Oct 202021
 

By Matt Diano:

Leroy Biyo (Sr.); PK/MLB – Cardinal Spellman Pilots

If James Brown was the “hardest working man in show business”, then when it comes to New York Catholic athletics, that moniker has got to attached to the 6’1, 155-pounder, senior, out of the Bronx [Biyo]…He is not just a dual-sport athlete overall; he’s doing double duty simultaneously!!!

In one of the absolute most fascinating tales we may encounter this season, Biyo’s journeymen to stardom conjures up memories of the Neil Diamond classic, “I am, I said” where the sing-songwriter describes a frog who dreamed of being the king and then became one.”

Already a full-time member of the Spellman varsity soccer squad, when Biyo originally joined the football team, it was to serve only in the capacity of a kicker/punter…However, as time passed and his passion grew, it was not long before he was requesting additional responsibilities and asking to be included in more strenuous contact drills…

Now just weeks later, he finds himself not just as a designated specialist, but also as a starting middle linebacker, as well as a kick returner!!!

The entirety of his vast repertoire came in handy this past Saturday in Spellman’s 19-16 triumph…

On most days, if we said that you collected 20 total tackles (8 solo, 12 assisted) on defense, most would assume that was your signature contribution.  But in the case of Biyo, it was his all-encompassing body of work on special teams that equally solidified his candidacy…

Successfully booting a PAT through the posts for his first point of the game, the strength of his leg enabled him to also dictate opposing starting field position as he registered a pair of touchbacks…

The icing on the cake for the Pilot 12th grader occurred when he emerged with one of the most electrifying plays of the year, bringing home the bread on a 98-yard kickoff return for what would be the ultimate determining factor!!!

 

Ajani Sheppard (Jr.); QB – Iona Prep Gaels

Last Thursday night, much of the high school football watching nation flocked to their televisions to see the #1 overall dual-threat signal caller in the nation, Arch Manning, suffer the first loss of his junior campaign…In hindsight, what the populace should have done is waited two days and demanded that a camera crew (aside from LocalLive) assemble to showcase the #2 DT quarterback in the Empire State [Sheppard]…Having watched both contests, we can attest to the fact that the Iona Prep 11th grader put on the more dazzling, entertaining, impressive exhibition in Iona Prep’s 35-21 victory over Cardinal Hayes in a collision of the preseason top-2 programs in the NYCHSFL AAA division…

The fourth Gael student-athlete this fall to have POTW acclaim bestowed upon him, after sharing the spotlight with teammates—Ellis Robinson IV (Week #1), Zyian Moultrie-Goddard (Week #2), and Justin Joly (Week #4), the moment has arrived for the captain of the ship to finally receive his due credit and admiration!

As consistent as the chill on a typical October afternoon, the 6’2, 230-pound, Bronx native did nothing to weaken his Offensive Player of the Year candidacy on 10/16… Directly or partially responsible for 280 yards of cumulative production, he connected on 12 of 16 tosses for 178 yards and three touchdowns in the air and was equally potent on land, scrambling for 102 yards and an additional TD on eight keepers!!!

Not one who stepped onto the field last weekend in need of stat line repair, his demonstration against the visiting Cardinals was just the next chapter in a never-ending storybook of perennial grandeur that he has authored during the last month and a half…

Entering the contest having thrown for two or more touchdowns three times prior, while also exceeding the century mark with his legs once, Sheppard raised his yearly totals to the following:  64.3% completion rate (92-for-143) for 1,385 yards, w/13 TD hurls aerially…464 yards and eight scores on 58 carries (8.0/average)…

Drawing first blood less than five minutes into the 1st quarter, Sheppard hit Robinson IV on a 7-yard swing pass inside the red zone for the first of his three TD chucks to put IP up 7-0.

The lead increased to 14-0 at the midway point (Anthony Turner 1-yard run with 1:55 left in the 1st), just as he did in the 1st half, Sheppard wasted little time making things happen on the Gaels’ initial drive of the 3rd quarter …Facing 3rd & 1 on the Hayes’ 37, he laid the ball out perfectly in stride to fellow junior, Michael Senatore, who caught it on a wheel route and cruised to the end zone with no defender in sight to further pad the cushion (21-0, 10:12 remaining in 3Q…

In almost déjà vu fashion, Sheppard and Senatore went back to the well in the last 63 ticks of the third stanza and again struck gold as a broken coverage enabled the latter to be wide open for the 39-yard TD reception that made the score 28-7.

