By Matt Diano:
When: Sunday November 4th, 2018
Where: Aviator Sports Complex
Time: 6:30 pm
A match-up that only came about because of the league’s decision to honor the centuries old Turkey Bowl tradition that prevents Fordham Prep and Xavier from playing prior to Thanksgiving, if you are the top seeds out of the Western Conference, Xaverian, I am sure this news did not necessarily sit well with you.
Advancers to championship weekend in four of the past five years [2016 being the exception] while competing in the Single-A classification, Mike Jioia’s Clippers have not skipped a beat in their first season among the double-A ranks.
4-1 in league games this season, it became evident as early as opening weekend, when they knocked off the defending runners-up, Fordham Prep [12-9] that the talent was present for 2018 to be a memorable one for the boys from the Brooklyn.
Relying on a very balanced attack on offense, the Clippers are not a team that will automatically blow you away by piling up big numbers and scoring a plethora of points (average only 16.3 ppg), but they have developed a formula that works for them and until proven wrong, you have to respect the perennial success they have been able to achieve during the past half-decade.
Incorporating a two-headed monster attack on the ground, Xaverian has split their carries this season between two upperclassmen, senior Roberto Auguste, and junior Shane Greene….The former, who was the recipient of the “A” Offensive Player of the Year award a season ago, has rushed for a team-leading total of 326 yards on 79 carries and has scored a pair of touchdowns….Greene, who is in his first season on the Clipper varsity, has lived up to the hype, running for 319 yards and a team-best six TDs on 80 hand-offs…Growing stronger the deeper into the season we go, the 5’11, 190-pound 11th grader [Greene] has rushed for 100+ yards in two of his past three games and five of his six scores came during the past three weeks. Hence, he brings a lot of momentum and positive energy to the field this weekend.
Returning starting signal caller, James Resker, has adjusted quite well to the higher level of competition, as he needs just one more TD pass and approximately 220 yards to equal his strong sophomore season under center. His stat line heading into the quarterfinals reads as follows: 55-for-97 throwing for 780 yards and six touchdowns…Some of his favorite targets this season have included senior tight end, Jason Perlstein (19 catches for 353 yards and a team-leading 3 touchdowns), as well as Justin Wolf (17 grabs for 203 yards and two TDs) and his younger brother, Thomas Resker (10 grabs for 164 yards and 1 score).
Shutdown defense has also been a huge part of the winning equation for Xaverian, as they have allowed 10 or less points in three of their five victories this season…Excluding the 31 points they surrendered in a loss to an out-of-state opponent, the Blue & Gold platoon has given up 20+ points just twice this season.
As they prepare themselves to face the never relenting land attack from the visiting Knights, it will be essential that leading tackler, Derrin Hansen (46 tackles, 1 sack), Brian Langan (34 stops), Brandon Ramrattan (32 tackles), Christian Appel (30 stops, 1 sack), as well as the already mentioned Greene (34 tackles, 1 sack) all rise to the occasion.
On the opposite sideline, you have a Xavier squad that has made a ritual of pulling first round upsets…Underdogs the past two seasons, the Chris Stevens trained cohort shocked the Catholic football world when they knocked off heavily favored top-seed, Christ the King, two years ago. Last season, they prevailed in the #4 vs. #5 game, beating Holy Cross….So, suffice to say, the idea of going on the road to play to play a higher seed is not the least bit daunting to them.
The most explosive version of the Knights since the 2012 team that hoisted the AA hardware, Xavier averaged over 28 points per game this season while running for 2,154 yards and 26 touchdowns.
Powered by the breakout senior campaign of two-time Player of the Week selection, Dan Vittiburga, the Knights have scored 40+ points in back-to-back games and are playing their best brand of football down the stretch…Second in both yards (991) and touchdowns scored (16) on the ground in double-A, since October commenced, the Brooklynite has been the most unstoppable player in the NYCHSFL, rushing for 100+ yards in four straight appearances and accumulating 13 total touchdowns since week #5.
