A few hours before his Stepinac football team was scheduled to face Cardinal Hayes Friday night, Mike O'Donnell reviewed some last-minute game tape of his opponent.
"We were worried," the 29th-year coach said. "They have a nightmare of an offense."
The coach shouldn't have been so concerned, because his own offense can be a nightmare for opposing defenses. The Crusaders proved as much, easily outgunning Cardinal Hayes in a 44-19 victory in the Bronx to improve to 7-0 for the first time in O'Donnell's career.
Both squads came to SUNY-Maritime College knowing the stakes were high; the winner would likely earn the top seed in the upcoming CHSFL "AA" playoffs. The Cardinals (5-1) and Crusaders both featured high-powered offenses; Hayes was averaging 35.8 points per game, and Stepinac boasted a 24-point average margin of victory.
But the offense O'Donnell called a "nightmare" had a nightmarish evening. Kwamayne Davis, Hayes' senior quarterback, misfired on six of his first seven passes and threw five interceptions as the Cardinals committed seven turnovers.
"It was horrible," Hayes wideout Bryant McAdoo said. "We did not come to play today."
Led by junior quarterback Tyrell Goodman, the Crusaders scored 21 points off Hayes turnovers. With 6:23 left in the first quarter and the Cardinals threatening, Jeff Clack picked off Davis for the second time and returned it deep into Hayes territory. Moments later, Josh Powell scored on a 13-yard run, giving the Crusaders a 7-0 lead.
Hayes responded by tying the game on McAdoo's 23-yard catch-and-run with 2:30 left in the quarter. But that's as close as the game would be. On the first play of the second quarter, Goodman connected with Nick Euvino for an 18-yard TD and a 14-7 edge.
The Cardinals gift-wrapped Stepinac's next TD. After a series of penalties and incompletions forced Hayes into a third-and-25 from its 16, Davis threw his third pick, telegraphing a pass to Brian Byrnes, who dashed into the end zone to give the Crusaders a 21-7 lead.
"Our defense played very well," O'Donnell said. "But all year, they've made plays."
So has Goodman. The first-year starter put on a show against Hayes, scrambling all over the rain-soaked field. He finished with two passing TDs and one rushing score and earned high praise from McAdoo, who called him "the best quarterback I've ever played against."
"It felt good," Goodman said. "We wanted to make a statement win. And we did."