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Red Storm football edges Canisius, wins opener in OT

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It’s been a long time since Mike DeVore has been on a football field. Despite being a junior at St. John’s, the defensive back didn’t play his first game until Saturday when he tied a St. John’s record and broke a Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference mark with four interceptions in the Red Storm’s 17-14 overtime season-opening win over Canisius at DaSilva Memorial Field.

That DeVore, whose fourth interception clinched the game in overtime, was even on the field is amazing, considering a year ago the Franklin, N.J. native was battling ulcerative colitis, an extremely painful disease that causes inflammation and ulcers in the large intestine.

The disease forced DeVore, who hadn’t played football since his junior year at Wallkill Valley High School, to quit in preseason camp.

Once a three-sport star in high school, DeVore had to give up on sports.

“It feels so good to come out and have a game like that,” said DeVore, who has been able to control the disease with medication.

In the season opener Saturday, DeVore helped breathe some life in a Red Storm team desperately needing a boost. Coming off an embarrassing 1-9 season, St. John’s needed a win against a Canisius team that won just one game in three years.

Despite three interceptions already, DeVore was shaping up to be the goat rather than the hero late in the fourth quarter.

As Canisius quarterback Tony Bonura rolled out of the pocket on fourth and seven from the Red Storm 35 with 1:39 left, DeVore froze for a moment, thinking the sophomore play caller had already crossed the line of scrimmage.

That split second proved to be the difference as Bonura found Dennis Brumfield, who leapt over DeVore to cut Canisius’ deficit to 14-12.

Bonura then hit James Bialasik for the two-point conversion that sent the game, which for a while seemed to be a sure St. John’s victory, into overtime.

“I thought I was right up on him,” DeVore said. “I thought the quarterback had crossed the line, I slowed up and then I saw the ball in the air. I thought I hit it, but it didn’t work out.”

A year ago, said Matt May, the Red Storm’s top receiver who was sidelined with an ankle injury, St. John’s would have folded after regulation.

Overtime, Red Storm coach Bob Ricca said, was going to be an early season sign of his young team’s character.

“It was gut check time,” Ricca said. “This is it.”

Canisius won the coin toss and opted to play defense at the start of overtime. Freshman running back Mark Murphy, who ran for 116 yards on 23 carries, including a 49-yard touchdown run that put the Red Storm ahead, 14-6 midway through the fourth quarter, ran the ball twice.

After junior quarterback Matt Millheiser, who put the Red Storm ahead 7-0 on a one-yard quarterback sneak in the first quarter, threw his 12th incomplete pass of the game, Ricca called on senior kicker Tom Gavenonis to boot a 39-yard field goal.

Ricca didn’t call on Gavenonis on fourth and one from the 6 early in the third quarter with the Red Storm leading 7-6, instead deciding to go for goal and junior tailback Matt McGuire was stopped at the line of scrimmage.

McGuire, who was suffering a hip flexor and was a game day decision, rushed for 166 yards on 18 carries, marking the first time since Sept. 19, 1981 two Red Storm rushers gained over 100 yards in the same game.

On fourth and seven from the Canisius 22, Gavenonis set himself to put the Red Storm ahead. Anthony Muniz received the snap and Gavenonis split the uprights to put St. John’s ahead, 17-14.

“It was a great feeling, but it was still better to win the football game,” said Gavenonis, who kicked the winning field goal in the Red Storm’s last win, 16-13 over Stony Brook last Sept. 14 in the only other overtime game in St. John’s history.

St. John’s plays at Stony Brook Saturday at 6 p.m. in the grand opening of the Seawolves brand new 8,000-seat stadium.

Reach Associate Sports Editor Dylan Butler by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 143.

Posted 7:22 pm, October 10, 2011
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