St. Francis Prep holds on to beat Christ the King, 18-12

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In the first game of his 50th year at the helm of the St. Francis Prep varsity football team, head coach Vince O’Connor’s Lil’ Terriers didn’t let him down.

Prep played errorless football, made key plays at critical times and capitalized on nearly every miscue en route to a stirring 18-12 non-league win over Queens rivals the Christ the King Royals Sunday at a rain-soaked St. John’s University.

“They were a strong team physically,” O’Connor said. “They had some strong, tough kids and we were able to stay with them and make some breaks that made the difference.”

The game, which started an hour late because two of the officials refused to work the game until a doctor was supplied by Christ the King, was dictated by special teams play and the ability of St. Francis to take advantage of several CK miscues.

The opening drive, however, was trademark O’Connor football. Running backs Nat Modica and Jerrel Smith — subbing for a banged-up Mike Conigliaro — ran the ball into CK territory and Modica, who finished with 130 yards on nine carries, capped the drive with a 10-yard run.

Quarterback/kicker Peter Mazzurco booted the extra point through the uprights to make the score 7-0 with 9:25 remaining in the first quarter.

“They were very big and very fast,” Modica said of the Royals’ defense. “That combination is hard to run against. They did a very good job.”

Two drives later, after a Mazzurco punt pinned the Royals inside their own 1-yard line, Christ the King showed that they, too, could run the ball with success.

Steve Morrison, Anthony Lazarus and Gordon McQuiller took turns running the ball on nine of the first 10 plays of the drive, bringing CK down to the Prep 19. Back-to-back scrambles by quarterback Jamar McClaney netted 15 yards to the Prep 4, setting up a four-yard run by Morrison for the touchdown.

Justin Capacae, however, missed the extra point, letting St. Francis hold onto the lead, 7-6. The drive, which started with nine seconds left in the first quarter, covered 99 yards and finished with only 5:26 remaining in the half.

The Terriers nearly widened their advantage on the next possession, taking over at their own 29 and running the ball to midfield before a pass interference penalty and a 35-yard pass play from Mazzurco to David Morano put the ball on the CK 8 with four seconds remaining. Mazzurco, however, missed the 25-yard field goal attempt to end the first half.

The Royals came back with their second possession of the third quarter, taking over at their own 7-yard line and again marching straight down the field — highlighted by a 54-yard run by McQuiller — and within striking distance. But on 4th-and-8 from the 15, CK’s McClaney threw a fade to wide receiver Andre Redd, who was open in the corner of the end zone. The ball reached Redd, but defensive back A.J. Foy swatted the ball out of the receiver’s hands.

“All I could do was smack it down,” Foy said. “I had to recover because he beat me to the post corner. But I got there and broke the play up.”

Another Mazzurco punt gave the Royals possession inside their own 1-yard line again, but this time, CK could not get out of the hole. On the first play, after McQuiller made a miraculous move to pick up a fumble in the back of the end zone and run it out to the 11, CK was flagged for holding in the end zone. The defensive penalty gave Prep a safety and a 9-6 lead with 10:17 to play.

The ensuing free kick gave the Terriers the ball at their own 42. Conigliaro carried three straight times for 12 yards, setting up Modica, who ran around the CK defense 31 yards to the 15. Three plays later Conigliaro finished the drive with a three-yard run up the middle. The extra point was blocked, but Prep’s lead grew to nine, 15-6 with 7:17 remaining.

Poor field position again plagued CK, which started from its own 12. Two pass incompletions and a sack set up a punt which netted only 18 yards. Prep managed to get to the CK 18 before the short drive stalled and Mazzurco was called upon for a 35-yard field goal try. The kick was straight through the uprights, stretching the Terrier’s lead to 12, 18-6, with 2:43 to play.

CK made things interesting, however, scoring quick when McClaney hit Redd for a 52-yard touchdown with 1:27 remaining to make the score 18-12. St. Francis could do nothing with its next possession and two penalties put Mazzurco in his own end zone to punt in the final minute.

But the part-time punter booted a beauty, a 48-yard kick which sailed into CK territory. Dwayne Box fielded the kick and tried to hand it to Redd, but the ball came loose and was received by the Terriers, effectively ending the game.

“Our line held real well on that play, but a couple of guys came through and I rushed it a little bit,” Mazzurco said of the punt. “But I put every thing into it.”

CK coach Mike Cassidy credited the Terrier’s play, but was critical of his own team’s efforts.

“We didn’t deserve to win,” he said. “We made two critical mistakes — obviously we made more than two — and Prep didn’t turn the ball over. To their credit they didn’t make any mistakes at all.”

Christ the King hosts Stepinac Saturday at 1:30 p.m. at St. John’s and Prep will play Xaverian on Sunday at noon also at St. John’s.

Kellenberg 20, Holy Cross 6. Quarterback Dan Meara was 14-for-24 for 175 yards a touchdown — a four-yard pass to Rich Belot — and the Knights ran for 127 yards, but still could not pull out the win. Three blown coverages gave Kellenberg three TDs and the win. Cross (0-1) will play Cardinal Hayes Sunday at 2:30 p.m. at Flushing Memorial Field.

Reach Sports Editor Anthony Bosco by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 130.

Updated 7:22 pm, October 10, 2011
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