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Holy Cross runs past Prep

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Holy Cross football Coach Tom Pugh talks about how a player defines his career by how well he performs against St. Francis Prep. Well, Brandon Jackson is hitting legendary status at this point.

The senior has been a serious thorn in the Terriers’ side and only added to that in the biggest game between the Francis Lewis Boulevard rivals in more than a decade. Jackson’s 65-yard punt return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter was the deciding score in No. 6 Holy Cross’ 20-13 victory over No. 3 St. Francis Prep in the CHSFL Class AAA quarterfinals Saturday night at Mitchel Field. It gave the Knights a 20-6 lead with 4:23 remaining in the school’s first playoff meeting since 1997.

“He loves that game,” Pugh said.

It wasn’t the first time Jackson burned SFP, which was making its first ‘AAA’ playoff appearance since 2008. In last year’s Turkey Bowl win he had a punt return touchdown and two interceptions, one of which he returned for a score. This season’s victory meant more than that because of the setting.

“It’s a great feeling, especially it being my senior year, my last time to face these guys,” Jackson said. “To send them home in a playoff game, you can’t ask for a better situation.”

His score, behind a caravan of blockers, including Sal DiCamillo, down the left sideline came shortly after the Terriers nearly tied the score down 13-6 with 8:56 left in the game.

Marquis Gordon fumbled the ball near the goal line. The line judge signaled touchdown as the back judge called a touchback after the ball rolled out of the back of the end zone. The officials eventually ruled it a touchback and gave Holy Cross (7-3) the ball instead of the Terriers putting points on the board.

Knights linebacker Jordan Francklin said the ball was knocked out of Gordon’s hands from before he could cross the goal line. St. Francis Prep assistant Coach Richie Carroll didn’t get a good look at the play, but noted that the referee with the best view called for a score.

“Someone who didn’t have the angle waved it off,” he said.

St. Francis Prep (8-2) still got itself back into the game when quarterback William Gluck, who was 5-for-10 passing for 137 yards, connected with Michael Hartgrove (three catches, 67 yards) for a 49-yard touchdown pass to cut the Cross lead to 20-13 with 3:00 left in the game.

The Knights, like they did all game, pounded the run to close it out. Senior Brandon Pelzer, who carried the ball 16 times for 89 yards and a score, picked up three yards on a fourth-and-1 to seal the win. Francklin ran for 75 yards on 17 carries.

“Seniors have to step up at the end of games,” Pelzer said.

He gave Cross a 7-0 lead in the second quarter with a 1-yard score. The advantage didn’t last long. SFP answered right back with a 1-yard touchdown run by Tariq Olivier that pulled his team within 7-6 before halftime. Chris Manfre added a 24-yard scoring run on the opening drive of the third quarter to extend the Cross lead to 13-6.

The Knights advance to their first semifinal since 2009 and travel to No. 2 Chaminade this Saturday. Holy Cross lost just 3-0 to the Flyers in the regular season meeting.

“We know it’s going to be a tough game,” Jackson said. “It was a battle last time. Hopefully, we can execute and come out with a win.”

Updated 2:36 pm, September 3, 2014
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