By Anthony Fiorello firstname.lastname@example.org
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — Town of Tonawanda — Nearly three weeks after losing to Canisius by a score of 21-0, the St. Joe’s Marauders feel as if they have become a different team.
The Marauders haven’t changed anything schematically on offense or defense, but last week’s dose of playoff action against St. Francis and a bye week before that has re-energized the squad.
“I think last week was a little bit of a wake-up call for our team,” head coach Dennis Gilbert said. “Playing in a playoff game helped to get some our young guys out of that deer-in-the-headlights mentality, so it was good to get them into one of those must-win games and have them get into that win-now mode.
“Also having the week off in between the regular season and the playoffs was huge,” Gilbert continued. “It was another 10 days of rest for our guys, and it especially helped Nigel Davis. You could really notice the difference against St. Francis in his ability to change direction and accelerate. It was tremendous for us to get our guys healed up.”
Davis, the team’s top running back and the school’s all-time leader in touchdowns, had been hobbled by an ankle injury for a few weeks and the injury had diminished his performance on the field.
“I think that week off helped our team and myself a lot,” Davis said. “We’ve been a little banged up and it felt good to be out there last week and being able to play like I normally do. I feel a lot better now after having some rest.”
The Marauders also took the time to focus on cleaning up small mistakes that occurred in the first meeting against the Crusaders, and put the lessons learned to good use in practice and against St. Francis last week.
“After we watched the film of that game, we found a couple of chinks in our armor, so to speak,” Gilbert said. “We came close to having some big plays numerous times, but we weren’t able to connect on them because of some errors.
“Some of those errors were as simple as running the same play against the same formation twice in a row,” Gilbert continued. “On one play, we’d get eight yards and then the next play we’d get one yard because one guy would change who he would block.
“We went over those in practice and we saw the kids make those adjustments last week. As a coach, it’s so rewarding to see the light go on for your players, because when it does, it means that you’ve done your job.”
A rematch with the Crusaders at Ralph Wilson Stadium tonight beckons the Marauders, and the team knows that the timing couldn’t be better in order to exact revenge on the Crusaders.
“The rivalry between St. Joe’s and Canisius has been around for a long time and every time we play against them it’s always physical and there’s always some bad blood between us,” Davis said. “We’re not scared or discouraged in any way just because we lost to them before. We’ll be ready this time.”
“Our goal all season long has been to win a championship, and we’ve got an opportunity to fulfill our goal against one of our top rivals and at Ralph Wilson Stadium. That’s a perfect scenario for us,” Gilbert said. “You can’t ask for much more than that.”