By Dylan Butler
Holy Cross senior Devon Cajuste will play in front of larger crowds, on national television and perhaps even every Sunday in a few years.
But regardless of what comes in the future, the Stanford-bound wide receiver will hold Friday night’s 31-6 victory against rival St. Francis Prep in the annual Battle of the Boulevard at the Mitchel Athletic Complex in Uniondale, L.I., close to his heart.
“When you’re a senior, you don’t want to come back for your 50-year reunion and say you lost in the Prep game because that’s the first question everyone is going to ask,” said Cajuste, who had three touchdowns in last year’s 27-7 win against St. Francis Prep. “To come out here and show heart and soul like Holy Cross puts out, it’s a good feeling.”
The 6-foot-4, 222-pound Cajuste showcased his versatility in both team’s regular season opener with four carries for 76 yards and three catches for 99 yards.
“There’s no greater feeling than having a weapon like this guy,” Holy Cross quarterback Kevin Durkan said of Cajuste. “He can do anything. We have tons of weapons, but obviously he’s our main weapon.”
Cajuste showed why Stanford and a host of major college programs spent the summer courting him with a 63-yard touchdown catch from junior quarterback Yianni Gavalas that put Holy Cross in front 17-0 at the half.
“We wanted to end the half on a bang,” Cajuste said. “We wanted to keep them down. It was just like practice, just a catch in the park, an easy score.”
Holy Cross dominated on both sides of the ball, racking up 498 yards of total offense and sacking St. Francis Prep quarterback Brendan Stackpole five times, limiting the Terriers to 193 total yards. Shaquille Frederick (six tackles, two sacks) and Malachi Hoskins (six tackles, one sack) led the Knights defensively.
Stackpole, whose father Tim was one of 343 New York City firefighters to die Sept. 11, 2001, brought St. Francis Prep back with a 1-yard quarterback keeper with 3:52 left in the third quarter. But then Kedar Hunter capped a backbreaking seven-play, 83-yard drive with a 7-yard touchdown run to put the Knights in front 24-6 with 42.9 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
“That drive really said we’re not going to lose,” Holy Cross Coach Tom Pugh said. “At that point we knew we had the game under control.”
Durkan, whose older brothers Brian and Michael both played football for Holy Cross, put an exclamation point on the decisive win with a 51-yard touchdown run with 6:47 remaining in the fourth quarter.
“I’ve been around this game growing up,” said Durkan, who also kicked a 22-yard field goal and four extra points. “I’ve watched so many games. I know what it’s all about.”
While Cajuste showed his versatility, Holy Cross displayed its unpredictability offensively with the duel-QB threat of Gavalas and Durkan. Hard-nosed A.J. Griffin was also a revelation, rushing for 93 yards on 10 carries.
“To have a running quarterback like [Durkan] and a guy who can throw it [like Gavalas], you never know what’s going to happen,” Cajuste said.
With a second consecutive Battle of the Boulevard win behind it, Holy Cross turns its focus on a CHSFL-opener at St. Anthony’s next Friday, a rematch of last year’s CHSFL Class AAA semifinals won by the Friars.
“This is the initial statement,” Cajuste said. “Now St. Anthony’s is the biggest game of the season. That’s our test.”