Also riding a hot streak of his own into the postseason is junior, Matthew Geruso…A player of the week honoree after establishing a new career-high of 157 yards rushing in the regular season finale against St. Francis Prep, the 5’10, 185-pounder who hangs his hat in Hoboken, has reached the “magic 100” in three consecutive contests, gaining 386 and scoring three of the 586 yards and four touchdowns he has compiled in his rookie year on the varsity.
Demetrios Demetriades, who only been asked to carry the ball 25 times this season (255 yards + 2 TDs) could be an X-factor…Two weeks ago in the win over Mount St. Michael, he ran for 127 yards on four carries. Hence, even if his touches are short on quantity, they are guaranteed to be massive on quality.
At the center of a front-seven that will look to lock down Auguste and Greene will be Valery Gwardyak (51 stops, .5 sacks), John Walsh (35 tackles, 2 sacks), Milton Guzman (32 tackles, 1 sack), Jordan Sosa (31 tackles, 2 sacks), and Frank Bernie (28 stops, 1.5 QB bags)…The no fly zone that will be determined to make life difficult on Resker will be comprised of Evan Murphy (team-leading two interceptions) and Demetriades, who topped all Knight defensive backs with six pass break-ups during the regular season…Langton Williams (50 tackles, 1 INT, 1 PD), Kevin Connelly (35 tackles, 3 PDs), and Joseph Maratea (33 tackles, 4 pass defenses) solidify the secondary.
When: Sunday November 4th, 2018
Where: Holy Trinity High School
Time: 1:30 pm
Proof that one year really can make a difference, a season ago the Titans and Mavericks combined to win just three games, with neither earning a postseason berth to the double-A playoffs.
Now, with the hosts [Holy Trinity] sitting at 7-1 and the visitors [Moore Catholic] a misleading 6-2, both of these programs have undeniably climbed out of the basement and have their eyes laser focused on the penthouse.
Both league finalists in 2016, Holy Trinity would have to settle for runner-up honors in AA, while Moore Catholic would be crowned kings of the single-A division on that November afternoon…And, with both schools showing more than a few glimpses of championship brilliance during the 2018 regular season, the fact that the journey will end for one of these title contenders makes this clash one that cannot be missed.
Holy Trinity, under the tutelage of Head Coach Tony Mascia (in his 33rd season of service; 29 as a coach; four as a student-athlete), could not be any more on fire at the moment, as they rebounded from week #1 loss to Kellenberg to win their next seven in a row…During this stretch, the Green & White warriors have been putting up 36.6 points per game on offense and have allowed just 18.4 in the midst of the winning streak. With the one exception coming in a 29-28 victory over Xavier on October 13th, the Hicksville based school has allowed no more than 14 points since the fifth week of the season.
A program that has enjoyed an extremely rich tradition of being able to dominate with their running game, if there was one reason we could cite as the catalyst behind this 180% reversal of fortune, it would be the stellar play of the offensive line in conjunction with the development of several Titan tailbacks from one season to the next…Increasing their rushing totals from 624 yards and four touchdowns in 2017 to 2,081 yards and 31 TDs in 2018, it is no wonder that Holy Trinity is back among the upper echelon where they belong.
Aided by an O-line that boosts two player of the week picks this season, John Stroughn (week 2) and Elijah Tobin (Week 7), individuals such as Ryan Razzano (transferred in for his senior year after McGann-Mercy announced they would be closing), Spencer Nixon, and Jalen Rivers have all elevated their level of performance…Razzanoo, who has also contributed 389 yards and five touchdowns in the air as the starting quarterback, leads HT in all major rushing categories in his first and only season at the helm. Notching a pair of 100-yard efforts, he has rushed for 598 yards and scored 11 touchdowns on 110 carries…Nixon, who set a career-high with 155 yards in a week 7 victory over St. Francis Prep, is slowly but surely catching up, as he has gained 456 yards and punched the ball in on six separate occasions and his 77 total hand-offs…Rivera, the team’s #1 receiving target out of the backfield (16 catches for 230 yards and four TDs) has been used sparingly as a ball carrier (35 carries for 206 yards and a pair of scores), but showed his value in week #3 when he posted a 97-yard/1 TD performance against St. Joe’s by the Sea….Making these feats all the more impressive is that for the most part he was not the feature back until halfway into the season.
