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Canisius has speed in reserve in beating St. Joe's

Kenyatta Huston may be No. 3 on the running back chart at Canisius, but Rich Robbins said he is one of the fastest players he has ever coached at the high school level.

The junior flaunted that speed much to the dismay of the St. Joe’s faithful. Huston caused problems for the Marauders during a second half in which he helped the state’s top-ranked team pull away from its longtime rival, 27-6, Saturday afternoon in Monsignor Martin High School Athletic Association football.

A crowd of more than 6,200 at the Robert T. Scott Sports Complex saw Huston silence the home-team fans in attendance with a momentum-turning 80-yard touchdown run around left end with 3 minutes, 11 seconds left in the third quarter to give Canisius a two-touchdown lead. The score came on the Crusaders’ first play after a sensational 53-yard touchdown gallop on fourth down by St. Joe’s sophomore quarterback Casey Kelly.

“Anything I can do to contribute,” said Huston, who also recovered a muffed punt that led to another Canisius touchdown. “My line did a good job, and we got a big win against our rival.”

The 80-yard score was the first of two long touchdown runs by Huston, who carried only four times but gained a game-high 142 yards – all in the second half. On his second TD, Huston ran the tight rope along the sidelines, somehow finding room around the left corner, staying in bounds with some nifty footwork and breaking away for a 53-yard touchdown with 5:36 left.

That score sent many fans to the exits as Canisius, ranked first in The Buffalo News’ Large School Poll, improved to 7-0, including 3-0 in league play.

“He gets a seam and he can take it to the house from anywhere,” said Robbins following his 51st career win at Canisius. “It’s great to have a dangerous weapon like that.”

The contest was St. Joe’s first since last week’s brawl-suspended game against Bishop Timon-St. Jude. The league ruled the game, which had more than 30 minutes remaining at its stoppage, a double forfeit. The Monsignor Martin Association also issued undisclosed disciplinary actions against several players from both teams – including Marauders senior lineman Freddie Nixon.

St. Joe’s filed an appeal of his suspension Friday, enabling him to play in Saturday’s game.

Nixon proved disruptive to Canisius’ offense during the early stages. He recorded four of his 11 tackles in the first quarter. He also had a sack.

As much as he tried to be a difference-maker in a game in which both teams committed far too many mistakes and penalties (27 combined, including 17 by Canisius), the Marauders’ gaffes gave the Crusaders the opening they needed to extend their winning streak in the series to seven.

A bad snap on a punt on St. Joe’s first possession turned into prime field position for Canisius at its foe’s 34. Though the Marauders’ defense kept a Crusaders’ offense that came in averaging 46 points from reaching the end zone, it failed to prevent them from scoring first. Blake Haubeil’s 37-yard field goal gave the blue-and-gold faithful reason to cheer.

Midway through the second quarter, a blocked punt by Sean Crotty gave Canisius possession at St. Joe’s 12. The Crusaders extended the lead to 6-0 on Haubeil’s 33-yard field goal after their drive stalled due to a personal foul penalty on first-and-goal from the 1.

Flags wiped out two long touchdown runs by RaeQwon Greer as Canisius amassed more penalty yards (195) than St. Joe’s total yards (139).

“I think a couple holding calls were a little questionable but that’s football,” Robbins said. “I do think our kids were a little over-excited, a little over-amped up, and made some silly mistakes. Once we calmed down we started making some plays and playing better."

The Crusaders’ defense made sure the flags didn’t give the Marauders (2-5, 1-2) the opening they needed. A muffed punt recovered by Huston at St. Joe’s 23 early in the third quarter turned into a 3-yard Greer touchdown run that stretched the Crusaders’ advantage to 13-0.

Canisius sacked Kelly nine times and held St. Joe’s to 47 yards passing. Still, the Marauders were alive and kicking following Kelly’s dash down the left sideline.

Huston’s touchdown jaunt changed that.

“It was a big run,” Huston said. “It put us back on top. We were kind of down.”

There was some concern whether Saturday’s Canisius-St. Joe’s rivalry game would be played because Marauders players and parents were upset the school hadn’t file an appeal of Nixon’s suspension as of Thursday night.

In a supportive gesture, Nixon’s teammates turned in their uniforms, according to multiple sources. Though video shows him throwing punches during the melee, teammates believe he was defending himself after having his helmet ripped off at some point during the chaotic scrum.

A school spokesperson said Friday the players’ and parents’ action had nothing to do with St. Joe’s decision to file an appeal. Kevin Keenan, on behalf of school president Robert Scott said: “It all boiled down to the clarification from the league on what the appeals process was. … Once St. Joe’s got clarification, it filed the appeal (Friday) morning.”

First-year St. Joe’s coach Derek Landri, while disappointed with the loss, believes his team grew up a lot this week.

“They played hard, they played for each other,” he said. “We just didn’t make the plays to win.”

The Marauders still lead the all-time series, 47-37-3.

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