DUNMORE — Did you ask Eric Kerr for winning lottery numbers Saturday?
“The first one’s a nine,” he joked, referring to his uniform number.
The Holy Redeemer senior told his coach he was going to take an interception for a touchdown on the next play — and he did — to seal the Royals’ 44-20 victory over Holy Cross on Saturday afternoon at St. Anthony’s Playground.
Kerr scored twice in 53 seconds, finding the end zone on a 38-yard screen pass in the right flat from Jimmy Strickland where Kerr came back around play and raced down the left sideline for the score.
“I need a play, coach. Free safety,” Kerr said, hunched over on the sideline, battling illness and promising “a pick six” when he got back on the field.
Kerr got his one-play break, on a snap wiped out by offsetting penalties. He returned to the secondary and sprung to the ball after an Eric Gatto pass had been tipped. Kerr caught it and landed on the midfield stripe, then raced to the end zone to put the game out of reach.
Holy Redeemer (1-1) trailed 8-6 at halftime despite being favored by many. A pair of turnovers by the Royals and the ground game of the Crusaders (0-2) kept the contest close. But as Holy Cross returned a punt into Holy Redeemer territory in the final minute of the first half, the Crusaders’ day was changed in the worst way.
Leading rusher Andrew Mies (16 rushes, 74 yards, touchdowns and two-point run) collapsed on the sideline and had to be tended to by paramedics. After a long stoppage, a woman cried out from the huddle around the senior, “Can’t we get him in the ambulance and go? He needs to go!”
“We didn’t actually see what was going on at first,” Reese said. “We’re sorry about what happened and hope he’ll be OK.”
The remaining 25 seconds of the half were scrubbed and the teams waited out a 42-minute halftime while another ambulance arrived on scene. When action resumed, Holy Cross was without Mies and freshman Josh Mies, who left the facility during the delay.
“After last week, we’re used to delays now,” Reese said of the lengthy break. “We were in the locker room for two hours last week (because of a weather delay). We sat until what? 11:30 last Saturday?
“We might have been looking ahead to Old Forge a bit. This is the Super Bowl for both teams. Holy Cross hit us with their best shot in the first half.”
While Robert Torrey and Tom Ware proved capable replacements in the Holy Cross backfield, the Royals had regrouped. Their run game, led by Pat Villani and Charles Ross, piled up 85 yards and two touchdowns in the third quarter. In the fourth quarter, Strikland threw two touchdown passes to cap an efficient 13-for-16 day.
The quarterback had 258 yards and three TD tosses.
“We did pretty well getting our running game going,” Reese said of a ground attack that averaged 5.1 yards per carry. “Pat Villani and Charles Ross had some very good runs for us. People know us for our passing game. If we can run the ball on people, we’re going to run the ball.”
Holy Redeemer 44, Holy Cross 20
HR — Eric Shorts 50 pass from Jimmy Strickland (pass failed), 4:52
HC — Andrew Mies 2 run (Mies run), 7:18
HR — Charles Ross 23 run (Strickland run), 9:40
HR — Pat Villani 7 run (Villani run), 1:31
HC — Robert Torrey 7 run (kick failed), 10:27
HR — Jason Hoggarth 15 pass from Strickland (pass failed), 8:23
HC — Evan Gatto 1 run (run failed), 4:21
HR — Eric Kerr 38 pass from Strickland (Jarrett Gabriel run), 3:28
HR — Kerr 50 interception return (Gabriel run), 2:57
RUSHING — HR, Pat Villani 9-54, Charles Ross 3-31, Jimmy Strickland 4-1, Team 1-0; HC, Tom Ware 12-78, Andrew Mies 16-74, Robert Torrey 12-61, Josh Mies 1-9, Tim Krusky 1-8, Zach Zaluski 1-(-1), R.J. Klien 1-(-4), Eric Gattis 6-(-29).
PASSING — HR, Strickland 13-16-1-258, Villani 0-1-0-0; HC, Gatto 9-22-2-92.
RECEIVING — HR, Eric Kerr 5-78, Villani 3-33, Jason Hoggarth 2-72, Eric Shorts 2-67, Eric Ligotski 1-8.
INTERCEPTIONS — HR, Kerr 1-50, Hoggarth 1-26; HC, Andrew Mies 1-19.
MISSED FGs — None.