Oct 282021
 

By Matt Diano:

Vaughan Johnson (Jr.); DT – Fordham Prep Rams

Like NFL Hall of Famer defensive stoppers, Harry Carson and Len Ford, the 5’9, 220-pounder from White Plains [Johnson] did just live up to the reputation of the #53 jersey last Friday night, he has been making the number infamous all season long on behalf of the Rams….Their most recent victory (9-6 over Christ the King), which snapped a four-game drought, was just the continuation of the habitual sovereignty that the Fordham Prep junior DT has enjoyed this season against rival offensive lines…

Entering week #7 tied (with teammate, Jaziah Moore) for the lead in the NYCHSFL (all divisions) with six sacks, the multi-sport (5th at the 2021 CHSAA City Wrestling Championships) student-athlete might as well change his legal name to “Furnace” because he was providing nothing but heat up the middle all night!

A disruptive force that plagued both the Royal run and pass attacks for the full 48 minutes, Johnson was the catalyst in the Rams allowing their fewest points in a contest this year and CTK being held to their second lowest output (6; also achieved by Chaminade in week 1)…

Concluding the night with a stat line that read as follows: 7 tackles and 3 QB bags, the 11th grade Catholic football equivalent to Aaron Donald raised his eyebrow-raising totals to 36 stops and 9 sacks!

Of equal importance to the impressive accolades is that more times than not, he delivered the “big bang” at an instant that his school needed it…

The first of his three sacks occurred in response to a 1st quarter interception by Christ the King that set up the “hosts” (neutral field) from Middle Village at their own 29…On the next official snap (after a false start call had already pushed them back), Johnson fired through the gut and clobbered the opposing QB to force them into a 2nd & very long.   The series inevitably ended in a punt and no swing of momentum could be generated…

On another occasion, with FP up 9-0 in the 3rd quarter, but CTK on the march (on the Ram 32), Johnson did not complete the sack, but the licking he applied caused a throw attempt to come up short where fellow junior, Giancarlo O’Leary, picked if off to maintain the shutout…

Johnson added his second and third sacks in the fourth quarter, including the last of the trio that helped to curtail Christ the King’s final drive (trailing 9-6) of regulation!

 

Photo by Geoff Walter

Hagan Wagner (Sr.); DB/Kick Returner – Chaminade Flyers

Last Saturday evening, the 5’9, 165-pounder [Wagner] for the Crimson & Gold was wearing #45 on his back.  However, the “21” jersey would have suited him just fine given the major “Prime Time” vibes he created in Chaminade’s 42-0 triumph over St. Francis Prep

In true Deion Sanders form, the senior classman from Hempstead pulled off the rare “double-trouble”, returning both a kickoff and then an interception for touchdowns in propelling the Flyers to a third straight victory (raised their overall record to 5-2/4-2 against AAA competition)…

Chaminade already holding a 9-0 lead, Wagner struck for the first of his two scores in the last 45 seconds of the opening quarter, when on the ensuing kick following a safety, he fielded the ball at his own 29, made a first move to the middle of the field and then cut back towards the visiting sideline where he sprinted the remainder of the way to paydirt for the 71-yard KO TD to increase the lead to 16-0 at the end of 12 minutes…This marked the second time this season that he turned a return into “6”.  In week #3 (9/25), he brought one to the house from almost an identical distance versus St. Peter’s...

The scoreboard now leading 22-0, just as he did in the 1st, Wagner waited until late in the 2nd quarter (1:05 remaining) to make another pilgrimage to the promised land…Afflicted by heavy pressure (initially waged by senior LB, Connor Collett), the SFP quarterback made an errant throw attempt across the field…Zeroing in on the desperation chuck, the Marianist rover undercut the route on the Francis Prep 30 and then ran untouched for the pick-6 to send his school into the break with the comfortable 29-0 edge..

His coverage skills no doubt exceptional, where Wagner deviated from the reputation of his Hall of Fame comparison [Sanders] was in his willingness to engage in the more physical aspects of “D”…Simply put, he did not shy away from contact, he sought it out, falling one tackle short of tying his personal-best (9 in week 6 vs. Fordham Prep) but succeeding in logging a career-high 4 TFLs…For good measure, he added a sack for the second weekend in a row while being credited with a pair of hurries.

He’ll head into the last regulation season game of his scholastic career (against Iona Prep) with season totals of 47 stops, 8 TFLs, 2 sacks, and of course, the one electrifying INT!

