By Joseph Staszewski
The task for the Holy Cross football defense was simple from the day the season started. The veteran unit was asked to play well enough to give the squad’s young offense a chance to execute and mature.
The Knights’ 28-9 football victory over Fordham Prep in CHSFL play Sunday afternoon at the Bayside Athletic Complex was just another example of that. The Cross defense allowed three collected interceptions and allowed just three points against it as the lone Rams touchdown came on a fumble recovery returned for a score in the fourth quarter.
The Knights (4-0, 3-0) have allowed just a combined 29 points in four games this season and no opponent has scored 10 points. They are doing so not at full strength. Linebacker Jordan Francklin is banged up and missed last week’s game against Iona. The injury kept him solely on defense vs. Fordham and forced Brandon Pelzer, also a linebacker, to play most of his time on offense. Still, Holy Cross is thriving on defense.
“I think we have one of the best defenses in the league,” said cornerback Brandon Jackson, who had two interceptions. “We are going out and leaving people in single digits.”
Fordham Prep (1-3, 0-3) did hold a 3-0 lead at the half, thanks to a 39-yard field goal from Andrew Sisti on the final play of the second quarter. Pelzer said there was a feeling of dejection in the locker room at the break. He quickly changed that. Pelzer took Holy Cross’ first play from scrimmage 48 yards down the left sideline for a touchdown to make it 7-3 Knights.
“I was just trying to hit the hole as fast as I can,” he said. “I know we needed a score on the board to get the team hyped. Getting that score basically pumped everybody up to getting this victory.”
A 21-yard diving grab on the third down by Samer Sinclair set up Pelzer’s second score of the game. He scampered in from 6 yards out to make 14-3 on the first play of the fourth quarter. Junior running back Prince Klutsey broke the game open with a 60-yard scoring run to increase the lead to 21-3.
After two Holy Cross fumbles, one resulting in a Fordham Prep touchdown, Jackson ended any hopes of a wild Fordham rally while returning an interception 36 yards for a score in the closing minutes to provide the final margin.
“Jackson’s the man,” Holy Cross Coach Tom Pugh said. “He can play.”
Jackson thought his team overlooked the winless Rams in the first half, but knows that can’t happen moving forward. Holy Cross can’t get caught up in being unbeaten against a good offensive team in St. Joseph by the Sea next week, especially with games against league powers St. Anthony’s and Chaminade on the horizon.
“We are just confident, but we can’t get overconfident,” Jackson said. “Every week is going to be a battle and it just gets harder and harder during the season.”