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)

Congratulations to HSGC users across the northeast region of the country


By: Cameron Mellor

January 8, 2014


In light of the annual high school All-American games that took place this past weekend, signifying the culmination of the high school football season, we see no better time than the present to continue to unveil the first-annual, All-HSGC Award Lists for the 2013 football season.


With extensive parameters and essential criteria to be considered for the coveted list, the All-HSGC Awards signify excellence on the field of key offensive positions and defensive players as a whole. The quintessential component of the list was basic and to-the-point – your team must utilize the HSGameCenter program being delivered by Digital Scout. From there, the grading criterion included, but was not limited to, yards and touchdowns, team winning percentage, percentage of team total offense and much more.


The northeast region contains users from the states of Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia and Washington D.C.


After careful deliberation and hours of scouring over statistics from programs far and wide, the list of the first ever All-Northeast HSGC Awards are here.


All-Northeast Player of the Year:



Steven Peoples, Galax (Va.) High School (6-5)

Running Back No. 22

3598 total yards, 44 total touchdowns


All-Northeast First Team


Mark Pyles, Lebanon (Pa.) High School (7-4), No. 5

3919 total yards, 48 total touchdowns


Running Back:



Josh Sweet, Woodgrove (Va.) High School (9-4), No. 4

2818 total yards, 40 total touchdowns


Deshaun Wethington, Kings Fork (Va.) High School (9-3), No. 4

2157 total yards, 23 total touchdowns


Wide Receiver:

Swahneek Brown, Mechanicsburg (Pa.) High School (5-5), No. 1

1112 total yards, 18 total touchdowns


Jeremy De la Cruz, Lebanon, No. 11

1123 total yards, 12 total touchdowns


All-Northeast Second Team


Kent Henry, Western Albemarle (Va.) High School (10-3), No. 16

3571 total yards, 51 total touchdowns


Running Back:

Qadree Ollison, Canisius (NY) High School (9-2), No. 7

1496 total yards, 22 total touchdowns


Brad Rinehart, Middletown (Md.) High School (14-0), No. 22

1665 total yards, 29 total touchdowns


Wide Receiver:

Nicholas Negron, Lebanon, No. 4

1014 total yards, 13 total touchdowns


Steven Hearn, Western Albemarle, No. 10

801 total yards, 13 total touchdowns


All-Northeast Third Team


Nick Cascione, New Canaan (Ct.) High School (13-1), No. 15

3439 total yards, 45 total touchdowns


Running Back:

Gavin Berkely, Meyersdale Area (Pa.) High School (8-2), No. 36

1121 total yards, 20 total touchdowns


Frank Cognetta, New Canaan, No. 4

1441 total yards, 16 total touchdowns


Wide Receiver:

Jonathan Duhart, Manchester (Va.) High School (8-3), No. 11

1103 total yards, 10 total touchdowns


Jordan Stewart, Arundel (Md.) High School (9-3), No. 5

1127 total yards, 9 total touchdowns


All-Northeast Honorable Mention


Ben Nardo, South Carroll (Md.) High School (9-3), No. 16

3065 total yards, 35 total touchdowns


Anthony Messenger, Arundel, No. 4

3014 total yards, 31 total touchdowns


Alex Lipscomb, Ritchie County (WV) High School (8-4), No. 15

2723 total yards, 27 total touchdowns


Running Back:

Justin Jones, Chilhowie (Va.) High School (7-5), No. 20

1623 total yards, 21 total touchdowns


Brent Hinson, Tabb (Va.) High School (7-4), No. 33

1798 total yards, 15 total touchdowns


Mikell Moore, McKeesport Area (Pa.) High School (10-1), No. 24

1136 total yards, 16 total touchdowns


Wide Receiver:

Dylan Mellor, Woodgrove, No. 2

915 total yards, 8 total touchdowns


Andrew Fischer, East Rochester (NY) High School (7-2), No. 81

599 total yards, 12 total touchdowns


Charles Sobieraski, Lockport (NY) High School (3-6), No. 81

526 total yards, 11 total touchdowns



All-Northeast Defense

Player of the Year:

George Aston, Sherando (Va.) High School (10-2), No. 10

126.5 total tackle, 62 solo, 6.5 tackle for loss, 2 sack, 3 interception


Honorable Mention Defense:

