In what was truly a thriller, Tolton stormed back from a 21-point deficit to defeat Grandview 28-27 on Friday.
James Lee made his first appearance for the Trailblazers this season and made an immediate impact, scoring all four of Tolton’s touchdowns.
His first came on a 48-yard catch on a pass from quarterback Jonah Lybeck-Brown. Lee then ran it in from 6 yards away in the second quarter and followed that up by throwing a pass to Braden Willmeth, who took it 73 yards for the score with 16 seconds left in the third quarter. His fourth touchdown ended up being the decider — a 4-yard catch with seven minutes remaining in the fourth.
Lee was not on the active roster for the first week of the season. He is a basketball player who was convinced to try out for the football team, per coach Michael Egnew. MSHSAA rules state that any player added midseason must practice for 14 days before being deemed eligible to play. His 14th practice was last week, however with Tolton’s game versus Bishop DuBourg being canceled because of COVID-19 protocols, Lee had to wait to make his debut until Friday.
“It’s really exciting, I wanted to win that game real bad. … I had to do what the team wanted me to do,” Lee said. “It was really a team effort though. (The defense) stepped up on multiple drives and we ended up with the game.”
Lee did not even participate in most of the team’s huddles on offense, and said he “was cramping up in his leg real bad” at times during the game.
Egnew commended Lee and others for their play.
“We knew (Lee) was an athlete right out of the gate,” Egnew said. “He’s a really really good basketball player, we convinced him to come out and try some football and he obviously did a good job at it.
“There’s lots of players that did well. Braden (Willmeth) did really well again. He plays well every game for us, so we’re proud of him as well. Our offensive line stepped it up (tonight). They were outweighed by a lot of pounds and they played good, so we’re proud of all of them.”
Grandview put up a good fight, jumping out to a quick 21-point lead on the shoulders of its impressive rushing attack. The Eagles had four different players score a rushing touchdown in the game.
The difference that led to the Trailblazers’ turnaround was better offensive execution. Lybeck-Brown had over 200 passing yards and two touchdowns, while Willmeth finished with 171 yards from scrimmage and a TD.
After the game, Tolton chaplain Mike Coleman had a message: “James Lee is an absolute beast.”
Kevin Utz contributed to this report.