Sabers take another step forward
CHAMPAIGN – St. Thomas More wants everyone to know the Sabers are not the new kids on the block anymore.
The Sabers went 15-32 during the program's first five years (2002-06). But with a 49-0 win against Schlarman on Friday, St. Thomas More is 2-0 headed into conference play while it aims at making its third straight appearance in the playoffs.
"I think it says a lot that we're continuing to win year after year," said STM senior linebacker Matt Strauser, who started the Sabers' scoring with a first-quarter safety. "We're a force to be reckoned with now. We're going to be good every year."
Sabers coach Dan Hennessey has been with the program since its inception. He said he's seen the team's reputation shift among St. Thomas More students, causing an influx of talent at the freshman and sophomore levels.
"The kids who weren't playing or were hesitant before are now stepping up and want to play because of what we've done," Hennessey said. "It's not that we're 1-8 anymore. It's now that we've made the playoffs, and they want to be a part of it, which is great."
Hennessey thinks the 2009 team, powered by a burly offensive line and a talented backfield, could be the strongest Sabers squad yet. The Sabers rushed for 326 yards against Schlarman. Senior running back Parker Stewart had 11 carries for 103 yards and two touchdowns. Sophomore Paul Comet ran for 128 yards, including a 34-yard touchdown. Sabers junior quarterback Julian Boswell had two touchdowns, a 21-yard run and a 36-yard pass to Kyle Buerkett.
"I feel really confident about this team," Hennessey said. "They've been told how the teams in the past how they were and all that other stuff, but I believe that once they instill the confidence in themselves, they'll be as good or better than those last two teams."
STM limited Schlarman to four first downs and 100 total yards. Hilltoppers quarterback Heath Goodwin completed 2 of 7 passes for 50 yards and rushed for 26 yards.
The Sabers begin their Sangamon Valley Conference schedule next Friday when they travel to Watseka. Hennessey and his players think they are capable of competing for the SVC title this season.
"I'm real excited for conference play," said STM senior Sean Heffernan, who ran for a 2-yard touchdown. "It's really fun because week in and week out you have to bring your best."
As the only Catholic school in Champaign County, Hennessey thinks St. Thomas More has great potential as a program. But the Sabers coach said there's still plenty of work to accomplish.
"We're getting there," Hennessey said. "There's always things to improve upon. ... I just don't want to stay on the same level. Keep moving this thing forward."