Logan Casey, Middletown, No. 67

53.5 total tackle, 43 solo, 17.5 tackle for loss, 6.5 sack


Ricky Leonard, Middletown, No. 83

39 total tackle, 30 solo, 25 tackle for loss, 14 sack


Anthony Marconi, West Morris Mendham (NJ) High School (6-6), No. 59

117 total tackle, 85 solo, 5.5 tackle for loss, 2.5 sack, 1 interception


Marshall Taylor, Lockport, No. 65

38 total tackle, 21 solo, 14 tackle for loss, 7.5 sack


Matt Bartnik, Cheektowaga (NY) High School (6-2), No. 21

45.5 total tackle, 36 solo, 17.5 tackle for loss, 3 sack


Joseph Dixon, Galax, No. 20

71 total tackle, 40 solo, 18 tackle for loss, 2.5 sack


Osiris Crutchfield, Western Albemarle, No. 73

41 total tackle, 29 solo, 10 tackle for loss, 8 sack

Teams' Live Stats on HSGC All Season Long 


By Dan Fronczak

December 18, 2013


This football season, millions of fans logged onto for high school play-by-play statistics. And what they saw was live data streaming in from all across the country from thousands of teams, including 24 who won state football titles and 14 state runner ups. Additionally, 2 are playing for championships this weekend - Booneville and Cisco.


Congrats to all of our teams and their fans on a successful 2013 campaign.


HSGC State Champs:


Acadiana, LA

Avon,         SD

Bentonville,     AR

Bishop Kelly, ID

Blue Springs, MO

Blue Valley,   KS

Buhler,     KS

Canisius,  NY

Charlotte Ch., NC

Dowling Cath., IA

Fargo South, ND

Grand Meadow, MN

Jenks,      OK

Kirtland,   OH

Lee's Summit W., MO

Mahnomen, MN

Maryville,   MO

Middletown,  MD


Murphy,  NC

New Canaan, CT

Shelley,              ID

Shiocton,   WI

St. Croix Luth., MN

SVSM,           OH


HSGC State Runner Ups:


Pine Bluff, AR

Serra, CA

Shawnee Mission East, KS

South Christian, MI

Minneota, MN

Rosemount, MN

Underwood, MN

Aquinas, NE

Westside, NE

West Morris Mendham, NJ

Charlotte Latin, NC

Adamsville Senior, TN

Pine View, UT

Sherando, VA


Crusaders selected as HSGC Team of the Week after 41-7 victory


By Cameron Mellor

November 26, 2013



Canisius High School was impressive this season in victory; dominant may be a more accurate term.  The Crusaders had rattled off six shut out victories this season while holding opponents in their two other victories to a combined total of 24 points and outscoring them by 73 points.


In their finale this season, Canisius convincingly handled rival St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute in the MMAA Championship game, 41-7, on perhaps their biggest stage of the season.  For their efforts in repeating as MMAA Champions, the Crusaders have been selected as the HSGC National Team of the Week.



“It’s always great to beat your rival, especially for the championship,” CHS head coach Rich Robbins said.  “It was particularly great to do it this time, at Ralph Wilson Stadium, in front of our whole city, on a televised game.”


The game against St. Joe’s, that took place at the Buffalo Bills stadium, was never really close as the Crusaders stomped out to a 21-0 halftime lead behind three scores from running back Qadree Ollison.  While the Marauders would score early in the second half, Canisius would answer back with a touchdown throw from quarterback Jake Loucks to Ryan Richards, extending their lead back to 21 points.


Ollison would thwart any attempt at a comeback as he scored two more times, once in the third and once in the fourth quarter, giving him five rushing scores on the day.


“On the biggest stage, in the biggest game, (Ollison) had a great game,” Robbins said.  “He’s a three-year varsity player, and he was very important to us over these years.  He had a great game running the ball, and he was successful all year long for us.  He couldn’t be a better guy.”


Ollison, going to the University of Pittsburgh next season, finished the game with 234 yards on just 20 carries and his five touchdowns.  In his career against St. Joseph’s, Ollison has now scored 13 touchdowns and run for 380 yards against the Marauders.


Led by Brad Zaffram and Jerome Brundidge who were tied for the team lead with six tackles each, the Crusader defense held the Marauders to just 99 total yards of offense including just four yards through the air.  St. Joseph’s connected on just 2-of-7 pass attempts in the contest.


Canisius also forced two turnovers in the game including an interception on the second play of the game by Keon Garrett.  Both turnovers led to Ollison touchdowns on the ground.


“St. Joseph’s was the eighth opponent that we’ve held under 100 yards this season,” Robbins said.  “We’ve really started to live in the now and started hitting our stride at the right time.”


The Crusaders are poised to make another run at the MMAA Championship next season as they return several starters, including FBS talent TJ Wheatley who has offers from Alabama, Texas A&M and Michigan to name a few.  Wheatley is the son of former NFLer and current running backs coach of the Buffalo Bills, Tyrone Wheatley.


Be sure to check out to follow Canisius next season.  You can take a look back at Crusader’s 2013 campaign right here: