LOUISVILLE Every bit of success helps the St. Thomas Aquinas Knights push the darkest times behind them.
At this rate, what happened at Aquinas the past few years could become a forgotten memory in a week a two.
Friday’s 23-14 win over East Canton made the Knights 2-0 for the first time since 2016, their last playoff season. They have rallied both times and overcome obstacles that would have likely resulted in defeat in the past. They have also beaten two playoff programs.
It’s starting to look a lot like the old days at Sirpilla Stadium.
“This feels great,” quarterback Alex Hawkins said. “Everything around us is clicking. I hope to stay like this. It’s a great feeling.”
Hawkins threw three touchdown passes to A’sian Burt, including a pair in the third and fourth quarters as the Hornets took their only lead. The final one was a 13-yard touchdown pass to Burt on fourth down with 59 seconds left.
Burt and Hawkins bookended the game with fourth down touchdown passes. They also did some really impressive things in between. Hawkins finished 17-of-23 passing for 283 yards. Aided by his speed on the perimeter, Burt had 10 catches for 139 yards.
These are the initial games of the Burt-Hawkins partnership. Burt played at McKinley last year, but he and Hawkins appear to have developed immediate chemistry,
“Out of school, in school, at practice, we just work on relationships,” Burt said. “It’s team bonding.”
The third touchdown pass from Hawkins to Burt clinched the game. The previous one was massive.
East Canton (1-1) took a 14-9 lead in the third quarter on quarterback Turner Giles’ 1-yard touchdown run. The Hornets held the ball for seven minutes and maintained possession when a bad snap on a punt attempt could have resulted in disaster. They still picked up the first down.
Aquinas answered just over three minutes later when Burt caught a 36-yard touchdown pass from Hawkins.
“A momentum shift is always big, Hawkins said. “Coach tells us if they make a big play, we have to come back and make a big play to counteract it and get the momentum back. That’s what we’re taught to do.”
The Knights were ready to go from the opening kickoff.
Hawkins completed all five of his passes on the first drive of the game. It appeared as though a holding penalty would cost the Knights, but they regrouped and took a 6-0 lead on Burt’s 24-yard touchdown reception.
“We challenged our guys in practice that offensively, we have to put points on the board,” Aquinas head coach Mike Cook said. “Last week we left some points (on the field) when we should have scored. Scoring on that drive opened up our offense a little bit and built some confidence in our guys.”
Aquinas was inches away from grabbing a two-touchdown lead in the second quarter. Hawkins spotted RaySean Owens alone at midfield, and the senior receiver turned a 25-yard gain into a 74-yard catch to the Hornets’ 1.
East Canton kept the Knights out of the end zone. Four straight quarterback sneak attempts from Hawkins netted nothing. An offsides call against the Hornets gave Aquinas two cracks at the end zone from inside the 1.
The Aquinas defense forced a punt, and that was good news for the offense. Facing a short field, the Knights drove to the East Canton 9 and increased their lead to 9-0 on Cameron Sedmock’s 26-yard field goal.
It took the Hornets less than three minutes to respond. A series from Nathanael Suntheimer set up Turner Giles’ 17-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Hoover that cut Aquinas’ lead to 9-7 at halftime.
Suntheimer finished with a game-high 120 yards rushing for East Canton.
Reach Mike at 330-580-8341 or