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Canisius might not have gotten off to the greatest start Saturday, but it made up for it the rest of the way to continue an excellent beginning to this season.
Canisius owned just a 7-6 lead in the second quarter, but dominated after that to rout St. Francis, 51-18, and improve to 5-0, the Crusaders' best start since 1980.
Junior running back Qadree Ollison ran for 251 yards and five touchdowns on 25 carries, while the Crusaders defense collected six interceptions as Canisius moved to 2-0 in Monsignor Martin Association play.
"We didn't start quite the way we wanted to, but then we really started to get rolling in the second quarter," second-year coach Rich Robbins said of Canisius, which is ranked fourth in The News large school poll. "Big players played big for us today."
A crowd estimated at 1,500 watched Ollison run for Canisius' first four touchdowns - for 3, 14, 50 and 24 yards - as the Crusaders closed the second quarter with a 20-0 run to take a 27-6 lead at halftime. Ollison added a 5-yard run in the fourth quarter for his final score.
"It feels great to be 5-0," said the 6-foot-1, 205-pound Ollison. "The offensive line is great, guys like Pat Haley (6-2, 225), Ryan Hunter (6-5, 315 bound for Bowling Green), Jake Muscarella (6-4, 235), all of our seniors. And the receivers blocked well, like Denzel Benton and Ryan Richards."
Benton had a 62-yard touchdown which came on a catch-and-run off a pass from junior quarterback Tyler Mascio (8 of 12, 148 yards).
Canisius totaled 519 yards on offense and its 51 points are the most it has ever scored against St. Francis (0-5).
"Whenever you see that red and gold, you have nothing but respect for those guys," Robbins said of the Red Raiders. "It's a great program. We did not take them lightly at all. We were ready to play."
Canisius' secondary intercepted St. Francis junior quarterback Jacob Dolegala six times, five in the first half. Senior Kyle Abernathy finished with three interceptions, sophomore Josh Huffman had two and junior Ryan Richards had one.
"We just couldn't do it without the guys up front," said Richards. "They blocked for 'Q' all day long. [The win] says a lot, but we still have a lot to prove. We have to get better."
Canisius hosts Rochester power Aquinas next Saturday at 1 p.m. No. 3 large school St. Joe's (5-0) ended Aquinas' 25-game win streak against Monsignor Martin opponents on Friday night with a 27-14 victory in Rochester.

email: kmcshea@buffnews.com