By Matt Diano:
When: Friday November 9th, 2018
Where: Kennedy Catholic High School
A year removed from seeing their 14-0 lead in the 4th quarter of last year’s semifinals evaporate at the hands of eventual “A” champions, Cardinal Spellman, if there is one lesson that the Gaels know all too well, it is that nothing is ever over until the final horn is blown…With these sentiments in mind, there is no way that the top-seed from Somers are going to make the mistake of counting their chickens before they hatch…But, based solely on the how the first two meetings of the season have gone against their semifinal opponent, Nazareth, there is reason for more than a little bit of optimism if you are Head Coach, Dom Tassone and his KC student-athletes.
Posting victories over the Kingsmen by scores of 28-0 and 26-6 during weeks 2 and 5 of the regular season, the Gaels have hardly been tested against their single-A peers…Owners of both the top-rated offense (25.4 points per game) and defense (11.75 allowed) in their division this season, if not for a loss to an out-of-state opponent from Florida, Kennedy Catholic would be heading into the postseason with an unblemished resume.
Boosting the top-2 rushers in the “A” division this season, the Gaels are averaging over 200 yards per game on the ground and are showing no signs of letting up anytime soon…Coined Batman & Robin by us a few weeks ago in the Players of the Week article, seniors, Myles Proctor and Seth Surrett truly are a dynamic duo when they step foot onto a football field…Responsible for 22 of KC’s 28 total touchdowns this season, Proctor (978 yards and nine rushing TDs on 116 carries; 4 catches for 65 yards, 1 TD) and Surrett (628 yards and nine touchdowns on 63 carries; 8 receptions for 72 yards + 2 scores; 1 punt return for a touchdown) have been so off the charts in 2018 that each has individually outscored nearly 2/3 of the teams in their division….In two games this season against their semifinal opponent, Proctor has rushed for 237 yards and two touchdowns, while Surrett has gained 198 yards and added a pair of scores himself.
While there may not be a need to throw the ball much this Friday, if the occasion does call for an aerial attack, look for Eric Volpi (18 catches for 351 yards and a team-leading 3 touchdowns) to be on the receiving end of either Ryan Johnson (23-for-42, 291 yards, 4 TD passes) or Zach Selinger’s (19-for-42, 332 yards throwing, 1 TD pass) passing attempts….Between the two games, Volpi caught four balls for 110 yards, including a 77-yard TD in the first meeting…Brendan Gibson (4 catches for 71 yards, 2 TDs) caught both of his touchdowns this season during round #1.
As if it was not enough of an advantage to have the top two offensive weapons in the league, Kennedy Catholic also happens to feature what is bar none the best front-7 in the “A” division…Led by reigning Defensive Player of the Year/Linebacker extraordinaire, Cole Esposito (97 tackles, 38 TFL, 4 sacks), Wyatt Rumpf (106 stops, 37 tackles for a loss, 3 QB bags), Joseph Eckardt (56 tackles, 19 TFL, 3 sacks), Gary Kellogg (64 tackles, 17 stops for a loss, 6 sacks) and Aidan Bernal (51 stops, 19 negative yardage tackles, 6 sacks), the D-line has not allowed a single running back to cross over the 100-yard threshold this season…When you factor in Clayton Proctor (team-leading 2 INTs, 3 PDs), Bobby Piesco (1 INT, 3 pass break-ups), and several of the names we have already mentioned who have done admirable double-duty along the last line of defense, the “D” as a whole is allowing less than 180 yards of total offense against “A“ foes this season.
As they attempt to pull what would in all likelihood be the biggest upset of the weekend if it were to happen, the Desmond Defritas-guided Kingsmen will need to get big nights out of running backs, Justin McDuffie (156 yards and 3 TDs on 39 carries) and Kevin Fleetwood (77 yards on 22 attempts)…McDuffey has struggled in the two outings against the Gaels, running for a combined total of 12 yards on 8 carries)…Fleetwood on the other hand did enjoy some success during the second go-around, as he rushed for a season-high 41 yards on eight hand-offs.
Dual-threat senior QB, Kenial Densiar (19-for-58, 215 yards) has yet to find his groove in the throwing game, but does lead NR in rushing yards with 191 on 44 carries…Showing some flashes in each aspect of the game (team-high 26 rushing yards in game 1; season-high 5 completions in the rematch), if the 6’0, 156-pounder from Brooklyn can put all of the pieces together in one night, it certainly could be a potential difference maker.
Senior, Teshawn Howard, could materialize as a sleeper…An explosive kick returner who had 50-yard run backs in each of the two games, the 5’10, 160-pounder is also the Nazareth’s leading receiver with 7 grabs for 59 yards this season.
Tasked with the most difficult job (AKA trying to stop the two-headed monster of Proctor/Surrett) will be a front-7 anchored by Elijah Jordan (50 tackles, 2 sacks), Fleetwood (47 stops, 3 TFL, 4 sacks, 1 INT), Brenton Winter (30 tackles, 4 TFKL, 7 sacks, 4 QB hurries), Christian Mazier (23 stops, 3 sacks), and William Etokhana (19 tackles, 1 sack, 1 pick).
