8-man champions: Covenant outlasts St. Anne’s to complete unbeaten season

Photo: Ryan Yemen

Facing St. Anne’s-Belfield for the third time this year, but this go around, in the VISFL championship game, Covenant was hoping they’d get a battle, a challenge. The Eagles cruised through their first nine games of the season with five shutouts and only the Saints scoring more than once against them. On Saturday STAB put up the most points anyone has all season on Covenant, and did its damage in the first half to keep things close going into the break.


But at the end of the day, the Eagles put up the highest score they had all season to wrap up a 76-41 win and cement an undefeated season.


“We have a lot of options, a lot of weapons and sometimes it’s just a matter of taking time to find what works,” said Covenant coach Seth Wilson. “I felt like if we just pounded them, pounded them, and pounded them it was eventually going to wear them down. They can only do so much there and then it was time to take some shots. We took them and made something happen.”


While Covenant’s explosiveness won the day, particularly in the second half, the story early on was STAB’s offense controlling the clock. The Saints took a 6-0 lead on a 10-play drive with quarterback Thomas Harry picking up the first of his five total touchdowns on a 1-yard keeper with nearly half the first quarter melted off the clock.


But the Saints never scored twice in a row. Covenant answered every single score. The Eagles wasted little time with Luke Sorenson finding Nic Sanker for a 60-yard touchdown pass. With a Chaz Harvey two-point conversion, Covenant claimed an 8-6 lead.


“We knew we had to start out hot,” Sanker said. “That’s a big thing for us against them. We knew this was going to be a game of momentum and so you have make that big play early, we did, and my brother Jonas, he made such a great block on that, Luke got me the ball, it was a team effort.”


STAB answered with a quicker drive and Harry capping it with a 12-yard run into the endzone to give the Saints a 12-8 advantage. The Eagles needed just a few seconds to respond with Jonas Sanker breaking off a 60-yard run to the edge and with another Harvey convert, it was 16-12 going into the second.


The lead swapped one more time with STAB going up 20-16 thanks to a gritty 45-yard run from Harry with 10:30 until the break. In four minutes though, Covenant answered not once but twice. With a 23-yard run form Chaz Harvey, Covenant took a 24-20 lead. Then on the next drive, Sorenson made a highlight play while seemingly getting sacked but somehow finding Jonas Sanker for an 8-yard touchdown. Rick Weaver punched in the conversion to give the Eagles the 32-20 lead with 6:19 left before the break. STAB responded with another drive led by he and Amani Woods, and Gabe Decker toting the ball. Harry scored on a 1-yard keeper to cut the deficit to four points.


“John Blake is an incredible coach and gave us such a tough battle,” Wilson said. “It was a great game plan and I’m honored to coach against him. I’m a big fan of iron sharpening iron and he sharpened the heck out of us today.”


The big shift in momentum came from Covenant’s senior running back. While the Saints did everything in their power to bottle him up in the first half, Weaver finally busted through with a 45-yard thundering run to send the Eagles into halftime with a 38-28 advantage. Then to start the third, Weaver broke through on a 23-yard run and it was suddenly 46-28 with 9:56 in the third.


“Give God the glory — I couldn’t have done this without my parents, my coaches and my brothers,” Weaver said. “I’m just happy, I can’t really explain it right now. There’s just so much going on.”


The Eagles outscored the Saints 32-6 in the third with Sorenson rushing for a touchdown, throwing for another to Sanker for 62 yards and then Jake Hoadley picking up a fumble and scoring from 34 yards out. While STAB got a 49-yard run from Woods to cut Covenant’s lead to 46-34, the last five minutes was a flurry from the Eagles to make it 70-34 going into the fourth.


“It was hard, but with powerful people like Rick Weaver and then shifty people like Jonas Sanker, we were just able to execute a lot of the plays we’ve worked really hard on in practice,” Sorenson said. “We put the ball in the air a bit more in the second and really we talked about how we’ve wanted competition like this all year long and now we finally had it. Living in that moment, we just tried to pursue excellence like Coach Wilson talks about.”


The fourth quarter was a low scoring affair. The Eagles got an 18-yard rushing touchdown from Wes Arrington while the Saints responded with a 35-yard touchdown pass from Harvey to Elijah Johnson to wrap up the scoring at 76-41.


“I really liked our gameplan, thought it went really well in the first half but Covenant is just good, they’re really, really good,” Blake said. “We wanted to get this thing close into the fourth quarter and just couldn’t quite get there. It was a great first half and the offensive line did a great job blocking for Thomas. We tried to keep their offense on the sidlelines and avoid that tidal wave that they’ve had in the other two games, but it came in the third quarter.”


STAB completes its season at 7-4 and will have to replace six seniors including Harry and lineman Will Edelson.


“I’ve got to give it to our kids, I’m really proud to be in this game in the inaugural year,” Blake said. “We’re playing in November, which is crazy for us thinking about where we were last year and two years ago.”


The Eagles finished the season 10-0 and graduate seven seniors, but return Nic and Jonas Sanker despite losing Sorenson and Weaver.


“There’s something going on in our school right now where people are getting excited about football,” Wilson said. “This is only the beginning for us.”