That's the trouble with rising to the challenge of being thought of as a "no-name" defense. Pretty soon everybody knows your name. So it was cheers for the St. Anthony's 'D' Friday night.
Linebacker Kyle O'Donnell led a spirited effort with 13 tackles, including three sacks, and two fumble recoveries, and quarterback Steve Genova completed 17 of 23 passes for 297 yards and three touchdowns as the Friars defeated Holy Cross, 30-7, in a CHSFL game on homecoming night in South Huntington.
"That's our mentality, that we're a no-name defense after the great defense that they had last year," said O'Donnell, a junior in his first season as a starter for the Friars (3-1). "We never want to lower the bar. We took mental reps last year and we're seizing the opportunity. It wasn't just me. Our ends made plays for me and I made plays for them."
One of the biggest plays came midway through the fourth quarter when the Knights (0-4) had crossed midfield, having gotten an obvious lift when a 32-yard run on a fake punt had set up their only touchdown that cut their deficit to 17-7.
"The momentum had shifted and we knew we had to make a play," said O'Donnell, a 6-1, 200-pounder who switched from inside to the middle depending on the offensive sets. On third-and-10 from the Friars' 45, O'Donnell shot through the middle, sacked Joe Fellin, stripped the ball loose and fell on it.
Genova immediately cashed in, completing passes of 23 yards to Danny Jones (three catches, 74 yards) and 16 to Rob McCann (six catches, 106 yards, one TD) to the Holy Cross 1. Kwesi Thomas-Henderson plowed into the end zone for a 23-7 lead with 6:13 left. He was filling in for St. Anthony's star Jordan Gowins, who sat out the game with what coach Rich Reichert said was "a tweaked hamstring."
After Thomas-Henderson's TD, the St. Anthony's defense again stood tall as senior defensive end Pete Corbett made back-to-back tackles in the backfield for losses totaling 9 yards and Holy Cross was forced to punt. Moments later, Genova connected with James Pryor for a 27-yard touchdown.
"I'm the only starter back from last year, that's why we call ourselves the no-name defense," the 6-1, 245-pound Corbett said. "Whether Jordan plays or not -- and he might be the best player in the state -- we know we have to play tough and smart to teach the young guys what to do."
O'Donnell is learning fast.
Remember his name.