CHESTER — Neumann-Goretti's Jamal Custis caught a short pass on his first offensive play and sprinted like a gazelle through Chester's secondary on his way to a 41-yard gain. The Clippers hardly caught him the rest of the day
By the end of the first half, Custis had amassed 176 yards receiving and three touchdowns of 56, 29, and 50 yards respectively, leading the Knights to a 35-6 nonleague win Saturday. The total broke the previous school record by seven yards. Chester simply had no answer for the NFL-sized 6-6, 215-pound Syracuse commit.
"As much as it's a challenge to other teams to shut (Custis) down, it's also a challenge to us to get him the ball,' Saints head coach CJ Szydlik said. "We have to get him the ball, whether it's through the no huddle or check downs. At 6-6 you can't hide him, that's for sure.'
The Clippers eventually tasked senior corner Derrick Byrd with shutting down Custis. Despite giving up nearly eight inches and 40 pounds to his opponent, Byrd played admirably in the second half, holding the Saints' receiver to 9 yards and a fumble.
But it wasn't always Custis' hands and legs doing the damage. Sometimes his presence alone was enough to thwart a game Chester defense. As Custis faced double teams, quarterback Raymond Lenhart found his other receivers wide open. Freshman Aamir Brown finished with 68 yards receiving, and classmate Emil Moody closed the scoring with a nice catch and run in the fourth quarter.
Chester flirted with a comeback on multiple occasions but ran into mistakes and misfortune. Their only score came with two seconds left in the first half when Tae'juan Payne found Trinis Robinson on a four-yard touchdown. With the help of a Neumann facemask penalty, the Clippers found themselves deep in Saints territory late in the first half. Twice Payne found receivers in the endzone, and twice the ball bounced off their hands, the second one a drive-killing interception.
On the Saints' ensuing drive, which featured a Dahqui Green sack, Custis fell deep in the secondary only to get up and find himself wide open. After catching the ball, he shrugged off would-be tacklers for his 50-yard touchdown.
Chester's string of bad luck continued into the second half with the Clippers desperate to reduce the deficit. Following Moody's fourth-quarter score, Chester sophomore Ed Robinson took the kickoff back for what appeared to be a 65-yard touchdown. But side judge ruled that Robinson had stepped out of bounds at the Saints' 30. After the Clippers offense stalled, Neumann turned to the ground to solidify the victory.
Chester head coach Chuck Crews lamented his team's lack of discipline after the game.
"We've got to stop shooting ourselves in the foot,' he said. "We have to stop turning the ball over. You have to give (Neumann-Goretti) some credit, but we were stopping ourselves.'
Senior defensive tackle Green, who led a tough defense with two sacks, offered a similar sentiment.
"We came together a little bit, but we didn't get what we wanted out of today's game,' Green said. "It takes some work. It takes execution.'
Any team that goes up against a talent like Custis, though, faces a tough hill to climb. But the Clippers held the Saints to just 121 yards of total offense aside from the imposing wideout.
"(Neumann-Goretti) had a couple of big plays,' Crews said. "They know what they have (in Custis), and they throw it up.'
Crews and compay will take the positives from Saturday - a late second quarter touchdown, the complete shutdown of Neumann's run game- and work to improve.
"We have the talent. We saw it last week. We saw it in the second quarter today. We have a nice mixture of contributors from seniors to freshmen. The younger kids just need to know that they can play this game. We'll continue to come together, limit the turnovers, and keep ourselves in games.'