Mike Tyson was famously quoted as saying that “Everyone has a plan until they get hit”….For the third-seeded Crusaders from Archbishop Stepinac, they would get hit really hard during the opening quarter of the AAA title contest, surrendering a 75-yard punt return [by Friar junior DB, Makai Murphy] and an eight-yard touchdown run by Sean Bryan to trail top-seeded St. Anthony’s 14-0.
However, rather than allow the early damage to dampen their spirits, the Mike O’Donnell mentored program from Westchester would do what true champions always seem to be able to do, they simply brushed themselves off and got back to the work….The result was streak of 34 unanswered points from the second through the 4th quarters to run away with their third Catholic crown in the past four years, 47-22.
Initiating the two touchdown comeback effort would be senior Quarterback, Michael Nicosia, who completed a 93-yard drive by sneaking in for the last yard to make the score 14-7….Prior to short TD run, it was a pair of screen passes (including a 48-yarder to the 1-yard-line) to fellow 12th grader, Alex Thomas, that spearheaded the majority of the surge.
Stepinac drew within one (14-13) on their next position when just moments after forcing a Friar punt, Syracuse bound, Trill Williams, turned what looked like a play for minimal gain into a home-run blast, reversing field and out-racing the entire STA secondary for a 56-yard touchdown trek with 5:36 remaining in the opening half. The extra point attempt would be blocked to keep the boys from South Huntington in the lead.
The Crusaders earned the right to carry the edge into the locker room when they made it three consecutive series with a score when Nicosia hit Junior WR, Sergio Pinto on an eight-yard play-action pass for the touchdown with 41 ticks left in the half…While Pinto was the one credited with the TD, Nicosia did much of the layman’s work in getting Stepinac to that point, as it was his three straight QB draws that advanced the ball inside the 10.
In the second half, the cushion would only continue to grow for Stepinac, when Williams would prove why many consider him the greatest triple-threat in the NYCHSFL, fielding a punt and cruising 73 yards for his second TD of the night to make the score 25-14 (another blocked PAT) with 7:01 still to play in the third stanza.
Having scored first on special teams and then on offense, the only thing left for Williams to do would before the night was over would be to get that ever impressive defensive score….That trifecta play would come less than 1:00 into the 4th, when he darted in front of a Greg Campisi pass attempt for a 39-yard Pick-6…A successful 2pt conversion throw made the score 33-14.
The bleeding finally stopped with 7:45 remaining in the game when Bryan followed up a long Julien Chung run by finishing off the drive with a 4-yard TD run….Campisi called his own number on a keeper for the 2pt conversion to make it a two-score margin, 33-22.
With 5:56 still to play, the Friars would have the chance to get back in the game, but would see that opportunity squandered when they fumbled a punt return deep in their own zone…A few snaps later, the nail would be hammered into the STA coffin when the man we nicknamed “Thrill” in the press booth, Williams, tacked on his second offensive and 4th overall touchdown of the night on a 7-yard grab with 3:51 on the clock to make the score 39-22…Nicosia hooked up with Jalen Barger on the 2pt conversion to further put the champagne on ice.
With little left to play for but pride, Williams would deprive the Friars of even that when he closed out his incredible night with a second INT deep in Crusader territory with only 3:20 standing in the way between him and celebrating with his teammates.
While perhaps unnecessary, Stepinac would keep their foot on the throttle until the very final whistle, as Nicosia would team up with Shawn Harris on a 67-yard missile to account for the final tally with just under 3:00 remaining in another electrifying championship weekend.
On a night where he did everything but sell hot dogs at the concession stand, Williams’s 183 yards of total production earned him the Offensive Most Valuable Player….Junior middle linebacker, Kevin Gray (who was a POTW selection during the first meeting between the two schools) put forth a heck of an encore, winning individual honors on the defensive side of the ball.