One week after taking down the Cardinal Gibbons Chiefs, the Patriots traveled to battle with the St. Thomas Aquinas Raiders live on ESPN2 as the week’s ESPN High School Showcase game.
Starting senior QB Vinson Davis and the Patriots kicked off the game on offense, but failed to find much success, punting away to the Raiders and setting them up with favorable field position.
The Raiders took advantage of their start at around midfield and marched down inside Heritage’s 5-yard line before the Patriots stuffed them on a 4th-and-goal to take over at their own 1-yard line.
Backed up deep in their own territory, the Patriots had trouble with the snap, losing the ball in their own end zone where the Raiders would recover it to grab a 6-0 lead.
Another defensive stop set the Raiders up in ideal field position once again, where they gashed the Patriot run defense on their way to finding the end zone and increasing the lead to 13-0.
The Patriots started to find rhythm toward the end of the first, courtesy of a sophomore
RB Mark Fletcher run that brought the offense inside opponent territory for the first time of the night.
The Raiders quickly put a halt to the drive, though, intercepting a pass by senior QB Dylan Romig and returning it back for a touchdown to lead 20-0 early in the second quarter.
On the ensuing Heritage possession, the Patriots finally responded with a 58-yard house call from Davis on the QB keeper to cut into the lead, making it 20-7 with 9:15 to go.
Just before the half, the Patriots continued to claw back into the contest via Fletcher’s 12-yard walk-in rushing touchdown with one minute to go in the quarter to put the score at 20-14 heading into the break.
Both offenses couldn’t find much in the first half of the third quarter, but a 62-yard run from Davis on another QB keeper set up a successful 23-yard field goal attempt from senior kicker Chris Maron to cut the lead to 20-17 with 6:37 remaining.
The Raiders finally broke out of their offensive funk, leaning on their run game to find the end zone and extend their lead to 26-17, which would remain the score heading into the final quarter of regulation.
Early in the fourth, the Patriots lost the ball again on offense as the Raiders returned a fumble recovery back for six. The score marked the team’s third defensive touchdown of the night with 11:50 to go in the game and handed the Raiders a 33-17 advantage.
Desperately needing a spark, the Patriots special teams unit provided one when senior safety Boogsie Silvera broke free to swat a Raiders punt attempt. A favorable bounce led to an offensive start inside the Raider’s 5-yard line, where the Patriots would convert on the next play with a touchdown.
After the score, the Patriots trailed 33-23, and with only 3:20 remaining in regulation, Heritage needed to convert a two point conversion to narrow the deficit to one possession. The Raiders defense stood strong, though, forcing an unsuccessful attempt and keeping their lead at two possessions.
Though the Patriots would receive the ball for a final possession, time ran out on their comeback hopes, giving the Raiders the 33-23 win and handing Heritage their second loss of the season in the final regular season game.
“We started off slow,” Davis said regarding the offense’s struggles early on. “We got in a rhythm a little late and were fighting back. But there were four key plays in the game that didn’t go our way, and STA took advantage.”