St. Joe’s is healthier – specifically the ankle of Nigel Davis is healthier – and it couldn’t happen at a better time.
Davis and the Marauders earned a spot in the Monsignor Martin Association championship game, where their good buddy is there waiting for them.
St. Joe’s put forth one of its best performances of the season in the Monsignor Martin semifinals, rolling to a 38-12 victory over St. Francis on Thursday night at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
In the second half of a doubleheader seen by an estimated combined crowd of 1,000, Canisius recorded yet another dominating defensive performance with a 30-0 win over Bishop Timon-St. Jude to set up a meeting between the rivals in next week’s championship game.
“That’s the only way I’d want it,” Davis said prior to Canisius’ win. “We lost to Canisius, and that hurt my heart. I gave it everything I had. I’m not going to be discouraged, and our team isn’t going to be discouraged. If we get Canisius again, we’re going to play hard.”
Top-seeded Canisius (8-2) and second-seeded St. Joe’s (7-3) will return to The Ralph for the Monsignor Martin championship game next Thursday at 7 p.m.
“For our seniors, we’re going to play our hearts out, and I’m sure they will as well,” said Canisius senior running back standout Qadree Ollison, the Pittsburgh commit who ran for three touchdowns and 123 yards on 21 carries. “There’s really no better way to end it than playing in your last game against your archrival St. Joe’s. It was meant to be this way, that’s really how I feel.”
Canisius is the No. 2 team in The News large school poll while St. Joe’s is tied with Williamsville North at No. 3. Canisius beat St. Joe’s, 21-0, in their Week Nine rivalry game two weeks ago to close out the regular season.
“It’s going to be a tough, hard-fought game like they all are,” St. Joe’s coach Dennis Gilbert said. “We didn’t play our best the last time when we played Canisius, and hopefully we’re going to come out and play our best.”
It will be the first time the rivals will meet for the championship at The Ralph since 2009, when Canisius won, 58-34. It is the first time they have met at The Ralph since the classic 2011 semifinal in which Chad Kelly led St. Joe’s to a 48-47 victory in the final minute.
“Nigel looked better – I think they’re hungry, they had a bye week and they got healthy,” Canisius coach Rich Robbins said of St. Joe’s. “One thing I can be sure of is that they’ll be ready to go for a Canisius-St. Joe’s game in this atmosphere, which is unbelievable. For our seniors and their seniors to get to end it at The Ralph, it doesn’t get much better than that.”
The multi-dimensional Davis, who has battled a sore ankle for the second half of the season, ran for 143 yards and two touchdowns and also kicked a 25-yard field goal as St. Joe’s used a 17-point fourth quarter to run away from St. Francis after taking a 21-12 halftime lead.
“We kind of got our swagger back,” said the 5-foot-10, 180-pound senior, who had an extra week of rest last week as St. Joe’s had a quarterfinal bye. “The bye week definitely helped us. We’re banged up, my ankle is a little sore. It held up today and I’m really proud of what we did today.”
“I think I was about 75-80 percent,” Davis said of his ankle. “There are still limits out there – my cutting isn’t what it usually is. My top-end speed was OK today, but it got the job done. We got our line together. They played together, they had great blocks for me, and I just ran.”
Davis ran for touchdowns of 35 and 51, the former which displayed his quick moves (still not as explosive as those seen at the beginning of the season in wins over St. Anthony’s of Long Island and Clarence) and the latter displaying his breakaway speed.
“I’ve been playing with Nigel for three years, and it never ceases to amaze me what he can do when he’s got a line in front of him – and when he doesn’t have a line in front of him,” said 6-3, 245-pound senior lineman Tyler Hill.
Gilbert also credited the offensive line for St. Joe’s offensive performance against third-seeded St. Francis (5-6), which came into the game having won three straight. St. Joe’s sophomore quarterback Mike McCarthy had two touchdowns, the first a 23-yarder to John Schmitt and the second a 47-yarder to sophomore Justin Jones.
Canisius’ defense didn’t allow fifth-seeded Bishop Timon-St. Jude (4-7) to gain a first down until there was 3:33 left in the first half as the Crusaders took a 17-0 halftime lead on their way to recording their sixth shutout in eight victories. The Canisius first-team defense has yet to surrender a touchdown this season.
Senior lineman David Koeppel, senior linebacker Mike Sharpe and junior linebacker Brad Zaffram each had five solo tackles for Canisius, which outgained Timon, 296-131.
“Defensively we played really well all night – especially at the end of the game, getting some of those young guys in, they still had that sense of pride that they were going to fight hard,” said Robbins. “I was really proud of our defense obviously all night long.”