Canisius senior receiver Anthony Fulham and his classmates had experienced more than their share of frustrations against St. Francis.
Before Saturday afternoon that is.
The Crusaders exorcised all of their ghosts with a hard-fought 22-12 victory over the defending champion Red Raiders in the Monsignor Martin Association League AA opener for both schools.
"I played them my sophomore year and it was 47-0," said Fulham, after catching five passes for 165 yards and two touchdowns. "Then last year it was 48-0. The championship game was 21-0. My freshman year we didn't even score on them. It was the first time we'd even scored on them since I've been here. I'm just so happy for everybody. It feels great."
St. Francis had outscored Canisius, 355-55, in winning 10 straight in this series before the Crusaders' win at Koessler Field in West Seneca, which had been officially dedicated just before kickoff on homecoming day.
Here is the summary of the Red Raiders' domination:
2007: St. Francis won 48-0 in regular season and 21-0 in the MMA championship.
2006: St. Francis won 47-0.
2005: St. Francis won 13-0 in regular season and 33-6 in the MMA final.
2004: St. Francis won 35-0 in regular season and 40-17 in the MMA final.
2003: St. Francis won 42-19 in regular season and 42-7 in the MMA semifinals.
2002: St. Francis won 34-6 in the MMA final after Canisius had won 29-20 in the regular season on Sept. 27.
"The whole week we talked about the two losses last year," said Crusaders senior defensive lineman Andrew Zdrojewski, who had four of his team's 12 sacks of Delano Fabor. "We didn't even score on them. We knew what this game meant to us, to the coaches, to the school. There was a lot of spirit. We knew they'd be ready to play after a bye week and being 0-4. They wanted us badly and we weren't going to let them have us today. We knew we had to protect our turf and that's what we did."
Aside from the relentless pressure on Fabor, the Sean Brady-to-Fulham connection was also key for Canisius, which entered the game ranked No. 7 in The Buffalo News' large-school poll.
Brady, who threw for 242 yards and three TDs, tossed to two of them to Fulham, a 42-yarder in the third quarter and a 15-yarder with 1:56 left that completed the scoring.
Brady threw a dart to his left on the 42-yarder after his superb play fake had given Fulham that split second to create separation from the St. Francis secondary. On the fourth-quarter TD strike, Fulham managed to get a step behind the Red Raiders' Mike Chuchla and Brady lofted it in there perfectly on the left sideline.
"We just have it, we have that relationship where whatever route he's running, I know what he's going to do," Brady said of Fulham. "We have that connection. He's not the fastest guy but he runs great routes for me and always gets open. So I throw to him a lot."
St. Francis fell to 0-5 but got a superb effort from senior Luke Tasker, who did it all with 238 combined net yards: three receptions for 87, six carries for 29, three kickoff returns for 73 and three punt returns for 49. He also completed a pass to Adam Redden for 43 yards (on a fake punt) and his two punts totaled 73 yards.
"He's got a lot of flexibility," Canisius coach Brandon Harris said of the son of former Buffalo Bill Steve Tasker. "He's a multi-position athlete so you have to be aware of him wherever he is on the field. We know they want to get him the football and we did a good job on him mostly. He's difficult to bring down. He runs hard."