start to finish on the way to a 31-10 non-conference victory over fourth-rated St. Thomas More in Class 11B football action.

“Give our kids credit. We weren’t intimidated by the number four ranking,” said Roncalli coach Billy Young. “We told them in the locker room, if we could not put the ball on the ground, not commit dumb penalties, we’re 80 percent of the way there. Then you have to make some plays to finish it off and we did that.”

The hosts made plays all over the field, the first coming on the second play from scrimmage when Maddox May broke free and ran for a 52-yard touchdown just 19 seconds in the contest.

Roncalli then extended its lead when Andrew Brennan added another first-quarter touchdown on a 17-yard run.

St. Thomas More got its footing a bit in the second quarter and appeared to have dodged a bullet late in the first half when a Roncalli drive stalled at the STM 2-yard line and a field-goal attempt was wide.

However, STM threw a pass on the final play of the half and Brennan was ready. The junior intercepted the pass, returned it 47-yards for a touchdown and changed the momentum for the rest of the contest.

“I just read the play right,” Brennan said. “I saw the ball coming and just went up and made the play.”

That interception took place right in front of the Roncalli sideline.

“He just timed it perfectly. I saw it,” Young said. “As soon as he broke, I didn’t know he was going to return it for a touchdown, but I knew he was going to pick it off and sure enough, he snatched it out of the air and took it to the house. That was probably the momentum breaker right here.”

Brennan made plays all game long. One that won’t show up in the statistics was a big first-down reception in which he was stopped well short of the down marker, but fought for an extra three yards so Roncalli could retain possession.

“I knew we needed the first down that play, so I just gave whatever I had to get the first down,” Brennan said. “I knew the situation there.”

Brennan added a 16-yard touchdown run in the third quarter. It turned out to be a pretty memorable contest for somebody new to the sport.

“Andrew Brennan had a big night for a kid that has probably played maybe about 10 plays of football his whole life,” Young said. “He had a career night on his first game.”

Brennan played in just one game last season due to injury. He had never played football before that.

“Tonight was really my first real game of football, ever,” Brennan said. “I played soccer when I was younger so this is about my first game.”

Roncalli finished the night with 278 yards rushing, 85 on the legs of Abe Kretchman. The home team controlled life on the line of scrimmage, often opening big holes for ball carriers.

“Our coach was really on us in the locker room to be a physical team,” said Roncalli senior lineman Brenden Livermont, “make sure we’re more physical than them, make sure we pound it to them and don’t give up.”

Roncalli not only knocked off one the top-five rated teams in the state, it did so with two of its key players sidelined. May and Carson Helms both missed the majority of the contest after suffering injuries in the opening half.

Roncallli will have its second straight home game next week when it faces Webster at 8 p.m. in the Hub City Bowl at Swisher Field. (Aberdeen Central faces Douglas at 5 that evening).

“They’re a well-coached team,” Young said of the Bearcats. “They’ve got a lot of pride and a good tradition over there, so we’re going to have to be ready to play.”

St. Thomas More (0-1) 3 0 0 7 – 10

Aberdeen Roncalli (1-0) 14 7 7 3 – 31

First Quarter

AR – Maddox May 52 run (Jackson Isakson kick), 11:31.

AR – Andrew Brennan 17 run (Isakson kick), 2:22.

STM – JD Green 32 field goal, :09.9.

Second Quarter

AR – Brennan 47 pass interception return (Isakson kick), 0:00.

Third Quarter

AR – Brennan 16 run (Isakson kick), 3:39.

Fourth Quarter

STM – Matthew Larson 3 run (Green kick), 3:41.

Rushing: St. Thomas More 26-121 (Matthew Larson 9-66, Lee Neugebauer 11-30, Kellen Weber 5-17; Aberdeen Roncalli 41-278 (Abe Kretchman 17-85, Gannon May 3-63, Andrew Brennan 5-60, Jackson Isakson 8-39, Phillip Zens 4-25).

Passing: St. Thomas More 8-20-2 for 44 (Lee Neugebauer 8-20-2 for 44); Aberdeen Roncalli 3-9-1 for 42 (Jackson Isakson 3-9-1 for 42).

Receiving: St. Thomas More 8-44 (Kellen Weber 5-29, Peyton Young 2-13, Jed Sullivan 1-6); Aberdeen Roncalli 3-42 (Ben Rohl 1-15, Keegan Stewart 1-15, Andrew Brennan 1-12).

First Downs: St. Thomas More 11; Aberdeen Roncalli 20.

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