Still very much in control (28-14), Sheppard let his legs do some talking in the final 5:15 of duration, as he faked the handoff and then parked himself beyond the lockdown/pancake blocking of Turner, and allowed the 6’0, 240-pound senior to escort him 10 yards across the goal line to cap off the 4 TD endeavor.

Sheppard’s selection as a Player of the Week was the climax of a remarkable weekend for the IP QB fraternity…On Monday, former Gael great, Derek Robertson (2018 AAA Offensive POY) was the recipient of the Colonial Athletic Association Rookie of the Week award after going 20-for-40, 223 yards, and 2 TDs in Maine’s 27-16 win over William & Mary!

 

Dae’ Shawn Allen (Jr.); WR – Archbishop Stepinac Crusaders

If legendary pitchmen/inventors, Billy Mays and Ron Popeil, had ever delved into the realm of being sports agents, then there is little doubt that the 5’11, 165-pounder out of Greenburgh [Allen] would have been precisely the model client they sought…Two men who transformed “utility” into a sacred term, one look at the versatility of the young gentleman in the #7 Crusader jersey is all the convincing they’d need to know they had a “cash cow” and/or “best seller” on their hands!

So immensely talented and diversified in his skill set, Allen is not the cliché Jack-of-All-Trades; this standout from Westchester is a KING of all point-scoring disciplines!!!

Fresh off of an outstanding outing (155 yards of total production; 40 rushing, 60 receiving, 50 as a kick returner) in a key victory over St. Anthony’s during week #5, Allen was even more spectacular this past Saturday afternoon in leading Stepinac to their second consecutive win (improved their league record to 4-1) in the form of a 49-18 conquest of visiting Christ the King

Notching his second multi-TD effort of the season (caught two touchdown passes on 9/18 against St. Peter’s) and the third of his career (had a four-score game last spring versus Kellenberg), Allen found paydirt on THREE different occasions in THREE unique manners on his way to an 18-point individual master class!

Concluding the “w” over the Royals with 172 yards of flash (on a modest five handles), Allen recorded the first of the trifecta when he followed up a 30+ yard hook-up between Sr. QB James McCauley and Junior WR, Gjok Dedvukaj, by taking the pigskin around the corner and jetting 10 yards to the house for the rushing TD to give his school the early 7-0 advantage approximately 4:00 into the opening quarter…This was one of two runs he attempted on the day totaling 21 yards to now raise his fall sum to 103 (on 7 carries)…

Four-and-a-half minutes later, Allen made it two straight drives that he punctuated a possession with a “6” when McCauley found him on a short out route, which he turned up field, broke a tackle, and dashed the remaining 41 yards to convert the 46-yard TD connection…He tacked on a 12-yard grab during the contest to round out a 2-catch, 56-yard performance.

The scoreboard now reading 42-0 at the start of the 2nd half, Allen completed the hat trick by taking the kickoff (after a minor bobble) up the gut and making a cutback or two along the way en route to a 95-yard TD return…His was the second of a pair of touchdown-yielding special teams’ players; earlier, Serge Lagardere brought a punt 50 yards back to the promised land to increase the lead to 28-0…On September 24th, Allen also went all the way for an 85-yard return versus Moore Catholic

For the year, Allen and the previously cited Dedvukaj are entrenched in quite the All-Crusader battle atop the program receiving leader board…Both have been credited with 29 receptions, with the latter [Dedvukaj] enjoying a 510 to 508 edge in yardage, but Allen up 4-3 in TD snatches…Lagardere is the final piece of the three-headed monster corps, with 15 catches for 173 yards and three TDs of his own!

 

Nicholas Bruno (Sr.); 2Back – Xavier Knights

For the first five weeks of the 2021 fall season, all the Knights and their 5’9, 145-pound 2Back [Bruno] experienced was a series of moral victories without the satisfaction of officially breaking into the win column…Plagued by injuries (lost three starting running backs in a week #1 loss to St. John the Baptist), not to mention the natural disadvantage of rust caused by the decision of the New York City school to forego participating last spring, if their collective performance on October 16th is an indication of anything, it is that the boys from West 16th Street are about to turn things around and reassert themselves as NYCHSFL Double-A contenders!

