The Chaminade football team played “too carefully” on offense against Stepinac, according to coach Kevin Dolan on Saturday.
Then the Flyers watched the Stepinac offense give them a firsthand look at what an aggressive, big-play offense looks like.
Stepinac had four touchdowns plays of 26 yards or more, as visiting Chaminade lost to the first-place Crusaders, 34-7.
“When we got on the field, we started playing too carefully on offense,” Dolan said. “We were trying not to make mistakes, and then we started not being aggressive.”
Early on, it was the Chaminade defense that was aggressive. Flyers linebacker Colin Hanley recovered a Stepinac fumble on the Crusaders’ first play from scrimmage at the Stepinac 40.
But Chaminade (1-2) moved just 1 yard on three plays and was forced to punt. After both teams traded possessions, Stepinac drove to the Chaminade 44, but Flyers cornerback Dominic Speranza picked off a Crusaders pass, and returned the ball to the Stepinac 38.
After a 5-yard run, Chaminade sputtered on offense with an incompletion, a dropped pass, and a sack on a fourth-and-5 play.
Stepinac (4-0) needed one play to break things open. Shawn Harris took a jet sweep to the left along the Crusaders’ sideline and sprinted 56 yards for a touchdown with 45 seconds left in the first quarter.
Chaminade went three-and-out again, and Stepinac QB Michael Nicosia found 6-2 receiver Atrilleon Williams with a 52-yard scoring pass. Nate Henderson’s PAT gave Stepinac a 14-0 lead with 10:09 remaining in the first half. The Chaminade offense could never get into any kind of flow. Stepinac intercepted three Flyers’ passes in the second quarter.
“We’ve had good games on offense,” Dolan said, “and we’ve played as aggressive as our defense did, but today we didn’t do that on offense. We didn’t want to make mistakes and you can’t do it.”
Especially against a high-powered group like Stepinac. The Crusaders’ got a pair of touchdowns from 6-2 receiver Tyler Winston in the third quarter, a 28-yard scoring pass from Nicosia and a 2-yard run, as Stepinac led 28-0 with 2:51 left in the quarter. Nicosia ended the game with four touchdown passes against a Chaminade defense that was on the field for a total of 78 plays.
“Stepinac started to figure out what we were doing,” Dolan said. “Fatigue-wise we started to wear down.”
Chaminade finally scored with under a minute remaining when backup quarterback Anthony Pecorella hit Odinn McLoughlin with a 4-yard touchdown pass.
Still, Dolan was proud of his defense, who played tough against a Crusaders program that has won two of the last three CHFSL AAA titles.
“Not only were we hanging with [Stepinac], we matched them physically in every aspect.” said Dolan, whose ‘D’ had five sacks (including three by senior defensive end Liam Siegler) and four other tackles for a loss against running backs. “Those kids we locked in today and we’re very, very proud of our defense . . . We’ll bounce back.”