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The St. Anthony’s football team, perennially considered one of the best in the state, traveled from Long Island to Western New York with a couple of busloads of players, coaches and fans. If the spectators totaled up the number of players on the Friars’ roster that they were handed as they walked into the Robert T. Scott Complex, it would have taken them a while – because they’d be counting to 88.

St. Anthony’s took up two locker rooms at St. Joe’s, and it had separate units for offense and defense. A further look at the roster would show that St. Joe’s – and its roster of 36 – were not only outnumbered, but it was undersized, particularly on the line.

However, one of St. Joe’s players was 5-foot-10, 175-pound senior Nigel Davis. And St. Anthony’s just couldn’t catch him.

Davis ran for three touchdowns and 218 yards on 27 carries, scoring all of the Marauders’ points to help lead St. Joe’s to a momentous, season-opening 20-14 victory over St. Anthony’s.

In the MaxPreps preseason Fab 5, St. Anthony’s is ranked second in the state. In the Athlon Sports preseason poll, it is ranked third. In its two previous games with St. Joe’s, St. Anthony’s won, 39-0 (2007) and 49-29 (2006).

St. Joe’s jumped to a 12-7 lead after one quarter on Davis touchdown runs of 9 and 75 yards. St. Joe’s held onto that lead in a game held in a driving rainstorm until the fourth quarter, when Davis ran in from 9 yards out. He was on the receiving end of the two-point conversion pass that put the Marauders up, 20-7, with 6:51 left to play.

“The whole offseason we worked hard for this first game,” said Davis, who also had six tackles and a sack on defense as he, like many of his teammates, played both ways.

Davis entered the season completely healthy after battling a groin injury last season, one in which he was named an All-Western New York honorable mention. Coach Dennis Gilbert noticed how enthused Davis was about the game in the preseason.

On Saturday, Davis made stunningly quick cuts and found ways out of traffic in the secondary that one wouldn’t have thought were there.

“This offseason I worked hard – I lost 15 pounds. I feel great, run fast and I make my cuts,” said Davis.

“At first I was skeptical about our line. I didn’t know if they were going to be able to block, but they did a heck of a job today. And I want to give credit to Rod [Payne, senior back], because Rod opened some holes up for me, and they were perfect – they were perfect openings for me, and I just made the run.”

It was a very good start for a young Marauders team which is quarterbacked by 6-4, 195-pound sophomore Mike McCarthy, who changed the play at the line of scrimmage on what would be Davis’ third touchdown, going with a pitch to the right side.

“We just talked to the kids all week long about being consistent, trust the guy that’s next to you, don’t worry about anybody else,” said Gilbert. “A lot of young guys stepped up today. We were probably giving up 50 or 60 pounds a man up front, too. Our guys up front, they did some growing up.”

email: kmcshea@buffnews.com