By Robert Cole
The latest turnaround in St. Francis Prep’s 2017 football season came Sunday, when the Terriers avenged last month’s six-overtime loss to Mount St. Michael by defeating the Mountaineers 32-14 in the first round of the CHSAA Class “AA” quarterfinal playoff game at Mount’s field in the Bronx.
After last year’s winless season, the quarterfinal victory illustrates the positive direction of the St. Francis football program.
“It’s sweet, coming off an 0-9 season last year and now being in the conversation for the playoffs,” head coach Rich Carroll said. “Our objective was to be in the conversation, to get to this level.”
With both teams coming into the game with identical 4-4 league records, the quarterfinal match was expected to be a battle with a trip to the semifinals on the line.
The first half did not disappoint.
The Terriers found themselves trailing in the first quarter after Mount’s Marquis Jimenez ran the ball for a touchdown with 5:45 remaining in the quarter to give his team an 8-0 lead.
But 41 seconds later, St. Francis’ quarterback Omarion Jones broke free for a 60-yard touchdown run cut Mount’s lead to 8-6.
St. Francis took its first lead of the game at the 3:01 mark of the second quarter, when Jones scored his second touchdown of the half on a 5-yard run, putting Prep on top 12-8.
Mount reclaimed the lead before the end of the half when Barran Keon caught a short pass for a touchdown with 42 seconds remaining in the half, giving his team a 14-12 advantage at the break.
But St. Francis’ defense came out strong in the second half, forcing three Mount turnovers, which led to 20 consecutive points.
The first turnover came at the 8:06 mark, when Matthew O’Donnell scooped up a Mount fumble and returned it for a 75-yard touchdown, giving St. Francis a 20-14 lead.
Nazareth McFarlan recorded two interceptions in the fourth quarter to give the ST. Francis offense momentum and field position, of which Prep took advantage.
Marc Anthony Dalce scored from three yards out to give the Terriers a 26-14 lead and Christopher Auricchio capped the St. Francis scoring on a 2-yard run, making the score 32-14, which would prove to be the final.
With the win, St. Francis advances to the semifinal round, when the squad will travel to the Bronx to take on Fordham Prep Saturday at 7 p.m.