By Matt Diano:
Unlike Iona Prep, Xavier took the field during the last week of the regular season not knowing their exact fate. Entwined in a four-team battle for only three postseason berths, the Knights took the field on October 28th knowing that if they did not win, it might mean a premature conclusion to their 2017 season….Making an already fairly dire situation worse was the fact that not only did they need a win to feel safe, they needed to earn that win over one of the top teams in the AA division, the Mountaineers of Mount St. Michael Academy (the 3rd place team heading into the contest).
Well aware of the explosiveness of the MSMA ground attack, Coach Stevens and his staff would “dance with the lady who has brought them so much success over the years.”….Rather than try to engage in a slug fest/fire fight, the Knights would rely on their ball-control, clocking eating, tough-nosed brand of power football. And, as it has done so many times in the past, this test of wills and determination would ultimately win the day for Xavier, as they emerged the victors by a score of 21-16 over their highly regarded opponent.
At the forefront leading the charge for Xavier was their senior workhorse, Geruso….No stranger to a heavy load in his final season as a Knight, the 5’10, 170-pound Garden State native had carried the ball 20 or more times in six consecutive games, crossing over the 100-yard plateau in four of them, and scoring a touchdown in five out of six….All of these previous preparation would come up in handy, as Geruso, on a day when his school needed the very best of him, would find that next level of grit, establishing a season-high for carries with 35 and just missing another personal best when he finished with 155 yards (one less than his performance in a week #5 win over Moore Catholic). Week #8 also had the distinction of witnessing his first multiple TD game of the season, as he plunged into the promised land three different occasions (adding a 2pt conversation on one of his trio of touchdowns) to single-handedly account for 20 of his team’s 21 points.
With his team trailing 8-0 at the time, Geruso would even the contest with approximately five minutes remaining in the opening quarter when he followed the first of his three TD runs by successfully completing the 2pt conversion….The score remained unchanged until it was Geruso again scoring with just around 7:00 remaining in the second quarter to send the Knights into the break leading 15-8….His third and final TD, which proved to be the game-winner, came early in the 4th quarter, turning a 16-15 deficit into our final tally.
A most telling statistic is such….For the game, the Mount ran 40 plays; as noted above, Geruso ran 35 by himself. This translated into MSMA being limited to their lowest ground total of the season, as they gained just 158. A team that had become accustomed to reaching the 300 and 400s range with their running attack, week #8 was the first time all season that Mt. St. Michael failed to reach at least 200 in any game this season.
In the end, not only is Xavier safely into the playoffs; they have actually improved their lie immensely, moving all the way up to the #6 seed. They will face off with third-seeded Holy Cross….In the first meeting between these two teams (a 14-7 win for HC in week #6), Geruso ran for 91 yards and one TD….With the way he has been pounding the ball down the throats of opposing defenses, it is a formality that he will easily pick up the 29 yards he need to reach the 1,000 milestone for the year. Should he land in the end zone just once, that will also give him double-digit (10) scores in 2017.
A player that came within seconds of being honored a few weeks ago following a season-high 170 yard, two touchdown effort, had it not been for a dramatic Monsignor Farrell comeback in the closing seconds of their week #6 game, the Gael senior [Shipmon] would have been joining the exclusive club of 2017 multiple-time honorees….Fortunately, as he prepares to embark on those final few moments as an Iona Prep football player, we were honored to get another opportunity to shine the light on him in the regular season finale….
Knowing that win or lose, the New Rochelle based program was already locked into the #5 seed in the postseason, last weekend held a bigger purpose for the team captain from Yonkers; it was about unfinished business and bragging rights, as Iona Prep’s 38-34 victory [ended the five-game head-to-head losing streak] over their Westchester rivals marked the first time in his varsity career that Shipmon could say he bested the Crusaders.
One of, if not the most complete offensive weapons in all of Catholic Football, the truth is that Shipmon is so universally gifted that whether it is as a ball carrier or a pass catcher, he finds a way to make his #7 jersey stand out in a crowd week after week. The ways in which he can and will beat you are infinite. This is a lesson that the Stepinac defense had to learn the hard way as they had a much undesired front-row seat for the 5’9, 180-pounders best effort of the season, as he ran for 98 yards on 16 carries, as well as caught 10 balls for an astounding 145 yards to end the evening with a remarkable 243 yards of total production…Included in this variety act of sensational play-making were a pair of scores (one running, one receiving) which kept him as the leading touchdown earner for the Gaels with nine overall (1.3/game).
An instant classic that went back-and-forth right up until the final whistle, there would be eight total lead changes in the contest. Two of these shifts in momentum came courtesy of Shipmon as his 62-yard dash to the end zone late in the 3rd quarter put IP up 24-21….A touchdown by Stepinac before the end of the third stanza briefly gave the Crusaders the advantage back, but again it would be the Shipmon making his presence known, catching a 16-yard bee bee from junior signal caller, Derek Robertson, less than two minutes into the final quarter to regain the edge for the Maroon & Gold, 31-27.
Shipmon heads into the postseason having rushed for 600 yards and six touchdowns on just 90 carries. He leads the Gaels in every major running category….As a pass-catching target, his 30 snatches for 349 yards rank him fourth and third on the team.
Knowing that it is win or hang up for the pads from this second forward, Shipmon’s path to a second straight 50-yard line celebration commences when Iona Prep square off with Monsignor Farrell in a AAA quarterfinal game on Saturday November 4th….As noted above, the last time these teams met, Shipmon went crazy in the losing effort. You best believe that he will be looking to maintain his individual dominance in an attempt to flip the team outcome.