Picking up their first dub since the 2019 Turkey Bowl (40-14 over Fordham Prep; November 28th) by virtue of a 28-21 victory on Saturday night over St. Peter’s, regardless of the 1-5 tally that Xavier presently totes, there has been no denying the solo/individual excellence that has been delivered week-in and week-out by the senior tailback donning the #3 jersey…

Reaching/surpassing the century mark for a FIFTH straight appearance, Bruno established new personal-best for rushing accumulation (217 yards) and TD runs (3) while boasting an incredible 8.3 yards/per average on his 26 ground attempts against the Eagles…

Himself a resident of Staten Island, during the past three outings (opposed by Moore Catholic, St. Joe’s by the Sea, and St. Peter’s), he has single-handedly torched the hometown programs, racking up 100 yards and two TDs (28 carries) against the Mavericks before posting a 30-handoff, 210 yard/2-touchdown affair versus the Vikings…Factoring in the respective 122 (1 TD) and 117-yard displays from early match-ups with Kellenberg and St. Francis Prep, Bruno has amassed 780 yards (10th most in New York State) and crossed the goal line eight times thus far in his swan song campaign!

The present-day star of the Knights’ nationally recognized rugby dynasty, Bruno was at the heart of every successful drive that yielded Xavier a 21-0 lead in the 2nd quarter…

Having already run for one touchdown to give the Chris Stevens guided brigade a 7-0 advantage, Bruno struck again during the initial 12-minute opening quarter when on 2nd & 4, he faked a handoff and called his own number, cruising 29 yards up the middle to increase the cushion to 14-0.

Even on those instances when he was not the person to culminate the series, his influence was invaluable…The Knights still up 14-0, it was his 34-yard, 2nd quarter scamper to the Eagle 2 that set up fellow 12th grader, Justin Axiax (11 carries, 52 yards) for the two-yard plunge into the end zone…

The margin trimmed to 21-14 in the 3rd quarter, as he had done all night, Bruno regained momentum and provided some insurance when he weathered (no pun intended) down pour conditions to punch in his third score on a 4-yard keeper to restore the 14pt edge (28-21)…This combination of burst and toughness served as the difference-maker!

The younger brother of 2019 All-Catholic Defensive selection, Anthony [Bruno; Xavier class of 2020], it is a surefire guarantee that he’ll soon join his sibling in garnering this honor!

 

Jameson Sessa (Sr.); Two-Way Lineman – Monsignor Farrell Lions

In a day and age where members of Generation Z are too often accused of being “coddled” or “soft”, it is always extra special when we are afforded the opportunity to profile the exact antithesis of that misguided stereotype…After all, there is nothing more masculine, awe-inspiring, and courageous than the roles played by the boys that do their battling in the trenches…And in the case of the 6’2, 215-pound Staten Islander [Sessa], “rest” is about as dirty a four-letter word as exists in the English dictionary!

Named as a co-POTW honoree during week #3 of the spring season [along with RB Messiah Burch], there is no division in the direction of the limelight this time around…For a young man that does so many things that contributes to the betterment of the entire unit, it is somewhat fitting that Sessa is being recognized as the solo superstar of the Lions’ 21-17 comeback victory against Kellenberg Memorial last Friday night!

Occupying the edge on both sides of the line of the scrimmage, no matter if he was playing Right Tackle or Defensive End, #52 in the Maroon & Gold was regularly winning any and all exchanges in the combat zones…

On offense, he was a battering ram in both run and pass situations, continually sustaining his blocks to maintain a clean pocket for QB, Christian Pinto (8-for-11, 120 yards) while also doing road grader duties to create holes for a bevy of Farrell ball carriers that combined to rack up 165 yards and three touchdowns on 26 tries (6.3/per)…

