Holy Cross: Crusaders dominate Lafayette 35-10 on Senior Day

WORCESTER – It’s hard to believe after waiting almost two years to play at home again, but Holy Cross may have already played its final game at Fitton Field this season.

Time flies when you’re having fun.

The year has seemingly flown by after every local football fan was clamoring for a normal slate just months ago. The Crusaders hope there’s at least one home playoff game still to come, but just in case, the team made sure the seniors finished up the regular season at home in style on Saturday, hammering Lafayette 35-10 on Senior Day. More importantly, Holy Cross remained unbeaten in Patriot League play.

The Crusaders (7-2, 4-0) remained tied with Fordham (6-3, 4-0) atop the league standings with a showdown against the Rams looming next weekend. It was the juniors having the biggest impact on this day, with Ayir Asante hauling in three touchdowns (137 yards) and Jacob Dobbs recording eight tackles and a sack. The defense was dominant as a unit, with seven different players recording a sack and the Leopards only gaining 171 yards of total offense.

A couple seniors that did make an impact were Peter Oliver, who carried the rock 18 times for 105 yards and John Smith who had an interception. Aside from a sluggish end to the first half, it was pretty much a perfect day in Worcester for everyone wearing HC gear or supporting the guys in purple.

“It was the most important thing to us,” Asante said when asked how big it was to give the seniors a win on their day. “These dudes mean so much to us, they’ve shaped my whole experience, they’re like our big brothers. It was really huge for us to get this win period, but to get it for them was even better.”

Holy Cross’ first drive of the game ended with a missed field goal, but after a quick three-and-out, Jordan Fuller punched in a 1-yard touchdown run and Derek Ng added the PAT for the 7-0 lead. Holy Cross ultimately held Lafayette to just four yards total – all on the ground – in the first 15 minutes.

Early in the second quarter, Smith made his diving interception to halt the Leopards’ first real drive at the Crusaders’ 23. Five plays later, Marco Siderman (18/23, 173, 2 TD) hit Asante on a great back shoulder throw from 19-yards out for the 14-0 lead.

After forcing another punt, Holy Cross let Lafayette right back in the game when a ball was batted in the air and returned 47-yards for a pick-six, making it 14-7. The Crusaders put together a great two-minute drive, but Ng had a field goal blocked and the Leopards had all the momentum heading into halftime despite being outgained 280-77 at the time. Lafayette was feeling so good that players started chirping the Holy Cross team, whooping it up leaving the field as the teams had to cross paths.

“You wish you didn’t give up the interception for a touchdown, but I think we were there, we were still just feeling it out a little bit,” said head coach Bob Chesney. “We tried to run a lot of different things in the pass game and loosen that up so we could go back to running…in the end more simple was the game plan in that second half and our guys just executed.”

“Absolutely not,” added Smith when asked if there was any panic at halftime. “It was just come out and finish business. We didn’t feel like they could do anything to us. We felt we were the better team and we definitely proved that today.”

Another Lafayette punt opened the third quarter and Matthew Sluka (97 yards passing, 1 TD, 61 yards rushing, 1 TD) scampered in from the 6-yard line seven plays later to put the Crusaders up 21-7. Another three-and-out followed and three plays after that Asante brought in a 48-yard touchdown from Sluka, making it 28-7 with 4:57 left in the third.

Sluka scrambled for a first down on Holy Cross’ next drive following another three-and-out, but was stripped from behind. It didn’t end up hurting the Crusaders, but Siderman ended up finishing out the game and added one more 10-yard touchdown pass to Asante with 10:46 to go in the game to cap the Holy Cross scoring. Lafayette added a meaningless field goal with a little over three minutes left.

Following the game, the non-seniors made a tunnel in the end zone closest to the baseball field as seniors went through a ceremony with their families. There’s still quite a bit of work to do if Holy Cross wants to three-peat as Patriot League champs and Fordham is going to be a very tough test and there’s also that very realistic possibility that the Crusaders could potentially host a playoff game too.

At about 3:30 on what was a beautiful fall afternoon, all of that could wait.

Chesney, his staff and the players enjoyed the opportunity for reflection and had a genuine appreciation of the moment after such a strange journey for everyone over the past couple seasons.

“It’s a blessing, honestly,” said Smith, echoing many of the same sentiments as his classmates. “My years here have been an experience to say the least. So, just being out here and being able to win (maybe?) for the last time, it’s a very special moment for me and I’ll cherish that forever.”

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  1. Holy Cross Football under Coach Bob Chesney: “a commitment to excellence in winning on and off the field.”

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