There were players running in and out of the game because of injuries.
Not everyone was always sure where to line up, so sometimes Aquinas coaches were shouting instructions as the McQuaid offense snapped the ball. Silly penalties popped up and passes popped out of the hands of receivers.
There also was a player, a senior starter on defense, who was ejected.
This had the look and feel of more than one Aquinas football game this season, somewhat startling given the team’s recent track record. But half of the time this fall, the reigning Class AA state champions have found a way to win, and it turned back rival McQuaid 14-10 Saturday during homecoming at Aquinas.
Maybe all of that stuff and more are forgotten about or never happened while Aquinas won two state titles in three seasons. But it’s real that the Aquinas record is 3-3 with one game remaining in the regular season, and that the Section V Class AA tournament field may shift before the playoffs begin.
“The season definitely has been different then the last couple of years,” Aquinas senior running back/linebacker Tyler Olbrich said. “We have got a lot of young guys and inexperienced guys we’re asking to step up and fill the roles of some really important guys that we lost last year.
“But we knew going into this year, that this is what it’s going to be and we’re happy to be where we are right now. We are playing every game tough.”
In other words, maybe one blowout loss, depending on your viewpoint of a 33-20 final score against Buffalo Canisius. And let it be pointed out that Saturday was a win for Aquinas. It’s just that the cruise control seen during drives to Section V championships in nine of the last 10 seasons was missing,
“I have absolutely no idea,” Battaglia said about the playoff picture. “I think we have to win. If you win, you’re in. The hard thing for everybody is, there’s a top seven and the rest of us are all equal.
“You have to win to get in. We all have 3-3 records, so if you don’t win you are out. We were seventh (out of eight potential seeds before the game today), but we’re still behind McQuaid because they have only two losses.”
The McQuaid Knights (4-2) had intended to remain at one.
Aquinas scored at the end of a 16-play drive on the first offensive possession of the non-league game. More than 7 minutes, 27 seconds elapsed before McQuaid’s offense went onto the field, but the Knights answered with a 15-play scoring drive that gave the underdog a 7-6 lead after a two-yard touchdown run by 6-foot-1, 225-pound senior Jake Zimmer.
The next Aquinas possession ended with a punt, and it was right after this play ended that Aquinas linebacker Damon Burton was on his way out of the game. Contact was made with the McQuaid punt returner as he signaled a fair catch. Pushing and shoving took place after the penalty and Burton was sent off after officials reviewed what happened during the confrontation.
Aquinas was already down a linebacker, as starter T.J. Scanlon was out because of a concussion suffered last week.
Last season’s Section V Class AA champions did score the next time it had possession. Sophomore Caron Robinson was savvy enough to use blocks near and away from the line of scrimmage to get to the end zone during a 27-yard run. Jason Hawkes caught a pass in the end zone for a two-point conversion and a 14-7 Aquinas lead with 5:27 remaining in the second quarter.
“We hung,” Battaglia said. “Our defense bent a lot but didn’t break.”
McQuaid reached the Aquinas 14-, 7- and 13-yard lines after scoring its touchdown in the second quarter, and came away with a 30-yard field goal by Alexander McNulty. The last McQuaid possession was three plays and a punt from its 20 with 3:50 remaining.
“We needed the ball back one more time,’McQuaid coach Dan Bates said. “They made a lot of third-down conversions.”
McQuaid could get glory this week. The Knights host Wilson on Friday, and the winner is champion of the Rochester City Athletic Conference. Who knows whether Aquinas will play its scheduled game against Buffalo Bishop Timon, a participant in a fight that erupted during a game on Friday night.
It has not been easy for Aquinas.
“I think the way we played today and have played the last couple of weeks is a tally of our schedule,” Battaglia said. “I mean, we have 38 kids and just about every week we’ve been in a battle. We haven’t had an easy game.
“We could easily be 0-5 or 0-6 or we could be 6-0. They just don’t give up and they fight to the end.”