When: Saturday November 10th, 2018
Where: Cardinal Spellman High School
Bridesmaids in 2015 and 2016, the Pilots would finally earn the right to celebrate at mid-field last season when they defeated Xaverian, 20-18, in the final minute of regulation…And now that they have experienced those feelings of euphoria, there is no way they are going to allow their ascension from “hunter” to “hunted” status to be disrupted without a fight…Commencing their title defense against a Bayhawks team that they have already shutout twice this season (7-0 21-0), if you were a betting man, it would wise to predict that Spellman will be making a fourth straight trip to championship weekend on November 17th.
A Pilot squad that does not rely on just one or two superstars in order to carry (literally or figuratively) them to victory, what makes Spellman so effective on offense is that their willingness to utilize all of their depth enables them to always have fresh personnel handling the pigskin.
Showcasing five unique individuals who have run for 100 or more yards this season, and a sixth who is just three yards short of the century mark, William Cawley’s offense is a lot better than the 10 points per game that it averaged in 2018…At the forefront of the nearly 174 yards per game that they are gaining on the ground this season is senior, Kyle Maysonet, who ranks 3rd in rushing yards (behind Proctor and Surrett) with 430 on 83 attempts. Maysonet would lead all Pilot runners during the first meeting between these two schools, accumulating 40 yards on 21 carries…Matthew Forti, the top runner during round #2 with 80 yards and one TD on seven carries, is second on the team this season with 278 yards…Myles Bideau (18 carries for 153 yards), Salvatore Maida (13 hand-offs for 120 yards) and Meki Howell-Browne (60 yards on 5 carries), would all join Forti in having significant performances during the rematch, as all three finished with identical 40-yard efforts in the October 6th affair…Aidan Hanley-Piri (101 yards on 35 attempts), is the fifth and final member of the 100-yard club…Ethan Ortiz, who ran for 11 yards on his only try between the two games, currently sits at 97 yards rushing in his senior season.
Speaking of the fab frosh [Hanley-Piri], he will head in to his first postseason game as the #1 passer in the “A” division…Connecting on 28 of his 78 attempts, his completion percentage (35.9) may leave a little something to be desired, but when he does hit his target, it has yielded big gains as evident by the 428 yards he has thrown for in his rookie campaign…Combined, he has gone 6-for-22 for 120 yards and 1 touchdown against St. Dom’s….On the back end of half of those strikes was the team’s leading receiver, Lance Powell (12 catches, 263 yards, 3 TDs), who made two grabs for 47 yards in the initial head-to-head and then followed it up by catching a 45-yard touchdown pass in game #2….Forti, who recorded a pair of snatches for 30 yards in the first meeting, is the only other Pilot student-athlete with multiple catches in the series.
Representing the nucleus of the D-Unit that has held the Bayhawks scoreless for 72 straight minutes is Ortiz (101 tackles, 1 sack), Forti (72 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 INTs), Zoilo Carmona (61 stops, 3 QB bags), Nathaniel Colon (53 tackles), and Bideau (40 stops, 4 sacks)…Ortiz made 33 tackles (including a 20-stop performance during game #2) in the two contests, while Forti and Carmona would contribute 21 and 17 stops in the series…Colon, who also had an interception in the first game, had a pair of 5-tackle showings to end the regular season home-and-home with 10 total stops…Bideau recorded three sacks in two games.
Hoping to play spoiler and prove how hard it really is to beat the same foe three times in the same season with be a St. Dominic’s cohort that despite being 0-2 in the series, really did not play particularly poorly in either meeting.
Shutout in five of their seven appearances in 2018, when you look at the talent on the Bayhawk roster, it kind of makes you scratch your head. On paper, there is no reason why this team should have only scored 28 points in total.
Jack Rooney (59 yards on 10 carries in game #1) and Will Ford (74 yards on 12 attempts during game #2) both have the skill set to march the ball down field on the ground…Alternating under center, both would complete 50 percent of their pass attempts as well, with the former going 6-for-12 for 42 yards in game #1, and the latter compiling similar numbers (5-for-10, 48 yards) in the second showdown.
Alfonso Iacono (3 catches for 32 yards in the series) and Niko Whitcoamb (2 grabs for 14 yards in the initial meeting) both appear to be sure-handed, reliable receivers.
And the defense, anchored by all of the above, as well as Thomas Kahl, Timothy Riordan, Dom Camera, and Mykael Morring, demonstrated what they are capable of doing when they limited Spellman to just 68 yards on the ground in the 7-0 loss on September 14th…That rushing total increased to 244 during the week 5 encore, so we know that controlling the running game will be a main focus for Robert Ploth’s “D”…Rooney and Whitcoamb would be credited with double-digit tackles on each occasion, with their totals for the series being 27 and 25; Rooney added a sack and three QB hurries during game #1….Kahl and Riordan would post 15 and 14 stops between the two games…Camera’s six tackle/1 sack display during week #2 was key….And Morring was his usual steady self in the middle of the DL, averaging five tackles per game versus the Pilots.