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Oakmont graduate is Gannon’s new cannon

Justin Caliste scores three touchdowns in three minutes for Golden Knights
By: Bill Poindexter/Roseville Press Tribune Sports Editor
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Surprisingly in this day and age of YouTube and 24-hour sports channels, Justin Caliste’s performance for Gannon University last Saturday hasn’t made its way onto computer and TV screens.

Caliste, who graduated from Oakmont High School last spring, is a freshman for the Golden Knights of Erie, Pa.

The 5-foot-5, 150-pounder with blazing speed and basketball-quality vertical leap stunned his teammates, his opponents and a small-college crowd of 1,005 gathered at Gannon University Field to watch the Golden Knights play Millersville.

A headline on the Gannon University website referred to “Caliste’s Three-Minute Explosion,” and yes, explosion would be an appropriate description — sort of like a 10-year-old tying together fuses from three M-80s.

Caliste scored three touchdowns in 2 minutes and 52 seconds as Gannon set a school record for margin of victory with a 47-0 thrashing of Millersville.

The game was moseying along late in the second quarter when Caliste put the whip to the horse. Fielding a free kick following a safety, Caliste sprinted 66 yards for a touchdown with 4:35 left in the half. He took an end around 70 yards for a score 31 seconds later. And with 1:43 remaining, Caliste returned a punt 85 yards to the house.

Give Caliste the ball, heat on high for three minutes, and enjoy a 30-0 halftime lead.

Call it three the fast way. Not surprisingly, Caliste was named the school’s athlete of the week.

Caliste said he’d never done anything like it, except for maybe in a video game.
“After the third one, I was kinda winded, kinda tired, because it happened so quick,” he said. “I was like in la-la land.”

Caliste credited his blockers for the kick return, notably receiver Jerry Smith, who Caliste said “blocked like three guys.” He said the field was wide open.

“All I had to do was beat the kicker,” Caliste said.

Gannon then intercepted a pass on Millersville’s first play, and Caliste took a handoff on the Golden Knights’ first play.

Caliste said Gannon has practiced the reverse since camp started but hadn’t run it in a game.

“The coach says, ‘Caliste, come here. You’re going to run the reverse.’ That surprised me because we never run the reverse,” he said.

Gannon forced a three and out, and Caliste went back to field the punt. He said he was still tired from the two previous long touchdowns and thought about making a fair catch … until the ball was in the air.

The return was supposed to go to the left, but Caliste saw a wide-open middle of the field. It was his second punt return for a touchdown in three games. A coach called him over after he returned to the sideline.

Said Caliste, “He said, ‘Caliste, it was a left return.’ I said, ‘I know.’ He said, ‘I know, too, good return.’”

Caliste and Art Arkelian are the only players in Gannon history to return a punt and kickoff for a touchdown in the same season, according to a story on the school’s website. Arkelian did it in 1950.

“I am very proud of Justin and the positive impact he is having on the Gannon football team,” Oakmont coach Tim Moore said in an e-mail. “I am thankful that he is having the opportunity to prove that he can be a go-to player at the next level, like he was for us here at Oakmont. He and his family have worked very hard for this opportunity.”

Caliste will get to see his family this weekend; they’re in town for today’s game against Edinboro. He said he loves the weather change in Pennsylvania and being on his own. He’s majoring in communication arts and said his professors are “cool.”