Commentary

No. 1 St. Thomas runs past No. 2 Byrnes

Originally Published: October 2, 2009
By Jc Shurburtt | Scouts Inc.

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Under Armour All-American Lamarcus Joyner had a 93-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, and running back James White had 63 yards of total offense on a fourth-quarter, game-clinching drive as top-ranked Saint Thomas Aquinas held off No. 2 Byrnes 42-34 on Friday night.

The Raiders (4-0) gave up a season-high 558 yards of total offense to the Rebels (5-1), but an uncharacteristic three fumbles lost by five-star running back Marcus Lattimore, two inside the Saint Thomas Aquinas 10-yard line, cost Byrnes on the scoreboard.

[+] EnlargeSt. Thomas Aquinas
Davide DePasThe defending national champion St. Thomas Aquinas Raiders improved to 4-0.
"We did a nice job of taking advantage of some things they did," STA head coach George Smith said. "They put the ball on the ground a couple of times after big plays and we took advantage of it."

Byrnes head coach Chris Miller added, "The name of the game is trying to create turnovers. They did that and eventually won the game."

Rebels quarterback Chas Dodd, a Rutgers commit, threw for 416 yards and three touchdowns, the final one coming on a 59-yard bomb to receiver Torian Richardson with 7:58 to pull the Rebels within seven at 35-28. On the throw, Dodd took a big hit, but found Richardson in stride for the score. After that, the teams traded punts before White took over.

The senior ripped off big runs of 16 and 17 yards before capping the final scoring drive of the night with a 23-yard touchdown reception from Jake Rudock. That gave Saint Thomas Aquinas, which finished with 303 yards of total offense, a 42-28 lead.

"It's a huge win," said White, who finished with 110 yards of total offense, including 82 rushing. "This win gets us over the hump and helps us get back to that state championship and to the national championship."

Joyner's kickoff return came after Byrnes receiver Jazz King, who had nine receptions for 156 yards and two fourth-quarter touchdowns, caught his first scoring pass of the game from Dodd from 8 yards out to bring the Rebels within 28-21. King also caught a 24-yard touchdown from Dodd on the game's final play to provide the final score.

Joyner's electrifying kick return was not his only big play that evening. He got STA on the scoreboard with 2:34 left in the first quarter on a 52-yard touchdown reception from Rudock, who threw four touchdown passes in the game.

"People want to talk about us playing in a soft district and this and that, and we were tired of it," Joyner said. "No other team from Broward has this type of win. Everybody knew that these guys were going to be tough. They are not No. 2 in the nation for no reason. We had to humble ourselves in the locker room a little bit."

The Rebels got on the scoreboard first on a 1-yard run by Lattimore to cap off a drive that featured a 25-yard run on a fake punt on fourth-and-15 and a reverse throwback pass that resembled the old "flea-flicker" when Dodd found Lee Weick for 52 yards.

Junior receiver Phillip Dorsett, an ESPNU150 watch list member, gave Saint Thomas Aquinas a lead it did not relinquish with a 73-yard touchdown reception with 7:51 to play in the second quarter. Then 1:25 later, junior Ken Hankerson -- who had a good game defensively for STA with 4.5 tackles, including two for loss -- picked up a fumble and raced 39 yards for a touchdown. The Raiders led 21-7 at the half.

Byrnes forced a fumble of its own early in the third quarter and Lattimore scored his second touchdown to bring the Rebels to within 21-14. Even with the fumbles, the talented senior finished with 118 yards on 22 carries and caught eight passes for 94 yards.

St. Thomas answered when Rudock found junior receiver Rashad Greene on a 12-yard touchdown pass when they lined up in the wishbone formation to put Aquinas back on top by two touchdowns with 4:47 to go in the period.

Byrnes' Under Armour All-American defensive end Corey Miller and defensive tackle Roland Johnson both gave the Raiders' offensive line trouble. Johnson had a team-high three tackles for loss and two sacks while Miller had four total tackles and a sack and was very disruptive. Miller is committed to Tennessee.

JC Shurburtt covers recruiting for ESPN.com. He can be reached at jcsespn@aol.com.

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