Archbishop Stepinac was too fast, too elusive and just plain too good Friday night, defeating St. Anthony's, 38-21, in South Huntington.
The victory improved Stepinac (Westchester County) to 5-0 in the CHSFL and in command for the top seed in the league playoffs. St. Anthony's fell to 3-2 in league play and 4-3 overall.
St. Anthony's has won 11 of the past 13 CHSFL titles, and it's only the second time in that span that the Friars have lost back-to-back games. Iona Prep beat St. Anthony's, 40-30, on Sunday.
"They are really good. We have to deal with their speed," St. Anthony's coach Rich Reichert said before the game. But his Friars were unable to do it.
Navy-bound quarterback Brandon Coleman was slick and deceptive in running the spread offense, which produced several big plays.
Coleman connected with Giancarlo Furio for a 30-yard touchdown that tied it at 10 early in the second quarter. The game turned moments later when Gavin Heslop returned Steve Genova's pass 68 yards for a touchdown that gave the Crusaders a lead they never relinquished.
Genova was accurate early, completing his first 10 passes, but suffered consecutive interceptions that slowed down the Friars, who punted only once. But Genova was under pressure all night, getting sacked eight times and eventually being driven to the sideline with an injury midway through the fourth quarter. Replacement Tom Walsh was sacked once by the relentless Crusaders' pass rush.
St. Anthony's Boston College-bound running back, Jordan Gowins, returned after missing 21/2 games with a hamstring injury. He gained 111 yards on 18 carries, with a touchdown and a two-point conversion run, but he wasn't at full speed and wasn't a major factor.
Tyquan Ennis gave Stepinac a 24-13 lead with a 56-yard touchdown run on a jet sweep, but St. Anthony's responded. Genova ducked under a would-be sacker to hit Danny Jones with a 10-yard touchdown pass, and Gowins' two-point conversion run got the Friars to within 24-21 with 30 seconds left in the third quarter.
Then Stepinac stepped up and took control. The Crusaders increased their lead to 31-21 early in the fourth quarter when Heslop scored on a 27-yard touchdown jaunt moments after Coleman hit a 27-yard screen pass.
After forcing the Friars to punt, Stepinac put the game away when Malcolm Major, after a great ball fake by Coleman, broke free for a 49-yard touchdown run. The PAT made it 38-21 with 8:55 left, and St. Anthony's had no answer. Major also had a 67-yard kickoff return to set up a touchdown in the second quarter.
Ennis was a two-way force, contributing two sacks and a big stop on Gowins early that forced St. Anthony's to settle for a field goal.
"If we keep them off our quarterback, we'll be OK," Reichert said before the game.
But the Friars couldn't and they weren't.