By Joe Kozinski
A light mist hovered over Father Bly Field at Saint Joseph High School as the undefeated Blazers of Saint Matthew squared off against the once-beaten Crusaders of Holy Cross on Sunday, Oct. 2, in a matchup that would have huge implications for the Inter-City Catholic League regular season title picture — and would also factor in the playoff seeding.
Both squads boasted of a trifecta of skilled players. For Saint Matthew it was quarterback Bryce Martens and the two running backs, Joey Barkowski and Isau Gonzalez. On the other side of the line was Coach Krzyzewski’s trio of big and quick slashing backs: Jack Futa, Gavin Stefanek and sprinter Asante Anglin.
The game started out as the The Crusaders, starting at their own 48, had a simple plan: have Stefanek power run behind its offense line of Nolan Rose, Malcom Anderson, Charlie Broden, Dominick Verzele, Aaron Greve and William Henderson. Four plays later they were in the end zone again, making the score 12-0.
Starting at their own 40, the Blazers had to make some adjustments against the aggressive Crusader defense. They became unpredictable by spreading the ball around on the ground with their running backs and through the air to wide out Tyler Bortune for a 13-play scoring drive. Martens hid behind his offensive line from two yards out, making the score 12-6 just before the horn would sound for intermission.
The start of the second half looked like Saint Matthew would take off where it left off, until Anderson had his say. He hit the Blazer ball carrier on the kickoff, jarring the pigskin from his clutches and swinging the momentum back in the Crusader direction.
After a Stefanek 25-yard bolt, Anglin finished the Crusader scoring drive off with a nifty scamper from eight yards out, pushing the lead to 12.
The Blazers’ Marten turned the game around in just a few seconds as he took the ensuing kickoff in what the younger generation would call “to the house” 60 yards. After the point after conversion was made by Barkowski there were just five points between the two combatants.
The black-adorned Blazers looked as if they may have found the answer, as Gonzalez again made his way into the Crusader backfield. However, Anglin and Stefanek were asked to do the heavy lifting, as they accounted for the next 64 yards and another score. Stefanek finished it off with a run of 19.
The Blazers made another attempt at a comeback, but their hopes were dashed as Anderson jumped a flare pass route and intercepted Martens, ending the drive.
The Crusaders tacked on insurance points, as Stefanek struck gold one last time — making the final tally 30-13.
“I think today was about adjustments. Ben Domonkos is a good coach, and we countered what they were taking away from us on defense and had to do that a couple of times during the game,” remarked Crusader coach Krzyzewski. “They hit us in the mouth twice and the kids responded positively; (I’m) very proud of the character I saw from our team today.”
“Our boys bounced back from adversity today,” explained Blazer coach Domonkos. “We teach that adversity doesn’t build character, it exposes it; and how we handled it was a testament to our kids. We knew we would have a battle, and our kids have some positive takeaways from this game. It will help in preparation for Saint Anthony next Sunday.”
In other games around the league, the Westside Cardinals and the Mishawaka Saints played to a zero-zero tie and the Panthers of Saint Anthony playing in an exhibition game and were highlighted by touchdowns from Ethan Benifiel and Tyrick Kamau, and Cole Chrzan accounted for two more one on the ground and one on an interception return.
Complete scores, schedules and standings can be found at the league’s website www.icclsports.org
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