The Bishop Timon-St. Jude football program is officially back.
Yes, the Tigers had a 6-1 record in their first year being coached by former All-Western New York player Charlie Comerford. And yes, they were ranked 10th in The News large school poll. But Timon hadn't beaten a fellow large school in the Monsignor Martin Association -- not just this season, but for the last five seasons.
With an effort that South Buffalonians will be talking about for a long time, the Tigers shrugged off a seven-point halftime deficit and a season-ending injury to one of their best players to beat Canisius, 42-28.
An estimated 1,200 at Canisius' Stransky Complex in West Seneca saw Timon win its first game over a Monsignor Martin large school since 2006. It's last such win came over Canisius, 16-12, on Sept. 22, 2006.
"I couldn't be more proud of these kids," said Comerford, a 2001 Timon grad. "It's all about the kids," said Comerford. "They put in all the work."
Timon turned things around in the second half after it appeared all the momentum was with Canisius. The Tigers took a 14-0 lead, but then Canisius stormed back behind running backs Mercer Timmis and Qadree Ollison.
Timmis, a 6-foot-2, 225-pound senior, had touchdown runs of 14 and 89 yards as he surpassed the 1,000-yard mark for the season. He rushed for 187 yards on 21 carries, with 154 of the yards coming on 16 first-half carries. Ollison, a 6-foot, 200-pound sophomore who ran 14 times for 144 yards, had a 76-yard TD in the second quarter to put Canisius up, 21-14.
Timon watched its top back get taken away from the field in an ambulance during the first half when 5-11, 160-pound sophomore Adam DiMillo -- who opened the scoring with a 48-yard touchdown run -- suffered a broken arm.
Canisius was looking to go up two touchdowns in the final minute of the first half when the Tigers got a major boost. On second-and-goal from the 5, senior linebacker Zach Hayes picked off a pass by Canisius senior Chris Jugovic (12 for 22, 139 yards) in the end zone.
"That was a huge interception by Zach," said Comerford. "When DiMillo got hurt, our heads dropped a little bit, naturally I think. I knew if we tightened things up we could play with them."
Timon did that, stopping Canisius' opening drive of the second half when the Crusaders elected to go for a fourth-and-1 from its own 34. A surge from the Timon line stopped an Ollison rush, and soon after, on third-and-5 from the Canisius 14, 6-4, 190-pound junior quarterback Ryan Dougherty scrambled to his left and hit 6-3, 185-pound junior Bryant Fulton for a touchdown to tie the game.
Dougherty (18 of 30 for 266 yards) displayed a strong arm throughout the second half as he connected several times with 6-2, 175-pound senior Jordan Williams (nine catches, 156 yards). After Timon forced a punt, Dougherty completed passes to convert a third-and-16 and a third-and-15 before a hitting Williams very nicely on a slant for 12-yard TD and a 28-21 lead 35 seconds into the fourth.
Canisius moved to the Timon 25 on its next drive but the Tigers forced an incompletion on fourth down. On Canisius' next possession, Timon junior Brad Wellenzohn (16 tackles) forced an Ollison fumble that was recovered by senior Tyler Conroy at the Canisius 31 with 3:25 left in the game. Timon added a 20-yard run by junior Jackson Brown (114 yards) for a 35-21 lead with 1:43 left.
After Canisius scored a last-minute touchdown, the Crusaders' onside kick was returned 50 yards by Wellenzohn for a touchdown.