Crusaders win inagural CHSAA State Title game

 
Cameron Mellor (@CamMellor)
March 17, 2015

 

 

The Crusaders from Canisius High School made history in 2014, capturing the inaugural CHSAA New York State Football Championship. The Crusaders did so in impressive fashion from season’s beginning, to season’s end, defeating Archbishop Stepinac, 23-10 in the season’s culminating game.

 

 

Canisius, paced by their quarterback-running back duo of Jakob Loucks and Mitch Thomas, ran their way to victory to open the season, providing glimpses of what would eventually take them to the State Championship.

 

Aside from their QB-RB duo, a key trait for the Crusaders in 2014 was special teams. In their season opener, Josh Huffman returned the game’s opening kickoff 93 yards for the first points of 2014, en route to a 48-3 rout of McQuaid Jesuit. Loucks threw for two scores and Thomas ran the ball just four times for 67 yards and a touchdown in the victory.

 

Avenging one of their two losses from 2013, Canisius scored early and often against Aquinas Institute before defeating the Little Irish, 34-0. A year prior, Aquinas had handed Canisius a 3-0 defeat.

 

Thomas ran in his first score of the game from 55 yards out, just over two minutes into the first quarter. Loucks threw for one score and rush for another and the Crusaders would receive six additional points from kicker and University of Connecticut commit, Michael Tarbutt, who connected on kicks from 28 and 52 yards away.

 

Two of Canisius’ next four games took place in the state of Ohio, traveling to take on Walsh Jesuit and Bishop Watterson.

 

Against Walsh Jesuit, the Crusaders saw Loucks toss three first half scores while Thomas ran for two scores himself en route to a 40-7 halftime lead. The lone seven points scored by the Warriors came off of a bad snap in the second quarter that was recovered for a touchdown.

 

Tarbutt added a 41-yard field goal in the second half to push the final score to 43-7.

 

After defeating Jamestown, 27-14 and St. Joseph’s Collegiate, 17-0, Canisius again traveled to Ohio, this time to Bishop Watterson, in Columbus. This game marked the fourth consecutive road game for the Crusaders.

 

The Eagles were able to force two Loucks interceptions in the game, but were unable to withstand the rushing attack of the Canisius offense. Thomas rushed 20 times for 159 yards and a touchdown while Loucks and Brad Zaffram added rushing scores of their own.

 

Despite Bishop Watterson QB Sam Maglicic’s best efforts – including a drive as time was dwindling to the Canisius 25 – the Eagles ran out of time and fall to the Crusaders, 21-14.

 

Playing a home game for the first time in over a month, Canisius welcomed Ohio’s Cardinal Mooney to Buffalo, a year removed from a loss at the hands of the Cardinals.

 

The 2014 contest proved to be another evenly matched game between the two schools, except this time, Canisius would come away victorious.

 

After opening up a 17-7 lead heading into the fourth quarter, Tarbutt closed the gap for the Crusaders, drilling a 37-yard field goal to trim the lead to 17-10. With 2:40 left to play, Cardinal Mooney quarterback Jon Saadey fumbled the ball after being hit by Jack Seminara.

 

Mitch Thomas picked up the fumble and score on the play for the proverbial ‘scoop-and-score’ that tied the game, but he wouldn’t be done there.

 

Just six plays later after the Canisius defense forced a quick Cardinal punt, Thomas scored from 26-yards away, giving the Crusaders their first lead of the game, 24-17, with just 0:23 seconds remaining. The score was enough to exact revenge from a 9-7 defeat in 2013.

 

Canisius rode the momentum of the dramatic victory over Cardinal Mooney in the regular season’s final two games, a 37-8 victory over Bishop Timon-St. Jude and a 48-13 victory over St. Francis.

 

The CHSAA New York playoffs started two weeks later and present two very familiar foes to the Crusaders.

 

Head Coach Rich Robbins’ team faceed off against their two most recent opponents in the first two rounds of the playoffs, handling both St. Francis (62-19) and Bishop Timon-St. Jude (35-8) easily once again.

 

The inaugural CHSAA New York State Football Championship had been long awaited for prior to the 2014 season beginning. Mother Nature would make fans wait just a little bit longer as the snow storms in November delayed the game a whole week.

 

16 days removed from their last game, Canisius took on Archbishop Stepinac in a battle of teams nicknamed Crusaders.

