Kyle Ruth is more than happy to help out on the farm, especially this time of year as the race is on to bring in the crops before winter weather sets in.
The Aquinas senior all-state lineman, however, enjoys harvesting football gold medals even more, a pursuit the Class C-1 No. 5 Monarchs will begin on Friday with a first-round playoff game at Gothenburg, with a 6 p.m. start. Ruth already has state championship gold medals from the 2014 and ’15 Aquinas squads that won back-to-back C-2 titles.
He’s ready to add to that collection.
“Hopefully I’ll still be going to football practice after school the next few weeks instead of coming home to work. Playing in the state finals were great experiences, a lot of fun. We’d love to be there again,” said Ruth, a 6-foot-2, 230-pounder who is leaning toward not playing football in college.
“Every game now could be my last, so I don’t want to leave anything on the field, even at practice.”
While the Monarchs are 7-1 heading into postseason, they’re not coming in with momentum on their side. The Monarchs dropped a 34-13 decision at Wahoo on Oct. 13 in their regular-season finale, a loss that slid them from No. 2 to No. 5 in the ratings and sent them to No. 9 in the NSAA wild-card points standings, costing them home-field advantage for the first round.
Ruth said having a bye the final week of the regular season makes the Monarchs hungrier for the next game. Aquinas did not have practice either Wednesday or Thursday this past week because of parent-teacher conferences, and that mini-break just added to their itch to get back out there.
“It was definitely good to be back there Friday (for practice); we all missed it a little bit the two days we didn’t practice,” Ruth said. “Having a week off has been good. It’s given us a chance to focus on the little things that will make our team better.
“Nobody had their head down moping about the loss,” he added. “We were more worried about fixing things and looking forward to the playoffs.”
Aquinas returned nine starters both offensively and defensively from last year’s team that lost by three points to eventual state champion O’Neill in the state quarterfinals. The Monarchs survived a scare at Columbus Scotus in week 4, driving 72 yards in the final minutes before Trevor Siroky kicked a game-winning field goal in a 17-16 victory.
The next week, the Monarchs put together perhaps their best all-around game of the season in a 39-14 win at Bishop Neumann. Ruth was a factor in both games, returning an interception for a touchdown against Scotus and picking off a pass late in the first half against Neumann that led to a TD.
Despite being double-teamed and opponents running away from him, Ruth has 31 tackles on the season, including six behind the line of scrimmage, and also a forced fumble. He’s also a threat blocking punts and field goals.
The fact that Aquinas lost two starting linebackers earlier in the season to injury has put more pressure on Ruth and his teammates. Sophomore Travis Roh, who alternated at fullback with Kyle Petree, broke his leg against Columbus Scotus. Senior Josh Roh, who has 46 tackles this season, went down with an ACL injury early in the Wahoo game.
Michael Coufal, a 6-1, 180-pound senior outside linebacker, has picked up the slack with a team-high 55 tackles and a pair of fumble recoveries. The injuries also meant more time on defense for Petree, a 5-10, 170-pound senior who has a team-high 769 yards rushing as a fullback and 32 tackles from his middle linebacker spot.
Senior quarterback Gavin Rech has 442 yards rushing out of the veer option and has thrown for 347 more. Aquinas has seven backs with 128 yards or more this fall, including senior Nolan Maguire, who has 456 and averages 8 yards per carry.
“I feel like we play that physical style of football that’s advantageous in the playoffs,” said Aquinas coach Ron Mimick, who’s guided the Monarchs to seven state titles in his 28 years at the school. “We’ve got a group of hardworking kids who have turned themselves into a good football team. We have a shot to win some games in the playoffs.”
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