Hilvert, Hayden Break Records as Thomas More Rolls
It was a record-breaking day on the Thomas More football field on Saturday afternoon, as both head coach Jim Hilvert and running back Domonique Hayden made history in the Saints 49-6 win over Westminster College.
Hilvert broke the school record with 62 wins at Thomas More in his eight seasons with the team. His players doused him with ice water late in the game when the win looked secure.
“The record means a lot to me but a lot of the credit goes to my players of the past and present” Coach Hilvert said after the game. “They've done an unbelievable job believing in what we do. Also credit to my coaching staff, guys that have been with me for the past eight years. And my family. My wife, Jennifer, my dad, my mom and everybody that has been supportive, my kids. And then the administration that has helped get these 62 wins. It's really been a great run.”
The notable win came almost entirely on the legs of Hayden who racked up an astonishing 336 yards on the ground to break his own single-game rushing record. Perhaps even more impressive, though, is that Hayden is now the all-time career rushing leader at Thomas More with 4,640 yards, surpassing Will Castleberry who set the previous mark in 2000.
“It's a blessing knowing that I broke those records. I know that I'm not really caught up in the stats and everything. When I come here on Saturday, I'm playing for my teammates and whatever yards I rack up or touchdowns or whatever, that's not really the main importance. It's about me doing everything I can to help my teammates win,” Hayden said of his record-breaking day.
Hayden needed just 91 yards coming into the game, but more than tripled that total when it was all said and done. He also had four touchdowns to got with 336 yards on the day.
Hayden showed right away what kind of game it would be for the Saints as he broke a 52-yard touchdown run on the team's first possession. After an exchange of punts, the Thomas More offense drove the ball all the way down to the two yard line before Hayden plowed it in for his second score of the game.
Throughout the first half, the Saints defense tackled superbly and limited hardly any yardage after contact. Because of this, they prevented any explosive-play potential Westminster might have possessed and quickly became frustrated, particularly the Titan offensive line.
“I thought the defense played close to four quarters of football today,” said Hilvert. “Hopefully we can take this momentum going into next week, because it's a big week, but our guys were flying around on defense today and did a really good job.”
Thomas More could have extended the lead much further and realistically put the game out of reach before halftime, but Saints junior quarterback Jensen Gebhardt threw three interceptions in the first half.
“That was the biggest thing for us in the first half. If we do a better job of taking care of the ball, the score could have been worse,” Hilvert said.
The first pick came when Gebhardt was forced to move out of the pocket and threw across the field which easily allowed the defender to step in front of the pass and set up the Titans in good field possession. They were only able to cash in on three points on the turnover, however, because of the harassing Saints defense.
The next pick was a high pass on a screen play that was tipped and intercepted by linebacker C.J. Armstrong. Once again, though, the Thomas More defense held firm in the redzone and forced another field goal.
Gebhardt redeemed himself on the next possession when he found wide receiver Ryan Winkler in the back of the endzone who leaped up and pulled down a highly-contested jump-ball for a touchdown, making the score 21-6 which would last up until the third quarter.
Saints defensive end Tyler Calhoun had a great game as he on multiple occasions made the play to force either a punt or turnover-on-downs. His high-motor and speed around the edge gave the Titans offensive line a headache all day, particularly left tackle Nick Fiorintino. Any hopes of Westminster adding to their six points were most times squandered by the impressive play of Calhoun.
If more was needed from Hayden after already racking up 168 yards in the first half, he quickly delivered with a 70-yard scamper to the endzone where he was untouched on the way to the score. For as much praise that Hayden will receive for his records—and quite deservingly so—his offensive line did a terrific job of creating running lanes for him to blast through. Hayden is a very stout man at 5'8'' and 215 pounds and moves the pile with his barrel-like legs, but he also has the break away speed to turn take it to the house when his line shows him the way to the promised land like the did often against Westminster.
“Coming into this week, starting Monday, I know the offensive line was getting after it in practice. Just coming out here every Saturday, I know I can depend on those guys and I know that it isn't about me running the ball. It's about them up front. They're doing most of the work. They're creating the holes, so all of the yards and touchdowns I've racked up, I give the credit to them.”
The first-team offense played one more possession after the long touchdown and scored again for good measure, this time only on a 45-yard run by Hayden. With the game in hand and records in the books, the starters were pulled the rest of the way and watched their team roll to a huge victory. Thomas More was sloppy with penalties with easily double-digit infractions called on them—many of the unsportsmanlinke conduct variety—but because of the talent advantage the Saints demonstrated, the penalties did not make it a close game.
“Very, very sloppy at times. Things that we need to fix,” Hilvert said about the penalties. “We need to clear that up, especially going into a big game like this week.”
The Saints are now 3-1 on the season and travel again to take on Washington & Jefferson in Pennsylvania on October 4.
Story & photo by Bryan Burke, associate editor