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More from the huge sigh heard from Athol Springs

While it certainly was, as he said, "a sigh of relief" and a "monkey off their backs," coach Jerry Smith said St. Francis wasn't overdoing it after its first win of the season.

"The kids weren't running and jumping around," he said after the Red Raiders won at St. Joe's, 36-7, after starting the year with six straight losses. "We were happy, but they know that we have a lot of work to do and we're on a mission: we have a goal in mind and we're pursuing that goal.

"It's all about winning that next one. We have Timon, then hopefully we have a home playoff game, then hopefully we have one game after that."

Early on, however, some struggles in a scoreless first quarter may have had Raiders fans thinking that the defending Monsignor Martin League AA champions' season would continue to be snakebitten.

The Red Raiders lost to a loaded schedule and dropped their league opener to Canisius. Last week they had a close loss to Cathedral Prep of Erie, Pa., despite four starting offensive linemen being benched by Smith for violation of team rules.

"Today showed that our kids grew up a bit, matured a lot more," said Smith. "We had eight or nine penalties in the first quarter. If we did that a couple of weeks ago, we would have fallen apart. We would have been going crazy.

"Now, the fans were going crazy, but as coaches and players, we just said, "OK, first-and-15? Second-and-25? Let's just buckle it up and keep playing.' We settled down and exploded there in the second quarter."

A major part of that was senior multi-tasker Luke Tasker, who returned a punt and an interception for touchdowns. Tasker caught one of Delano Fabor's passes but also saw time at quarterback as Fabor lined up at tailback.

"To say he does it all is an understatement," said Smith. "He is a unique player. I've had great players go through this program and he is one of a kind. He does everything, he never complains, he leads by his play on the field. Even when he makes mistakes, doesn't hide from it, he doesn't say 'my bad,' he just gets up and plays it again."

---Keith McShea

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