Bishop Timon-St. Jude’s victory had their coach jumping up and down. Canisius’ win was all business.
Charlie Comerford and the rest of the Tigers celebrated a season sweep of St. Joe’s while Canisius delivered the kind of complete performance that has had it on top of The Buffalo News large school poll for a month during Thursday night’s Monsingor Martin semifinals at a chilly Ralph Wilson Stadium.
The top two seeds delivered authoritative performances as they earned a return to The Ralph for a championship showdown at noon on Nov. 17.
Bishop Timon-St. Jude (7-4) earned its their first trip to the Monsignor Martin Association final with a 27-10 victory over the Marauders.
Standout junior running back Qadree Ollison broke the Canisius single-season rushing record as Canisius (10-0) took a 24-0 lead after three quarters and a 44-20 victory over St. Francis.
The night began with Timon jumping to a 21-7 first quarter lead over St. Joe’s and ended with second-year coach Comerford leaping into his crowd of players in the locker room afterwards.
“It’s huge,” said Comerford, who literally came a few steps off the sideline to hug Jackson Brown after the senior linebacker made a game-sealing fourth-down stop on defense. “I told [my players] before the game to win this one for me – because I don’t want to stop coaching these kids. I love being around them and I really don’t want it to end.”
Brown ran for two touchdowns for Timon, which has not won a Monsignor Martin title of its own since 1994. It shared regular-season titles in 1999 and 2001 as well as in 2002, which was the first year the Monsignor Martin Association went to its current playoff format.
Timon entered the game ranked seventh in The News poll, behind No. 5 St. Joe’s (8-3), despite Timon’s 17-14 victory in South Buffalo in Week Seven which marked the Tigers’ first win over the Marauders since 2002.
Timon’s Thursday night began with a big play – but not one of its own. St. Joe’s senior Ilo Noble took an end-around handoff on the first play from scrimmage for a 61-yard touchdown to put St. Joe’s up, 7-0. From then on, Timon effectively drove down the field and took advantage of three St. Joe’s turnovers. The Tigers tied the game on its first drive on a Brown 3-yard run.
The next possession for St. Joe’s saw its first and most costly turnover as junior Adam DiMillo nicely stepped in front of a pass to the right side by junior Dennis Gilbert Jr. at about the St. Joe’s 35, then took it all the way across the short field to the right sideline, then cut back in traffic to finish the run and give Timon a 14-7 lead.
“All week in practice we were running their plays,” said DiMillo. “[Junior Nigel] Davis is always his key target when he rolls out, and I just stepped up and luckily I got the pick.”
On St. Joe’s, next drive, a fumble by junior Rod Payne (nine tackles on defense) started Timon at the St. Joe’s 32, and soon after Brown went in for a 1-yard score and a first-quarter lead of 21-7. An interception by junior Brandon Donahue led to senior Tommy Gioia’s 30-yard field goal for a 24-7 halftime lead.
“We hadn’t beaten them in a decade until this year and we beat them twice,” said Brown. “To finally build our program back up to what it was, it feels amazing.”
Ollison continued his outstanding season by running 18 times for 230 yards and two touchdowns, including an 81-yard run that gave the Crusaders a 7-0 lead. Ollison now has 1,681 yards, breaking the single-season mark of 1,560 set last year by Mercer Timmis.
Junior quarterback Tyler Mascio ran for two 1-yard scores and also had an impressive night throwing the ball (8 of 11 for 190), including a 57-yard touchdown to junior Ryan Richards that made it a 31-6 game early in the fourth quarter.
Richards was also part of an excellent defensive performance as Canisius overpowered St. Francis (3-8), which had won its last three games after struggling most of the year.
“It was a team win,” said Canisius coach Rich Robbins. “The receiving corps came to play. I thought Tyler was great at quarterback. Everybody knows what Qadree can do for us, and the O-line did a nice job. I’m most proud of my defense: Very physical tonight. … I was proud of some of those big hits and tackles and stops that we got in the first half to kind of get us going.”