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Holy Cross falls to Mount, 20-6, out of AAA playoffs

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The game plan was simple for the Holy Cross Knights Sunday; Stop running back Dennis Void and they had a chance to beat the Mount St. Michael Mountaineers.

If only it were that simple.

Void quickly wasted the Knights’ plan. His relentless running took its toll on the stat sheet and his tacklers, as he scored two first-quarter touchdowns and racked up a career-high 192 yards on 25 carried to lead his team to a 20-6 victory in a physical Catholic High School Football League game at Bayside Athletic Field.

“I thought [Void] is the best player we’ve seen this year,” said Holy Cross head coach Tom Pugh. “We knew he was getting the ball. He came out of the box like gangbusters and took over the game.”

Void’s first touchdown, a 20-yard sprint, came after the Mountaineers sacked Cross quarterback Daniel Meara and recovered a fumble at the Knights’ 20. On the next play from scrimmage, Void took a pitch and ran left for the touchdown.

Later in the first, the Mountaineers needed only five plays to get on the board. Again, it was Void doing the damage, this time on a 46-yard run to stake his team to 12-0 lead. His impressive running was aided by the offensive line, which made key blocks and opened holes throughout the game.

“Holy Cross has a good defense, but our line made the right blocks,” Void said. “All I had to do was run hard. We played disciplined and did our jobs today.”

The Mountaineers’ large and stingy defensive line limited running back and offensive catalyst Woody Aime to 58 rushing yards. It registering four sacks and forced numerous hurried passes. Overall, it held the Knights to 110 total yards, well below their season average of 287.

Ironically, Void and Aime entered the game with nearly identical statistics. Void held a 501-499 advantage in rushing yards, while Aime gained slightly more yardage per carry. As the game unfolded, you wouldn’t think so.

“Our defense has been playing well and is the strength of our team,” Mount head coach Mario Valentini said. “It gave us the ball in good field position. We played good fundamental ball on defense.”

The Knights mounted their only sustained drive of the game in the third. They ran 10 plays and moved as far as the Mountaineers’ 25, but a holding penalty and sack on consecutive plays ended the scoring chance. It was one of three drives in the second that stalled inside the 30.

The Knights defense played well in the second half, allowing just a late touchdown when the game was already decided. However, the two early scores and one right before the halftime were too much to overcome.

“We made some adjustments and did a better job in the second half,” Pugh said. “But you have to score when you still have a chance to win. We were in the red zone four times today and scored once. You can’t miss opportunities like that in this league and expect to win.”

Brandon Gonzalez (93 yards on seven carries) put the game away with a 27-yard touchdown run late in the fourth. He broke free and scored on a fourth-down play as the Mountaineers worked the clock. Sheldon Leslie booted the extra point to account for the final score.

The Knights appeared to back in the game early on. Aime scored on a 10-yard draw, moving the pie the final three yards, with 6:00 left in the first half. His touchdown narrowed the score to 12-6, but the excitement didn’t last long.

Mount responded with a nine-play, 80-yard drive to defuse any possible comeback thoughts. Ryan O’Malley threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to Luke Cleaver with 1:59 left in the half. Cleaver made a pretty over-the-shoulder catch to regain his team’s double-digit lead.

Mount entered the game on the verge of a playoff birth, sitting in seventh place in the AAA-AA Division. The victory keeps the team in the mix and sets up a showdown with league-leading St. Anthony’s next week.

With the loss, Holy Cross has to settle for the AA playoffs, the consolation prize for non-AAA playoff teams. The Knights close out the regular season next week with a home date against Chaminade at 1:30 p.m.

Christ the King 13, Holy Trinity 10. The Royals improved to 4-2 in league play courtesy of a fine defensive effort turned in by Steve Shell, who recorded two interceptions. Benjamin Sawyer returned a 42-yard interception to start the scoring for CK in the first quarter and Craig Nelson scored in the final five minutes of the fourth quarter to give CK the decisive edge.

St. Francis Prep 33, Xaverian 16. The Terriers held the Clippers at just win this season with their victory Saturday. Prep improved to 4-3 overall with the win and is right in the middle of the pack for a AAA playoff berth heading into the final week.

Reach contributing writer Adam Martini by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 130.

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