Late in the first half of St. Scholastica’s season opener against Augsburg College Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, Saints quarterback Byron Bishop dropped back to pass and threw a dart over the middle that wide receiver Ty Givance hauled in for a 6-yard touchdown reception.
The St. Scholastica faithful, clad in royal blue and gold, erupted in a chorus of cheers despite the fact CSS was down 33-0 before the score. Cue the ticker tape.
“I thought they won the Super Bowl,” one observer quipped.
No, it certainly wasn’t the Super Bowl, but the fact the Saints showed flashes in their first-ever football game as a member of the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference gives reasons for optimism, something that will resonate across campus.
“That touchdown meant we’re here to compete,” Bishop said.
Sophomore Cade Sheehan looked like an all-world quarterback in leading Augsburg to a 54-14 victory over St. Scholastica before 713 fans at Public Schools Stadium who enjoyed a kind of return to normalcy after 2020 was wiped out due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sheehan, 5-foot-9 and very athletic, was 22-for-28 passing for 279 yards, with five touchdown tosses and no interceptions. He was 14-for-16 passing for 201 yards and four TDs in the first half alone for the Auggies (1-2 overall, 1-0 MIAC), not throwing an incompletion until well into the second quarter.
“Let’s not crown him yet,” Augsburg coach Derrin Lamker said of Sheehan. “He needs to make some better reads where he got the ball but I love his effort and I love his leadership. If he keeps those two things going he’ll be a great player. I wish he was 6-foot-4, but he’s a tough sucker.”
Lamker was right. Let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves here, people. The Saints were clearly overmatched, especially after starting quarterback Giuliano Villalpando was hurt on the first play of the game while running a QB keeper. He was replaced by Bishop, a freshman from Sublimity, Oregon, who is one of 51 freshmen on this year’s Saints team compared to only five seniors.
There isn’t a football coach out there who doesn’t preach the next-man-up mentality, but to lose your starting QB on the first play of the Saints’ first game in a new league — you can’t even make that up.
“It was very bad luck,” Bishop said. “It was a little nerve wracking, but my nerves kind of settled down as the game went along.
“At first the game was really fast, this was my first college game, but it slowed down as I took a deep breath and everyone was supporting me. I’ve got really good teammates. They’re always there for me, every step of the way, no matter what happens, good or bad.”
According to St. Scholastica coach Mike Heffernan, Villalpando’s knee injury appears to be season-ending.
Villalpando showed leadership and character by clapping louding towards his teammates, trying to will them on, sending a message it wasn’t over, just before getting helped off the field. This is a player who has dealt with injuries his entire playing career.
“He’s upset, but he’s got a good head on his shoulders and is going to do whatever he can to help the next guy,” Heffernan said. “It’s crazy, but you gotta be ready for anything. I told them after the game, you’re going to be judged by how you respond to adversity. We had some adversity today, but our guys didn’t quit playing. They kept bringing it and bringing it.”
One player who keeps bringing it and bringing it for the Saints was 6-foot, 222-pound senior Bryceton Butkiewicz of Kettle River, who ran for a career-high 136 yards and a touchdown. Butkiewicz’s hard running earned the respect of the opponent, with Auggies defenders helping him up after his bulldozing.
“He’s a monster,” Bishop said.
Bishop finished just 9-for-24 passing for 58 yards and had an interception returned for a touchdown but showed good athleticism in rushing for 31 yards.
Bishop also showed toughness, getting better as the game went on and coming up just short of a touchdown on a hardfought scramble where he didn’t go down easy.
“One man can’t do everything,” Bishop said.
Apparently, that includes sliding, too.
With CSS previously playing in the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference, this was the first meeting between the programs.
One day Bishop might be the question regarding who threw the first touchdown pass during an episode of Saints Jeopardy.
There will be a lot of firsts this year, so while Saturday wasn’t the Super Bowl, it was a super start for a new era of Saints football and Saints athletics in general.
“We’re not going anywhere anytime soon,” Bishop here. “We’re here to compete against the best, and with the support of the fans, the support of our team, we’re going to go as far as we want to go. I think it’s a great step forward.”
Freshman running back Drew Dean got some late game action for the Auggies and didn’t waste it, scoring the final touchdown of the game from a yard out.
St. Scholastica 0-7-7-0—14
A — Isaiah Thompson 2 run (kick failed)
A — Braden Tretter 12 pass from Cade Sheehan (Durham Welch kick)
A — Josiah Ferguson 24 pass from Sheehan (Welch kick)
A — Dominic Smith 22 pass from Sheehan (kick blocked)
A — Smith 27 pass from Sheehan (Welch kick)
CSS — Ty Givance 6 pass from Byron Bishop (Kyle Oswald kick)
CSS — Bryceton Butkiewicz 2 run (Oswald kick)
A — Smith 27 pass from Sheehan (Welch kick)
A — Steven Hentosh 20 interception return (Welch kick)
A — Drew Dean 1 run (Welch kick)