Chaminade has now pitched two back-to-back shutouts!

As they get ready to face one of the most potent offenses in the entire Empire State (Iona Prep), it is known without being stated that he needs to be the best he ever has been if the Flyers are to contain a Gael machine that is averaging a shade below 38 points per game versus NYCHSFL foes…Whether it is Justin Joly, Mike Ryan, or Mike Senatore, there is no easy assignment!

 

Serge Lagardere (Jr.); WR/Punt Returner – Archbishop Stepinac Crusaders

Dear opposing coaches, kick away from #32….Kick away from #32….KICK AWAY FROM #32!!!!

Asserting himself as a definitive contender for the Special Teams’ Player of the Year in the AAA division, the 5’7, 140-pounder, hailing from Stamford, CT. [Lagardere] is starting to make the art of the kick/punt return appear easy…

An act that in a typical season you may get to experience two, maybe three times at most if you excel at the craft, after the Crusaders’ 37-7 win at home over St. Joseph’s by the Sea, the 11th grader now has posted FOUR total touchdowns in this capacity (to go along with the four additional TDs he has put up in the traditional offense; 3-receiving, 1-runnning)…

Perhaps more mind-blowing is the notion that he has now accomplished the feat in THREE CONSECUTIVE outings, with October 23rd being the grandest of them all!!

Fielding three punts in total, Lagardere accumulated 111 yards, highlighted by dynamic 58 and 50 yard delivering in the 1st and 3rd quarters respectively that enabled Stepinac to establish a cushion…

The Red, White, and Blue juggernaut up 7-0 in the last 2:13 of the opening stanza, Lagardere parked himself under the punt on his own 42, darted all the way across the field and went untouched into the end zone to increase the advantage to 15-0…

Approximately three minutes and 20 ticks into the third quarter and AS now up 22-0, Lagardere completed the pair when he took the pigskin on a bounce at mid-field, made a man miss, and took the long road yet again, galloping down his own sideline for his second and final tally of the afternoon to further pull away from the Vikings (29-0)!

Lagardere’s previous exploits included a 76-yard KO return for TD against St. Anthony’s on October 9th, complemented by a 50-yard punt take back versus Christ the King on 10/16…

He also added two catches for 32 yards to further contribute to his school’s week 7 conquest that improved them to 6-2/5-1!

 

Henry Belin (Sr.); QB – Cardinal Hayes Cardinals

Every season, we have our unofficial “Death, Taxes, &” selection.  It is reserved for that special student-athlete that no matter when it occurs, you just know at the start of the year that it is a certainty that he will eventually find his worthy way onto the list..

When fall 2021 rolled around and before a single snap went down, we knew without question that the individual destined to carry on this legacy would be the 6’3, 210-pound, Duke University bound signal caller extraordinaire, Henry Belin….

Twice named as a NYCHSFL POTW during his title-winning sophomore season in 2019 (including being Offensive MVP of the Triple-A championship), Belin did not garner the honors last spring; but that was probably more a case of the Hayes’ staff wanting to share the love as opposed to him not deserving the spotlight…Because, there is little to no doubt that whenever he steps on a football field, he ALWAYS attracts attention!

Regarded by 247 Sports as the top in-state QB prospect from the class of 2022, the 3-star general has had to deal with some frustrations (semi-rebuild in the Bronx) in his swan song, but he clearly has no plans to exit the stage quietly.   On the contrary, we might just be approaching his “finest hour” as we inch closer to the postseason!

The “sun” in a universe filled with offensive stars on each sidelines last Friday, neither Belin himself or anyone else in attendance is soon to forget the instant classic that was played at the Mitchel Athletic Complex on October 22nd!

Combining for 104 points (55-49), it required three overtime periods before a winner could emerge between the Cardinals and their hosts, Kellenberg Memorial…And in fitting form, it was the gentleman rocking the #3 that had the ultimate hand in deciding the fate of the contest!

