WESTWOOD — Reluctant to start a losing streak, Xaverian earned a 43-7 Catholic Conference win over Catholic Memorial behind two long interception returns for touchdowns by sophomore Damion Wood at the Hawk Bowl on Saturday.
After vacating their top position with a 1-point loss to Barnstable last week, the Hawks (3-1) needed to bounce back in a big way, and they did. And who better to beat up on than a league rival?
“This was a league game, so that means it’s a championship game for us, every league game is,” said Xaverian coach Charlie Stevenson. “It was so important for us to come back and play how we did after losing a tough one last week.”
The first two frames, full of penalty-riddled drives for the Hawks, were not pretty. Their only touchdown came off a Jeff Perez fumble recovery in the end zone following Shayne Kaminski’s 25-yard rush. But, as the game progressed, they got their game back to form, dominating on offense and defense (three interceptions, two touchdowns).
As for Catholic Memorial (1-3), the Knights are struggling, with three straight losses and St. John’s next week..
“We need to execute better on offense and eliminate mistakes,” said Catholic Memorial coach Alex Campea. “We played a very good football team today, but we made some critical mistakes at times.
“It was a heck of a ball game at the half, but then they came out in the second half and took it to us. We just didn’t make it happen in the second half.”
On the opposite side, Stevenson was watching his team’s recovery from a loss unfold on the field. The Hawks pitched a second-half shutout, 33-0.
“I think in the first half, we were still feeling our way around a little bit, still feeling the pain of last week,’’ he said. “Then in the second half, I thought that we came out and really took control of the game.”
Leading the Hawks was Wood. In a career game for the defensive back, he returned two interceptions for touchdowns. He had a 95-yard pick six in the third and a 70-yarder for a score with 5:45 to go in the fourth.
“My goal was just to get in the end zone soon as I caught it,” said Wood of his 95-yard return.
Spearheaded by Wood’s efforts, the Hawks surrendered just 93 yards (43 on one pass) in the second half.
Catholic Memorial’s only score came in the second quarter on a nice 15-yard pass from Kevin Claflin to Kevin Bletzer to cut the deficit to 10-7.
“We were just trying to make stops and make sure that they got no yardage,’’ Wood said. “It was important for us to play how we did and bounce back like this.”
“Winning football games isn’t easy,” he said. “I’m happy for our kids that we were able to come out and play better and sprint away from them [in the standings] a little bit.”