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Kicker comes up big as Walsh Jesuit football gets first win

by Roger Gordon | Correspondent Published: September 25, 2016 12:00 AM

St. Francis had 456 total yards. Walsh Jesuit had 281.

St. Francis had two turnovers. Walsh had four.

St. Francis had 13 penalties for 65 yards. Walsh had 14 for 110.

The final score? Walsh 23, St. Francis 21.

Statistics do not always tell the whole story, as was the case in this, Walsh Jesuit's home opener against from Athol Springs, N.Y. Sept. 16

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"Our special teams -- namely, our senior kicker and punter Quinn Saluan -- had a phenomenal game," said Walsh head coach Scott Beigie. "He made a gargantuan difference in regards to his punts. He really pinned St. Francis back, causing them to have to run a ton of offensive plays. He also kicked three field goals.

"Defensively, we bent but didn't break. They chipped away, chipped away, chipped away, but then we stopped them. They went for it on a decent number of fourth downs, but we got the stops when we needed to."

Walsh fell behind 7-0 with 3:02 left in the first quarter when St. Francis scored on a 71-yard pass play.

"They have a tremendous receiver and, frankly, he just made a heck of a play," Beigie said. "It was just a go route and he beat our defender. It was his athleticism. He made a quick move off the line of scrimmage and just kind of ran by us."

Walsh answered with a 14-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Alex Weitman to senior slot Kamari Spencer that tied the game at 7-7 with 8:04 to go in the first half.

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"We caught them in a bit of a weakness of their defense," Beigie said. "They were really jamming the middle to shut down inside runs, and we went with our toss play, which was set up by another toss to senior slot Steve Walko, who had a really big run. Kamari found the hole and attacked it."

After they stopped the Red Raiders on a fourth down on the ensuing drive, the Warriors took a 14-7 lead with 6:11 remaining in the half when Weitman completed a 40-yard touchdown pass to sophomore wide receiver Tommy Cummings.

St. Francis tied the score at 14 on an 18-yard touchdown pass with :52 to go in the half.

The Red Raiders tried a squib kick that was recovered by the home team.

"We had the mindset 'We're going to score,'" said the coach. "We weren't just going to sit back. We had good field position, which gave us the opportunity to kick a field goal."

A few plays later, with 7.3 seconds left in the half, Saluan connected on a 37-yard field goal out to give Walsh a 17-14 lead heading into halftime.

The visitors forged back ahead 21-17 with 8:07 to go in the third quarter on a two-yard touchdown run.

Saluan knocked home a 36-yard field goal with 10:51 left in the game to pull Walsh within 21-20 and then hit a 32-yarder with 7:41 to go that gave the Warriors the lead for good.

"Quinn is a special one, that's for sure," Beigie said. "It was an incredibly impressive performance. He's overcome his mess-up against [Toledo] Whitmer in the opener and he's definitely made some of the best kicks he's attempted in his career."

The coach was also happy with the performance of Weitman, who completed 15 of 33 passes for the 210 yards.

"Alex each week continues to grow as a quarterback," he said. "He had a decent amount of pressure in his face, and he stayed in the pocket, took the pressure and took some hits. Not only his quarterbacking skills but also his leadership skills of guiding the offense have impressed the heck out of me. He's really grown into something."

Walko rushed the ball seven times for 46 yards and had five receptions for 42 yards.

Cummings continues to improve and had a career night -- six receptions for 117 yards -- against St. Francis.

"Being such a young guy, we just keep trying to find different ways to get the ball in Tommy's hands," Beigie said. "He's stepping up in big situations, and that's hard for any young person to do, let alone a sophomore, facing the talent we see week in and week out. The sky's the limit for him. I'm excited to see him continue to develop."

Senior slot Kamari Spencer rushed the ball five times for 34 yards and had three catches for 25 yards.

Senior slot Josh Bennett had one reception for 26 yards.

Defensively, junior linebacker Dominic Frisone had a team-high 10 tackles and senior defensive lineman Evan Morckel had five.

Junior defensive back Rafe Lewis also had five tackles. Junior linebacker Michael Walko had four tackles.

Defensive back Sam Thomas and defensive lineman Terry Watkins Jr., both seniors, each had three tackles.

Walsh Jesuit was scheduled to take a 1-3 record into a home game against Cleveland St. Ignatius Sept. 23, but the result was not available at press time.

The Warriors host Parma Padua Franciscan Sept. 30. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.

Email: mleonard@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9442

Facebook: MLeonardRPC

Twitter:@MLeonard_RPC


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