By Matt Diano:
Bestowed with the most flattering of praise from the Lion coaching staff following a 24-21 victory in the semifinals against Archbishop Stepinac, the 6’1 175-pound, junior hailing from Staten Island [Caufield was so perfectly described as “having his fingerprint all over the victory” this past Saturday evening.
Embattled in a contest where it was known that a back-and-forth shootout would favor the visiting Crusaders (who were seeking their seventh straight trip to the AAA finals), Caufield not only shined in his usual roles as a defensive back and a punter, but also went the extra mile, stepping up to take a few snaps as a wildcat quarterback as part of a deliberate attempt to control possession and keep the pigskin out of the hands of their always explosive opponents from White Plains.
Pitted against an AS offense that entered boasting a triple-A best 40.6 points per appearance versus fellow downstate Catholic programs, Caufield was an essential part of a collective effort that limited the Crusaders to nearly half their normal output (21) and allowed just 261 yards of total movement (Stepinac’s 2nd lowest total of the fall)…
Anywhere and everyone that he needed to be for the “D”, Caufield showed himself to be a complete safety, as he was equally efficient in stuffing the run and disrupting the aerial attack…Credited with eight total tackles (6 solo), including one hit that yielded a four-yard loss that created a 2nd & 14 situation, the two-year varsity contributor was at the heart of perhaps the biggest play of the season for the Lions…
Farrell clinging to the 24-21 edge (following what served as the game-winning, 23-yard FG by Thomas Lorenzo, with 2:38 remaining in the 4th), it was the 11th grader in the #10 jersey thwarting any hope the opposition had at a last-ditch comeback when on 3rd & medium on his own side of the field (Lion 37), he tracked the ball in the air and made an over-the-shoulder grab in the end zone for the win-clinching interception (his 3rd pick of the year) in the final 80 seconds of duration!!! He added two pass break-ups in the “no fly” zone to increase his total to 7 in that category!
As a punter, he was superb in flipping the field and/or forcing the nemesis to start their drives in undesirable positions…Booting the pigskin away on five occasions, he averaged 32.6/per, including a long of 48, placed multiple kicks inside of or close to the opposing 20, and even delivered the razzle dazzle when he earned a first down on a fake punt + run, gaining 5 yards…
No role was “out of bounds” for Caufield during the semifinals. Having not recorded a single carry up to this point, he took a pair of direct snaps directly up the gut to pick up gains of 6 and 11 yards respectively to end the night with 22 yards on three carries. The 11-yarder, which came on Farrell’s final series of the contest, preceded Lorenzo’s successful field goal by two snaps!
The Lions will now go hunting for the program’s first crown since they won back-to-back hardware in 1999 and 2000. Their opponents will be the #1 ranked squad in NYS, Iona Prep. When the two programs met up in week #3, Caufield was among the leaders with five stops as MF held the Gaels to 24 points, the fewest put up this fall by IP!
Earlier in the week, a Holy Trinity enthusiast posed the question on twitter, “Can anyone score on our 1st string defense?”…The answer to that question seems to be a quite emphatically, NO!, as the still undefeated (9-0) Titans pitched their sixth shutout of the season (three straight), 28-0 against Holy Cross, to drop their seasonal average to a mind-blowing 4.33 points allowed/per game!!!
Turning in a dominant performance on both sides of the ball was the 6’4, 260-pound, 11th grader [Briggs IV]…The fourth of his name, big #75 for HT was numero uno in terms of his overall command in the trenches!
Pitted against a Knight opponent that was fresh off of their highest point total (43 in the quarterfinals) of the fall and featured one of the best overall players in the person of Devin Grant, with Briggs IV setting the tone, the Green & White infantry was nothing if not stifling in every moment of a 48-minute showcase of power, toughness, and Impenetrability!!! As a unit, they allowed just 43 yards of offense (all on the ground) and kept the Buffalo bound dual-threat [Grant] to a modest sum of 17 yards rushing on five tries!
Already among the team leaders in stops, Briggs bolstered his impressive stat line by recording three tackles, making two stops for a negative yardage, harassing Grant to the tune of a pair of QB hurries, and even knocked down a pass attempt!
Putting on his offensive hat, he was a road grader for HT, as they accumulated 238 yards of territory taken and struck for 28 points!!
All that now stands in the way of the Hicksville based program from enjoying an immaculate coronation (would be their first since 2008) is a rematch from week #4 versus St. John the Baptist...When the two Long Island schools collided on October 3rd, Briggs IV was credited with two tackles as the Titans prevailed, 45-21!
