LOCKPORT – Saturday was such a perfect day for football at Max D. Lederer Field, that leaves were actually falling onto the playing area during the National Anthem. It was a sunny, crisp, grab-a-sweatshirt kind of day for the 2,500 or so who came out for Lockport’s homecoming game, and the effort that St. Joe’s and Lockport put forth on the field fit the script as well.
In a Monsignor Martin-Section VI nonleague battle two teams ranked in the top 10 of The News large schools poll, No. 2 St. Joe’s used a fine second half to beat the No. 9 Lions, 30-25.
Senior Ilo Noble ran for 213 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries while junior Rod Payne ran for the game-winning touchdown with 6:48 left to play as St. Joe’s improved to 6-0. The Marauders dug out of a 18-7 halftime deficit, then outdueled Lockport and standout senior James Chambers in a back-and-forth second half.
“It was an expected rumble – but we didn’t expect to be down at half,” said Payne. “We really woke up at halftime.”
St. Joe’s is now 6-0 for the first time since their undefeated season in 1998. The Marauders — as well as rival No. 3 Canisius — are among the teams that have a chance to move to the top spot in the poll after No. 1 Orchard Park’s loss at Jamestown.
“I think we came out a little full of ourselves in the first quarter, and that’s a good football team on the other side and they took it to us,” St. Joe’s coach Dennis Gilbert said. “But the kids answered.”
Chambers ran 18 times for 219 yards and three touchdowns, including runs of 48 and 13 yards to help Lockport to an 18-7 halftime lead.
The teams went back and forth in the second half. St. Joe’s, rallying despite standout junior Nigel Davis sitting out the second half with a shoulder injury as a precaution, scored on its first drive of the second half as Noble scored on a 4-yard run.
St. Joe’s took its first lead when junior quarterback Dennis Gilbert Jr. hit Tyshawn Stepney for a 26-yard score in which Stepney fought off three hard tackle attempts as he ran the final 10 yards to the end zone. Gilbert Jr. then hit Tyler Hill for a two-point conversion pass for a 21-18 St. Joe’s lead it would take to the fourth.
Chambers led Lockport back in front with a 27-yard score with 9:33 remaining to give the Lions a 25-21 edge. St. Joe’s came back on its next drive as the 5-foot-10, 200-pound Payne scored behind one of the many openings that St. Joe’s line created in the second half.
The St. Joe’s defense, led by sophomore linebacker Cordell Owens (eight tackles), Hill (six tackles) and 6-2, 215-pound senior lineman Dylan Hall (six tackles) did strong work up front on Lockport’s next drive, which started at the Lions 8 and only went 1 yard further before the Lions were forced to punt. The snap went over the punter’s head and through the end zone for a safety and a St. Joe’s lead of 30-25 with 5:03 to play.
St. Joe’s, thanks to a Lockport offsides on fourth-and-3 and a Noble first-down run, was able to run out the clock.