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Aquinas Monarchs

After 40 years, football can still surprise Aquinas Catholic head coach Ron Mimick. His most recent surprise came in Friday's 14-3 home victory over Norfolk Catholic.

After trailing all game, Aquinas sealed the victory with a 5-yard Kyle Napier touchdown run in the final minute. That, though, wasn't the unique part. Mimick has enjoyed plenty of last-minute wins in his career.

What he's never experienced was suffering through a shutout for the first 47 minutes plus before his team finally found the end zone. No, that was new.

"Never," Mimick said when asked if he had ever been part of a game like Friday's. "We've won some games at the end before, but to score all the points in the last two minutes, I've never been a part of that."

Aquinas trailed 3-0 as the game ticked under two minutes to go, capped a 60-yard drive with a Napier touchdown pass to Keegan Lavicky, intercepted a Norfolk Catholic pass, turned that into points on Napier's run and avoided a second straight season starting 0-2 with one of the most improbable wins in program history.

The Monarchs overcame two turnovers and the loss of another starting running back.

After sophomore John Prochaska went down last week, fullback Zach Pandorf went out of the game early in the second quarter on Friday and didn't return.

Yet, all those mistakes and bad breaks weren't enough to deny an Aquinas team that, over the years, has always seemed to find ways to produce magical endings.

"We always talk about the next play, making the next play. We talk about being resilient. The guys didn't make a lot of mistakes, other than the turnovers, but I think we only had one penalty the whole night," Mimick said. "We were pretty solid everywhere. Except, offensively, we were playing with three sophomores on the offensive line. That really was tough."

It showed in the stats. Neither team managed more than 200 yards of offense, and often, were they own worst enemies.

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Aquinas mistakes included a fumble on the Norfolk Catholic 6-yard line with 5:09 to go in the first half then an interception midway through the third that set the Knights up in the red zone.

But Norfolk Catholic missed a field goal on that opportunity then threw an interception with 1:15 left that set up Aquinas for Napier's eventual touchdown run.

After leading for 46 and 1/2 minutes, the Knights defense finally cracked on a six play drive that included a 26-yard pass to Braden Smith. Napier rolled right and was forced to heave the ball early with pressure coming in, underthrew Smith slightly, but he recovered for the catch inside the Knights' 20.

The touchdown pass to Lavicky came on the very next play.

"We'll be OK down the road. That's just how we are. Our offense, there's a lot of moving parts in it," Mimick said. "What we do with our offensive linemen and our backs, they've got to get to their blocks. If they don't, we're in trouble. Not all offenses are like that."

And while the offense remains a work in progress, Mimick will gladly take 1-1 over 0-2. He'll also take the improvement he's seen on the other side of the ball.

The Monarchs out gained the Knights 200-186, Napier was 4 of 13 passing for 50 yards and rushed 13 times for 76 and Nolan Schultz led with 17 combined tackles.

"I think our linebackers played a lot more downhill, and our edge defenders played a lot better," Mimick said. "Our linebackers have been getting better and better since they've been playing downhill, which they should, because they have some experience from last year."

Nate Tenopir is the sports editor of The Banner-Press. Reach him via email at DVDsports@lee.net.

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