This was familiar territory for the football teams at Holy Trinity and St. Anthony's. Big regular-season game with playoff implications for home-field advantage and top seeding on the line.
The storylines included the two dynamic quarterbacks in St. Anthony's senior Charlie Raffa and Holy Trinity's sophomore Chris Laviano, the respectable ground games, and the thirst to show the other who has the CHSFL's toughest offensive line.
This one was won up front, but it wasn't about the o-lines, after all. It was more about St. Anthony's defensive linemen Bryan Rhodes and Jonathan Desir.
The pair had Laviano running for cover and combined for seven sacks and a fumble recovery in the first half as St. Anthony's built a 24-0 lead on its way to a 38-13 win yesterday before a crowd of 1,200 at Holy Trinity.
St. Anthony's (7-0) opened the scoring 19 seconds into the game on the first play from scrimmage. Raffa hit Brian Kensil with a 74-yard touchdown pass and Jim Doktor added the extra-point kick for a 7-0 lead with 11:41 left in the first quarter.
"He was open and I had to get it there," said Raffa. "It was a beautiful catch and run."
And then it was open season on Laviano. On Trinity's first play, Rhodes nailed Laviano for a seven-yard loss. "I don't think he saw me," Rhodes said. "It was a clean shot."
On third down, Desir unloaded on Laviano for a three-yard loss. "They were outstanding on the defensive line," said St. Anthony's coach Rich Reichert. "They really caused problems. I thought it was their best game of the season."
Rhodes complimented the game plan. "We were given our responsibilities and everyone did their part," he said. "The quarterback really had no time. We were all over him."
On the Titans second possession, Laviano, on third-and-5, was leveled by Rhodes for a loss of 14 yards. The Titans (5-2) had six plays for minus -18 yards, not the start coach Tony Mascia said his team needed.
"Of course, we needed to play mistake-free football," Mascia said. "But we also had to have a strong start and get up on them early. We've been tied at the half for the past three games and had to gut those games out."
This one got away from the Titans early. Actually, St. Anthony's took it away. Leading 10-0, the Friars' defense came up with another big play. Defensive back Derelle Napier returned a fumble 62 yards for a score to make it 17-0.
Rhodes set up the next score when he recovered a fumble at the Titans' 36.
Three plays later, Raffa, on the option, turned upfield behind a massive block by pulling guard Matt Biscardi for a 40-yard touchdown run.
"I can just feel when I'm about to get hit, it's instinct," Raffa said. "I was a running back my whole life. And I just follow the blocks."
The second half became a formality. Laviano threw two touchdown passes to Nick Olson, for 24 and 45 yards, and finished 9-for-15 for 139 yards.
St. Anthony's halfback Dariyan Riley, who had only 19 yards in the first half, exploded for 113 yards on 13 carries in the second half, including a 6-yard scoring run for a 31-7 lead.
"We need to stay focused and intense for four quarters," said St. Anthony's halfback Brian Sherlock, who added a 75-yard touchdown run. "The Titans thought they could come back and I didn't like it. We need to finish people."