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High School Football: St. Francis gets elusive first win in 2012

Alex Misterman ran for nearly 300 yards and two scores in St. Francis’ first win of the season over Cardinal O’Hara. (Photo courtesy of Ron Larson)

It’s nearly unheard of that a powerful program with the history of past successes such as St. Francis goes the first seven weeks without winning a football game.

So, after the Red Raiders won for the first time in Week Eight of the 2012 regular season, senior Jordan Zakroczemski may have summed it up best when saying, with a sense of relief, “It’s about time.” The fullback and linebacker and his teammates could finally give a collective exhale with a 39-14 victory over Cardinal O’Hara on Friday (Oct. 19) at St. Francis.

“It feels great. We’ve had a tough season so far this year,” added Zakroczemski, who helped St. Francis build a 26-0 halftime lead scoring three touchdowns and keying one St. Francis’ best defensive efforts of the season.

Beating a young O’Hara squad, which was also winless in Monsignor Martin play, may not have served as a season-turning moment, but it was one very necessary for St. Francis to get in the proper frame of mind to start contemplating a late-season run with the playoffs just two weekends away.

“It’s been a long time coming,” St. Francis head coach Jerry Smith said of the win, just a year removed from taking the MMAA league title. “I think the kids really played well today. Maybe this will give us some momentum to finish the year off right. It’s always a good feeling for the kids to win. A win is a win; it doesn’t matter against who, what, where, when…It’s a great feeling for them and maybe they can relax a little bit now.”

St. Francis jumped all over O’Hara early, scoring on all four of its first half drives, and then extending the lead to 32-0 before being scored upon for the first time in the opening minute of the fourth quarter. The Red Raiders actually scored on all six drives until taking a knee on their final possession in the last minute of the game.

Senior running back Alex Misterman scored two of those touchdowns during a 284-yard performance on only 18 carries. He ran for a 44-yard first-half touchdown and another from 16 yards out in the third quarter. It was his second game this season in which he ran for nearly 300 yards. Last time, it was in a shootout loss to Holy Trinity in Week Two.

Both of Zakroczemski’s touchdown runs were from two yards out, while junior Jake Dolegala would add a three-yard quarterback sneak later in the game. Zakroczemski also caught an eight-yard touchdown pass from senior Brian Melisz. Defensively, senior linebacker Jarrett Dolegala was almost unblockable as he finished with 12 tackles.

“The line played well to help us get some good runs and get the season going,” Zakroczemski said. “Coming back from St. Ignatius (where St. Francis lost big to the Ohio power), we played our hearts out there. Now, to get this game hopefully it will give us some momentum for the Monsignor Martin league.”

Smith tried to keep what he was looking from his team pretty simple. He wanted his players to make the correct reads, block the proper defender, hustle to the ball, tackle soundly and most importantly, avoid turnovers. Smith was happy to say, he saw his team successfully perform all of those elements of the game.

He also praised O’Hara for playing hard and believes they have a bright future ahead. O’Hara’s Anthony DeFrancisco led the O’Hara running game and scored a five-yard touchdown. Gino Lattuca also caught a 14-yard score in the loss.

“We were doing all of the things we were supposed to be doing correctly,” Smith said. “I thought if anything we were looking to see if we were hustling to the tackles and we were. There wasn’t anybody standing around. What we didn’t have were the turnovers that were killing us and mistakes of not blocking the right guy or missing the tackle. We were pretty efficient today so I was pretty pleased with that.”

If this win does serve as a boost for St. Francis it couldn’t have come at a better time. St. Francis plays in its regular season finale, hosting Timon-St. Jude on Saturday (Oct. 27), before the quarterfinals of the league playoffs get underway the week after.

The Red Raiders have gone on a playoff run after a disappointing regular season. Smith remembered when his team was just 2-6 in the regular season but still wound up winning the large school league title in 2008, led by game-changing players Delano Fabor and Luke Tasker.

“You never know,” he said. “We did this when we had Delano and Luke. Stranger things have happened. So, we’ll see.”

Smith is hoping the momentum does carry over as his team will be going up against what he called a very good Timon squad. The Tigers have gotten back injured quarterback Ryan Dougherty, along with Adam DiMillo to strengthen the backfield. The two helped them upset St. Joe’s two weeks ago and play right with MMAA front-runner Canisius last week.

“They’ve got Dougherty back who I know is a great quarterback, and some really good running backs, too, so it’s going to be tough,” Zakroczemski said. “Hopefully, we can pull that one off, too.”

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