Qadree Ollison knew before snapping his chin strap into place Thursday night that his final high school game would eventually fade into his past. Bigger stadiums and louder crowds await him next season when he leaves the Monsignor Martin Association for the Atlantic Coast Conference.
The 6-foot-1, 220-pound running back enjoyed every moment he could in Ralph Wilson Stadium before exiting in grand fashion. What better way for the Canisius High senior to prepare himself for the big stage than a performance to remember in a championship game against archrival St. Joe’s?
Ollison finished off his high school career Thursday night much the way he finished off many an opponent over the past three years. He gained 174 yards on 10 carries and scored three touchdowns to lead Canisius to a 41-7 victory over St. Joe’s. OK, so the numbers were a tad misleading. That’s what he accomplished in the first half.
Yeah, the kid is ready for Pitt.
But is the ACC ready for him?
Ollison passed his final exam with flying colors, finishing with five touchdowns and putting one final stamp on his career. He finished with 240 yards rushing on 20 carries and passed the 4,000-yard rushing mark for his career. Canisius validated its 21-0 victory over St. Joe’s three weeks ago with a bigger win Thursday.
“It definitely matters,” Ollison said. “It’s like it meant to be, us against St. Joe’s for the last game. To beat them for a championship, there is no better feeling. I can’t even put it into words right now. It was my last game. I don’t think it will really hit me until I get home and wake up and know that there’s no football practice.”
Ollison ran over the Marauders for a 4-yard touchdown in the first quarter, sliced through for a 51-yard score early in the second and raced past them for an 85-yard TD before halftime. He ended any doubt with a 19-yard run in the third and plowed for a 2-yard TD early in the fourth.
It has been a long time since Western New York produced a running back blessed with his size and speed. You would need to review the annals of high school ball for a good 30 years, back when Daryl Johnston dominated for Lewiston-Porter on his way to Syracuse and the Cowboys, to find another one who had the same athleticism.
Ollison can do it all, and he did. He had a long kick return. He dropped back at quarterback and overthrew his receiver with a dart that made you wonder if he could have played quarterback all season. He lined up at defensive back. He did everything but sweep up the stadium and turn out the lights.
The area has churned out several terrific backs. Akeel Lynch was an elusive runner who packed a punch for St. Francis en route to Penn State. Clymer’s Jehuu Caulcrick dominated small schools with his size before leaving for Michigan State. Neither one had the combination of power and speed possessed by Ollison.
And he ran like he was possessed Thursday.
He showed why players like him only come around once in a generation or longer. He was so far ahead of the pack on his 85-yard touchdown that St. Joe’s star running back Nigel Davis, who also has an extra gear, was left helpless on the 15-yard line by the time Ollison reached the end zone.
The Crusaders’ game plan was hardly a secret. Give the ball to Ollison as much as possible. In obvious passing situations, hand off to Ollison again. Ready, break. Canisius’ starting defense hadn’t allowed a touchdown all season, so there was a sense the game was over when he found the end zone on its first possession.
Ollison overpowered St. Joe’s for a 7-0 lead. St. Joe’s linebacker Cordell Owens greeted him with a heavy hit at the 4-yard line. Owens’ effort was admirable. He did everything he could, but he was giving up two inches and nearly 50 pounds. Nobody was stopping Ollison unless Kiko Alonso lined up for St. Joe’s.
It was almost unfair.
“You have to give it to the offensive line,” Ollison said. “I’ve been saying it all year. Those guys were getting better every single week. They picked the right day to play their best. I was very happy for those guys. I walked up to them and told all of them that I love them, and I’m going to miss them. I commend those guys for their hard work.”
The second-biggest chore Thursday for St. Joe’s was poking through Canisius’ defense. Canisius’ starters hadn’t allowed a touchdown all season before Davis pounded his way into the end zone in the third quarter. It was an accomplishment against a Canisius team that had surrendered 36 points through the first 10 games.
One statistic that came into play was 21-9, or the number of seniors Canisius had on its roster compared to St. Joe’s. Here’s another: 275. Canisius had three offensive linemen who weighed at least that much, which was more than any player on the Marauders’ roster. Eric Buhr is 6-foot-4 and 310 pounds.
You need not take AP Physics to comprehend that their size and his speed made Canisius nearly unstoppable. Ollison has been the best player in the area over the past two years. It was enough for Pitt, which found him to be too much for everybody else. Ollison proved what the hubbub was about Thursday.
Now it’s time for him to take the next step.
“Not just beating Joe’s in a championship, but beating Joe’s any time is something you always remember,” Ollison said. “You can go 0-8, but as long as you beat St. Joe’s, your career is complete. To beat them in the championship is something I will remember and talk about for the rest of my life.”