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Even with a quick touchdown, it was obvious from the start that Stepinac was a little sluggish in the beginning of its road game against Xavier at Aviator Field in Brooklyn on Saturday. It took one play in the second quarter to wake the Crusaders up.
After a Xavier field goal, Jerry Thompson made one of the best catches anyone will see all year long. Quarterback Brandon Coleman overthrew his senior receiver, but Thompson leaped backwards with a single arm fully extended and corralled the football for a jaw-dropping grab and a 31-yard gain. Immediately, Stepinac livened up.
Two plays later, Thompson caught a 21-yard touchdown pass and the Crusaders rolled from there with a 41-3 victory. Thompson finished with five catches for 84 yards and a score.
“We were down a little bit and quiet, and I tried to pick everybody up with a big play,” Thompson. “I thought the pass was going out of bounds, but I just went for it and somehow caught it. It felt great.”
Stepinac scored on the second play from scrimmage with a 58-yard touchdown run from Malcolm Major (12 carries, 91 yards 3 TDs), but the Crusaders stalled on their next two possessions before Thompson’s fantastic catch.
“People always say all the credit goes to the offensive line,” Major said. “But when the running back gets the ball and nobody comes close to touching him, that’s all the line. They opened it wide open for me and I just hit the hole.”
Stepinac led 21-3 at halftime by outgaining Xavier 210-67. The first two minutes of the second half iced the game. The opening kickoff of the second half was recovered by the Crusaders down at the 12-yard line after Xavier players assumed it wasn’t a live ball. One play later, Coleman waltzed into the end zone for a 28-3 lead.
Unfortunately for Xavier, a muffed kick return on the ensuing kick spelled more points for Stepinac. On fourth-and-15 from the 35, Coleman hit DeMarcus Miller for a 30-yard gain. Major scored a couple plays later. Coleman finished 12-of-13 for 193 yards and two touchdowns. He ran for 32 yards and a score.
Defensively, Stepinac limited Xavier’s potent rushing attack to just 24 yards in the first half and 133 overall. Will Solomon had 21 carries for 29 yards. Solomon was the dominant tackler on defense for both teams, however.
“Our defense and special teams really came to play today,” defensive end Osaze Perry-Porter said. “We read our keys and just swarmed to the ball.”
Stepinac, which has 89 points in its first two games will host CHSFL powerhouse St. Anthony’s on Saturday in the first of many big games this season.
“We can’t make this the Super Bowl, we have a really tough schedule,” Coach Mike O’Donnell said. “Beating St. Anthony’s and then losing two games does nothing. One game at a time.”
Email John Malone at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @MSGV_Malone