The early setting sun and late September breeze drifting through the St. Dominic High School football stadium marked the arrival of fall, but another season was already well under way for the Tolton Trailblazers.
Their matchup against the Crusaders was their fourth game of the season and, much like every other contest this year, ended in a blowout loss.
Still, despite the 50-28 final score, this game stood out to junior quarterback Gabe Pfenenger.
“(To start the game) we got the ball and went down and scored first,” Pfenenger said. “We proved that even against a school much bigger than us, we could still play.”
It’s no surprise Pfenenger remembers this particular matchup fondly. The four touchdowns scored by the Trailblazers, including a three-touchdown rally in the second half, marked his strongest offensive performance of the season.
In his debut as starting varsity quarterback, Pfenenger recorded a total of 1,232 passing yards and completed just over 50% of his passes during the regular season. His growth into the role was evident from the beginning of the year to the end.
In Tolton’s first game of the season against Hallsville, Pfenenger and the Trailblazers were shut out. But in Tolton’s final game also against the Indians, Pfenenger led his team to the end zone three times.
The key to his success: confidence.
“I have a better feel for our offense (and) I think I’ve improved in the mental aspect of the position a lot this year, but I still have a long way to go,” Pfenenger said.
Wide receiver Dylan Block is another junior looking to take on a leadership role in his upcoming senior year.
Block and Pfenenger demonstrated immense on-field compatibility throughout the season but particularly in Tolton’s final game against Hallsville, where a fantastic pass by Pfenenger and an impressive catch by Block led to one of the team’s three touchdowns.
“(Pfenenger) was delivering me the ball right where it needed to be to give me the best chance to make a play,” Block said.
Block also agreed that the developments to Pfenenger’s in-game attitude helped him develop as a quarterback throughout the season.
“Gabe gained a lot of confidence throughout the year, helping him make and extend plays with his legs, as well as (be) a lot more accurate with his throws,” Block said.
Already thinking ahead to next season, Pfenenger plans to prepare for his senior year through weight training, running and throwing practice, as well as holding his teammates accountable in making the necessary improvements in their respective roles.
Though it won’t be easy, he’s eager to kick off his second year at the helm of Tolton football and see just what the Trailblazers can accomplish.
“We could never put it all together, but the pieces were there. We constantly improved all season and never stopped fighting, even in adversity,” Pfenenger said. “Nobody on our team is satisfied at all with how the season went, and we’re all ready to go win. I’m excited to see how everybody develops this offseason and how we can improve going into next year.”