“The kick is up ... and ... and ... and ... and ... and ...
“It’s good! A 61-yarder!”
It took quite a while to determine the outcome of the mammoth field goal attempted by Canisius kicker Blake Haubeil during Saturday’s game at the Stransky Athletic Complex in West Seneca.
The longest field goal in Western New York history had the added benefit of providing the Crusaders with the winning margin. Canisius held off South Park, 23-20.
The field goal, which had maybe a yard to spare, came with 2:51 left in the third period, and turned a 20-6 lead into a 23-6 margin.
“I had missed from 46 earlier, so I knew the next one would be important,” said Haubeil, a junior who will go to Ohio State University. “I told the holder to get the ball down, and I’d put it through. I was also a little nervous at the same time. You always want those kicks. You want to take advantage of your opportunities. I was a little lucky to get it.”
Still, Haubeil knew he was capable of getting the ball over the crossbar, thanks in part to a strong breeze.
“Before the game, I hit one from 66,” he said. “The wind always gives you that little confidence. But I’ve hit from 60 and beyond with no wind. You have to believe in yourself.”
Haubeil’s kick put him in some good company in the kicking department. The state record is 62 yards, set by Todd Sauerbrun of West Melville in 1990. Sauerbrun went on to punt for six NFL teams, and made three Pro Bowls. He is the only player in the state’s history to have two field goals of at least 57 yards.
Haubeil broke the Canisius school record by only a yard. Michael Tarbutt had a 60-yarder last year in the championship game of the Catholic High Schools Athletic Association.
The longest field-goal kick in high school history nationally is 68 yards, set by Dirk Borgognone of Reno (Nev.) High School in 1985. It was the only field goal in his high school career.
The NFL record, by the way, is a mere 64 yards, set by Matt Prater of Denver in 2013.
“There’s a reason he got that scholarship,” said Canisius coach Rich Robbins. “I trust him to make the next kick. I just didn’t know it would turn out to be the game-winner.”
Those three points looked like they would be mere window-dressing to an impressive win by Canisius (3-0). The Crusaders took charge right from the start, taking advantage of a pair of South Park turnovers. Canisius led by 14-0 after only 5 minutes, 30 seconds. The Sparks had only run five plays at that point and had no first downs.
“We had some good flow in the beginning of the game,” said quarterback Tyler Stranahan, who scored the second touchdown on a 9-yard run. “We were in good field position, and the line played awesome.”
South Park (2-1) finally got its offense going late in the second quarter, as Tyree Brown scored a touchdown on a 2-yard run with 20 seconds left in the half. But the Crusaders marched 44 yards in the remaining time, capped by a 31-yard pass from Stranahan to Cole Burniston, a circus catch led to the score that made it 20-6.
The long field goal seemed to put the game out of reach, but it didn’t work out that way.
“They brought back a lot of starters from last year. That’s a veteran group,” Robbins said about South Park. “They made some turnovers, and we made some turnovers. But that’s football. They are a well-coached team.”
Austin Neal cut the Canisius lead to 23-12 with a 9-yard run with 9:01 to play. Then Brown ran it in from the 5. A two-point conversion made it 23-20 with 3:03 to go.
When Canisius went three-and-out, the Crusaders and their fans had some anxious moments. But South Park’s bid for the upset fell short as the Sparks couldn’t make another first down. A bad snap and sack on fourth down wrapped up the win for Canisius.
“It was an ugly, gritty game,” Stranahan said.
Next week, Canisius plays DePaul Catholic (Wayne, N.J.), while South Park hosts West Seneca West.