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Canisius takes advantage of a second chance

It’s one down, one to go for the Canisius High School November revenge tour.

The Crusaders avenged a regular-season loss to Bishop Timon-St. Jude during the Monsignor Martin Association’s regular season on Saturday. They defeated the Tigers, 42-14, in a semifinal contest at the Stransky Athletic Complex. That earned them a chance to play St. Francis, which defeated Canisius in last year’s championship game, in this year’s title matchup.

The Crusaders certainly played like a team with something to prove on Saturday. They had lost to Bishop Timon, 7-0, in a mud pit of a field on Oct. 21.

“Obviously, the kids and coaches were really excited to get a second chance,” Canisius coach Rich Robbins said. “We really felt on that Friday night at Tifft, the surface was a problem for us. So it was nice to get home today – our first game here since September – and win a playoff game. You don’t often get a chance to right a wrong, or make up for something that we let slip away.”

“They were the better team today. They really it took it to us,” Bishop Timon coach Charlie Comerford said.

Raeqwon Greer was the individual standout. The halfback was a dynamic force on both sides of the ball.
“The execution, the physicality – that was our main focus, to play as well as possible,” Greer said. “It felt really good to show everybody that we were a good team.”

“I think he’s the most underrated football player in Western New York,” Robbins said. “He doesn’t get mentioned for the Connolly Cup, or for other awards, but all year long on both sides of the ball, he’s been fantastic for us.”

Greer got Canisius (8-2) off to a good start in the first period, going 7 yards for a score. Still, the Crusaders only led by that touchdown about halfway through the second quarter. That’s when Greer really got going.

He scored on a 4-yard run to make it a 14-0 game, then made a nice juggling interception to get the ball right back to Canisius on its own 11. From there, Greer caught a 14-yard pass from Jayce Johnson, ran for 28 yards, and burst for 33 yards for his third score of the first half.

A fumble on the ensuing kick return was converted one play later into a Crusaders touchdown. Johnson hit Zeke Margaritis for a 33-yard score. That added up to three touchdowns in a few seconds more than four minutes, and school was essentially out.

“The kids had a great week of practice,” Robbins said. “The bye week gave us time to sharpen the sword, fix some issues we’d been having, and really make sure we’d be healthy.”

Timon did get a couple of second-half touchdowns, but the game was never in much doubt.

“We had a good year, and I don’t know if we hit a wall today but we were outplayed,” Comerford said.

The Tigers finished 5-6, a season that included trips to Georgia and Texas against top-flight competition. The Timon coach didn’t think his team made enough progress in 2016.

“Our goal is to win championships,” Comerford said. “We’ve got to do better than that. If I can’t do that, I shouldn’t be coaching.”

For Canisius, it’s off to New Era Field on Thursday night for the game with St. Francis. The Red Raiders pulled off a stunning 42-7 win last year, ending a three-year championship run by the Crusaders. The teams met on Sept. 24 at Canisius’ home field, and the Crusaders won that game, 55-13.

“We have a long history with St. Francis, having played them many times in playoff games and championships,” Robbins said. “We had a good game against them in September, but that feels like last season at this point. ... They are hitting their stride right now. We’ll certainly have our hands full with them on Thursday night.”

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