WESTWOOD — In the first Catholic Conference matchup of the season, No. 3 Xaverian came out looking little like a team that was supposed make a serious run at the conference title.
But the Hawks returned to the field in the second half with a rejuvenated offense, scoring three times in the third quarter, as they beat Malden Catholic, 35-7, at the Hawk Bowl Saturday afternoon.
With Xaverian clinging to a 7-0 lead after the first half, senior quarterback Austin DeCarr stretched the Hawks’ lead with a 28-yard strike to Mike Brennan on the third play from scrimmage.
“We didn’t execute the way we wanted to in the first half,” said Xaverian coach Charlie Stevenson.
“But once we got our personnel groups down, we thought we executed much better in the second half and felt we could do whatever we wanted to.”
On the ensuing kickoff, Xaverian’s Kyle Darrow launched the ball down to the 20-yard line as the Lancers anticipated it bouncing to their returners.
Instead, the ball landed with tremendous backspin and traveled toward the kicking team and the Hawks recovered the ball on the 26-yard line.
“I’m not going to say that kick was intentional,” Stevenson said. “The wind helped us, and I’d say that was a misplay on [Malden Catholic’s] part and when you make bad plays, it can hurt you and it helped us.”
Xaverian needed just five plays, and senior running back Hunter Taute (11 carries, 102 yards) ran for an 11-yard score to give the Hawks a 21-0 lead.
The score was Taute’s second of the day, following his 35-yard run in the first quarter.
After Malden Catholic was forced to punt, Taute fumbled an option toss from DeCarr, and Lancers linebacker Joe Penta returned it for a 44-yard score.
But on the kickoff, D.J. Pagliuca broke loose for a 75-yard return, slamming the door on any hopes Malden Catholic had of making the game close.
For good measure, Xaverian’s 6-foot-3-inch, 285-pound nose tackle Maurice Hurst Jr. rushed for a 1-yard score to make it 35-7 with 6:54 left.
Hurst set up the touchdown when he ran for 24 yards while carrying two MC defenders on his back, nearly reaching the end zone before being brought down.
The Hawks sacked Brendan Tobey five times for a total of 48 yards lost.
Anthony Gulizia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org