This year’s Aquinas football team has already set itself apart from the others.
Tonight, the 2011 Fighting Irish can add to their legacy.
For the first time in program history, Aquinas is home for a state playoff game as the Irish play Athens Academy at 7:30 tonight.
But there’s a chance for another first – a victory would be the program’s first state playoff triumph.
“It’s a great accomplishment,” Aquinas coach Matt LeZotte said about being home. “When we came here as a coaching staff, we arrived with open eyes and we expected to do this.”
As the No. 2 team out of Region 7-A, the Irish (7-3) secured a playoff appearance by beating Washington-Wilkes after they had close misses in recent years.
Running back/linebacker Brendan Douglas has led both the offense with his 1,375 rushing yards and 23 touchdowns as well as the defense with a team-best 120 tackles.
The junior said the team’s main goal entering the season was to make the playoffs. Now, it’s time to make a run.
Athens Academy is the first road block. Aquinas senior James Mullins said the Spartans, though small on the lines, are well-coached. In order to have success, Mullins said the lines must stay low.
Offensively, the Irish will look to Douglas and Corey Gomillion for big plays. Gomillion not only has 492 receiving yards and seven touchdown catches, but he also has two punt return touchdowns.
“His ability to take it all the way is what makes him dangerous,” LeZotte said.
The head coach said the squad has enjoyed this week but has also switched on the seriousness when needed. LeZotte added this team’s togetherness reminds him of the 2004 James Madison team – of which LeZotte was a member – that won a national championship.
Aquinas’ own playoff march starts tonight, and though the Irish are 2-9-1 against the Spartans all-time, the two haven’t met since 2001.
But senior Tyler Williamson knows the Irish should benefit from playing in a challenging region that features Lincoln County. With the tough schedule, Williamson thinks the Irish are prepared for any team.
“I think that sets us up for the playoffs,” he said.