Nazareth has been successful in large due to the play of their quarterbacks, Zach Stevens and Bobby Grimes.
But it was the ground game and special teams that led the Roadrunners to a 32-13 victory over Carmel Catholic on Friday night.
The Roadrunners took the lead first as running back and return man Devin Blakely took the first punt of the game and sped into the end zone, going virtually untouched for a 62-yard touchdown giving Nazareth a 7-0 first quarter lead. This would be just the beginning of Blakely's big game.
Nazareth looked like it was going to put the game away early. The Roadrunners decided to take a shot on an early fourth down conversion attempt and coach Tim Racki's gamble on fourth-and-1 paid off. Quarterback Zach Stevens ran off the left tackle and not only picked up the first down, but raced down the sideline into the end zone for the 25-yard score, putting the Roadrunners ahead 13-0.
"My offensive coordinator Casey Moran and the offensive staff saw that that was going to work because we had been pounding the ball on the inside and the defense hadn't seen our quarterback pull it and bounce outside," said Racki. "They were pinching down hard and we were hoping that one worked and it did."
The Corsairs got the wake-up call and answered on the ensuing drive. After an unnecessary roughness penalty gave Carmel a much needed first down, freshman quarterback Athan Kaliakmanis rolled out of the pocket and found Mikey Lucas all alone on the sideline for a 33-yard score to make it a 13-7 game.
The Roadrunners took control of the game going into the half and leaned on the speedster Blakely once again, this time on the ground. With less than a minute in the half, Blakely used his speed again-this time, taking the sweep off tackle, making the first defender miss and he was off to the races taking it all the way for a 33-yard touchdown run.
"You get spoiled at practice when you see him play. The impressive thing about him is not only his speed, but his power, explosion and he just pops right back up," said Racki. "He takes some hits and he delivers the blow when he's running too. He's an incredible football player in all three phases."
Blakely's night wasn't finished there as he continued his dominance in the second half taking his first carry of the third quarter and bounced it to the outside to the house for a 49-yard touchdown. He finished the night with a game-high 176 yards on 18 carries and 2 touchdowns. Blakely also had a second punt return touchdown called back on a penalty in the second quarter.
"I'm proud of the punt return the most. When I got the ball, I knew my blockers were there and saw a big hole and it really set the tone for the game," said Blakley of his big night. "Coach preaches special teams and that we always have to take advantage of that."
The Corsairs offense wasn't great, but there was only so much they could do once Nazareth's ground game got going. Kaliakmanis finished the game 13-for-23 for 115 yards with a touchdown. Lucas finished the game with 103 yards on 16 carries and including a 52-yard touchdown run.
Nazareth (4-0, 2-0) returns home to take on Benet Academy next Friday night. The Corsairs (0-4, 0-2) will travel to St. Viator in a Week 5 road matchup against the Lions.