When vital senior starter Ron Holland, a significant presence on both the O and D lines, suffered a concussion on Saturday and was sidelined along with sophomore starter JB Boggs (shoulder) - junior Bryan Latorraca (wrist) and senior Myles Gaines (knee) who were injured last week - a pall could have fallen over the Storm as they faced an oversized and favored Hyde School. Instead, first year head coach Noel Thomas challenged his freshman and sophomores to "step up" and man the battle lines. They did, again and again and helped senior standouts Noel Thomas, Jr., Charlie Nelson, Sam Drews, Blake Stroman, and Andrew Sudano upset the Hyde Wolfpack 28-26.
When St, Luke's lost it final regular season game last weekend - its only loss of the 2012 campaign - it was believed that the Storm season was over. But NEPSAC, an organization of athletic directors from 63 accredited New England independent schools, matched St. Luke's against Hyde School (Woodstock ,CT) in its Class C Dan Rorke Bowl held Saturday at Kingswood-Oxford School in West Hartford. The Wolfpack and the Storm both entered the game with 7-1 records and both playing in their first NEPSAC bowl game.
On the strength of uConn bound Thomas' 29 carried for 163 yards and two touchdowns and Nelson's six completions in 10 tries (including a vital drive-sustaining 24 yard strike to Stroman) and two rushing TDs; St. Luke's appeared to have the game on ice leading 28-20, with under a minute to play. But the Wolfpack stuffed a St. Luke's gamble on fourth down and with no timeouts left, moved from its own 37 into the end zone as time expired. To force overtime Hyde needed to convert a two point play, but junior Robert Wood and Sudano stopped the Hyde tailback inches short of the goal line.
Thomas finished his senior season with 1,206 yards in nine games, but it was the freshman and sophomores who provided the essential drama including freshman Dolan Gregorich who not only filled in for Holland, but blocked an extra point kick that would have given Hyde a 21-20 lead; and sophomore TJ Simpson who's reception of a Thomas pass in the end zone successfully converted a two point try and provided the margin of victory. Sophomore Alex Libman filled in successfully at cornerback for Boggs and freshman BJ Buckle - as he has been all season - was a major presence in the line on both sides of the ball. Junior Peter Baritz was also injured (shoulder) but continued to kick for the Storm throughout the game.
"This is a very talented senior class and nearly every one of them can play at the next level," says Coach Thomas. "But with key players out we relied on our freshman and sophomores to give us their best effort of the year, and they did. I am sure their tremendous effort will carry into next season with all the momentum to continue to get better and better.
"This was the perfect lesson for them," added Thomas "The game had its ups and downs, just like life. It wasn't easy it was tough, just like life."