by Todd Habiger
HUTCHISON — Last week, they toppled a dynasty.
This week, St. James Academy was crowned king as the Thunder captured the Kansas Class 4A state championship with a 56-34 win over Arkansas City.
This is St. James’ first state football championship.
“I’m speechless,” said Thunder head coach Tom Radke immediately after the game. “It just hit me. We’re state champions!”
After defeating Bishop Miege 36-35 in overtime on Nov. 20, ending the Stags’ run of six straight Class 4A state championships, the Thunder were ready to take the next step.
“We knew we could hang with Miege and we were fortunate enough to beat them, but this was our ultimate goal,” Radke said.
Early on, it looked like the game might be a shootout as St. James and Arkansas City traded touchdowns on each of their first two possessions, with Arkansas City holding a 14-13 lead.
After an interception by Thunder quarterback Dakota Burritt, the St. James defense came alive, forcing an Arkansas City turnover on downs and then creating two fumbles deep in Arkansas City territory.
The offense did their part, building a 35-21 lead at halftime.
The offense and defense continued to roll after halftime with running back Lajames White having a career day with five touchdowns, while the defense held Arkansas City at bay until they scored two garbage time touchdowns after the game was well out of reach.
Radke credited Thunder offensive coordinator Matt Joshi with coming up with an excellent game plan.
“They took away some of our passing game and Jimmy (Lajames White) had a field day,” Radke said. “Joshi called a great game.”
It was a challenging season for the Thunder who entered the playoffs with a 3-4 record while also battling the uncertainty that COVID brought to the season.
Despite their record, Radke was convinced that his team could make a strong run in the playoffs.
“I thought we had a team that could win it all,” he said, “and we did. We won it.”
The entire photo gallery can be found at: https://theleaven.smugmug.com/…/St-James-Championship/ Players, parents, coaches and school officials are free to use these photos as they will — except they cannot sell them. Media can also use these photos. Please credit: Lori Wood Habiger/The Leaven.