Having a hand in all three of the Cardinals’ touchdowns in the extra frames, Belin got to be both savior and hero under the lights, as it was a 14-yard TD toss (across his body while on the run) to fellow 12th grader, Donovan Beauvoir, on 4th & goal in the first OT that extended the evening, before later connecting on a 10-yard swing pass to another senior, Rex Roman, for the game-clincher…Sandwiched around the two clutch throws was a 1-yard literal KEEPER that kept Hayes alive in the second overtime…

Accounting for 414 yards of total offensive production, the future Blue Devil was responsible for SIX touchdowns, as he went 21-for-30 in the air for 282 and 3TDs, while rushing for 132 and three more scores on 10 carries…

The defending AAA champs trailing 21-7, Belin struck for the first of his two 2nd quarter touchdowns when he hooked up with younger brother, Rich, on a 68-yard completion to cut the deficit to 21-14….To close out the 1st half (KMHS up 28-14), he scrambled across the line from a distance of 13 yards to again trim the margin.

After an exchange of scores in the 3rd quarter (one of the few he did not directly influence), Belin “squared the match” at 35-35 with about 8:30 to go in regulation when he shed multiple tacklers and scampered like a bat out of hell for a 64-yard touchdown run!  On a night where he was special from start to finish, this was the moment that was most representative of the incredible person and player Belin is, per Head Coach, C.J O’Neil.

 

Matthias Lighten (So.); CB/WR – Moore Catholic Mavericks

A born star if we ever saw one, the 6’1, 175-pound super sophomore [Lighten] gave the Catholic Football pundits a glimpse of his two-way abilities last spring when three of his five receptions resulted in touchdowns on offense and he racked up 18 stops on “D” in just four appearances…

Now afforded the luxury of a full campaign to showcase his talents, the so-called “sophomore jinx” has not applied to the gem in the #7 shirt!

Impossible to miss on both sides of the ball, there have been days when offense took center stage and evenings when the Roselle, NJ resident was all about the “D”…In week #7, he was the whole package in the Mavs’ 20-0 win in the battle of Staten Island over St. Peter’s.

A chart-topper no matter what role he was assuming on Friday, Lighten posted a team-best/career-high 10 tackles (3 solo, 7 assisted), to go along with two successful pass break-ups in spearheading the defense to their first goose-egg instigating affair of the season…Since welcoming him to the big club, Moore Catholic has now shutout three opponents in his 10 occasions wearing the Red & Black…

Shifting his focus to offense, his five-grab, 55-yard display (best in both categories among MC targets) was the continuation resumption of the hot streak he has found himself on down the stretch…Making 17 of his 29 total catches for 197 of 383 yards during the past three weeks, Lighten is peaking at the perfect time of the year!

The last spot in the triple-A playoffs likely at stake in the regular season finale against Kellenberg Memorial, the Mavs will need for him to be that all-everything explosive playmaker that they have come to expect and cherish since his debut last April.

 

Chris Kalle (So.); RB/CB – Kennedy Catholic Gaels

The box score is going to indicate that the 5’10, 155-pound, sophomore [Kalle] only scored one touchdown…And while that might be technically true, from watching the tape, it was quite apparent he did a heck of a lot more.  In fact, there was not a single point in the 29 earned by the Gaels in their Saturday matinee victory (29-8) against Mount St. Michael Academy that he did not in some way inspire…

With 6:03 remaining in what was a scoreless first half, the Thornwood resident got the proverbial ball rolling when he answered a Mountaineer interception with a pick of his own to regain possession for KC at mid-field…On the ensuing drive, Anthony Castaldi, who wore several different hats (QB, WR, etc.) drew first blood with a 21-yard keeper for the first of his three touchdowns to make the score 7-0.

Fast-forward to the last 90 seconds of the 3rd (MSMA now hanging on to an 8-7 advantage) and it was Kalle taking the first snap following an interception in the end zone (by junior, Luis Garcia), 36 yards into enemy territory…Pushed back a bit after the big run, Castaldi later was on the receiving end of a 44-yard bullet from ZJ Suarez to put the boys of Somers back in the lead…Kalle then caught a pass for the 2pt conversation to make the score 15-8 with 44 ticks to go…

Midway through the 4th and Kalle was again a catalyst as he strung together rushes of 32, 13, and 11 yards to move the Gaels into the red zone…Castaldi then knocked down the door from 5-yards away for the insurance TD (22-8)…

After doing so much to facilitate others, the moment of glory finally came for Kalle in the last minute and a half when he bolted up the middle for the 37-yard touchdown to culminate the scoring for KC!

All in all, he amassed 220 yards on 23 hand-offs to raise his total for the season to 670 yards…The TD in the waning moments was his seventh of the fall!!!

In addition to the well-timed INT, he was credited with four tackles from the secondary!

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.