BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Another runaway victory for Canisius defined a generation of supremacy and brought the line of scrimmage in Western New York’s storied football rivalry back to midfield.
Beating St. Joe’s for the 18th time in 19 matchups over the past 12 seasons, Canisius has equalized the all-time series for the first time since 1987. Approaching the 100th meeting in the rivalry dating to 1921, the Crusaders and Marauders each have won 48, with three tied games.
The latest triumph for Canisius, 49-7 on a bright, breezy Saturday, was the Crusaders’ first victory of the season. The crowd was close to 4,000 at Stransky Sports Complex in West Seneca, with student throngs from the Catholic schools separated by four miles in North Buffalo packing the grandstands, the fences lined with alumni, supporters and prep football aficionados.
“This is one of the best rivalries in the nation,” said senior quarterback Vincent Zimmerman, who was 12 of 15 passing for 246 yards and two touchdowns. “It feels great to win here with all of our fans. It was a great rivalry to play in and I’m really proud for all of us.”
Canisius dominated from the start, forcing a three-and-out, and then after Jahyden Clark’s punt return to the end zone was nullified by a blocking penalty, Jack Eskridge took a jet sweep 73 yards for a touchdown on the first play from scrimmage. The senior receiver scored again on a 45-yard pass later in first quarter.
Freshman tailback Elijah Kimble rushed for 134 yards on 14 carries, scoring two touchdowns in the second quarter. He now has 649 yards rushing with six TDs through four games. Clark, a junior wideout who has been offered a scholarship by University at Buffalo while visiting Syracuse and Penn State, had 89 yards and five receptions. Evan Dean caught a touchdown on a fourth-and-goal scramble by Zimmerman to make it 35-0 at halftime. The Crusaders got scoring runs from Amir Hernandez and Brendan Peccia in the second half.
“I tell our team all the time, the hopes of the many ride on the shoulders of the few,” said Kraig Kurzanski, a 1984 Canisius alumnus in his second season coaching the Crusaders after 15 at Williamsville South. “It’s very important. We recognize who played before us, and how good we used to be.”
The 42-point victory margin was Canisius’ third-best in the rivalry series, after winning 63-0 and 66-0 in two of the four matchups with St. Joe’s in the spring and fall of 2021. It was the 10th time since 2012 in which the Crusaders have won by at least three touchdowns. Canisius won 38-17 at St. Joe’s a year ago and 17-0 in a postseason rematch.
“Last year wasn’t acceptable to me,” Kurzanski said.
Canisius opened the season with three losses against to competition from Ohio and Pennsylvania. The Crusaders will be back on the road in Cleveland next week. The anticipated matchup with St. Francis to determine the top seed in the Monsignor Martin playoffs loom Oct. 21. For all that it means in the rivalry, winning against St. Joe’s also was important for Canisius’ confidence going forward.
“You can say all you want about culture, messaging, hang in there and do it for good old Canisius,” Kurzanski said. “But when you are 0-3, they have to still be buying what I’m selling. Until you get a win, that’s just the message. Now all the things we are doing in coaching gets validated. And hopefully we’ll be better next week.”
Jonah Bronstein joined the WIVB squad in 2022 as a digital sports reporter. The Buffalonian has covered the Bills, Sabres, Bandits, Bisons, colleges, high schools and other notable sporting events in Western New York since 2005, for publications including The Associated Press, The Buffalo News, and Niagara Gazette. Read more of his work here.