Crusaders rout Curley, 40-22, in MIAA B football (VIDEO HERE!)


St. Paul’s Hunter Parr (right) begins separating the football from Curley’s Sekou Elliott during the opening quarter of Friday’s MIAA B Conference football contest. The Crusaders recovered Parr’s forced fumble and would score in a 40-22 decision over the Friars at Tullai Field in Brooklandville.

by Gary Adornato

It was a special afternoon in Brooklandville Friday as the St. Paul’s School football program honored legendary coach and teacher Mitch Tullai, for whom the school’s football stadium is named.

Tullai attended the game and was presented with a commemorative football by the Crusaders, in celebration of his 90th birthday which occurred in July. The Crusaders also gave the legend one other gift, a 40-22 MIAA B Conference rout of league rival Archbishop Curley.

It was a slow start for St. Paul’s, as senior quarterback Leo Kelly missed on four of his first six passes, but he eventually found his rhythm and began moving the Crusader offense. Kelly would go on to complete 12-of-22 tosses for 182 yards, while throwing for two scores and rushing for one more as the Crusaders (3-1 overall, 2-0 MIAA B) pulled away in the second half.

On the game’s opening drive, Kelly deserved a better fait as he completed a 21-yard throw inside the Curley 10, but a jarring hit separated Ayden Jett from the pigskin and Friars’ Josh Knapp scooped up the fumble and returned it out to the Curley 31. The Friars (1-4, 1-1 MIAA B), however, went no where on their opening series and paid for a fourth-and-one gamble at the St. Paul’s 40, turning the ball back to the Crusaders on downs.

St. Paul’s quickly capitalized as senior Princeton Douglass carried for 31 yards on the first play and nine more on the third play of the drive for the game’s first touchdown.

Things went from bad to worse for Curley as it fumbled the ball away on the first play of their next drive, with the Crusaders’ Chris Coulsen making the recovery at the Curley 20. St. Paul’s took eight plays to navigate the 20 yards, overcoming a holding penalty, but Kelly eventually got his team back in the end zone with an eight-yard scoring run.

“We played well,” said Kelly. “We started off a little slow passing the ball, but Princeton definitely helped us out. He kept the defense looking at us and kind of worried. So we were able to open it up in the second half. All around, the line played great, made some key blocks, and so did the receivers.”

In the second quarter, Curley showed some resiliency, putting together a nine-play, 45-yard scoring drive, capped by a 1-yard touchdown run by Julian Howard to cut the Crusaders’ lead to 14-7.

Kelly and St. Paul’s answered immediately, driving 61-yards with Kelly completing a 34-yard touchdown pass to Kyle Austin.

Curley had a chance to take some momentum to the half, as the Friars drove from their own 35 to a first-and-goal at the St. Paul’s seven. Curley failed on four cracks at the goal, but a pass interference call on fourth down, gave them one additional play with two seconds left in the first half. The Friars elected to have Knapp attempt a 20-yard field goal, but the kick went wide left and St. Paul’s held onto a 21-7 advantage at the half.

In the third quarter Kelly threw a 42-yard touchdown pass to Jack Parr and Devin Thompson scored on a 2-yard run for Curley.

Kelly capped off his afternoon with a 21-yard TD toss to Douglass, early in the fourth quarter, and Max Daugherty added a 7-yard TD run for the Crusaders, to push the lead to 40-14.

Douglass finished his big afternoon with 84 yards rushing on 12 carries. He likes the ability to play different roles for the Crusaders.

St. Paul’s quarterback Leo Kelly (left) and fellow senior Princeton Douglass led the Crusader offense in its win over Curley Friday.

“I like how our offensive coordinator can put me at slot, put me at running back; I can return kicks,” said Douglass. “We’re very versatile with what we do. We always keep the defense guessing and, if they’re ever keying on me, we can get the passing game.”

Curley got on the board one final time, as Thompson busted a 43-yard touchdown run and then added a 2-point conversion run.

Thompson, a junior, did not have a carry until the third quarter, but still went on to run for 96 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries to lead the Friars. Howard added 63 yards on 19 carries for Curley.

Curley freshman quarterback Koffi Kwaw completed 8-of-23 passes for 140 yards.

Although the Friars are suffering through some mistakes by their young players now, first-year coach Brendon Ireton feels his program is moving in the right direction.

“There were a couple of mistakes on our part,” said Ireton. “We’re a young football team and I think it showed today. We had a couple of opportunities in the red zone we couldn’t capitalize on and had a couple of opportunities on defense where we gave them two touchdowns on fourth down. A turn one way or another and I think it might have been a much closer game.

“This is the youngest Curley football team in a while. I remember when I was here before we had maybe one sophomore on varsity. We’re playing with 10 and seven or eight sophomores are starting. So, we’re a very young football team, with a young quarterback, and we’re going through some growing pains, but I don’t think is going to be very far before we start turning the corner.”

St. Paul’s coach Scott Ripley always expects a strong effort from Curley.

“Whenever St. Paul’s plays Curley its such a touch matchup,” said Ripley. “Curley is a great football program. It’s a great tradition and we knew they were going to hit us from the beginning to the end and I am surprised we had that kind of success because they are such a well coached team.”

While the Friars look to the future, Ripley and his players are focused on this season and a title run.

“We’ll get healthy,” added Ripley. “We’ve got four guys coming back. We’re excited about the way we’re playing. We work hard every day at practice and we talk about commitment, sacrifice, competing every down, working hard, and always being positive. So, we’re excited about it, but we need to keep it going. It’s a long season.”

Kelly agreed with his coach.

“We just have to keep playing hard,” added the senior quarterback. “We’re doing well right now. We have a couple of injured guys that will be coming back in the next couple weeks, so we’re just going to keep the intensity up and keep playing the way we have.”

Douglass was more direct about the team and its aspirations.

“We definitely have the team to go to the championship and win the championship this year,” said Douglass. “We have phenomenal athletes; we have a lot of speed. If we just take it week by week and have a great week of practice and study our opponent, we should be fine.”

Coaching legend Mitch Tullai (left), with St. Paul’s staffer Jeff Dudley, makes his departure from the field named in his honor, after watching his Crusaders win on the gridiron.

Finally, Ripley reflected on Coach Tullai and his importance to him and the school.

“Mitch Tullai, who turned 90 in July, is such a great mentor to all of us coaches here,” stated Ripley. “He talks about how important it is to love these kids and teach them life lessons, in the classroom as well as off the field. Coach Tullai has been very special to me. I am in my ninth year here. I’ve bumped into him three or four times and he has nothing but good things to say about St. Paul’s and the direction our football program is going. He’s such a great guy.”

Pictured above: St. Paul’s coaching legend Mitch Tullai, now 90-years old, is honored by St. Paul’s seniors (from left) Jack Parr, Leo Kelly, Jack Burke and Princeton Douglass.

ST. PAUL’S SCHOOL 40, ARCHBISHOP CURLEY 22
AC 0 7 7 8 — 22
SP 14 7 7 12 — 40

1st Qtr
SP – Princeton Douglass 9 run (Damian Ramos kick)
SP – Leo Kelly 8 run (Ramos kick)

2nd Qtr
AC – Julian Howard 1 run (Josh Knapp kick)
SP – Kyle Austin 34 pass fro Kelly (Ramos kick)

3rd Qtr
SP – Jack Parr 42 pass from Kelly (Ramos kick)
AC – Devin Thompson 2 run (Knapp kick)

4th Qtr
SP – Douglass 21 pass from Kelly (run failed)
SP – Max Daugherty 7 run (pass failed)
AC – Thompson 43 run (Thompson run)