 

Stepinac and Canisius both entered the game undefeated and both teams looked very much the part in the first half. The only points on the board in the first half came by way of the aforementioned special teams. Stepinac forced a safety on a blocked punt in the first quarter before Tarbutt connected on two field goals in the second quarter.

 

The first of the two field goals permanently etched Tarbutt in Canisius history as he drilled a school record 60-yard field goal. He followed that up with a 28-yarder and the Crusaders took a 6-2 lead into halftime.

 

Stepinac regained the lead to start the second half as dual-threat quarterback Brandon Coleman rushed in the game’s first touchdown from eight yards out.
 

Loucks answered with a 16-yard rushing touchdown of his own to put Canisius back in the lead at 13-10. Tarbutt hit his third field goal of the game after that, a 35-yarder to push the Canisius lead to 16-10.

 

Coleman subsequently drove the Stepinac offense down the field, nearly scoring on a 50-yard rush that took the ball all the way to the Canisius 25 yard line. However, two Michael Kenefick sacks pushed the Stepinac offense to a 3rd and long. After gaining only six yards, Coleman would be intercepted by Jerome Brundidge on a 4th and 16 play.

 

Brundidge’s interception might have ended the game had he simply caught the ball and gone down, however 74 yards of green grass called his name as he returned the interception for the game-sealing touchdown. His pick six pushed the final score to 23-10 for Canisius.

 

 

 

The Crusaders were crowned the 2014 CHSAA New York Football State Champions.

 

Over the past three years, Canisius has combined for a 32-2 record but will have their work cut out for them in the years to come as they will graduate several seniors this summer including the quarterback-running back duo of Loucks and Thomas.

 

Among others, most notably the Crusaders will also be without the services of Tyrone Wheatley who signed his letter of intent with Michigan. Zaffram also signed a FBS letter to play at UTEP while Tarbutt will play at Uconn at the next level and Huffman will play at Maine next season.

 

 

Despite the challenges of losing many great players, coach Robbins and his staff will undoubtedly have the 2015 Crusaders ready to defend their inaugural CHSAA State Title.

 

Offensive stat leaders

Rushing: Mitch Thomas (1580 yards)

Passing: Jakob Loucks (1112 yards)

Receiving: David Thomas (316 yards)

All-Purpose: Mitch Thomas (1777 yards)

Touchdowns: Mitch Thomas (16)

Rush attempts: Mitch Thomas (167 carries)

Receptions: David Thomas (19 catches)

 

Defensive stat leaders

Total Tackles: Brad Zaffram (47/5)

Tackles for loss: Tyrone Wheatley (14)

Sacks: Tyrone Wheatley (9)

Interceptions: Jack Seminara (5)

Interception yards: Josh Huffman (132 yards)

Fumbles forced: Jacob Chaas (2)

 

Team statistics

Total scoring: 419 points

Opponent scoring: 119

Total offense: 3817 yards

Total rushing yards: 2688 yards

Total passing yards: 1129 yards

Opponent offense: 2062 yards

Opponent rushing yards: 769 yards

Opponent passing yards: 1293 yards

Third down conversions: 43/114 (37.7 %)

Opponent third down conversions: 33/137 (24.1 %)

Turnover differential: +16 (22 interceptions, 8 fumbles)

Cardinals ride Mazour to title, send Coach Johnson out in style

 
Cameron Mellor (@CamMellor)
March 3, 2015

 

 

While the position of dual-threat quarterback has seemingly become a household term nowadays, a true dual-threat quarterback is still one of more exciting spectacles to watch on all levels of football. Especially however, in high school football, and especially when your dual-threat quarterback leads you to a championship.

 

For the Boone Central/Newman Grove Cardinals, that’s exactly what happened.

 

Dual-threat quarterback Wyatt Mazour led the Cardinals to the Nebraska C1 State Championship in 2014, defeating Ashland-Greenwood, 54-14 to capture the title.

 

While Mazour might look and seem more like a running back, the senior could certainly sling the ball through the air when necessary. He totaled over 200 total yards of offense in nine of 13 games last season and accumulated over 300 yards of offense in five of those games.

 

He finished his senior season with 1,626 yards on the ground and 1,869 yards through the air. He ran for 25 touchdowns and threw for another 26. He also returned kicks and punts for an additional 623 yards and another two scores.

 

Mazour wasn’t finished with just offense and special teams, he also played cornerback on a defense that held opponents under 14 points per game. He recorded three pass break ups, recovered a fumble and intercepted two passes, one in which he returned for a touchdown against Wayne.

