CHAMPAIGN — Now the waiting begins.
St. Thomas More needed three wins in its final three games to become playoff eligible. The Sabers capped off that run with a 48-6 win against Rantoul on the Sabers’ Senior Night to move to 5-4.
“Pins and needles, Needles and pins,” St. Thomas More coach Dan Hennessey said when asked what the next 24 hours would be like. “This team deserves to be in.”
Whether St. Thomas More makes it to the playoffs for the sixth straight year won’t be unveiled until tonight.
“I told them to look at the (IHSA) website at 5:30 (this evening when the playoff teams are posted),” Hennessey said. “If we know we’re in, it’s at my house at 7:45 to watch it.”
It was the first game between the two schools, and St. Thomas More senior receiver Kevin Carroll & Co. did not disappoint. Carroll had 175 receiving yards on six catches, including three touchdowns, in the first half as the Sabers jumped ahead 34-0.
“One-on-one (coverage), I love it,” Carroll said. “If I see no help over, it’s a dream come true for me. I’ll probably be up all night wondering if we’re going to get in the playoffs.”
Carroll had touchdown grabs of 31, 38 and 27 yards. His 38-yard touchdown reception, which put the Sabers up 27-0 with 3 minutes, 31 seconds left in the second quarter, saw Carroll elude five Rantoul defenders and break two tackles en route to the end zone.
“He made us look silly,” Rantoul coach Joe Bendoraitis said. “He runs good routes. Usually we don’t have a problem locking up man coverage, but we did tonight.”
STM sophomore quarterback Storm Joop went 7 of 10 for 184 yards, with all his completions in the first half to Carroll. Carroll had four touchdowns after he returned an interception 30 yards for the game’s first score.
Senior running back Andrew Young provided a steady balance to the Sabers’ passing attack with 204 rushing yards (102 in each half) on 21 carries and two touchdowns.
Senior linebacker John Strauser led the St. Thomas More defense with two sacks in the opening two quarters. He’s anxious to see if the Sabers get into the playoffs.
“It’s crazy,” Strauser said. “I’m probably go to watch college football and punch numbers into Excel to figure this thing out.”
Eagles senior fullback Larry Crayton became the third Rantoul player in the last 22 years to rush for more than 1,000 yards in a season. Crayton finished with 121 yards on 25 carries to push his season total to 1,038.
“It feels fantastic,” Crayton said. “I thanked my teammates and my (offensive) line. I appreciated what they did very much. It’s history. It’s forever in my heart.”