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  • Writer's picturetgardner1167

Monsignor Martin Football Championship Game Preview: Canisius vs St. Francis


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For the third year in a row, the Canisius Crusaders and St. Francis Red Raiders will face off in the Monsignor Martin Championship game, and after both sides split their previous two such meetings, the rubber match is poised to be a thriller.

With kickoff set for 3 p.m. on May 8 at Canisius’ Robert J. Stransky Memorial Complex in West Seneca, both the Crusaders (3-1, 3-0) and Red Raiders (2-2, 1-1) will head into the matchup having a pretty good idea of what to expect from one another considering the two met just over a month ago on April 6.

In that first meeting, the Red Raiders took an early 7-6 lead after a 40-yard Kimal Clark rushing score, but the Crusaders answered by rifling off 22 unanswered points to win 28-7. An impressive day both through the air and on the ground by Canisius quarterback Tyler Baker was the headline performance, as the junior finished 17 for 27 for 224 yards and a touchdown and also tallied 105 yards and a score on the ground.

Baker will likely be the x-factor for Canisius on offense, as he leads the team in both rushing and passing yards as well as total touchdowns. The Crusaders have cruised through their three league games in the shortened spring schedule, beating St. Francis and handily defeating rival St. Joe’s twice, and while the Baker-led offense has done its job, it’s the defense that has stood out most in league play. Over those three games, the Canisius defense, led by linebacker Nick Ciriello and lineman Malachi Charleston, has allowed just two opposing touchdowns to go along with 16 sacks, meaning that an early Crusader lead could spell trouble for the Red Raiders.

As for St. Francis, who entered their first matchup with Canisius having practiced just five times due to a COVID-19 pause, they head into the championship playing their best ball of the shortened spring season in recent weeks. Following an 0-2 start to the year, they’ve bounced back with impressive wins over top local small school WNY Maritime/Health Sciences, 35-6, and league foe St. Joe’s, 49-6.

With the Red Raider defense in particular stepping up in recent weeks, one of the major matchups to watch will be how they try to slow down the Baker-led Crusader offense and limit their big plays. If they can do so, the backfield duo of Ricardo Kidd and Kimal Clark may have the chance to make an impact on the game and help St. Francis control the clock. To go along with the defense’s hot streak, quarterback Steve Otremba Jr. had his best performance of the year in the regular season finale against St. Joe’s when he tossed four touchdowns, meaning the entirety of the St. Francis team seems to be gelling at the perfect time.

With both defenses playing so well, it would not be stunning to see a tight, low-scoring affair. Chunk plays may be hard to come by, so whichever side hits on more likely could be the one to come out on top. Combine all that with the recent history between these two programs and the motivation that comes with it, and it sets up for a battle of Western New York heavyweights on Saturday afternoon to see who will be crowned MMAA champion in one of the more different football seasons we’ve ever seen.

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