Xaverian was absolutely reeling.
The Clippers went into halftime up just a touchdown despite dominating Chaminade and, on the last play of the second quarter, star sophomore wide receiver Kendall (Speedy) Thomas injured his shoulder. To make matters worse, quarterback Greg Rando threw an interception deep in Xaverian’s own end on the first series of the second half, which led directly to the tying touchdown.
“When [Thomas] went out, it was a big blow to our offense,” Rando said. “We really felt it.”
Without the big play wideout, coach Joe DeSiena told his team to commit to the run. Once Xaverian did that, its superior athleticism took over in a 20-14 win against host Chaminade in a CHSFL ‘AAA’ game Saturday in Mineola, L.I.
Sophomore Zach Kearney had a 27-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, his second of the game, to give his team the lead for good and sophomore Laray Smith (nine carries, 74 yards) put the game out of reach with a 20-yard score with 5:54 left in the game.
“We’re explosive enough to win any game against anyone,” DeSiena said. “When we have the right play called, anywhere on the field, it’s a touchdown.”
Chaminade (0-2) nevertheless had complete control until Kearney’s acrobatic interception at the 10-yard line with 7:45 left in the third quarter. Xaverian (2-0) had just gone three-and-out after giving up the tying score and a short punt gave Chaminade the ball at the Clippers’ 30-yard line. A fumble, recovered by Xaverian’s Tushaun Plummer, ended the Flyers’ next drive and led to Kearney’s touchdown run.
“It gave us a lot of momentum,” Kearney said of his pick.
Added Rando: “Zach’s our guy. He just does everything. He’s a sophomore, but he’s one of our leaders.”
Xaverian still had to dig deep late. Chaminade got within 20-14 on a 2-yard touchdown by sophomore fullback Daniel Fowler (21 carries, 139 yards) and, on the ensuing Clippers possession, Rando fumbled at the Chaminade 46, giving the Flyers hope.
But the defense held and Xaverian’s Nick Ruggerio broke up Chaminade quarterback Joseph Anile’s pass intended for Zachary Ogilvie, essentially ending the game, one that the Clippers might not have won last year.
“Last year, we had a lot of seniors, but this year we just lean on each other,” said Rando, who was 13-of-21 for 164 yards passing and carried 10 times for 67 yards. “We’re more of a family this year.”
All week DeSiena had been hammering home that you can probably count on one hand the times powerhouse Chaminade, which fell to Kellenberg last week, has lost two straight games here the last three decades.
The coaching staff has spent hours schooling the players about the history of the league, which DeSiena calls the best in the state. And considering the Flyers were in the semifinals last year and are one of the signature teams in the CHSFL, it was definitely a big victory for a young team that hopes to get Thomas (six catches, 102 yards) back sooner rather than later.
“It’s a great win for us,” DeSiena said. “It puts us on our way. It’s a step in the right direction.”
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