Thomas More Hopes to Build on Recent Success With Playoff Berth
After an 8-2 season that included a 7-1 mark in the Presidents Athletic Conference (PAC), the Thomas More Saints football program is looking to build on that success with a trip to the NCAA Division III playoffs which eluded them last season.
The 8-2 record was part of the program's 19th winning season in the past 25 years. The Saints have won a share of the PAC title in six of the last seven seasons. New head coach Regis Scafe is looking for more.
“That’s one of our goals is to win the PAC Championship which automatically gets us into the playoffs,” Scafe said. “But right now we’re facing a huge challenge in our opener against St. John’s Fisher coming down here from New York who is a top-25 team, so it’s kind of like a regional battle. They’re really good up in New York, and we feel that we’re really good down here so it’s going to be a pretty interesting opener.”
The Saints were ranked 15th in The Sporting News Division III preseason Top-25 poll, and were picked to finish second in the PAC preseason poll. While Scafe may be the new coach after taking over for Jim Hilvert who last year became TMC’s all-time winningest coach, his team is largely a veteran one with many starters returning for 2015. Among them is quarterback Jensen Gebhardt.
“He will be the guy under the helm at the beginning, and of course Brenan Kuntz played a lot last year so he will be getting reps,” Scafe said.
Having that kind of experience is a luxury for Scafe and he and the coaching staff have emphasized maintaining the Saints' offensive scheme.
“We’re not really changing the offense all that much, so it’s going to be familiar to all of those guys,” he said. “In the spring, we were pretty much doing very similar stuff so hopefully their going to be able to pick up right where they were last year.”
That scheme is based out of the pistol formation, which is a shorter shotgun formation that features a tailback behind the quarterback, rather than beside the quarterback like most shotgun formations. It facilitates a spread attack with flexibility of using multiple receivers, or tight ends and fullbacks. The idea is that the Saints can more easily adjust to various defensive fronts they may encounter this season.
One of those receivers Scafe and his staff are counting on this year is Goose Cohorn, a Dixie Heights graduate who had a big season with the Saints a year ago.
“There’s no doubt about how talented Goose is. He’s been working really hard. He’s been running, he has great hands, he’s a playmaker, a leader for us, and I can see him having an unbelievable season for us.”
Another expected key cog in the Thomas More wheel is tailback C.T. Tarrant who racked up impressive yardage totals last year backing up one of the greatest players in Thomas More football history, Dominique Hayden.
“He was the backup last year and he still got 700 or 800 yards so he will get the nod to start out. He has great potential and could be a tough runner for us. You can’t replace Dominique, he was an All-American, the all-time leading rusher, but I think we have between C.T. and the other guys, our running game could be really effective,” Scafe said of Tarrant. “He has enough experience. It isn’t like he’s a raw rookie. He got to play a lot last year, and they’re built similar. Real strong and stocky, good speed and quickness. They aren’t the same kind of runner but CT will develop his own style.”
Hayden smashed the record book for Thomas More, breaking seven individual records and earning an offseason workout with the Baltimore Ravens this spring.
On the other side of the ball, the Saints put a lot of pressure on the opposing quarterback with their front defensive line, thanks to some talented pass rushers on the squad. Scafe expects nothing less from that group this year as he has some playmakers returning in those spots as well.
“Absolutely, we want to put pressure on the ball. We think we have some good people up front with Erick Butler coming back, and Tyler Ellis was a starter for us and then we have some other guys who played a lot on the interior, so hopefully we should get a lot of guys that put pressure on the ball.”
Scafe has only been with the team for a few months, but so far he likes what he has seen from his guys. Nothing truly simulates actually playing against other teams, though, and he is anxious to have that chance to truly assess what he has to work with in Crestview Hills.
“I’m real excited. The only thing I haven’t done is see these guys in live action. I’ve seen them in workouts, I’ve seen them in 7-on-7’s and spring practice. They have a great attitude, they work hard, they want to win, they have high expectations, they do the little things right, but I haven’t seen them in live action so that’s the only thing I’m waiting to get going next week some time hopefully; see them under the gun a little. But they’ve really done a great job and the guys are excited and ready to go. It’s a veteran team coming back so I don’t have to change the culture, they’ve got a great tradition here and they want to win and expect to win, which is good.”
The team has six home games this year after only hosting four last season, which can only help the team and excite the fan base.
“We’re happy about the six home games this year. It’s a great atmosphere here for D-III football. Probably the best game day atmosphere in the country.”
So far, Scafe has been impressed with the football culture of the area and hopes to establish a strong recruiting presence in the region.
“I’ve met some coaches and more and more as we get going. I’ve really been impressed with the football down here. Northern Kentucky and obviously Cincinnati, we get a lot of kids from both of those areas. That’s our life blood. I think along with Indianapolis and the Dayton area, that’s probably 90 percent of our team right there. Our kids from Northern Kentucky do a great job.”
Written by Bryan Burke, associate editor
Photo via Thomas More College