DOVER — After a first half filled with penalties, the frustration immediately spilled over into the second half for the St. Thomas Aquinas High School football team against Sanborn.
St. Thomas was nursing a 13-9 lead entering the third quarter when a pair of penalties and a fumble gave the pesky Indians a chance to pursue their upset bid.
The game’s trajectory changed when Jack Bennelli delivered a well-timed sack. Quarterback Shawn DeKorne then uncorked a 79-yard touchdown pass to Will MacLean, part of the Saints' 496 yards of offense in a 32-9 win in Saturday's home opener.
St. Thomas improved to 3-0 after opening the Division II season with road victories over Souhegan (27-20) and Alvirne (26-22).
“It was a slow start," St. Thomas coach Ryan Brown said. "The kids challenged themselves in the second half and they came out and responded. Jack got the big sack, got the kids going, and then we got that pass to Will on the sideline.”
Benelli’s sack of Sanborn quarterback Matt Sarette came on a third-and-6 from the St. Thomas 31 and forced the Indians to punt. DeKorne followed five plays later with his bomb to MacLean (five catches, 154 yards) to give St. Thomas a 20-9 lead with 5:01 left in third quarter.
DeKorne added an 8-yard touchdown pass later in the third quarter to Benelli (eight catches, 89 yards) to give the Saints a 26-9 lead entering the fourth.
DeKorne completed 19 of 29 passes for 322 yards and two touchdowns. He had a 308-yard, four-touchdown effort against Alvirne last week.
“I told the team during halftime to take a deep breath and we’re going to go back to what we do, and that’s high-tempo, fast-paced offense, clean, and we’re going to score touchdowns,” DeKorne said. “We started off with a couple penalties (in the second half), which worried me a little bit, but the line played great today; I don’t think I got touched once. We played perfectly as a team once we got going in the second half.”
Hunter Lassard capped of the game’s scoring with a 11-yard touchdown run with 9:28 left in the game. Lassard led the Saints' 174-yard rushing attack with 94 yards on 13 carries and two touchdowns.
“Obviously our passing game was going pretty good, but we wanted to get the running game going, and I think we were successful at that in the second half,” Brown said. “Hunter Lassard had some big runs and ran real hard. That was one of our goals and I felt like we accomplished that.”
St. Thomas took a 6-0 lead on three plays on its first drive of the game. A pair of completions from DeKorne to MacLean set up a 6-yard touchdown run by Derek O’Brien.
Sanborn (1-2) threatened on its ensuing drive when Sarette completed a 49-yard screen pass on third-and-10 to Jackson Paradis to move Sanborn to the Saint Thomas 2. The Saints — who allowed only 12 rushing yards — pushed Sanborn back and forced a 27-yard field goal from Austin Kalinowski that trimmed the STA lead to 6-3 with 4:01 left in the first quarter.
The Saints responded with a 10-play, 65-yard drive — highlighted by a 32-yard completion from DeKorne to O’Brien on third-and-14 — that ended with a 6-yard scoring run by Lassard for a 13-3 lead with 45 seconds left in the first.
Sarette responded with a 57-yard touchdown pass up the middle to Hudson Lewis, which gave Sanborn some confidence and sliced the STA lead to 13-9 with 5:21 left in the second quarter.
“They held in there for a half and we did the best we could during the week to get ready,” Sanborn coach Tony King said. “We tried to give them a few surprises at the beginning, but they made their adjustments and we just came up a little short.”
St. Thomas is back on the road again on Friday at Milford (2-1). Its Homecoming game arrives the following week against two-time defending Division II champion Plymouth (3-0).
“It’s been a rough 3-0, but we’ll take it,” DeKorne said. “As the season progresses, we’ll improve as a team. Those two road wins were definitely wake-up calls, saying this wasn’t going to be easy this season. Even today, we came in here underestimating them a bit. But I think it’s going to change next week, and I think it’s going to change the rest of the season.”
SAINTS 32, INDIANS 9
Sanborn 3 6 0 0—9
St. Thomas 13 0 13 6—32
STA—O’Brien 6 run (run failed), 9:16.
San—Kalinowski 38 field goal, 4:01.
STA—Lassard 6 run (Devost kick), :45.
San—Lewis 57 pass from Sarette (kick blocked), 5:21.
STA—MacLean 79 pass from DeKorne (Devost kick), 5:01.
STA—Benelli 8 pass from DeKorne (kick failed), 1:23.
STA—Lassard 11 run (kick blocked), 9:28.
RUSHING—Sanborn, Dabrieo 5-27, Giles 10-19, Paradis 9-12, Thornton 1-2, St. Jean 1-(minus-1), Snively 1-(minus-4), Sarette 7-(minus-39). St. Thomas, Lassard 13-94, Estevez 2-20, Stewart 2-18, Tosatti 5-14, Toriello 1-11, Blomstrom 3-10, MacLean 2-7, O’Brien 1-6, DeKorne 3-(minus-2), Sullivan 3-(minus-3).
PASSING—Sanborn, Sarette 7-10-124 (1 TD). St. Thomas, DeKorne 19-29-322 (2 TDs).
RECEIVING—Sanborn, Lewis 1-57, Paradis 2-47, Dabrieo 4-20. St. Thomas, MacLean 5-154, Benelli 8-89, O’Brien 3-54, Estevez 1-15, Lassard 1-6, Tosatti 1-4.