SOUTH HUNTINGTON –
It was a head-spinning parade of athletes.
There was simply no keeping up with the cast of elusive characters that propelled Stepinac to a memorable 38-21 win over St. Anthony’s on Friday. It was the first time the unbeaten Crusaders got to celebrate a victory against the CHSFL’s most decorated program since 1983.
“It’s a great feeling,” Stepinac running back Malcolm Major said of the deep roster of impact players. “We can be hard to stop. Last year, if you controlled a couple of guys, you could beat us. That isn’t happening this year.”
The Crusaders had a lot of problems keeping St. Anthony’s quarterback Steven Genova in check early on. He completed nine consecutive passes to start the game, and had the Friars on top 10-3 in the final minutes of the first quarter.
Brandon Coleman was not going to be outdone, though.
The electric Navy recruit went up top on the first play of the second quarter, throwing off his back foot and hitting Giancarlo Furio with a 30-yard touchdown strike. Matthew Tierney knotted the score with the PAT.
Genova was eventually rattled by the pressure being applied by a hyperactive defensive front.
He threw a pair of interceptions in the first half, and Gavin Heslop brought the second all the way back. The lanky cornerback jumped the route and legged the ball 67 yards into the end zone with 7:38 to go in the half, giving Stepinac a 17-10 edge.
“I saw the pass coming and had a great break on the ball,” he said. “I didn’t think I was going to take it to the house. I just wanted to make a play for my team so we could get a big win.”
Kyle Facibene narrowed the gap with a 32-yard field goal five minutes before the intermission.
St. Anthony’s did have the services of star running back Jordan Gowins, who missed last week’s loss to Iona Prep with a hamstring injury. He went over 100 yards despite not playing at full speed.
Tyquan Ennis made a string of huge defensive plays before the break, and had an impact on the other side of the ball when he got to the left sideline behind Dwayne Scott and ran 57 yards for a touchdown with 3:55 to go in the third.
“If he played offense every down, he’d be unbelievable, but we need him more on defense,” Stepinac coach Mike O’Donnell said.
Genova ducked under a sack and hit Danny Jones for 9-yard score in the final minutes of the third quarter and Gowins ran in the conversion, making it 24-21.
The next big play came from Heslop, who stepped into the backfield after Ennis left with a leg cramp. He ripped through heavy traffic and went 28 yards for a touchdown, putting the Crusaders (7-0) ahead 31-21. Major blew through a gap in the line for a 51-yard touchdown with 8:55 to play, giving the Crusaders even more breathing room and the inside track to the No. 1 seed in the upcoming playoffs.