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Crusaders gain berth in senior football final with overtime win over Regi

October 30, 2013

By CLAUDE SCILLEY

With just four points to show for the first 42 minutes of their senior football semifinal game, something had to change for the Holy Cross Crusaders if they were going to play beyond Tuesday afternoon.

That something was actually someone, and that someone was Devon Christian.

With Christian, normally a receiver, moved to tailback, the Crusaders scored a fourth-quarter touchdown to tie their game with the Regiopolis Notre Dame Panthers, and Christian scored on a 30-yard run in overtime to win it.

With the 17-11 victory, Holy Cross earned a berth in Sunday’s Kingston Area Secondary Schools Athletic Association AAA championship game at Richardson Stadium with the defending champion Frontenac Falcons. The Falcons did their part to create a rematch of last year’s final by beating the Sydenham Golden Eagles Tuesday 31-11.

In a game that settled into a defensive struggle after Regi scored a touchdown on its first play from scrimmage, Holy Cross for the most part was spinning its offensive wheels. The Crusaders, who finished second in the regular year at 4-2, hadn’t scored a touchdown since the first half of its last game — five quarters and counting — when Regi fumbled at its own 12-yard line midway through the fourth quarter.

In a drive that ended with a short touchdown run, Christian made a splendid twisting catch — “he did the Rocky Bleier Steelers thing and kind of elevated himself,” Crusaders coach Tim Pendergast described it — to gain first down at the Regi two.

“I don’t know how he caught that ball,” his coach continued, “but Devon’s got the capability of making those plays.”

So in overtime, there was little doubt about who would get the ball when Holy Cross had its chance to score. Christian carried for five yards on the first play, then weaved his way up the middle of the field to score on the very next one.

“The toss is a play that we’ve been kind of riding and it worked well last time but they defended it the whole game so we had to try something different,” Pendergast explained.

With one of his backs ill with pneumonia and another out of the lineup with an ankle injury, Pendergast cast about for some relief.

“Our other back is kind of a shifty runner, a game changer, but not a give-him-the-ball-20-times-and-go-to-the-house kind of back,” Pendergast said. “He’s a great kid and he’s a great team guy but he’s not going to do what Devon did.

“Devon doesn’t go down on first contact. When he gets hit, it’s almost as if he uses the collision to spring himself into action. The kids saw it in the Regi game (last week) when it was happening to get positive yardage, and then today in the second half, when we had to have somebody make some plays, he’s our best offensive weapon and he stepped up and made them.”

The fumble that set up the Holy Cross touchdown may not have cost Regi the game had the Panthers not fumbled again in the final minute of regulation time. After successfully gaining first down on third-and-two, the Panthers had the football at the Holy Cross 50-yard line with 40 seconds to play, about 10 or 12 yards from kicker Nick Carriere’s field-goal range.

Instead, Regi fumbled and Holy Cross got the ball back at midfield with 37.5 seconds remaining. Jeremy Pendergast completed a 20-yard pass to Brent Martindale and then Christian carried for 10 yards for another first down to the Regi 25.

After two unsuccessful plays Holy Cross kicker David Wallace lined up for a 35-yard field goal but the snap was high and the kick never got away.

With first possession in overtime, Regi was penalized and ultimately attempted a 46-yard field goal, but Carriere slipped as he planted on the greasy field and the attempt failed. Holy Cross scored on its first overtime possession.

On a brilliantly sunny, five-degree day, Regi led the game 11-0 after the first quarter, as the Crusaders appeared not quite ready to play at the start of the game. Quarterback Courtney Norris connected with Ryan Fox for a 70-yard touchdown pass and though the snap on the convert attempt was botched, the Crusaders stood around while Regi turned the broken play into two points.

A Carriere field goal made it a two-score lead before Wallace kicked a 30-yard field goal for Holy Cross in the second quarter.

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