By Matt Diano:
“A” Semifinals: #2 Cardinal Spellman vs. #3 Nazareth Regional (Nov. 2nd, 2:30 @ Spellman)—A tale of two games during the regular season, despite the victor [Spellman] being the same, nothing could have been more day and night in terms of the level competitiveness…In the first meeting on September 21st, the two-time defending champion Pilots would run (literally) wild, accumulating a season-best 253 yards and scoring four touchdowns on the ground en route to a comfortable 38-12 victory. Leading the way in this land attack was Ethan Ortiz (143 yards + 1 TD on eight carries), Dylan Williams-Molitor (56 yards on five hand-offs), and Aidan Hanley-Piri (17 yards and two touchdowns on three keepers). Hanley-Piri, the team’s signal caller, also was potent in the air, completing 8 of 13 passes for 127 yards and one TD. Anthony Bell (14 tackles), Ortiz (12 stops), and Anthony Badagliacca (3 tackles, 1 sack) anchored a defensive unit that limited the Kingsmen to their second lowest point output of the season…In the rematch (26-20 final on October 12th), Naz really demonstrated immense improvement on both sides of the ball, as Jalen White (13 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 caused fumble) was spectacular on defense, and the running back tandem of Matthew Moore (55 yards, 1 TD on 8 carries) andJustin McDuffie (52 yards on six attempts) did a solid job matching down the field. Quarterback, Nicholas White, who got intercepted twice in September, played a much cleaner contest, connecting on 3 of 4 passes for 54 yards and one touchdown (to J. White). In fact, if not for two drives being derailed by poor snaps (resulting in safeties), it is very possible that the Kingsmen could have pulled out the “w”…Both programs enter the postseason with a reason for significant optimism as Spellman closed out the regular season by knocking off double-A opponent, Mount St. Michael, 11-8, while Nazareth made top-seeded Kennedy Catholic sweat before falling by a score of 33-22. In the loss to the Gaels, McDuffie had a career day, racking up 200 yards on the ground.
“AA-1” Quarterfinals: #3 Xavier vs. #6 St. Peter’s (Nov. 2nd, 3:30 @ Aviator Sports Complex)—A rematch of a match-up we saw just a week ago in the regular season finale, the returning AA runners-up, Xavier, would spot the Eagles a 13-0 lead in the first quarter before storming back to score 36 unanswered points over the course of the last 36 minutes…Utilizing their bread-and-butter ground game, the Knights averaged 7.5 yards per carry (43 for 323) and recorded five rushing touchdowns in the comeback victory…Week #8 POTW selection, Andrew Scariano, and Matthew Geruso, each shined in the backfield, with the former setting a new career-high of 176 yards (2 TDs) on 21 chances, while the latter gained 58 yards and scored three times on his 14 attempts. Anthony Bruno did not find end zone, but still had an outstanding showing, exploding for 75 yards on just four carries (18.8 per)…The Eagles got their points via a pair of touchdown passes from junior field general, Vincent Mazzone, to seniors, Vincenzo Quinzi and Michael Politi.
“AA-1” Quarterfinals: #4 St. Francis Prep vs. #5 Fordham Prep (Nov. 3rd, 1pm @ Martin Van Buren HS)–A showdown where the seeds contradict what happened on the field, when these two schools squared off in week #7 (Oct. 20th), it was the Rams playing their best game of the year in a 41-16 victory on the road (same field as this Sunday)…Posting a breakout performance in the FP triumph was junior tailback/defensive back, Matthew McKillop, who ran for 163 yards and three touchdowns on one end and recorded seven stops and was credited with a sack on the other…For the Terriers, Joseph Pasqua, was a bright spot on an otherwise cloudy day. The senior RB ran for a team-high 71 yards on nine carries, caught two passes for 29 yards + 1 TD, and averaged 24.3 yards as a kick returner…Both schools tasted defeat in the final week of the regular season, but had moments of brilliance off of which they could build when the “money games” commence this weekend…In FP’s 42-23 loss to AA-1 top seed, Chaminade, McKillop scored two more touchdowns and had a sack that laid the tracks for an eventual safety. Jack Annicelli also had a touchdown pass to Jayden Wiggins per the twitter updates courtesy of respected HS journalist, Greg Thompson…In St. Francis Prep’s 35-7 loss to AAA opponent, St. Anthony’s, sophomore quarterback, Matthew Gonzalez, was astonishing, even if this the scoreboard bares no evidence…Re-writing his personal record book for pass attempts (37), completions (23), and yards tossed (245), the Bushwick resident spread the ball out to seven unique targets, including Nick Destefano (6 catches for 75 yards), Omarion Jones (6 grabs for 43 yards), Robert Padavona (5 snatches for 73 yards)…Pasqua, who himself had a pair of catches for 29 yards, scored the only TD of the afternoon for SFP on a medium-distance run.
