CHAMPAIGN — Storm Joop threw three touchdowns — including two to Kevin Carroll — as the Sabers kept their playoff hopes alive with a 49-14 win against Paxton-Buckley-Loda on Friday.
“If five (wins) can get us in, it puts us another step closer to that,” St. Thomas More coach Dan Hennessey said. “It gives the kids a boost in confidence that, hey, we can still do it.”
The road to a possible postseason berth goes through 2-5 Iroquois West/Crescent Iroquois next Friday and 1-6 Rantoul to finish the season.
“We have to win the next two and go from there. We told he kids if you win three (in a row) you have a shot,” Hennessey said. “They responded. “We have to come out and play like you’ve been playing, and the wins will come.”
Joop was 7 of 11 through the air for 238 yards — 117 to Carroll, including touchdowns of 68 and 19 yards.
“Storm did a nice job of controlling the tempo. He comes to play,” Hennessey said. “He can really do some things for us. Kevin Carroll, when we get the ball to him, he just makes things happen. Carroll is our go-to guy as we’ve said all year.”
Cameron Deedrich, who had an interception on defense, also caught a 69-yard touchdown pass for STM (3-4).
The Sabers performed well in front of a homecoming crowd.
“I really think, at times, this could one of the better offensive teams I’ve coached,” Hennessey said.
The defense was led by cornerback Mike Plecki and linebackers Deedrich and John Strauser.
The Panthers, who had 316 yards on the ground, took a 7-0 lead on Jesse Houtsel’s 24-yard first-quarter touchdown run.
But the Sabers answered 14 seconds later on an Andrew Young 67-yard burst, the start of a 21-0 Sabers run. STM led 28-14 at halftime, then outscored PBL 21-0 in the second half.
The Panthers (4-3) ran the ball for 316 yards, led by Trent Wooten’s 92 yards.
“We had some times where we moved the ball and we did some things right and we executed right. I know the score doesn’t indicate that, but doggone, we had some positive things and that’s what we’ve go to build on,” PBL coach Jeff Graham said.