Matt’s “BEST OF THE REST”
*Ajani Sheppard (Jr; QB; Iona Prep): It was just another day at the office for the Gaels’ junior, dual-threat field general. Racking up a combined total of 286 yards of offense in a 35-28 double overtime win in the semifinals against St. Anthony’s, Sheppard connected on 15-for-18 passes for 121 yards (1 TD pass to Michael Senatore), while simultaneously rushing for 165 yards and three scores on 20 carries. It was Sheppard’s 11-yard run in the second overtime that proved to be the game-deciding factor…Sheppard heads into the AAA championship contest ranking 3rd in the NYCHSFL in both passing yards (1,977) and touchdowns tossed (17). His ground numbers of 913 yards and 13 touchdowns place him 8th and tied for 5th among all personnel in the Metro Catholic League.
*Jaden Codrington (So.; DB; Iona Prep): Whereas Sheppard was the “Savior” on offense, that honor on the other side of the ball belonged to this 5’10, 150-pound 10th grader from the Bronx…Needing a defensive stop in order to preserve the victory, it was Codrington picking off a pass in the end zone to send Iona Prep to the ‘ship. The interception by the Gael sophomore was one of three on the day posted by the team. Joining him in the category were Ellis Robinson IV and Kieran Connolly.
*Nicholas Matos (Jr.; WR; St. Anthony’s): A member of one of the deepest wide-out corps on LI, in the NYCHSFL, and probably all of NYS, if you were to tell us that a Friar receiver was going to have a breakout day, we might have guessed 4-5 other names before landing on Matos. However, even though his school did not walk away with the “w”, we were blown away by the junior out of Seaford, as he was responsible for career-bests across the board, hauling in 4 receptions for 137 yards and a pair of TDs in the heartbreaking loss.
*Ethan Yak (Sr.; RB; Monsignor Farrell): While most people were likely expecting to see Messiah Burch go off (which he did; 190 yards and 2 TDs on 18 carries), Yak was a heck of a pleasant surprise as he capitalized off of Stepinac overplaying his heralded teammate by striking for a 55-yard TD run…All in all, he accumulated a season-best of 78 yards on five opportunities!
*Chris DeMartino (Sr.;OLB; Archbishop Stepinac): While his team came up a little short of advancing to the title game for a seventh straight occasion, there was nothing more that the 5’10, 195-pounder out of Thornwood could have done this past Saturday. Establishing new career-highs in total tackles (16; 9 solo) and sacks (3), the senior ought to keep his chin up and cherish the positives that occurred in his final afternoon as a Crusader.
*Dae’Shawn Allen (Jr.; WR; Archbishop Stepinac): Mr. Excitement was again electrifying in the final game of what was a magical junior campaign. Someone who has already solidified himself as a serious threat to win an Offensive Player of the Year award (if not this year, then next), the Greenburgh resident tied his season-best of nine receptions en route to posting his third 100-yard receiving day of the fall (101). He would account for two of the Crusaders three overall TDs, as he caught a touchdown pass and returned a kickoff to the house! At present time, his yearly totals of 55 grabs for 951 yards, and 10 scores put him atop the leaderboard (all divisions) in every receiving category in the NYCHSFL!
*Thomas Stueber (Sr.; QB; Chaminade): There is just something about postseason football that seems to bring the best out of Flyer senior signal callers. Two years ago in the AA-1 title contest, it was Ryan Walsh completing 16 of 20 attempts for 250 yards and a pair of TDs to lead the Crimson & Gold to the crown…This past Saturday afternoon, Stueber got the party started one week earlier, as he recorded his first multi-TD throwing game of the season in the 31-0 semifinal win against Fordham Prep. Hitting on 5-of-7 aerial attempts, he also set a new season-best of 139 yards…Both TD passes (from distances of 54 and 58 yards) went to fellow 12th grader, Mike Miller, who ended the day with his own personal-best of 124 receiving yards (on 4 catches).
*Timothy Tomlinson (So.; Kicker; Chaminade): The Flyer alumni association already proudly boasts current University of Maryland punter, Anthony Pecorella, and it sure looks like they might have another future NCAA power-5 specialist in the person of the 6’0, 170-pound 10th grader out of Centerport [Tomlinson]…Regarded as one of the top-15 kickers in the nation among class of 2024, Tomlinson showed why he is going to be quite coveted in a few years when he broke his own school record by drilling a 54-yard field goal in the semifinal win over the Rams. In addition, he was a perfect 3-for-3 on PAT attempts! Furthermore, he routinely drove the ball deep into the end zone on his kickoffs, yielding touchbacks on all five of his chances!
