It will be a historical victory in the Monsignor Martin Association championship — no matter who wins.
Canisius will face Bishop Timon-St. Jude at noon Saturday at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Canisius is on the verge of accomplishing a very rare undefeated season, while a Bishop Timon-St. Jude team can win its first outright MMA title since 1994.
Canisius (10-0), ranked first in The Buffalo News poll since Week Six of the now 11-week-old season, is certainly the favorite, particularly since it won at Timon in Week Seven.
If the Crusaders are to win, it would be their first undefeated season since 1976, when they went 7-0-1. It would be their first unbeaten and untied season since 1975, when they went 8-0. Both seasons were part of Canisius’ famed 42-0-1 unbeaten streak under legendary coach Johnny Barnes.
It would also be the first undefeated season for a Monsignor Martin Association large school since St. Joe’s accomplished the feat in 1998.
That season, St. Joe’s went 10-0 to finish at No. 1 in The Buffalo News large school poll. That Marauder team, which included Connolly Cup-winning junior Sandro DeAngelis, had wins against Port Richmond of Staten Island, Cathedral Prep of Erie, Pa., as well as Section V (Rochester area) programs Canandaigua and Aquinas.
St. Joe’s 1998 season started with a season-opening nonleague victory over Orchard Park, 31-20. St. Joe’s and OP have not met in the regular season since.
The two programs had regularly scheduled games for the previous decade, meeting nine times over the previous 10 seasons (1989-1998).
Since then, Section VI large schools have, for the most part, refused to schedule Monsignor Martin schools. Local Catholic schools, in turn, regularly scheduled strong out-of-area opponents to fill out their schedule, which has contributed to even the strongest recent MMA teams failing to finish a season undefeated. MMA schools that have been ranked No. 1 in The News large school poll over the last decade have done so with losses on their resume. St. Francis earned the top spot in 2003 (9-2) and 2004 (8-2). In 2005, St. Joe’s (9-1) shared the top spot with Orchard Park.
This year Canisius went through its Monsignor Martin season unscathed but it also notched wins over Section V Class A semifinalist McQuaid, Section V Class AA champion Aquinas, at Walsh Jesuit of Ohio and at Section VI Class A quarterfinalist McKinley.
Canisius’ season also included winning a 26-14 battle from Timon in South Buffalo in Week Seven. Standout junior running back Qadree Ollison ran for 206 yards on 26 carries and scored three touchdowns. His final touchdown was a game-deciding, 46-yard score with 1:57 to play.
In Week Six, a similarly hard-fought game went Timon’s way as it beat St. Joe’s, 17-14, on a fourth-quarter field goal by senior Tommy Gioia. Last Thursday, Timon beat St. Joe’s, 27-10, in the semifinals at The Ralph.
Timon’s last league championships have been regular-season titles that were shared in 2002 (with St. Joe’s), 2001 (with St. Francis) and 1999 (with St. Joe’s and Canisius). The Tigers went 7-2 in 1994, winning the outright title with a 3-0 record in League AA.
Go to buffalonews.com for a live blog with play-by-play coverage from tonight’s D and A state semifinals; comment in the blog or via Twitter using the hashtag #preptalkscores. A PrepTalkTV video recap of both games will follow.
In Saturday’s News, there will be game-day previews of the Monsignor Martin final and the Class AA and B state semifinals.