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Terriers in a Groove
By Neil A. Carousso
After beating the Xavier Knights 41-35 in overtime Saturday night at James M. Shuart Stadium at Hofstra University in Hempstead, the Saint Francis Prep Terriers are 4-1 overall and 4-0 in Catholic High School Football League (CHSFL) competition. Their lone loss was against Washingtonville High School, from Kingston, New York, in week one. At this point in the season, their strengths and weaknesses are evident and their goal of a championship gets closer to reality with each win.
The Terriers offense is their biggest strength. This season they went back to old fashioned ground and pound football, led by junior half back Justin Guerre and senior back Kadir Wisdom. "It was our plan since the beginning of the season to have a stronger running game," Guerre said of their offense. The duo of Guerre and Wisdom has been a poignant force in their offense, something that they lacked in the last few seasons. Combine that with the strong, accurate and instinctive senior quarterback Jack Hurley and a strong receiving core, the Terriers are dominant when they have possession. Guerre and Wisdom both agree that the duo has benefited both of them. Guerre remarked, "I think our duo is amazing; we are always looking to use our speed to our advantage."
Wisdom added, "The defense can’t key on one running back." Continuing, "Splitting carries with Justin has helped my game get better because I am competitive and he pushes me to get better at running the ball. With me and Justin in the backfield, I feel we can cause havoc on defenses."
Certainly, their offense is the strong suit of this Terriers team. Credit must be given all around, including the offensive line. Saturday night, it was difficult for the Terriers to gain many yards on the ground especially in the first half. They opened up their offense and mixed in more passing plays with their running plays. Eventually, the offensive line, battling all game with the strong Knights defensive front, opened holes for Guerre and Wisdom. With 5:26 left in regulation, thanks to superb blocking, Wisdom recorded a 60-yard run. The drive was completed with a Guerre 3-yard touchdown run, which tied the game at 27. It was a cat and mouse game in the second half; momentum determined the victor.
Momentum swung the Terriers way after a defensive stop and a 62-yard drive orchestrated by Hurley in just under 60 seconds capped off by an 11-yard touchdown reception by Mark Genovese, which made it 21-13 at the half.
In the second half, the Terriers still couldn’t stop Solomon, as he bounced into holes and ran in the open field. This was due to some key injuries on the line and line-backers. It appeared that the Knights were going to win in the third quarter, but the Terriers, knowing that this was the biggest game and toughest opponent so far this season, fought back. When the Knights scored, the Terriers answered back.
In the fourth quarter, both teams had opportunities on offense. The game came down to defense. The Knights marched down the field a couple of times and had opportunities to put the Terriers away. However, two plays stood-out: a deflection by senior Ramel Joseph, who ran from one sideline to the other in the secondary in order to breakup a pass that would have resulted in a big play and most likely a score and an interception by Justin Guerre, who hasn’t played on defense his entire high school career. The interception by Guerre put the Terriers back on offense and Guerre was the beneficiary. Hurley, who threw for 213 yards, delivered a long, accurate pass down the sideline to Guerre for a 64-yard touchdown with 1:51 to go in regulation. The Terriers then tied it with a 2-point conversion strike from Hurley to Joseph.
In overtime, Hurley connected to Wisdom for a 20-yard touchdown. It was up to the Terriers defense to seal the victory against Xavier and they did. The Terriers jumped up and down in jubilation and ran around the field like they had won the championship. This game was the difference between a 3-2 team and a 4-1 team – a very big difference in October in the CHSFL. The Terriers beat their biggest opponent this season, knowing all week that this game was going to be a close, hard fought battle.
"It is so surreal [being 4-0 in the league and beating Xavier Saturday night], but we know that we have a lot of work to do and we are not trying to lose any games this year [in the league]," an enthusiastic Kadir Wisdom noted before Monday afternoon’s practice.
The Saint Francis Prep Terriers are back to being a force in the CHSFL, currently in the "AA" division. They play their homecoming game this Friday night at 7 PM at Mitchell Field in Uniondale against the Cardinal Spellman Pilots. The Terriers feel they are on the "road to the championship," which they hope to get back to and win this season after a disappointing loss in the "A" Championship Game last season against the Bishop Ford Falcons.
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