Steven Shell knew the Christ the King offense was going to struggle against Holy Cross Sunday. After the CK Royals manage no points against St. Peters in the opener two weeks ago, the senior quarterback was realistic about his teams firepower against the vaunted Knights defense.
And he was right. Christ the King managed only modest gains all afternoon at the Bayside High School Athletic Field, but Shell still found a way to secure the win, topping Holy Cross, 8-7, in a defensive battle for the ages.
I think [the St. Peters] game really woke us up, Shell said. We really need to work hard.
Shell made the definitive play of the game while playing defensive back with 4:27 left in the third quarter. The Flushing resident stepped in front of an errant Holy Cross pass and rambled 60 yards for the touchdown. Shell then connected with Omar Gaines for the two-point conversion to put the Royals on top 8-7.
Shell, who split time behind center with Jose Duverge in the second half, spent most of his junior year as a wide receiver and defensive back. That experience paid off well on the game-deciding play.
It was really predictable, Shell said. The quarterback took a three step drop. I knew it was going to be a slant pass.
The annual game between the two Queens schools, which has historically been one of the more competitive on the schedule for both teams, threatened to turn into a blowout in the first minute of the game.
On the first play from scrimmage, Holy Cross senior running back Woody Aime broke right off-tackle and found a seam up the right sidelines and sprinted 77 yards for the touchdown. The extra point made it 7-0 just 11:23 into the game.
Aime finished with 120 yards on the day, but would never again find the open field, as the Royals defense, led by middle linebacker Rolando Garcia, simply shut down the Knights from there.
That took the wind right out of our sails, said Christ the King coach Mike Cassidy. I have watched Woody run for three years. You cant let one guy take him down.
After that first play, neither team generated much offense. The big and powerful offensive line of the Knights was stalemated repeated by the quickness of the Royals defense, something Cross coach Tom Pugh would be a factor heading into the game.
They were shooting gaps and beating our linemen, Pugh said. Were big, but were not fast up front. They were really disruptive.
The Royals defense eventually took the Knights out of their game plan, which was to feature Aime and fellow running back Michael Fogarile. Pugh was forced to put the ball up 13 times with first-year quarterback Dan Meara. And while the gamble had some success early in the game, specifically on pass completions to tight end Doug Anderwkavich and Irano DeArujo, CK found a way to shut that down as well.
We shouldve went to Woody all game, Pugh said. After the first series we couldnt do anything.
CK too was stymied by the Knights, led by senior captain Mike Mazzo on defense. The Royals managed just one first down in the first half on a six-yard run by Tim Dussey but would not again move the chains until late in the fourth quarter.
Theyre a helluva football team, Cassidy said of Cross after the game. We told the team [the offense] was going to take some time. Obviously it wasnt today.
CK squandered excellent field position in the first quarter following a muffed punt by Cross at the Knights 22. A fumbled snap three plays later gave the ball back to Cross.
But the Royals wouldnt need offense to win this game.
Christ the King (1-0, 1-1) will host Cardinal Hayes Sunday at 4 p.m. in the second game of a doubleheader at St. Johns University that also features St. Francis Prep taking on Stepinac at 1 p.m. The Knights (0-1, 1-1) will travel to take on Kellenberg Memorial Saturday at 1 p.m.
Iona Prep 21, St. Francis Prep 7. The Terriers were held to just six yard rushing by the Gaels Saturday, but still were within striking distance late when Nick Fusaro scored on a 44-yard run to put the game away for Iona in the final three minutes. St. Francis lone score came on a 20-yard touchdown pass from Peter Mazzurco to Jason Phillips to cut the teams deficit to 14-7. Prep is now 0-1 in league play and 0-2 overall.
Reach Sports Editor Anthony Bosco by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 130.