Just days away from going head-to-head with a Maverick squad that features the statistically best running back in the entire NYCHSFL [Justin Lacks], the Titans know that Stroughn (58 tackles, 12 TFL, 8 sacks), Rivers (42 stops; 3 tackles for a loss; 2 sacks, 1 INT), Nixon (27 tackles, 3 TFL, 2 sacks), Tobin (16 tackles, 6 TFL, 4 sacks) as well as Brian Holder (43 tackles, 5 tackles for a loss, 1 sack), Bashiri Clark-Cain (24 stops, 4 TFL, 2 sacks), and Reggy-Ryan Cadet (24 stops, 9 tackles for negative yardage, 2 sacks) cannot afford to bring anything less than their proverbial A+ efforts…Jaden Sinclair (25 tackles, 2 PDs) and Kenneth Kroez (23 stops, 1 pass break-up) could hear their names called throughout the day while manning the defensive backfield.
Turning our attention to Lacks and his Moore Catholic teammates, it truly has been a “tale of two cities” for the Mavericks during the past three weeks…Dropping back-to-back outings in weeks 6 and 7 to Fordham Prep and Xaverian with their 6’0, 215-pound superstar out of the line-up due to injury, there is little question that had Lacks not been shelved, MC would have been favored to win the Western Conference. An absolute juggernaut when at full-strength, prior to the absence of their junior playmaker, Nick Giannatasio’s team was putting nearly 37 points per game on the old scoreboard. In the seven quarters he missed, the team only mustered 30 points total…That number climbed all the way back to 63 when he returned for the season finale against SJS.
Blowing away the field despite missing almost two full games, the US Army All-American top-600 prospect still has compiled a 1,100-yard, 17-touchdown season. As noted above, he puts him atop the NYCHSFL regardless of classification.
Should Lacks need a series off on Sunday afternoon, the Mavericks can rest easy as they have a more than capable second option in the person of Mausari Miller….Another member of that 2016 title team, Miller is known for his prowess on the defensive side of the ball (linebacker), but is quite adept on “O” too as demonstrated by the 512 yards and six touchdowns he scored in his final scholastic season…Fellow 12th grader, Joe Randazzo, who was just honored as a POTW selection this past Thursday, is regarded more for his blocking than his ball carrying skill, but could get a spot hand-off every now and then. He averaged 4.7 yards/touch on his 15 carries to finish the year with 70 yards and 1 TD.
Having established that both combatants this weekend are especially potent on the ground, let us be forthcoming in stating that the obvious difference is that unlike the host Titans, who only attempted 49 passes this season, Moore Catholic will keep opposing D-units more on their toes because of their willingness to go aerial as a change of pace…Now in his third-year under center, senior signal caller, Vincenzo Scarola, has asserted himself as a respected pocket passer, setting new career-highs with 881 throwing yards and 10 TD strikes…When Scarola does drop back to throw, more times than not you can bet the pigskin will find its way into the hands of either freshman, Dashawn Lawton, or junior, Cameron Holmes….The only receivers to catch touchdown tosses this season, Lawton has 29 total receptions for 572 yards and 5 TDs in his debut year, while Holmes has grabbed 16 balls for 305 yards and a team-high seven scores.
Identical to Holy Trinity’s goal on defense, the mission at hand for Miller (68 tackles, 5 TFL), Artie Padilla Jr. (61 stops, 6 stops for negative yardage), Sixx Johnson (61 tackles), Holmes (48 stops, 3 sacks, 2 INTs), Tedi Kushi (43 tackles), Randazzo (35 stops, 1 INT), Deonte Jackson (32 tackles, 1 Sack), and Nashaun Defy (25 tackles, 2 tackles for a loss) is to own the trenches and smother the Titan land attack before it has a chance to breathe.