A Battle of the Boulevard rematch may still be in the works, but that can only happen two weeks from now, in the CHSFL Bowl Playoffs, a pseudo loser’s bracket.
Friday night, the CHSFL “AA” semifinals will feature just one Queens program - and it’s campus doesn’t lie on Francis Lewis Boulevard.
Instead of a Holy Cross-St. Francis Prep rematch, the seventh-seeded Royals look to keep their revived season alive when they meet No. 6 Kellenberg at Mitchel Field in Hempstead, Long Island with a finals berth at stake.
Behind two Joe Nuss touchdown passes and a stout defense that forced two Tristan Akong fumbles - his first two of the season, all in the fourth quarter - Christ the King (CK) came from 13 points behind in the final 12 minutes to shock the second-seeded Terriers, 14-13.
That the upset came barely more than a month after CK’s 36-18 loss to St. Francis on the very same field at St. John’s University made it even more rewarding.
“That’s the great thing about the playoffs, you get to play a team you lost to, who you thought you could’ve beaten, and you beat them when it counts,” Nuss said. “It was emotional. We won a game everybody thought we were going to lose. It felt great. I was crying.”
“It’s definitely one of the top wins [in recent Christ the King history],” CK Coach Kevin Kelly said. “It’s against a Queens rival, it’s in the first round of the playoffs, and it’s a seven versus a two seed. There are many things against us. It just shows how hard our kids fought back in that game.”
Winners of three straight after starting the year by losing six in a row, the upstart Royals (3-6) believe anything is possible. “Getting that first win let them know we can win, and just keep believing in what we are doing,” said Kelly, who credited the return of defensive lineman Luis Pinelli and the addition of a few sophomores to aid special teams.
And why not believe? Almost everybody had St. Francis written into the next round.
Furthermore, the Royals can eye a trip to their first final in three years - in 2004, they won the “AA” crown. The team “is confident, not cocky,” wide receiver Danny Manetta said. They are also eyeing another dose of revenge, this time against Kellenberg (3-6), who knocked them off 42-26 one month ago.
“Now we’re playing the sixth seed, who’s still higher than us and beat us, so we know we owe them,” Nuss said.
Added Manetta: “We still got two more weeks.”
St. Francis Prep wasn’t the borough’s only “AA” club to suffer a shocking upset. No. 3 Holy Cross fell to sixth-seeded Kellenberg, 16-6, Saturday night, losing to a team they had walloped, 47-27, just 13 days before. Five turnovers - two interceptions and three fumbles - set the stage. The giveaways were merely a byproduct, Holy Cross Coach Tom Pugh said, of a poor performance.
“They just weren’t focused,” Pugh said. “They just weren’t ready to play an intense game. It’s my fault. I got to do more.”
The evening started well for the Knights. Barrington Wallace ripped off a 50-yard run to set up Daryl Whiting’s six-yard scoring dash. It was an auspicious start to a difficult night for Whiting and the Knights. The Division 1-caliber back managed just 36 yards on 10 carries. Wallace ran for 90, but lost “a big fumble,” Pugh said.