St. Thomas accomplished many things in Saturday's 45-10 victory over St. John Fisher in the NCAA Division III quarterfinals. The Tommies won their 13th game this season, a first for the program, and made the national semifinals for the first time.
As proud as the players were to achieve those milestones, senior linebacker Tony Danna said they found the most delight in the simplest reward of all. They will spend at least one more week together, preparing for Saturday's game at top-ranked Wisconsin-Whitewater. The No. 3 Tommies (13-0) ambushed St. John Fisher with three second-quarter touchdowns and an overpowering defense, racing to a 35-10 halftime lead before a crowd of 2,200 at O'Shaughnessy Stadium.
Quarterback Dakota Tracy hit Fritz Waldvogel with a 31-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter and a 41-yard scoring strike in the second. Running back Colin Tobin also scored twice and now has 50 career touchdowns, tying the school record.
The Tommies defense, ranked third in Division III, held Fisher to only 40 total yards in the first half and 133 for the game. Danna led the group with five solo tackles, helping ensure that Waldvogel, Tracy, Tobin and the rest of his fellow seniors would continue writing their history.
"All the seniors are really close," said Danna, part of a defense that has allowed only one touchdown in the past four games. "We're all really good buddies. To be able to step out on the practice field for one more week together is really what it's all about."
The Cardinals (10-3) opened well, scoring the game's first points on Chad Monheim's 24-yard field goal. St. Thomas answered with Waldvogel's and Tobin's first scores of the day, but Fisher cut the Tommies' lead to 14-10 when Ryan Francis returned a kickoff 85 yards for a touchdown with 1 minute, 7 seconds left in the first quarter.
That would be its only highlight. A barrage of mistakes, including low snaps, mishandled kickoffs and errant passes, prevented the Cardinals from making any headway.
Tommies safety Josh Carey picked off an underthrown pass by Ahmed Hassanien early in the second quarter, setting up Waldvogel's 41-yard touchdown catch. Tracy threw a 3-yard scoring pass to Logan Marks to end a drive that started at the Fisher 31, and Tobin rolled up 85 yards -- including a 7-yard touchdown run -- on the Tommies' next possession to push their lead to 35-10.
Waldvogel did not play in the second half because of a sore neck, but he said the injury is not serious. He finished with 175 all-purpose yards, including 105 on five catches.
Next up is UW-Whitewater (13-0), which has won 43 consecutive games -- the longest active winning streak in the nation, and the fifth longest in NCAA football history. The Warhawks, winners of the past two D-III titles, have won their past 25 home games.
Tommies coach Glenn Caruso said he is excited to see what his team can do, and he is grateful for the opportunity to keep playing. "Every goal, every hurdle we've put in their way, they've cleared with flying colors," he said. "For us to be 13-0 is wonderful. But moreso, for us to have another week together, this is a pretty special group. We're truly blessed."