“AA-2” Quarterfinals: #3 Xaverian vs. #6 Holy Trinity (Nov. 2nd, 7pm @ Aviator Sports Complex)—When these two programs played during week #3, it was a pure display of offensive firepower as they combined to score 65 points (Xaverian-42; HT-23)…Both finding immense success offensively on the ground, the Clippers posted season-highs for rushing yardage (245) and TD runs (5), while the Titans were not too shabby themselves, accumulating 194 yards and scoring three touchdowns…Coming up big for Xaverian was senior, Shane Greene, who gained 130 yards and scored once on 14 carries, while also converting on two 2pters to account for 10 points single-handedly. Complementing Greene was Jalen Sanchez (10 carries for 44 yards), James Resker (6 keepers for 30 yards), Jordan Murrell (two hand-offs for 22 yards), and Thomas Resker, who all also ran for one touchdown apiece. J. Resker, the team’s field general, was quite effective in the air too, completing 8 of 13, for 150 yards and one TD. Of these eight connections, five went to Justin Wolf (60 yards receiving); Tom Leahy was on the back end of a 55-yard TD pass for his lonegrab…On the opposite sideline, it was the duo of QB Emilio Ramirez, and super sophomore RB, Kameron Robbins, doing a load of damage, as the former rushed for 119 yards and scored one touchdown on 13 carries, and the former tallied 75 yards and a pair of TDs on his 14 handles…Both schools had byes in week #8, so they should step onto the gridiron healthy, well-rested, and properly prepared for what hopefully will be another electrifying clash.
“AA-2” Quarterfinals: #4 Holy Cross vs. #5 St. John the Baptist (Nov. 3rd, 1pm @ Jamaica HS)—Unlike the aforementioned AA-2 quarterfinal contest cited above, when the Knights and Cougars banged heads on October 13th, the name of the game was “defense”….Putting up a combined 24 points (16-6 Holy Cross), nothing came easy for either side when they had possession…Should the rematch play out in similar fashion, we would consider that an advantage for the HC, which boasted the top-ranked defense in AA-2 heading into the last week of the regular season…The young gentlemen from Flushing were outstanding in all areas of protecting their goal, containing the SJB backfield by committee to just 87 yards on 31 carries (2.8). The “no fly zone” was just as potent, holding the Cougars to 10 for 22 (157 yards) and intercepting four passes…Because Holy Cross chose not to publish their box score, we are not certain who were the difference-makers…For St. John the Baptist, Jayden Louis (5 catches for 52 yards) and Christian Maisel (2 grabs for 54 yards, 1 TD reception) had flashes of excellence as targets. If the Cougars gain improve their completion percentage slightly and avoid the INTs, that might be sufficient in their bid for revenge.