Distinguishable from the get-go, Sessa made his domineering presence felt on MF’s opening drive of the evening…The Lions trailing 7-0 a little less than eight minutes into the 1st quarter, it was his essential blocks on consecutive snaps that facilitated a quick response to even the score…Picking up the Firebirds’ top sack man on the first of the two back-to-back sequences, he provided Pinto with the time necessary to launch a 38-yard completion to Mateo Bravato (2 grabs for 75 yards) to advance the ball to the KMHS 20…Subsequentially, he then won the one-on-one match-up again, enabling Burch (90 yards on 16 carries) to find a hole and dart 20 yards to the end zone for the first of what would be a two-TD showing for the junior speedster…

With 5:18 to go in the 1st half, Sessa helped Farrell take their first lead of the night when he pushed and trapped his man inside, making it possible for Cole Abbruzzese (39 yards on four attempts) to cut to the outside and run 17 yards to paydirt to send the host school into the locker room up 14-7!

Steady to the very last horn, when his team needed him most (trailing 17-14 with 3:25 still left unspoken for), Sessa and all of his OL peers answered the bell, routinely knocking Firebird defenders back, thus allowing the Farrell attack to methodically march down field by incorporating a plethora of medium distance runs, coupled with one huge gainer in the air…Moving 63 yards (10 plays) in just under 3:00, Burch’s three-yard plunge in the waning moments (:18 remaining) was the backbreaker!!!

Ponder this thought; his exploits on “D” were even more significant!!!!

Posting a season-best in total stops (8) and sacks (2), Sessa was a considerable reason why a Kellenberg offense that came into the game averaging nearly 30 points per appearance was held to just 17…

A stalwart in stuffing the run, three of his eight tackles resulted in no gain, as KMHS mustered only 75 yards on the ground…

Making sure to close out the “w” in emphatic style, Sessa sullied any chance of a Marianist miracle when he had had a highlight reel sack in the last 20 ticks to force the visitors 15 yards back and set up an impossible 3rd & forever scenario…The Lions later induced a turnover on down with :01 on the clock to seal the victory and improve their record to 3-2 in league (4-2 overall)!

 

Devin Malvasio (Sr.); RB/OLB – St. Joseph’s by the Sea Vikings

If there has been a theme to the Vikings’ on-going three-game winning streak, it is that if #11 [Malvasio] is running, then SJS is thriving!!!

Possessing both power and speed, the 6’2, 195-pound senior has shown himself to be an every down back capable of finding a hole and jetting 40+ yards or taking the handoff and muscling his way for those gutsy short and medium gainers…

In Joe’s by the Sea’s 27-20 victory on Friday night over St. Francis Prep, the multi-sport student-athlete [is also very gifted on the baseball diamond] displayed the full range of his artillery as an offensive weapon, chewing up grass like his name was John Deere to the tune of an 18-carry, 177-yard, 2-touchdown appearance…And as a bonus, he was rather good on defense to boot!

The barnburner all square at 7-7 in the last 75 ticks of the 2nd quarter, Malvasio would take the handoff straight up the middle and barrel over two Terrier defenders on the goal line to convert the 11-yard punch-in to give the Vikings the brief advantage…

After back-to-back scores from Francis Prep at the end of the 1st half (Kickoff return following the Malvasio TD) and eight minutes into the 3Q created a 20-13 deficit for SJS, a response was needed and Head Coach, Joe Goerge, knew which thoroughbred he was going to ride!!!

Facing 2nd & long with under 6:00 remaining in duration, Malvasio carried the ball up the middle, shook off an ankle tackle, kept his balance and cashed in from 42 yards out to draw the Vikings within a point (20-19 after an unsuccessful 2pt try)…

After the “D” hunkered down and forced a punt, Malvasio was again clutch in aiding the deciding final series of the evening, as he posted a big 17-yard run to move the ball just beyond midfield and then later added a 10-yard reception that put SJS inside the Terrier 15 w/:41 to go in the 4th…Not indicated in the box score is that directly following the grab, he had key blocks on two of the final three snaps, first picking up a pass rusher to give junior signal caller, Matt Wissman, time to connect with 11th grade WR, Andrew Deangelis, on the SFP 5-yard line and then escorting Wissman on a 5-yard keeper in the waning seconds (0:26 left) for the winning score!

On the other side of the ball, Malvasio was credited with six solo stops and assisted on countless others in going above and beyond to improve Sea to 3-2 in league competition!

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