Priory rides winning streak into district football as opening-round games to be played
By: Warren Mayes
Not that Priory ever went away, but the Rebels are back this season in a big way under coach Marty Combs.
The Rebels, riding a six-game winning streak, are 7-2. Priory meets Union in a first-round Class 4 District 3 game at 7 p.m. Thursday (Oct. 25).
The uptick is an improvement over last year when Priory went 6-5. The Rebels reached districts under the old system, but lost their first-round game to Lutheran North.
“Last season, we only had eight seniors, so we started a lot of underclassmen,” Combs said. “This season, we have an all-senior offensive line, quarterback and running b back who started all the games last season.”
That experience gave Combs the thought this year’s Priory team would return the program back to its previous heights.
“I thought we had a chance to be good on the offensive side,” Combs said. “I was unsure how fast the defense would progress with only one senior starter.”
The hard work the Rebels put in last summer sped up the rebuilding process. Add in the experience gained last year and Combs knew he had something.
“With so many seniors on offense and how we finished last season, I knew if they worked hard during the summer and focused during the August camp, we had a shot,” Combs said.
After a loss to John Burroughs in Week 3 on Sept. 8, Priory has been unbeaten. The Rebels ended the regular season with a 34-7 victory over previously unbeaten St. Dominic.
“That was big,” Combs said. “It was a total team effort.”
But the winning streak means like to Combs.
“What winning streak?” Combs asked. “The only game we think about is the one we are playing. The past means nothing if you don’t win the present.”
Certainly, Combs has the players on the field to make that happen.
Running back Thomas Raybuck had a big year with 1,411 rushing yards. His effectiveness has helped the Rebels be productive on offense.
“Thomas is very suited for the style of offense we run,” Combs said. “He hits the hole hard and has good speed in the open field.”
What helps is the senior-leaden offensive line. The growing pains from last year has helped this fall.
“The linemen work well together,” Combs said. “The have 18-plus starts. The communication is the best I have seen.”
Quarterback David Nogalski has thrown for 1,171 yards and added another 815 yards rushing.
“David has done a great job running the offense,” Combs said.
On the other side of the ball, Combs said the secondary has gotten the job done.
“Dan Watson, John Agnew, Cole Esparrago and Will O’Briend have all played well and come up with some key interceptions,” Combs said.
The linebacking corp of Gussie Busch, Sam Friedman, Paul Deschler and John Rhodes have backed up the defensive line in fine fashion.
“The linebacker play has made it very difficult for teams to run the ball,” Combs said.
The Rebels have not played Union (5-4) in five years.
“Union is a solid football that likes to spray the ball around,” Combs said.
For Priory to advance, the Rebels have a checklist.
“We need to control the ball, score often on offense and defensively, we need to play disciplined and keep everything in front of us,” Combs said. “Our special teams needs to pin them when we can and not give up any big plays.”
Here is a look at the other district games, all with 7 p.m. kickoffs, for Friday (Oct. 26):
Class 6 District 1
Lafayette (9-0) plays visiting Northwest (0-9).
Oakville (4-5) plays at Marquette (4-5).
Lindbergh (3-6) plays at Parkway South (7-2).
Mehlville (2-7) plays at Eureka (7-2).
Class 6 District 2
CBC (9-0) hosts Francis Howell North (0-9).
Pattonville (1-8) plays at De Smet (6-3).
Class 5, District 2
Chaminade (4-5) plays at Webster Groves (6-2)
Class 5, District 3
Parkway Central (8-1) has a first-round bye.
Parkway West (0-9) plays at Holt (6-3).
Parkway North (4-5) plays at Fort Zumwalt East (7-2).
Class 4, District 3
Westminster Christian Academy (7-2) plays at Ladue (6-2)
Class 4, District 5
MICDS (1-8) plays at St. Charles West (6-3)
Class 3, District 2
St. James (3-6) plays at Kennedy (5-3).
Class 2, District 2
Principia (3-5) plays at Brentwood (8-1).