WNY Athletics


Aquinas Institute of Rochester came to Stransky Field on Saturday and emerged with a win, defeating the Canisius Crusaders 35-24.

The Little Irish (3-0) shut down Canisius’ attack with a swarming defense and opportunistic big plays, as they never allowed them to threaten them offensively on a consistent basis.

“Aquinas is one of the best football programs in the state, and they are every year,” coach Rich Robbins said. “If you don’t bring your ‘A’ game against those guys, you’re not going to win very often.”

The Little Irish struck first when Ruben Torres plunged into the end zone from three yards out midway through the first quarter. Canisius then followed up that score with a 45-yard kick return, but it went for naught when Joel Nicholas fumbled and Aquinas recovered.

Mistakes like that fumble, other turnovers, penalties and other miscues were a big part of why Canisius fell to Aquinas, according to Robbins.

“At the end of the day, it really came down to a lack of execution and too many mental mistakes,” Robbins said. “We’re young, and we’ve got some guys who are trying to figure it out a little bit, but I’m encouraged going forward because I thought we played hard and physical.”

The Crusaders got on the board when Tristan Vandenberg hit a 27-yard field goal to make the score 7-3 early in the second quarter, but the Little Irish followed up that score a bit later when quarterback Tyler Szalkowski and wide receiver Ulysees Russell connected on an 89-yard touchdown pass. Then the tide changed on another turnover.

Canisius wide receiver Nate Weinstein hauled in a pass near midfield on the Crusaders’ next drive, but fumbled the ball, leading to a recovery by Kobe McNair and a 51-yard return for a touchdown, upping the Little Irish lead to 21-3 – a lead the Crusaders couldn’t overcome.

Midway through the third quarter, Joe Jamison scored on a 24-yard touchdown run for the Crusaders, but Aquinas answered right back with an 18-yard pass to tight end Steven Mahar, who was wide open in the middle of the end zone. The Crusaders tried to respond on their next drive, but James Jones came up with a big interception and took the ball down to the Canisius 10-yard line.

Aquinas then cashed in with a short touchdown run, making the score 35-10 with 1:02 left in the third quarter. Canisius wouldn’t quit though, as Jamison and Jason Martin each found the end zone late in the fourth stanza of play, but it was too late by that point.

Up next for Canisius is Erie Cathedral Prep, and Robbins said that it will be an excellent test for his roster before getting back to league play in two weeks.

“I think we just need to clean ourselves up, know our assignments and get back to work,” Robbins said. “Cathedral Prep is the two-time defending Pennsylvania state champs, and they were on a long winning streak recently. We’ve lost to them the last four years in a row by less than seven points each time, so we’re hoping to go out there and compete and get back on track before our meeting with St. Joe’s.”

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