For years and years to come, when the 2013 Monsignor Martin football champions from Canisius High School talk about one of the best nights of their football lives, they will talk about two plays.
The two plays typified their team, and their season. One was by its dominating defense. The other was by its standout running back, who concluded a signature career at Canisius with a signature performance.
Late in the first half of the Monsignor Martin Association championship game against its decades-old rival, Canisius stopped St. Joe’s on a fourth-and-1 play at the Crusaders’ 15-yard line.
On the next play, Qadree Ollison took a handoff, and he never stopped running.
Ollison’s 85-yard touchdown with 46 seconds left in the first half sent the Crusaders to halftime with a 21-0 lead and on to a 41-7 victory over St. Joe’s on Thursday night before an estimated 3,000 at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
It was one of five touchdowns for Ollison, who ran 20 times for 240 yards, that, along with another overwhelming performance from its defense, drove Canisius (9-2) to its second straight Monsignor Martin title.
“It’s a big win for us, it’s a big win for our program, and it’s a game that we’ll talk about for the rest of our lives,” Ollison said. “I thought about it for a long time on the bus ride here to The Ralph. I kind of just told myself, this is going to be the last time you’re going to put on the blue and gold, and what you do with that is your decision.”
On the day he became a finalist for the Connolly Cup – the award that annually goes to Western New York’s most outstanding player – for the second straight year, the Pittsburgh-bound Ollison capped off an exceptional career that included sharing last year’s Buffalo News Player of the Year award with lineman and teammate Ryan Hunter. In the first half Thursday night, Ollison had 174 yards on 10 carries with scores of 6 and 51 to go along with his 85-yarder.
“ ‘Q’ had a great night. He’s been with me since Day One as a head coach, and it’s pretty hard to imagine Canisius football without Qadree,” said third-year Canisius coach Rich Robbins.
The two late first-half plays typified this season for Canisius, whose starting defense did not allow a touchdown all season until a 2-yard run by St. Joe’s senior Nigel Davis in the third quarter. Canisius had six shutouts among its nine victories, and allowed a total of 43 points in its 11 games. With Canisius’ lead 14-0 in the final minute of the first half, senior Rolando Cercone sacked St. Joe’s quarterback Mike McCarthy on fourth and 1.
In the third quarter, the touchdown by Davis (73 yards rushing) brought St. Joe’s to within 21-7, but Canisius and Ollison continued to run away from the Marauders. The Crusaders answered Davis’ score with a long drive that finished with a 28-yard touchdown pass from junior Jacob Loucks to senior Ryan Richards for a 28-7 lead with 2:25 left in the third. Ollison added TD runs of 19 and 2 yards.
Against Canisius’ oppressive defense, St. Joe’s tried multiple ways of getting Davis the ball, but Canisius always had a tackler there to take him down. In the first half, St. Joe’s was 0 for 3 on fourth-down conversions and was outgained, 195-33. For the game, Canisius outgained Joe’s, 300-87.
Junior linebackers Brad Zaffram and Jerome Brundidge each had four tackles and a sack, while senior linebacker Mike Sharpe had four tackles. TJ Wheatley, the 6-6, 245-pound junior defensive end, had three tackles and a sack. Cercone made several early key plays and finished with three tackles, the same total recorded by fellow senior lineman Augie Touris and senior linebacker De’Anthony Simpson. Senior defensive back Keon Garrett had an interception on the second offensive play for St. Joe’s that would turn into a 7-0 lead for Canisius on Ollison’s 6-yard run 2:55 into the game.
“To come on this field and beat St. Joe’s in our last high school game is amazing,” Richards said. “We thought we were one of the best defenses in the state, and I think we solidified that tonight.”
This ends the season for Canisius, which last year went 11-0 to claim The News’ large school poll championship.
In this season’s most recent News poll, Canisius was second to Section VI Class AA champion Jamestown (10-1), which finished its season with a 48-34 loss to Rochester private school power Aquinas in last weekend’s Far West Regionals. Canisius lost at Aquinas, 3-0, in Week Two; its other loss was 9-7 at Ohio’s Cardinal Mooney. The final News poll will be published Dec. 7.
“All we can control is how we played tonight,” Robbins said of the poll. “Our guys wanted to show Western New York what kind of football team we are.”