Jeramiah Kobena was determined to get into the end zone, but his path along the Monsignor Farrell sideline was blocked. Most other punt returners would accept their fate, duck out of bounds and let the offense do their thing.
“In the back of my mind, if I get caught back there, [I hear] ‘What are you doing, what are you doing’ [from the coaches],” Kobena said. “So I just have to make something out of nothing.”
The Syracuse-bound speedster did just that, reversing course 15 yards and blazing up the Hayes sideline for an 85-yard punt return that helped No. 6 Cardinal Hayes seal a 33-7 victory against top-seeded Monsignor Farrell in a CHSFL Class AA semifinal at Alumni Stadium in Oakwood on Saturday.
“His speed is tremendous,” Hayes quarterback Kwamanye Davis said. “I don’t think anyone can catch him. We say the same thing on the sideline, ‘what is he doing, what is he doing’ and then he’ll make one person miss and then it’s like ‘there he goes, again.’”
Kobena, who had a 47-yard punt return touchdown called back because of a chop block in the first quarter, had 245 all-purpose yards, including a 76-yard touchdown pass from Davis in the first quarter.
“I’m just watching him and waiting for his explosive cuts and to get out there like always,” running back Donald Thomas said. “There’s not a question how amazing he is.”
Thomas wasn’t too shabby either. The junior rushed for 117 yards on 12 carries, including a 50-yard touchdown run that put Hayes (8-1) in front, 21-0, with 1:37 left in the second quarter.
Added Hayes coach CJ O’Neil: “I’m not a big fan of putting a lot on people’s plates right away. You give him a little bit, let him eat what’s on his plate and then you put a little more on his plate. Donald’s been eating.”
Led by Gallo Henson, who had a pair of sacks, the Cardinals defense shut down what was left of Farrell’s offense which has been decimated by injuries. Lions quarterback Paul Quadrato was 3-of-18 for 68 yards and two interceptions. Nick D’Amato, a junior running back, scored the Lions’ lone touchdown – a 9-yard burst up the middle to open the third quarter.
But that was the lone highlight in what was an otherwise miserable performance by Farrell (4-6), much to the dismay of longtime coach Ben Sarullo.
Meanwhile, Hayes leaves Staten Island having proved a point, that they could compete against ‘AAA’ competition.
Kobena and company will face either Mount St. Michael or St. Francis Prep. Should the Mountaineers win Sunday, the title game will be played on Thanksgiving, giving the annual Turkey Bowl clash added meaning.
“That’s our BCS championship right there,” Davis said.
For one day at least, the Cardinal Hayes players will be Mount fans.
“I’m rooting for Mount,” Kobena said. “That’s what I’m shooting for.”