It was probably the one play Bryan Rhodes didn’t make all game. The St. Anthony’s defensive lineman stripped Xaverian running back Laray Smith on the final play of the first half and had a sure touchdown as the ball rolled toward the end zone.
“I was going to scoop and score, but I guess I just bobbled the ball,” the junior said. “I was too excited, so I just dove on it.”
The play was still one of four turnovers caused by the Friars, who also blocked a punt, during a 43-21 Homecoming win over the visiting Clippers in a CHSFL AAA game at Cy Donnelly Field Friday night.
Rhodes spent most of the night in the Xaverian backfield. With his team leading by 22, he sacked quarterback Greg Rando three times and helped stop running back Zach Kearney cold on 4th-and-inches on the Friars 11 less than a minute before halftime.
“I thought that was really the difference in the game,” St. Anthony’s coach Rich Reichert said.” If they had gone and would have made it [a 14-point deficit], then they go into half with a little confidence.”
Xaverian (2-2, 1-2) had plenty of opportunities to get something going. They recovered a fumble by quarterback Charlie Raffa at the Friars 38 on the game’s opening drive, only to give the ball right back because of a high snap on the punt. Dariyan Riley punched it in for a for a 4-yard score and Raffa later hit Brian Kensall in the left side of the end zone for a 23-yard touchdown to makes it 15-0, after the 2-point conversion, with 2:09 left in the first quarter.
The Clippers, who moved the chains against the Friars defense nearly the entire game, appeared to finally find their footing as Kearney and Smith got going on the ground. A quick 8-play, 75 yard drive ended with a 4-yard TD run from Kearney on the first play of the second quarter. Joseph LoCascio ended the next Friars next drive by taking a toss 5 yards for a score.
Two plays later, Brian Barbaccia stripped Kearney. St. Anthony’s (4-0, 3-0) recovered on the Clippers 18 and Mike Schillizzi (69 yards) ran it in from 8 yards out to make it 29-7 with 4:48 left before the half. Brian Sherlock and Maston Ellerbe each added second-half touchdown runs for St. Anthony’s, which lost to St. Joseph by the Sea in last season’s Homecoming game. Six rushers combined for 269 yards on the ground.
“Everyone knew that we had to win, especially from last year.” said Raffa, who ran for 64 yards. “That was a great game.”
Rando completed 15-of-22 passes for 171 yards, but threw two tipped interceptions. Smith, who also caught a 13-yard TD pass, rushed for 106 yards on 10 carries, including a run of 49 yards. Zyrel Hardy had a 50-yard touchdown grab and caught four passes for 90 yards.
“We saw today that when we execute we can play with anybody,” Xaverian coach Joe DeSiena said. “But we have to stay mistake free. We are an undersized team. Play a team the size of St. Anthony’s, we have to execute perfectly.”
While the Friars continue their march through the regular season, Xaverian, playing its second game without expelled wide receiver Kendall (Speedy) Thomas, is looking to regroup and enjoy the comforts of home. Three of their final four games are at Kings Bay.
“We made a lot of mistakes again this week,” Smith said. “We just got to recover and try harder next week.”