It was a great night for high school football in Clarence on Saturday night. Especially if you were from St. Joe’s.
In front of an overflow crowd estimated at 3,000 to watch the first game between a suburban Erie County Class AA team and the Monsignor Martin Association since 1998, the Marauders jumped on top of Clarence from its very first play from scrimmage in a 35-13 victory.
Nigel Davis ran for a 94-yard touchdown on the first offensive play for St. Joe’s, and he added two more scores in the opening half as St. Joe’s took control of the game by taking a 35-7 halftime lead.
Like many St. Joe’s starters, the explosive 5-foot-10 Davis rested for the final two quarters as the Marauders improved to 2-0 and put themselves in position to possibly take over the No. 1 spot in The News large school poll.
“It’s a great environment,” said St. Joe’s coach Dennis Gilbert. “There were a ton of people out here. There were a ton of people out here on our side that I didn’t even know … which I think says something. It’s pretty neat.”
St. Joe’s gave its substantial cheering section, including half a bleacher full of its “Rowdies” student section, plenty to make noise about early on.
After stopping Clarence on a three-and-out, a punt put St. Joe’s on its own 6. Davis took a handoff to the right, made some quick moves, and raced down the right sideline for the score just 2:51 into the game.
“We always want to start fast,” Davis said. “Coach called a power, and I just took it to the house. In the first quarter we came out hard and we just kept it rolling from there. The energy out here from our crowd and our players was great.”
Davis ran for 157 yards and two touchdowns on five carries. He also kicked two extra points and executed a good onside kick following his touchdown. St. Joe’s recovered to give them the ball at the Clarence 44. Soon after, Davis caught a 40-yard touchdown – his only reception of the game – from sophomore quarterback Mike McCarthy.
Senior Rod Payne, who also had seven tackles, had a 37-yard touchdown run in the second quarter to put St. Joe’s up, 20-0.
Clarence (0-2) gave its large home crowd some hope with a big play to draw within 20-7 in the first quarter when senior quarterback Lex Oakes hit senior standout Eumare Williams for a 67-yard score.
However, St. Joe’s responded on its next drive with another long score by Davis, who went left and put on some terrific cut back moves on a 47-yard score that put the Marauders up, 28-7, with 6:30 left in the second quarter.
Clarence was driving near midfield when a completed pass from Oakes to senior Ryan Fitzhenry was disrupted by a hard hit, causing a fumble that junior Myles Young picked up and sped off with on a 46-yard return for a score and a 35-7 lead for St. Joe’s.
The only scoring of the second half came when Clarence sophomore Stephen Marzano scored on a 4-yard run with just 16 seconds left.
St. Joe’s senior captain Anthony Castellani, a Clarence resident, had all 10 of his tackles – including two for loss – before halftime.
“It was really special – I’ve been playing with those guys since I was 6 years old, since little league,” said Castellani. “The whole game plan was to jump on them early and just get it going … we did that and we executed.”