Mission accomplished for the Holy Cross football team.
Tom Pugh's Knights wanted to finish the regular season strong and hope to secure the No. 3 seed in the CHSFL 'AAA' playoffs and the home quarterfinal game that goes with it. And with a solid 19-7 win over Chaminade at Hofstra University Saturday night, the Knights thought they did just that.
"We're going into the playoffs on a good high off the last two weeks," Pugh said. "We wanted to be the No. 3 seed and we could have lost that tonight."
However, at a league meeting Monday, it was determined that Fordham Prep and Kellenberg edged the Knights out for the No. 3 and No. 4 seeds, respectively, in the 'AAA' playoffs. Instead Cross garnered the No. 5 seed and will head back to Hofstra to face Kellenberg in the quarterfinals Sunday at 1 p.m.
Holy Cross (5-3, 4-3) got strong efforts on both sides of the ball against the Flyers. Offensively, quarterback Michael Braunstein was put to the test against a Chaminade defense that packed the box. The Flyers forced the senior to go to the air and Braunstein did the job, going 11-of-16 for 164 yards.
Braunstein's aerial attack opened up the Knights' running game, led by junior Woody Aime, who had 21 carries for 76 yards and two touchdowns.
"The offensive line played great," Aime said. "We just stepped it up after a couple of bad losses."
After senior defensive end Daniel Foppiano recovered a fumble by Chaminade quarterback Brian Hehir just three plays into the Flyers first possession, Holy Cross took over on the Chaminade 27. Twice in the nine-play drive the Knights faced fourth-and-one situations and both times Cross pushed ahead for the first time.
First it was Dwayne Franklin who picked up two yards on fourth-and-one from the 18 and three plays later Braunstein got a couple of yards on fourth-and-inches from the 7. On the next play, Aime found the end zone on a 5-yard touchdown run. Braunstein's extra point gave Cross a 7-0 lead with 4:25 left in the first quarter.
Chaminade (1-7, 1-6) fought right back though and put together an 11-play, 56-yard drive to tie the score on a 27-yard touchdown run by senior running back Greg Kalafatic (12 carries for 83 yards) with 11:42 left in the second quarter.
While Aime was doing the job on the ground, it was two catches that set up the Knights' second score. On first down from their own 39, Braunstein found Aime for an 18-yard completion into Chaminade territory. On third-and-10 from the Flyers 43, the two hooked up again, this time for a 27-yard pass play to bring Cross down to the Flyers 16.
After another Braunstein pass, this time to senior wide receiver Tramale Garrett to the 10, Aime took over, pushing ahead for 3 yards and then found the end zone easily from 7 yards out. Braunstein's extra point was wide right and the Knights went into halftime with a 13-7 lead.
"Dale [Robinson] was the lead blocker and he created the hole," Aime said. "I just ran right through."
While he did a great job blocking on Aime's touchdown, Robinson did his best work on the defensive side of the ball. The 6-foot-1, 218-pound senior linebacker led the Knights with 13 tackles, including three key sacks - two on third down - for a loss of 16 yards.
"Everyone on the defense knew this was a big game," Robinson said. "We had to step up our game if we wanted the No. 3 seed."
When Hehir didn't have Robinson to contend with, it was Victor Parsley in the secondary who burned the Flyers third-string quarterback. The senior defensive back had two interceptions, his league-leading sixth and seventh of the year, including one in the end zone on first-and-10 from the Cross 12.
"When we have Victor back there, we don't have to worry about getting burned deep," Pugh said.
"It was windy out there and the ball just hung up in the air," Parsley said. "Everyone did a good job tonight."
After chasing down the quarterback and blocking on Aime's second touchdown run, Robinson got a chance to score a touchdown of his own as on third-and-goal from the 1, Robinson lined up in the backfield and barreled his way into the end zone. Aime was stopped on the two-point conversion and Cross had a 19-7 lead with 4:18 left in the third quarter.
Following tough losses to St. Anthony's and Monsignor Farrell, the top seeds in the playoffs, Holy Cross has put two wins together, including a 7-0 win over Queens rival Christ the King two weeks ago.
"It was a big win for us," Parsley said. "It was real big. If we keep this momentum rolling, we don't know what can happen. It looks good, though."
Reach Associate Sports Editor Dylan Butler by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 143.