After suffering a high ankle sprain the previous week against Warren County, Collin Oliver sat out the entire week of practice.
When Aquinas held its first playoff game at home Friday night, the senior linebacker had no plans to miss it, though.
“It’s all adrenaline,” said Oliver, with a heavily-taped left ankle.
In front of a packed house, the Irish took advantage of five Athens Academy turnovers and rolled to a 38-13 victory in the first round of the Class A playoffs.
Aquinas (8-3), the Region 7-A runner-up, notched its first postseason win in school history, and it did so in running-clock fashion in the fourth quarter. The Irish advanced to play at undefeated Wilcox County next week.
“We expected to win,” Aquinas coach Matt LeZotte said. “We prepared extremely well this week. I knew good things would happen. We had guys step up and play really well.”
With senior Dane Anderson lost for the year after a knee injury against Warren County, running back Brendan Douglas was asked to play more fullback. Douglas rushed 26 times for 166 yards and four touchdowns while also setting punishing, highlight-reel blocks on the perimeter.
Aquinas gained 315 yards on the ground, with Ruben Garnett adding 79 yards on 13 carries with a touchdown and Daniel Lindsey gaining 66 yards on five rushes.
“I enjoy blocking for those guys,” Douglas said. “Those guys run great and have the speed we need. I just get out there and hit whoever is in my way.”
Aquinas took advantage of four first-half turnovers by Athens Academy to storm into halftime with a 28-0 lead.
The Spartans fumbled on the opening play from scrimmage, leading to a 24-yard touchdown run by Garnett.
Athens Academy fumbled later in the quarter, added another fumble when a Spartans player tried to recover an onside kick that only went nine yards and fumbled again inside its own 5.
“That’s a fantastic team,” said Lezotte, whose team surrendered no turnovers. “When they give us the ball, that makes it that much easier.”
Athens Academy (7-4) entered giving up an average of average of almost 11 points a game and allowing 22 points in their worst defeat. Aquinas surpassed both totals in the first half alone.
Douglas ran in scores from the 7, 2 and 1 in the second quarter to help break open the game.
By halftime, Douglas had 108 yards on 22 rushes, while Athens Academy had accumulated 37 total yards on 18 plays.