“AAA” Quarterfinals: #3 Christ the King vs. #6 Monsignor Farrell (Nov. 2nd, 7pm @ Coffey Field; Fordham University)—A genuine barn-burner at the break (6-3 CTK), the Royals utilized a pair of 4th quarter touchdowns to create separation in the September 20th affair…After getting off to a modest start to the evening, Christ the King QB, Noah Bodden (who enters leading New York State in yards thrown this season), really settled into a groove by night’s end, connecting on 23 of his 35 pass attempts for 359 yards and three TD strikes…On the back end of these touchdown hurls were a pair of senior wide-outs (Tahliq Battle and Jahrell Billups) who each posted 100+ yard receiving games. Battle caught six balls for 110 yards and two TDs; Billups had game-highs with seven grabs for 124 yards and one touchdown…Purdue bound tailback, Tirek Murphy, provided a second wave of attack, accounting for 108 of the team’s 166 yards rushing…The King “D” which held the Lions to 237 yards of total offense (82.4 below their average) was spearheaded by the likes of Mike Palmaccio (14 solo tackles, 2 assisted), Bak Harris (9 solo, 1 helper), Zephron Lester (9 solo tackles, 1 sack), Chris King (7 solo tackles, 2 assists, 1 sack), Narain Yearwood (8 stops), Elijah Muhammad (5 solo, 2 assists, 1 sack), and Christopher Eaton Jr. (5 solo, 2 TFL, 1 sack)…As it pertains to the Lions, prior to be knocked out of the game with an injury, quarterback, Michael Marten, looked very good, completing 4 of his 5 attempts for 48 yards… Chris Anarumo, who garnered POTW honors once this season, did an acceptable job when called upon in relief, going 10-for-21 and tossing for 65 yards. Both signal callers should see action on Saturday…Returning All-State performer, Christian Tait, topped all Farrell receivers with five catches for 28 yards; Matt Wessels (2 grabs for 48 yards) and Stephen Booras (4 catches for 25) added to the depth at WR…Aaron Espinet (39) and Ethan Yak (38) combined to gain 77 yards on 11 carries as the primary ball-carriers… Chris Ortalano (6 solo, 7 assisted), Justin Denmark (7 solo, 5 helpers, 2 TFL), Booras (9 tackles, 1 INT), and Anthony Travers (4 total stops, 2 pass break-ups) all turned in impressive defensive efforts for the Staten Island based program…Many of the names above enter the postseason with some momentum, as Bodden earned his second POTW distinction in 2019 with a 440-yard, 5TD effort in a 67-34 victory over Kellenberg, and Anarumo hooked up with Booras in a 34-17 loss to Stepinac.
“AAA” Quarterfinals: #4 Cardinal Hayes vs. #5 St. Anthony’s (Nov. 2nd, 4pm @ Macombs Park Rooftop)—A postseason rivalry that in most years occurs no earlier than the semifinal round, the Cardinals have been responsible for eliminating the Friars from the playoffs in three of the past four years, including 2018 when as the #4 seed, they went on the road to knock out the top seeds from South Huntington…When these two storied programs met during week #3 (September 21st), it was Hayes delivering a punishing 46-17 defeat to STA…On a day where everything just seemed to click for the Maroon & Gold, Jalen Smith (whose status for this weekend remains unknown) had a banner showing, rushing for 266 yards and three touchdowns on 12 chances (22.2/per); sophomore, Zachary Mitchell, posted a personal-best of 57 yards on six carries as a complementary piece in the backfield…Quarterback, Henry Belin, who did not play the full 48 minutes, demonstrated superior polish for his young age, connecting on 8 of 12 passes for 82 yards and a pair of touchdowns…Yahya Krone (5 catches for 83 yards), Jerald Munoz (1 grab for 18), Tafari Blackstock (1 snatch for 48), and Dominic Morton (1 catch for 9 yards) all had touchdown receptions. Kuno Mendez was kept out of the end zone, but still had a quality day, hauling in four passes for 37 yards…Nicholas Burgess (5 solo, 3 assists, 2 TFL), Elijah Fuentes (4 solo, 3 helpers, 1 sack, 3 tackles for a loss), Damon Barnes (4 solo, 2 assists, 3 TFL), Sidiki Kone (4 stops, 1 INT) were playmakers on defense…The Friar coaching staff did not submit their box score, but based on the last two weeks (both wins), we have really liked what we have witnessed out of quarterback, Connor McCreery. The third St. Anthony’s student-athlete to line up behind center this season, the junior is riding a two-game stretch where he has thrown for 200+ yards and multiple touchdowns…Mario Escobar has manifested as a major all-purpose threat during the two-game winning streak, accumulating 145 yards (90 as a receiver) of total offense and two touchdowns versus Farrell and then following it up last weekend with a 12-carry, 96-yard, 2-TD performance against St. Francis Prep…Aidan Danenza has posted back-to-back appearances with a touchdown reception…Brennan O’Neill and Grant Gifford have elevated the intensity level of the front-7, while Nick Alvarado, has patrolled the secondary with flair (had a 2 INT, pick-6 game in week #7 against Farrell).
Best of luck to all teams this weekend!