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Broken play halts comeback hopes

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Bryan Caffrey still couldn’t quite believe it.

St. Francis Prep appeared ready to scratch its way back into its annual Battle of the Boulevard football game against rival Holy Cross. The Terriers were down two scores, but had the Knights on their own 20-yard line midway through the third quarter ready to get the ball back.

Instead, on fourth down, in what ended up being a broken punt play because of a high snap, Cross wide receiver/punter Devon Cajuste, ran the ball 17 yards for a first down and capped the drive with a 60-yard touchdown catch to put the game out of reach.

“It was on their side of the field, so I didn’t see that coming at all,” Caffrey said of Cajuste’s run. “We thought we had a chance to get back into it.”

It was a play caused by Cajuste’s being as cautious as he was aggressive. He was heeding the words of Knights Coach Tom Pugh about the Terriers’ ability to disrupt punts, something they did often a year ago.

“If it looks like a guy can block it, just run to the side and kick from there because you’re that good of an athlete,” Pugh said he told the junior. “He just took it and knew there was nobody there.”

The score capped a monster day for Cujuste, who caught five passes for 151 yards and three touchdowns. Cross quarterback Dean Marlowe was 11-of-18 passing for three touchdowns and 239 yards. The Terriers had a tough time mustering enough offense to match in a 27-7 loss at SUNY Maritime Sunday afternoon.

“We thought we would have a chance, too many mistakes,” quarterback Brendan Stackpole said.

The junior entered the game in the second half in place of senior Ryan Paccione, and helped the Terriers finally move the ball against the Cross defense. He completed three-of-nine passed for 27 yards and carried the ball eight times for 28 yards. Having to escape a relentless pass rush didn’t make things easier.

“They rushed — it felt like almost every play,” Caffrey said. “It affected everything.”

The Terriers got on the board when James Barba recovered a fumble on the Cross 17-yard line early in the third quarter, leading to a one-yard scoring run by Stackpole to make it 20-7 with 8:35 remaining in the quarter. St. Francis Prep failed to convert because of penalties, in a game filled with yellow flags, right before the half with the ball first-and-goal on the Cross 9.

“We couldn’t put a balanced attack together,” legendary St. Francis Prep Coach Vince O’Connor said.

He felt his team needed to improve its running game and diversify its passing attack as they looked to the 6-foot-3 Caffrey too often just to make something happen, though he drew a few pass interference calls. The Terriers still found a way to hang in, but Cajuste’s run ended that.

“We have talent, but we have to do at the correct times in the game,” O’Connor said. “You just can’t hope for it. You have to make it happen.”

Reach Joseph Staszewski at jstaszewski@nypost.com.

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