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Miguel Rodriguez's Fab Five: Canisius-St. Joe's rivalry returns to primetime

It's one of the biggest scholastic football games on the Western New York calendar every year, so Canisius and St. Joe's meeting during the regular season on a Friday night in a televised game from New Era Field – why not?

It's not the first time the rivals, who usually slug it out on Saturday afternoons before over-flow crowds of more than 6,000, have met under the lights.

The first such instance is believed to have happened in 1930 at now-defunct Offermann Stadium. That meeting was the first night high school football game in Western New York history, according to Canisius assistant coach and sports information contact Bryce Hopkins.

Whether it was 1928, 29, 30 or 31, the game would have occurred during a run of four straight wins by the Marauders, who after losing the very first meeting between the teams in 1921 won six of the next eight. That stretch included a 0-0 tie in 1927. And that would've been part of a four-year run in which St. Joe's didn't allow its rival to score a single point (1926-29).

The series went on hiatus after 1931 due to the heated nature of the games before being reinstated in 1948 during the founding of the Monsignor Martin High School Athletic Association.

While most recent night games between the schools have been postseason contests at New Era, the last regular-season prime-time meeting took place in 2007 at All High Stadium. Canisius triumphed.

The last time the teams met at the home of the Buffalo Bills, the Crusaders earned a 7-6 win in 2015 in a Monsignor Martin semifinal contest.

Canisius versus St. Joe's is among this week's five intriguing games. Without further ado, here's this week's Fab Five:

* St. Joe's Marauders (2-1) vs. Canisius Crusaders (2-1), 7 p.m., New Era Field (MSG Network). The series has been defined by streaks with St. Joe's boasting the longest, 17 straight wins from 1983-98 (with the teams meeting twice in 1996) en route to a 47-37-3 all-time record against the Crusaders. Canisius, meanwhile, has never won more than seven straight against the Marauders.

The Crusaders will try to change that Friday (their current run of seven in a row began with a 28-21 win in 2012) and in order to do so must slow down St. Joe's quarterback Casey Kelly.

The 6-foot-4, 220-pound Kelly, a junior, rushed for 133 yards and two touchdowns and passed for 93 yards and three scores in last Friday's 65-56 loss to Aquinas of Rochester. The 65 points were the second-most ever given up by a St. Joe's team in a single game.

If the Marauders want to experience that winning feeling again in the 88th meeting between the teams, they must find a way to negate the Crusaders' speed at the skilled positions. That includes stopping senior 6-5 dual-threat quarterback Jayce Johnson, who has rushed for five touchdowns and passed for four. He's carried the ball 28 times. He also hands off to speedy senior tailback Kenyatta Huston, who scored on runs of 80 and 53 yards in last year's meeting between the teams.  Four Canisius receivers have at least one touchdown and 70 or more total yards.

St. Joe's has scored just 47 points in its last seven meetings with Canisius, including seven points or fewer in each of the past six. It looks to change that with a running game that churned out 337 of its 462 yards last week. Senior center Cam Dabill anchors the Marauders' line. Garrett House scored three touchdowns last week for St. Joe's.

* Sweet Home Panthers (3-0) vs. Williamsville East Flames (1-2), 7 p.m. at Will East. The pre-game festivities begin at 6 p.m. as the Williamsville Schools hold their second straight grand-opening ceremony for a new all-weather athletic facility. The first was last week at Williamsville South with Williamsville East rallying for the win at the former District Field. This game is bigger than just the first ever at East's new home. It's also a clash between Flames' coach Mike Torrillo's new team and the program he served as an assistant for 14 seasons.

* Lackawanna Steelers (3-0) at Medina Mustangs (2-1), 7:30 p.m. at Veterans Park. Lackawanna looks to build on last week's triumph over Alden, while the Mustangs look to regroup after losing at home to Newfane 34-6.  Teams split two meetings last year with the Steelers winning the Section VI quarterfinal clash in Medina.

* Cheektowaga Warriors (2-1) vs. Alden Bulldogs (2-1), 7:30 at Alden. Back to the comforts of home for Alden, which lost last Saturday on the road under the unforgiving sun at Veterans Stadium in Lackawanna. Cheektowaga had no problem bouncing back from a tough loss to large school Sweet Home as the Warriors blanked Pioneer.

* Southwestern Trojans (3-0) vs. Cleveland Hill Golden Eagles (2-1), 2 p.m. Saturday at Carl Kuras Field. The rematch fans of these teams have been waiting for as last year's Class C runner-up takes on defending Section VI champion Cleveland Hill. It'll be perhaps the biggest test for Trojans yet. Both teams ranked in top 10 of state sportswriters' poll. Cole Snyder had a fine day in leading Trojans past Allegany-Limestone last week, while Aaron Wahler sparked comeback win for Cleve Hill against Section V's U-Prep.

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