WHITE PLAINS And don’t let the bus door hit you on the way out.
After struggling to close out games in recent weeks, Stepinac focused all week on finishing. The Crusaders ran away from Cardinal Hayes at the end, delighting a sizable homecoming crowd Saturday with a 43-21 win.
“It’s something we concentrated on in practice,” defensive end Malcolm Koonce said. “This week, it was important to play a four-quarter game.”
Stepinac got into the end zone three times in the fourth quarter.
“We were a little worried that we hadn’t been finishing,” Crusaders head coach Mike O’Donnell said. “This is the first time in a couple of weeks that we put the game away. We did it against a very, very good football team and we’re going to see them again before this is all over.”
After the Cardinals got within 24-21 in the final seconds of the third quarter, Stepinac quarterback Tyquell Fields answered with his second touchdown run of the game. He also threw for a pair of scores.
The point after was thwarted by a bad snap.
“It was a great time for that one,” Fields said. “It got the defense up and they stopped Hayes, and the crowd as back in the game.”
Turnovers derailed Hayes, along with penalty flags.
Malik Crawford scored on a burst up the middle with 5:40 to go. Devonte Myles scooped up a fumble along the sideline and went 81 yards for the final touchdown.
Player of the game: Crawford kept the clock moving. The senior running back had picked up 120 yards on 13 carries for the Crusaders.
Turning point: The Cardinals (3-2) took over with three minutes left in the first half and promptly threw a trio of incomplete passes. Next came a punt that only traveled 18 yards. Stepinac (5-0) took advantage of the short field. Jesse Brown caught a 12-yard TD, extending the lead to 21-7 at the break.
“It was a really big play,” Brown said. “I was just heading for the back pylon and it was a jump ball. I had to come down with it and I did.”
Stat line: Fields completed 12 of 23 attempts for 114 yards and two touchdowns. … Cardinal Hayes was called for 18 turnovers. … Crusaders running backs Kobe Miranda and Antonio Giannico combined for 115 yards on the ground.
Quotable: “We’re 5-0 and there were a lot of years here where that wasn’t the case so you can’t be unhappy,” O’Donnell said. “We just have to keep working to understand that every game is very important. We’re playing for that home seed now in the playoffs. We learned last year that walking out here at 1:30 p.m. on a Saturday is where and when we play our best so we want to make sure we’re home all the way through the playoffs.”