Khalil Collier has established himself as the top tackler on the defensive side for Cardinal Hayes. But the inside linebacker always been itching to use his 6-foot, 190-pound frame at running back.
The senior got his wish in the Cardinals biggest rivalry game of the season to date.
Collier scored three rushing touchdowns in the first half to power Cardinal Hayes to a 40-14 victory over Cardinal Spellman in a CHSFL Class AA matchup on Friday night at Maritime College.
The Cardinals (5-3, 4-3) also earned bragging rights by winning the Monsignor Peters trophy for a fifth straight year in a game broadcasted live on MSGVarsity.com.
“It’s bragging rights because last year I was injured at this time so I didn’t get to touch the trophy,” Collier said. “I didn’t touch when we won because I didn’t feel like was part of it. Now I’m going to go over there and touch it.”
Hayes coach CJ O’Neil inserted Collier into the lineup as top rusher Patrick Heumegni sat out to recover from an ankle sprain. Collier kept getting added carries and responsibilities when star receiver George Dawson injured his right ankle on the second play of the game, and backup running back Robert Harris aggravated his groin.
“In practice, I usually go to scout running back which is what I do,” Collier said. “They call me into the game, I prepared, watched the game films and look at how Pat attacks the gaps.”
Collier made an impact on defense by recovering a fumble on the first Spellman drive. The senior then rushed to the right side and hurled over a tackler to score a 29-yard touchdown in the first quarter.
The Cardinals continued their strong first half as James Richardson completed a 32-yard touchdown pass to Ramon Melendez to increase the lead to 14-0.
Spellman (0-8) answered on a 29-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Kyle Benjamin to Kyle Phillips to cut the lead to eight. Collier then bulldozed his way into the end zone on a 9-yard touchdown run and scored a 14-yard touchdown run with 52 seconds left in the second quarter to give his team a 26-6 lead.
“Khalil is one of my favorite kids I’ve dealt with,” O’Neil said. “He put a lot on his shoulders and he willed this game a lot offensively and defensively. He’s a dynamic athlete. It’s tough to tackle that kid.”
What has plagued the Cardinals at times this season is their inability to hold on to the football. Their second half mistakes allowed Spellman to hang in the game and get some confidence.
Spellman linebacker Sean Marcano recovered a 16-yard fumble on a failed handoff to score a touchdown with 6:25 left in third quarter to cut the deficit to 26-14.
With momentum clearly on the Pilots side, the Hayes defense responded with the biggest play of the game. On fourth-and-goal at the Cardinals 1-yard line, Mamadou Bah and Albert Smith, a sophomore who recorded three sacks in the contest, teamed up to stuff Marcano short of the end zone early in the fourth quarter.
“We didn’t come out strong, we came out flat and we underestimated our opposition,” Bah said. “We was thinking dive coming and I just shot up the gap and made the tackle.”
AD Ledesma had a 59-yard run which then led to Hayes backup quarterback Juan Cruz sealing the win with an 18-yard touchdown pass to Steven Batista with 5:23 remaining in the game.
Cardinal Hayes clinched a berth to the Class AA playoffs, and will most likely face Fordham Prep in the first round next weekend. O’Neil says his team must limit the mistakes if they want to make a deep run
“We get a little smarter and we healthy up over the next few weeks, I really think this team has the chance,” O’Neil said. “We just to go after it.”