Canisius wanted to keep standout St. Francis quarterback Delano Fabor from setting his feet Saturday.
A dozen sacks later, you could say the game plan worked like a charm.
"Our defense did an outstanding job giving him different looks from different angles," said Canisius coach Brandon Harris, minutes after his Crusaders had ended a 10-game losing streak in the series against the defending Monsignor Martin Association League AA champions with a 22-12 triumph. It came before an overflow crowd of about 1,200 in the freshly dedicated Koessler Field at the Robert J. Stransky Memorial Athletic Complex in West Seneca.
"We felt if we could keep him from setting his feet it would be a long day for him," said Harris, whose Crusaders improved to 3-2 by winning the league opener for both schools.
A long day indeed. Canisius sacked Fabor eight times in the second half, once for a safety, and three times on the Red Raiders' final two possessions.
"The coaches made the right blitz calls at the right times and our backs know when to come hard," said defensive lineman Andrew Zdrojewski, who had four sacks among his seven tackles. "They flushed him right to me and all I had to do was tackle him."
Like Fabor, Canisius quarterback Sean Brady faced plenty of pressure. But he still went 14 of 19 for 242 yards with three touchdowns, and ran seven times for 79 yards.
Canisius' defense smothered the Red Raiders (0-5) after Fabor had thrown a 29-yard scoring pass to Luke Tasker on the first play of the fourth quarter to shave the Crusaders' lead to 14-12. Fabor attempted to run for a tying two-point conversion and was stopped by Zdrojewski, but the Red Raiders clearly had the momentum.
"They cut it two points and no one put their heads down, no one quit," said Canisius' Anthony Fulham, who had five catches for 165 yards and two touchdowns. "Everyone just knew we'd work our way through this. We'd worked way too hard to give it all up."
The Canisius defense made sure that wasn't going to happen. Paul Rubino tackled Fabor for a safety with 8:39 left after the quarterback had fumbled a snap in his own end zone.
After St. Francis forced a punt, the Red Raiders took over at their own 35 with six minutes left. Two straight sacks of Fabor, by James Gaines and John Urschel, brought up a fourth-and-18 from the 28. Tasker ran out of punt formation after a bobbled snap and was hit hard by Zdrojewski for a 4-yard loss.
"I knew they'd stop them because we have a great defense and it's improved tremendously," said Brady, who was sacked five times himself. "We always go to the ball and we tackle very, very well."
After the Crusaders got the ball at the St. Francis 24, Brady hit Fulham with a 15-yard TD on the left side on fourth down.
Brady had given his team a 14-0 lead with 16- and 42-yard scoring passes to Bernard Williams and Fulham before Fabor broke the ice for the Red Raiders with a 36-yard touchdown toss to Adam Redden late in the third quarter.
Fabor passed for 120 yards and ran for 96 more, and only his elusiveness kept the sack losses from approaching more Rob Johnson-like totals, instead of minus-53 yards.
"It goes back to execution," said St. Francis coach Jerry Smith. "We didn't deliver the ball when needed. We didn't catch it when it was there."
St. Francis running back Brandon McClain injured a leg just before intermission and was limited to one carry for 1 yard the rest of the way. Canisius cornerback Mike Browne suffered a knee injury and watched the second half from the sideline on crutches.