*RJ Pacheco (Fr.; RB; Moore Catholic): There is an old adage in amateur sports that says that by the time you reach the postseason, there is no such thing as a freshman anymore. For the 6’0, 185-pounder out of Staten Island, all we can say is that he did not look like a 9th grader and much like a former Mav great, he was not [Justin] Lack[ing] in any area this past weekend in helping MC advance back to title weekend…One week removed from an outstanding 71 yard/1TD effort (13 carries) in the quarters, Pacheco was twice as good in his second taste of playoff football, as he shattered his previous high-mark, rushing for 140 yards on 21 carries to register the first of what surely will be many century games to come in his bright future! For good measure, Pacheco was also on the back end of two of QB, John Michalski’s three completions for 16 yards!
*Troy Telesford (Sr.; LB; Moore Catholic): The senior leader of the linebacking corps inched closer to reaching the 100-tackle milestone (currently sitting at 96) in his swan song campaign when he registered an 8 stop (5 solo) afternoon in the Mav’s 18-7 victory against St. Francis Prep…The centerpiece of the cohort that limited the visiting Terriers to a mere 136 yards of total offense (just 35 rushing), Telesford also established a fall-best of 1.5 sacks (gives him 5.0 in total in 2021)…His most significant contribution however came in the form of turning defense into offense as he scooped up a fumble and raced 15 yards to the promised land for the touchdown!!!
*Sebastian Villavicencio (Sr.; LB; St. Francis Prep): Suiting up for the Terriers for the last time in his scholastic career, the 5’10, 185-pounder played his heart out in the losing effort…Racking up 10 stops (his third double digit tackle performance this fall), Villavicencio also had an interception in the semifinal round!
*Mike Solimando (Sr.; WR; St. Francis Prep): Like his teammate, last Saturday witnessed the closing of one chapter of the 6’1, 175-pounders story. And even though the team ending was not what he desired, Solimando should be proud of his last afternoon as a SFP football player….Emerging with a season-best 5 receptions for 50 yards, the Middle Village resident accounted for the lone TD of the day for the Terriers, as junior QB, Isaiah Decruz, found him on a 25-yard connection, where Solimando shimmed, shook, and dodged multiple defenders in refusing to being denied of the “6”!
*Nicholas Servidio (So.; DE/LB; Holy Cross): The 10th grader out of Flushing was a bright spot for the Knights in their 28-0 semifinal loss to Holy Trinity….Tying his season-best of four stops (3 solo), Servidio recorded a pair of sacks that yielded a loss of 16 yards! These were the first QB bags of the fall for the young gentleman in the #72 jersey!
*Mark Anthony Scott (Sr.; RB; St. John the Baptist): The senior vaulted himself to the top of the NYCHSFL (all divisions) leader board in yardage (1,418) and TD runs (18) following a monstrous/record-setting performance that witnessed him accumulate 356 yards and find the end zone FIVE different times (on 22 carries) in the 42-28 triumph against Kennedy Catholic.
*Stephen Charvat (Sr.; LB; St. John the Baptist): Turned in a splendid defensive effort that saw him set a new best of 18 tackles (10 solo) while also registering a 15-yard pick-6!
*Anthony Castaldi (Jr.; QB; Kennedy Catholic): One half of a backfield duo that put on a real show in a losing semifinal effort to St. John the Baptist, the 11th grader signal caller was not his sharpest in the air, but more than made up for it by rushing for a season-best 148 yards (and 2 TDs) on 23 carries. One of his four completions (64 yards) did result in a touchdown to give him a hand in 18 of his school’s 28 points!
*Chris Kalle (So.; RB; Kennedy Catholic): The Robin to Castaldi’s Batman, the 10th grader out of Thornwood closed out his incredible sophomore campaign by logging his fifth 100+ yard effort of the season (third in his past four appearances) by gaining 111 yards and scoring once on 18 attempts. This solid afternoon enabled Kalle to reach two milestone as he officially surpassed 1000 yards for the year (1,049) and hit double digits in TD treks (10)…He also happened to be on the receiving end of Castaldi’s 22-yard TD hurl…Defensively, he racked up five stops and broke up two passes to round out an overall stellar demonstration of ironman football!