Nov 102021
 

By Matt Diano:

Jaziyah Welch (Sr.); RB – St. Francis Prep Terriers

When you reach the postseason, there is no time for worrying about injuries/illness; every scenario becomes “next man up” with the hope that the person you turn to can at least provide some semblance of a contribution…And in the case of the 5’7, 165-pound 12th grader from West Hempstead [Welch], he more than earned his keep in sending the Terriers’ to the NYCHSFL AA-1 semifinals behind the dramatic 28-27 overtime victory against St. Joe’s by the Sea this past Saturday evening…

The only lower seed [#6] to prevail in any of the nine quarterfinal match-ups contested across the three Metro Catholic divisions, SFP entered the weekend without the services of the program’s leading rusher in 2021, Jaden St. Ford (222 yards and 1 TD on 51 carries this season)…However, despite the absence of their key personnel member, Francis Prep really hummed on offense, as their 28-point output marked a season-best and was nearly 3x the average of the 10 ppg that scored during the course of the regular season.  The ground attack, anchored by Welch, was especially potent as it accumulated for fall-bests of 203 yards and three touchdowns on 31 attempts…”Not bad” for being short “short staffed.”!

Stepping onto the field last weekend having carried the pigskin just 21 times (for 130 yards) in his swan song campaign, Welch literally and proverbially maximized the opportunity afforded to him against the Vikings, as he surpassed his previous body of work in one night, sprinting to the tune of a 13-handoff, 141-yard effort that vaulted his school to the dub!

Kept out of the end zone (the only element missing from an otherwise miraculous performance), #33 was the catalyst of all catalysts as his long runs were essential in setting up his teammates to garner glory!

SFP deep in a 21-7 hole at the break, Welch sparked the comeback on the squad’s opening drive of the 2nd half when his 55-yard gain paved the way for junior signal caller, Isaiah Decruz, to culminate the drive with a 1-yard sneak to cut the deficit to 21-14.

One series later, Welch continued to be zoned in, as he added a 41-yard trek to his resume to further keep the momentum rolling for the Terriers!

Per his twitter, the past two weeks have been a banner occasion for his entire family tree.   In addition to posting the finest day of his scholastic career this past Saturday, his cousin, Dakim Griffin, set a new record for rushing TDs in a season for Half Hollow Hills East, when he scored four times on October 29th to give him 29!

The Terriers will look to punch their ticket to the NYCHSFL finals for the first time since 2011 (“A” runners-up) when they head to Staten Island to square off with second-seeded Moore Catholic…In the previous meeting (26-6 win for the Mavericks), Welch carried the ball twice for 14 yards.   It goes without saying that he’ll be asked to do considerably more in the upset bid!

 

John Michalski (Jr.); QB – Moore Catholic Mavericks

Welcome back to the Player of the Week list, John Michalski.   Previously honored in week #1 of the spring season, the 6’2, 195-pound, field general from Woodbridge (NJ) is such the epitome of “superstar” that an argument could be made and won for his POTW inclusion on each occasion that the Mavericks are victorious!

So as to not water down/diminish the significance of the award in his case, we tend to pick our moments and save them for when he is truly other-worldly!  And that privilege showed itself last Saturday in the #2-seeded Mavs’ 35-21 quarterfinal triumph at home against a very determined Xavier Knights.

PERFECT thru the first 36 minutes of competition in the air (10-for-10, 298 yards), Michalski would conclude the afternoon by registering his second 300-yard tossing effort of the fall (319 yards versus Stepinac on Sept. 24th) behind an 11-for-17, 303-yard, two-touchdown affair…The dual-threat “bell cow” added 76 yards and two additional TDs with his legs!

Buried deep into his own zone, #11 delivered a perfect pass over the middle to a leaping Matthias Lighten (2 grabs for 137 yards, 1 TD), who out-ran the Knight secondary to finish off the 85-yard strike!

Later in the game, he found his top-target this season, Nick Jordan (4 catches for 29 yards, 1 touchdown) on a 10-yard hook-up!

Michalski’s TD-scoring treks came from distances of 5 and 4 yards respectively to round out his outstanding Saturday in the “master of all trades” role!

