When you can run the football and stop the run, there's no hope for the opposition.
St. Francis did both to perfection Saturday afternoon at Ralph Wilson Stadium and it allowed the Red Raiders to overcome an injury to their starting quarterback plus a bevy of penalties in a convincing 21-0 victory over Canisius before about 3,000 in the Monsignor Martin Association League AA title game.
"I think our tempo was just too fast for them," said senior center Corey Hymes, after his team had outrushed the Crusaders, 411 yards to minus-7. "It makes us feel really good that we could run on almost every play. Really good."
After rushing for 95 yards on eight carries, St. Francis quarterback Delano Fabor suffered a sprained left ankle early in the second quarter and couldn't return. Fellow junior Lucas Tasker, last season's starting QB, stepped in and the offense didn't miss a beat.
"I knew we had the talent to overcome it," said running back Jon VanRemmen, who carried 21 times for 149 yards and two touchdowns and was named the offensive player of the game. "I was confident with Lucas being in the backfield. We were just beasts along the line today."
Not only did Red Raiders coach Jerry Smith have to change QBs, but his team kept shooting itself in the foot with mistakes. St. Francis (8-3), No. 3 in The News' large-school poll, was penalized 10 times for 95 yards but still won its ninth league championship in Smith's 21 seasons by outscoring five MMA foes, 166-7.
"It's a big hit when you get a player like that taken away from you, and you never expect it," said Tasker. "When things like this happen, [the offensive line] pulls together and gets things done for us."
When Fabor was hurt St. Francis had a 7-0 lead, on VanRemmen's 14-yard TD run. Tasker, who had 67 return yards, engineered two third-quarter scoring drives, capped by VanRemmen's 4-yard scamper and a 30-yard run by Richard Brooks, who had 140 yards on 11 attempts.
"Luke's a great quarterback," said linebacker Sean O'Brien, who had three sacks among 10 tackles and was named defensive player of the game. "Both are unselfish and both are great leaders."
Canisius (6-5) finished a great turnaround with its first winning season since 1999.
"They ran the ball pretty well," said Crusaders coach Brandon Harris. "As the game wore on, I think we got a little fatigued up there."