PITTSFORD – One thing is for certain, both Canisius and Section V's Pittsford have big-play scoring capabilities.
The Crusaders delivered more of them Friday night as the defending New York State Catholic High Schools Athletic Association champion earned the right to return home with a season-opening triumph over a very good Panthers team.
Jayce Johnson rushed for three touchdowns and passed for another as Canisius defeated the Panthers, 42-27, at Pittsford Sutherland High School.
Johnson, Joe Jamison and Kenyatta Huston made the key plays that enabled the Crusaders to earn the victory against Pittsford team that definitely looks the part of a potential state-title contender before an estimated crowd of 1,700.
After Jamison's 8-yard touchdown broke a 14-14 tie with 5:15 left in the third quarter, he ripped the ball away from Panthers running back Chris Cox on Pittsford's next play, setting up a 35-yard touchdown strike from Johnson to Paul Woods. Three plays, 10 seconds, two touchdowns.
Pittsford didn't fold though as twice it cut the deficit to eight points.
The first time it did that, Huston ran 66 yards for a touchdown to make it a two-possession lead for Canisius. After Matt LaRocca scored on a 65-yard run to pull the Panthers within a score again, Johnson led the Crusaders down the field for the final touchdown of the game, scoring on a 29-yard run with under 4 minutes left.
Player of the game: Johnson who rushed 11 times for 146 yards and three touchdowns and also completed 14-of-21 passing for 164 yards and a touchdown.
Play of the game: Jamison taking the ball away from Cox at the end of what would have been a 15-yard run to put Canisius in position to go up two scores.
Almost paydirt: The first play of the season for Canisius was almost an 89-yard kick return by Paul Woods. The score was negated by a holding penalty. It's also the last time Pittsford kicked the ball deep in the first half.
Paydirt: Canisius bounced back from that and scored on its first offensive possession as Johnson ran it in from the 1. He had the big play on the drive with a 58-yard run on the team's first offensive play.
More Jayce: Johnson scored the Crusaders' second TD on a 6-yard run with 3:01 left in the second quarter. He set that up with a 29-yard run that was one tackler away from a score.
Panthers respond: A sign of a good team is the ability to respond after being scored upon and Pittsford is just that. After each Canisius score in the first half, the Panthers responded with a TD of their own. Ali Brooks scored on a 4-yard run to cap a nearly 7-minute drive in the first quarter. Chris Cox put Pittsford in position to tie on a 2-yard score with 17.4 seconds left in the first half. He got the score, quarterback Matt LaRocca did the work as the Bishop Kearney transfer burned the Canisius defense with his scrambling running for gains of 8, 23, 2 and 9 yards on the second TD drive. The first run came on a fourth-and-5 play near midfield.
Haftime stats: It's all Johnson, seemingly all the time as he rushed six times for 100 yards and two touchdowns, while completing 7-of-11 passes for 70. R.J. Brandon caught three passes for 58 yards.
For Pittsford, LaRocca rushed 7 times for 66 yards and completed three passes for 21 yards.
Canisius had 184 total yards, the Panthers 142.
Records: Canisius is 1-0. Pittsford is 0-1.
Rankings: Last year, Canisius ended the season ranked 11th in the New York State Sportswriters' poll, while Pittsford finished ninth.
Next: The road doesn't get any easier for the Crusaders as they head to Pennsylvania to face Bishop McDevitt on Friday. The state power, the alma mater of current Bills running back LeSean McCoy, has averaged 12.6 wins the past five seasons.