Polishing off the sweep of Xavier this year, the first round of Double-A-1 postseason marked the second time that Michalski tormented his guests from Manhattan.  When the teams played in week #4 (28-14 MC), he hurled for 221 yards and three TDs (10-for-16) and ran for 97 +1 on just eight keepers!

A bona fide candidate to win the League Offensive Player of the Year, JM’s most recent dynamic demonstration raised his stat totals to the following:  103-for-174, 1,618 yards and 14 touchdowns aerially; 494 yards and 5 TDs via land on 50 carries!  His 2,112 yards of universal production is tops in the AA division and ranks 2nd among all NYCHSFL student-athletes (2,624 for Iona Prep’s Ajani Sheppard).

As his next act, Michalski will try to book a second straight appearance to title weekend for the Mavericks (defending AA-2 champs) when he leads the herd into battle against aforementioned St. Francis Prep…When they initially met on October 9th, he racked up 333 yards of offense, chucking for 248 + 3TDs (18-for-27), while tacking on 85 yards on the ground (9 tries)!

 

Frank Ruta (Jr.); RB – St. Anthony’s Friars

If you are going to pick an occasion to have the best night of your high school career, then a hotly contested quarterfinal bout versus an opponent that has routinely knocked your school out of the playoffs the past six years, is about as good a time as any to flip that switch and go all beast mode!

Haunted by the memories of losses to Cardinal Hayes in the 2015, 2016, 2018 and 2019 triple-A bracket, the Friar faithful were able to exhale with sighs of relief this past Friday night as vengeance was theirs following a 42-28 triumph at Cy Donnelly Field against the rival/defending AAA titlist, Cardinals.

And the man of the hour under the illumination of those FNLs was the 5’9, 195-pound 11th grade tailback[Ruta].

Recording just 34 yards and one touchdown on seven carries during the regular season meeting [September 24th], the Hewlett resident “went off” in his first taste of postseason football (there were no playoffs last spring) last weekend, surpassing the century mark for the second time this year (103 yards) and establishing a new single-appearance best of four scores to propel St. Anthony’s into the semifinals!

Doing much of his damage during the latter 24 minutes of the war, Ruta would strike once in the first half, as he plunged across the goal line from 4-yards away to give STA a 21-0 advantage with 3:06 left in the 2nd quarter.  Prior to the TD run, he was on the back end of a 35-yard wheel route (on 3rd &13) from fellow junior, Dante Torres (12-for-23, 188 yards, 1 TD throwing; 8 carries, 25 yards, 1 touchdown running) that advanced the ball inside the opposing red zone (Hayes’ 10)….

A Cardinals’ rally (including a TD on their first series of the 2nd half) drew the visitors from the Bronx to within 21-14…#8 in Black & Gold made it his mission to not allow them to get any closer, as he reeled off THREE TD runs between the 3rd and 4th quarters!

Capitalizing off of an amazing strip sack by senior LB, Michael Maguire, that handed STA possession at the CH 13, Ruta gave the “boisterous” home crowd exactly what they were demanding when he broke to the left of the line and ran to paydirt two snaps later to increase the edge to 28-14 with 5:28 remaining in 3Q.

Developing into a ping pong clash of alternating scores from both sidelines, Ruta twice answered Hayes’ touchdowns in the final stanza, bouncing to the outside and then barreling over 2-3 Hayes’ defenders to convert an 8-yard TD run (made the score 35-21) with 9:10 to go in duration.

His fourth and last tally of the twilight occurred when he issued the “death blow” on a 21-yard scamper with 3:54 showing on the clock to account for the final score!

Ruta and the Friars will now ready themselves for an epic rematch in the semis versus the #1 ranked team in the state/#1 seed Iona Prep…In the 35-34 loss on October 22nd that was settled by mere feet, Ruta (10 carries, for 75 yards) and Joshua Escobar (85 yards on nine attempts) combined to chew up 160 yards against the Gaels vaunted defense…

Ruta is now a two-time POTW selection in his varsity tenure; he was previously recognized during week #2 of the spring season after a 3TD showing in a win over Stepinac!