 

All in all, Mazour finished the season with 2,307 all-purpose yards, an average of 177.5 yards per game. He was credited with 28 solo touchdowns while he was accountable for 54 scores overall on the season.

 

The Cardinals jumped out of the gates hot in 2014. After allowing their week one opponent, Scotus Central Catholic, to tie the game at 14 points apiece, Boone Central scored 17 unanswered points to win 31-14.

 

Boone Central would lead the way for the next seven games. In fact, the closest any opponent came to leading over the Cardinals in those seven games would be the 0-0 start of the game. Boone Central scored first in each game, winning their first eight games by a combined margin of 352-111.

 

In their regular season finale against Norfolk Catholic, the Cardinals took a 12-3 lead before allowing a quick touchdown run by the Knights that cut the lead to 12-9 at halftime.

 

Norfolk Catholic became the first team to lead the Cardinals in 2014 as they scored on the opening drive of the third quarter to take a 16-12 lead.

 

However, those would be the last points the Knights scored, as they surrendered 20 unanswered to Boone Central, falling to the Cardinals, 32-16.

 

That game ended Boone Central’s regular season at a perfect 9-0 as they entered the playoffs with a first round matchup against Milford. After being granted the No. 2 seed and dispatching Milford, 48-7 to open the postseason, a familiar foe would be presented to the Cardinals.

 

That familiar foe would be the only opponent they trailed in the regular season, Norfolk Catholic.

 

Much like their first meeting, the game remained close throughout as the Cardinals led 14-6 at halftime. After two quick scores form each brought the game within one possession at 17-14, Mazour marched his team down the field in just five plays before pushing Boone Central’s advantage to 23-14.

 

Mazour’s five-yard touchdown rush was enough to hold up in the end as the Cardinals hung on for the 23-17 victory over the Knights to advance.

 

For just the second time during the entire season, the Cardinals found themselves trailing, in their next outing. Against Kearney Catholic in the state semifinals, the Stars scored first, late in the first quarter to take a 7-0 lead. Similar to the only other time the Cardinals trailed though, those points would be the last ones Kearney Catholic could muster.

 

Boone Central advanced to the state championship after scoring 34 consecutive points to win, 34-7 over the Stars.

 

The state championship game pitted Nebraska Class C1’s top two teams in the No. 2 seed Cardinals taking on No. 1 seed Ashland-Greenwood.

 

Boone Central looked more like the top seed however, jumping out to a 21-7 first quarter lead before ultimately handing the Bluejays their lone defeat of the season, 54-14. The 40-point loss was the Bluejays largest margin of defeat in over two years.

 

The game was a fitting end to a season and a fitting end to head coach Arnold Johnson’s career at Boone Central, as his last game at the helm of the Cardinals sent him out as a State Champion.

 

Mazour finished the state championship game, throwing for 129 yards and three touchdowns while rushing for a season-high 248 yards.

 

With the departures of Coach Johnson as well as Mazour and several other seniors, the Cardinals will have an uphill road if they were to repeat as State Champions.

 

Nevertheless, Mazour and Coach Johnson exit Boone Central as Champions. A fitting exit for a legendary coach and truly one of the more exciting dual-threat quarterbacks in recent memory.

 

Offensive stat leaders

Rushing: Wyatt Mazour (1626 yards)

Passing: Wyatt Mazour (1869 yards)

Receiving: Travis Kennedy (515 yards)

All-Purpose: Wyatt Mazour (2307 yards)

Touchdowns: Wyatt Mazour (28)

Rush attempts: Wyatt Mazour (185 carries)

Receptions: Zac Glidden (27 catches)

 

Defensive stat leaders

Total tackles: Colton Pelster (75)

Tackles for loss: Michael Lipker (12.5)

Sacks: Michael Lipker (2.5)

Interceptions: Kyle Kramer (5)

Fumbles forced: Zac Glidden (3)

Fumbles recovered: Zac Glidden (4)

 

Team statistics

Total scoring: 543 points

Opponent scoring: 172

Total offense: 5095 yards

Total rushing yards: 2895 yards

Total passing yards: 2200 yards

Opponent offense: 3325 yards

Opponent rushing yards: 2362 yards

Opponent passing yards: 963 yards

Third down conversions: 50/120 (41.7 %)

Opponent third down conversions: 56/188 (29.8 %)

Turnover differential: +10 (23 interceptions, 10 fumbles)