By Anthony Fiorello email@example.com
Niagara Gazette — ORCHARD PARK — The Canisius Crusaders were the dominant team in the Monsignor Martin Association in the regular season and proved to also be the most dominant team in the postseason as they took home the MMA Championship by defeating St. Joe’s 41-7 Thursday night at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
The win gave the Crusaders their second straight MMA postseason championship and their sixth since 1975.
“I couldn’t be more proud of these guys,” head coach Rich Robbins said. “The whole team played well, and I’m especially proud of (senior running back) Qadree Ollison. He’s our leader and has been with us on varsity for three years. This one means a lot to him and to the rest of our seniors to beat our rival and to win a championship. It’s pretty special.”
The Crusaders set the tone on St. Joe’s second offensive play of the game. Senior defensive back Keon Garrett intercepted Marauders quarterback Mike McCarthy at St. Joe’s 20-yard line, giving the Crusaders excellent field position to start the game. Ollison — a Niagara Falls native who committed to the University of Pittsburgh early this season — cashed in two minutes later with a 6-yard touchdown run to give Canisius a lead it would never relinquish.
Senior running back Nigel Davis then took the following kickoff 66 yards for the Marauders to the Crusaders’ 30-yard line, but the Marauders weren’t able to capitalize as they were stopped on fourth-down — the first of three times in the first half where the Marauders were not able to convert in the red zone.
After an exchange of punts, Ollison scored the Marauders’ second touchdown of the game from 51 yards out to make the score 14-0. After stopping the Marauders again on fourth down, Ollison then took the ball 85 yards to the end zone to blow the game wide open for the Crusaders.
The 85-yard run also saw Ollison surpass 4,000 rushing yards in his high school career.
“That was a big play for us right before halftime,” Robbins said. “We knew that St. Joe’s was going to come back and fight their tail off, so we wanted to make sure that we got another score and play a complete game in the second half.”
A two-yard touchdown run by Davis at the start of the third quarter put the Marauders on the scoreboard and was also the first time all season that the Crusaders’ starting defense allowed a touchdown to an opponent. The Crusaders, however, answered back with a 28-yard pass from junior quarterback Jakob Loucks to senior wide receiver Ryan Richards to increase the score.
Ollison then ran for two more touchdowns from 19 and 2 yards out, respectively, to seal the win for the Crusaders. Ollison finished the game with 240 yards on 20 carries and five touchdowns.
“(Winning a championship) feels great,” Ollison said. “For us to come out and finish the season the way we did tonight, there’s no better way to cap off the year. I’m so happy for the rest of our players and for our coaches. We’re going to enjoy this one for a while.”
“We played as a family tonight,” Robbins said. “The guys love each other too much to let this opportunity get away from us. We worked real hard all season long and we got what we deserved.”