 

Jack Wolf (Sr.); RB – Fordham Prep Rams

Quite literally a “Wolf in Ram’s” clothing”, the 5’9, 160-pound running back out of Rye [Wolf] was invaluable in helping Fordham Prep avenge their week #5 loss (20-13) to St. Peter’s, 13-12 in overtime, en route to securing a fourth straight AA semifinal appearance…

Emerging with a career-high 143-yards on just 13 attempts (11/per), Wolf may have only scored one touchdown in Friday’s night triumph; but that score came at the biggest moment of the season…

Trailing 12-6 and staring elimination in the face after allowing an Eagles’ touchdown in the first of the two OT possession exchanges, FP entrusted their dreams to the #7 jersey and he rose to the challenge when summoned…

Initially converting a 3rd & short by gaining 5 yards to move the chains (to the Peter’s 5), Wolf cemented the drive when he cut to the right side of the line of scrimmage and then refused to be denied, as he dragged a STP defender with him as he fell into the end zone for the equalizer.  This “6” was the first scored by the 12th grader since week #2 when he posted a pair of TD runs in a “w” over St. Francis Prep…The Liam Conlon PAT then served as the difference-maker!!!

While it would have been impossible to predict this big of a night for Wolf, his success certainly is not surprising… In fact, when you factor in the 19-handoff, 81-yard effort he gave on October 9th, two of his three highest outputs came versus the foes from Staten Island…

A “Ram turned work horse” for large chunks of the fall, Wolf has carried the pigskin (123) 81 more times than any other Fordham Prep player; his 623 yards is +472; and his five touchdowns makes him the ONLY FP runner with more than one score on the ground!

After rushing for a modest/season-low 19 yards on eight carries against semifinal opponent/top-seeded Chaminade on October 16th (week #6; 28-0 loss), it is imperative that he be as good, if not better, then he was in round 1 of the playoffs, should the Bronx contingent have aspirations of keeping this train chugging all the way to ‘ship weekend!

 

Bryce Davis (Jr.); RB – Archbishop Stepinac Crusaders

“The land attack has not been as prominent as years past for A.S…”; That was what we wrote in our AAA preview last week, and boy could we not have missed the mark any more than did!

We don’t know if our comment motivated the 5’11, 165-pounder, or if he was always this good and simply bided his time before; but one certain is for certain; BRYCE DAVIS has arrived!!!

Like a “Dr. Seuss meets Walter Payton” mash-up, Davis was a one-man touchdown machine for the better part of the 1st half in the Crusaders’ 42-7 quarterfinal victory over Kellenberg Memorial last Saturday afternoon…

Emerging with touchdown runs on four of Stepinac’s first six possessions of the game, “Davis struck from close, Davis cruised from far, Davis made it look easy, but Davis also showed great heart (kind of rhymes).”

Rocketing the #3 seeds from White Plains to the 28-0 edge at the intermission, the Greenburgh resident broke the ice with 8:56 remaining in the opening quarter when he took a handoff 10-yards up the middle for the first TD of the game…

Just a little over three minutes later, he punctuated his second straight drive, following up a Firebird punt by taking the ensuing snap 76-yards to the promised land…

#9 notched the hat trick with 7:29 remaining in the 2Q when he closed out another impressive series for the Red, White, and Blue by taking it in from 3-yards out.  While he gets the spoils, the assists have to go to senior QB, James McCauley, and junior WR, Gjok Dedvukaj, who partnered up on a 34-yard connection one play prior!

His fourth and final touchdown of the game occurred in the last 37 ticks of the 2nd quarter, as he took the pitch wide to the left side of the line and went uninterrupted from a distance of 7-yards away to pull off the rare feat of 24 (points) in 24 (minutes).

All in all, the 165 yards and four touchdowns (on 13 tries) recorded in the 1st round of the playoffs shattered his previous career bests… He boosted his seasonal stat line on the ground to the following: 462 yards/9 TDs on 62 carries (7.0/per)!

Having advanced to the last six championship weekends, Stepinac will take the next step in extending their streak when they hit the road to face 2nd-seeded Monsignor Farrell in the semifinals.  The two schools did not square off during the regular season, but with the momentum he is bringing with him (7 of his 11 TDs in his last two appearances), we won’t make the mistake of sleeping/underestimating Mr. Davis ever again!

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