Woodbury natives take field with CadetsWoodbury trio helps St. Thomas Academy football team to remarkable season.
By: Patrick Johnson, Sports Editor, Woodbury Bulletin
This past football season, St. Thomas Academy was rolling.
Up until being upset in the Section 3AAAA championship game, 32-31 by South St. Paul, the Cadets had run over opponents 294 to 62 (an average of 32.6 to 6.8) as they went 9-0 in their first nine games.
Despite falling a game shy of the state tournament, St. Thomas Academy finished Section 4AAAA runner-up, won its first Classic Suburban Conference championship (without a co-champion), beat a Hill-Murray team that went to state, 42-14, and won at Mahtomedi for the first time this past season.
Three Woodbury natives, Cole Kelly, Jon Best and Kevin Gray all had a hand in the Cadets’ remarkable season.
Kelly, a senior, played linebacker for St. Thomas. Best, also a senior, played nose tackle, and Gray, a junior, was one of the Cadets’ running backs.
Kelly went to East Ridge as a sophomore, but followed in the footsteps of his dad, Tim, and enrolled at St. Thomas Academy as a junior. He also plays basketball and baseball for the Cadets.
“The football season was a great time,” Kelly said. “Playing for St. Thomas Academy is like nothing else. We really formed a brotherhood with these guys. It was a really fun year and it’s something we’ll never forget.”
Kelly said playing for a private school is different than playing for a city team.
“We have to play for our alumni, ourselves and our teammates,” he said. “The relationship with the graduates was really strong. They came to a lot of our practices and games. The pride was different. I think it’s a tighter niche than playing for your city.”
For the majority of the year, St. Thomas was ranked No. 2 in the Class AAAA poll, behind Mankato West.
Kelly said he believed every team St. Thomas played had them circled on their calendar.
“We couldn’t give anyone a weak game, because we knew they were going to be bringing everything they had in order to try and beat us,” Kelly said. “Even the teams we beat pretty handily left it all out on the field. It’s always fun to have everyone playing hard. It makes the game that much more fun.”
Kelly said the win at Mahtomedi, 21-13, the third week of the season, the 42-14 win over Hill-Murray week No. 7 and a 48-7 victory over Holy Family, which was ranked second in Class AAA, stood out to him.
“We really flexed our muscles and showed them how we could play,” Kelly said. “It was really fun all year having high expectations. We have a lot of Div. I-caliber players on the team. It’s something I’ll never forget.”
One game he wishes he could forget, however, was the section final against South St. Paul.
“They were a really good team and ran the ball really hard,” Kelly said. “I have to give them credit, they knew how to find our holes and earned that win. It was an emotional loss. With this team you never thought you were going to lose. It was really disappointing we couldn’t pull that one out.”