On a day where the rain poured on most of us, for the senior QB from Fordham Prep, the proverbial sun shined bright, as he bared the harsh elements to throw a trio of TD passes that not only delivered a 20-14 come-from-behind victory to the Rams over St. Franc Prep, but also gained him membership into an exclusive club that before him only three men had earned entry.
Trailing 13-0 in the 2nd quarter, if we have learned nothing from watching this stud over the course of his varsity career, it is that no deficit is out of reach when he is the guy hurling the pigskin on the other sideline….The Boston College bound field general would cut the deficit in half when he connected with his favorite target, fellow senior, Will Loffredo on a 16-yard TD strike to make the score 13-7…..In addition to putting the Rams firmly back into the game, this single toss would be accompanied by much greater prestige and significance as it was 100th of its kind thrown in the career of Valecce…By reaching the career century mark, the 6’5, 210-pounder joined the likes of Greg Paulus (152), current Wisconsin QB Jack Coan (128), and Joe Capobianco (100) as the only scholastic signal callers in Empire State history to achieve the feat.
Having tied Capobianco for third all-time just prior to the intermission, Valecce would blow past him on the first play of the 4th quarter when he hooked up on a short-yardage toss with Tommy Walsh to even the score at 13 apiece…..This one-yard completion was the first of a pair that the teammates would combine in during the final 12 minutes of play….And the latter would be considerably more grand, as it came from 29 yards out in the final half minute of regulation to act as the game-winner.
With the victory, the Rams improved their record to 7-1. They enter the AA playoffs as the #2 seed, making them one of the favorites to advance to championship weekend…Should a title game appearance materialize, it could have major ramifications individually for Valecce who needs just 662 yards to pass Coan and move into second-place All-time in the NYS record books…The owner of an already amazing 304/game average, there is not much more the Rams can ask of Valecce. For this reason, that third postseason game could be make it or break it for his record book ambitions.
Valecce and the Rams open up their title hunt this Saturday when they play a surging St. John the Baptist team that has won three of their past four games…When these two schools met all the way back in Mid-September, Valecce completed 14 of his 23 attempts for 304 yards and four scores.
While many pundits are guilty of pointing at the skill positions as the difference makers in the game of football, I have always been a believer that the game (especially on the scholastic level) is won and lost in the trenches…If you look at every Catholic Championship football squad over the years, you see that across the board, each had that one beast that constantly was blowing plays in the backfield on defense or that stellar offensive line-up that had so many pancakes to his name that he might as well been nicknamed IHOP….For the Gaels, that person, both this season and for the better part of his entire stay in Somers, NY has been the 6’1, 265-pound two-way monster, Longest.
A returning All-Catholic selection from a season ago, there has been no senioritis for this 12th grader from Katonh….Making 68 stop on defense all of last season, the former CHSAA State wrestling champion has already surpassed his 2016 total following a 15 tackle (4 solo, 11 assisted, 3 TFL) performance in the Gaels’ 38-0 egging of Nazareth Regional….His fifth straight double-digit tackle game, Longest barely missed tying the 2017 high he set the previous weekend when he accounted for 16 stops in a loss to Xaverian….While updates stats were not available at the time of publishing, we believe his season total to be just south of 80, which would make him the most prolific stopper in the “A” division.
In captaining what is believed to be KC’s first defensive shutout since the 2010 season, Longest complemented his 15 tackles by adding his third sack of the year.
On the other side of the ball, he was his usual wrecking ball self, knocking down walls and giving his running backs massive lanes through which to trek….Behind Longest, the Gaels rushed for 235 yards and four touchdowns in posting their highest point total of the year.
Unlike the “AA” and “AAA” divisions, A-Ball does not jump immediately in to the postseason next week. But alas, just because it is not considered a playoff game does not mean the stakes are any less….With semifinal position still to be decided, the Gaels will be seeking the sweep when they play host to St. Dominic’s this Friday….When the two teams clashed on September 29th, KC was a 13-6 winner….In that game, Longest had 12 tackles and 1 sack…He and his fellow O-linemen helped Kennedy to a strong 4.7 average on the ground.
Medina would prove to be all the offense the Pilots would need under the Friday night lights last week, as he accounted for every last point in the team’s 14-7 victory on the road over the Bayhawks of St. Dominic’s…The victory, which improved Spellman’s league record to .500 (2-2) has the boys from the Bronx looking good to earn no worse than the #2 seed in the upcoming “A” playoffs.
With the game still scoreless, Medina busted out the first of his two touchdowns runs on the run when he found a hole on the right side of the line and dashed through It, fighting off would-be tacklers and evading multiple attempts by Dom’s to trip him up by diving at his ankles….When all was said and done, he had taken the ball 56 yards to the house to put his school up 6-0 in the 1st quarter.
Medina’s second scoring play of the night may not have possessed the same highlight reel style, but it was every bit as important as it turned a 7-6 deficit into a 12-7 lead….For good measure, he also personally tacked on the 2pt conversation.
Of the 253 yards compiled by CS, 188 of them could be credited to Medina, as he averaged 9.4 yards on his 20 touches in setting a new 2017 personal best.
Defensively, Medina was equally valuable from his position in the secondary….Securing the lone interception of the game for his school, he, along with the rest of the Spellman D-back corps, held the Bayhawks to just 30 yards in the air per Max Preps….He added six tackles.
Up next for Spellman is the always classic rivalry game between them and fellow perennial title contender, Xaverian. When the two storied programs last played on September 30th, the visiting Clippers squeaked out a hard-fought 14-13 victory….The Pilots will be fully intent on returning the favor when they take the road trip to Brooklyn this Friday night…Xaverian, led by the “A” rushing king, Roberto Auguste, is sure to do a lot of damage on the ground. Hence, it is imperative that even if he does not match his nemesis step for step, Medina will need to have another strong showing.