By Benjamin Leibowitz
The Holy Cross football team has been waiting for the season to start for months, anxious to get back on the field and hit something.
The Knights did just that, staging a dominant defensive performance Sunday as the squad opened up the season with a 28-0 victory over St. Francis Prep in “The Battle of the Boulevard.”
“They’ve been working since January, and this is one of those games that they had circled on their calendar,” Holy Cross coach Tim Smith said. “No matter what the obstacle was they were ready to play.”
It took a little while for Holy Cross’ offense to hit its stride, but the defense picked up the slack from the get-go, sparked by the dominant senior duo of defensive end Dylan McCutchen and defensive tackle Lucas Anastasis.
The pair consistently brought down St. Francis Prep players with hard-hitting tackles and set up camp in the Terriers’ backfield, racking up a handful of sacks. In fact, the Knights’ defense didn’t allow a single run of more than 10 yards.
McCutchen in particular stepped up his game in the rivalry tilt, leading the squad on both sides of the ball.
In addition to his work on defense, he lined up as a fullback on offense, blocking for running backs Tyler Hallerdin and Justin Felder, regularly opening up lanes in front of him. He also picked up some key yardage of his own and, for good measure, served as the Knights’ punter.
“I just want to do as much as I could to help my team out,” McCutchen said of his versatility. “I’m never going to reject a position. I want to be on the field as much as possible.”
As the Holy Cross defense settled into shutdown mode, the Knights offense found a rhythm down the stretch.
Senior wide receiver Michael Ciardello caught three passes of 17 yards or more, including a 30-yard touchdown reception, and hauled in a 30-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Christian Valdez.
“Coach Smith has been preparing us day by day for months for this,” Valdez said. “And today I felt pretty good seeing the field against Prep.”
Valdez excelled through the air, finding consistency with his receivers throughout the game. The Knights’ passing game helped open up their ground attack as well, keeping the Terriers’ defense on their collective toes.
Tyler Hallerdin led the ground game—finding the end zone early in the afternoon—while Justin Felder chipped in a 20-yard touchdown run as well.
After a disappointing season last year, the lopsided victory is a big-time confidence boost for Holy Cross, but the Knights aren’t going to stop working after week one.
It’s on to the next game now and the Knights are still determined to hit as hard as ever.
“Next week we have St. Peter’s,” Felder said. “And that’s what we’re worried about right now.”