Dec 012021

By Matt Diano:

Offense:  Justin Joly (Sr.); WR/RB/DB – Iona Prep Gaels

A proverbial Swiss Army knife on offense for the Gaels, the 6’4, 220-pounder put a bow on an already immensely decorated scholastic career when he donned multiple hats as part of the 38-22 victory over St. Francis (Buffalo) that delivered the first New York State crown in program history to the New Rochelle based campus (Iona Prep)

Directly responsible or a major contributing party to the majority of the Maroon & Gold’s scoring drives, the newly back on the market standout (decommitted from Delaware on Monday; pondering interest from the likes of UConn, Stony Brook, Albany) amassed 125 yards of total offensive production and scored three touchdowns (two of which occurred in the 2nd half as part of streak of 21 unanswered points that blew the contest open)!

Handling the pigskin on 15 combined opportunities, #7 emerged with an 8-reception, 75-yard, 2TD effort as a pass-catcher, and was equally effective as an option out of the backfield, rushing for 50 yards and one additional score on seven carries!

With the game all square at 3 apiece, Joly struck for the first of his personal trifecta when he caught a shovel pass and took it the rest of the way for a 6-yard touchdown to put the Gaels on top 10-3, with 9:22 remaining in the 1st half!  He also was on the back end of a 38-yard pitch and catch (from Ajani Sheppard) that moved IP into the red zone (Red Raider 12)!

The edge having grown to 24-9 after an exchange of touchdowns runs (Colin O’Garro on a 1-yard punch across the line) in the third stanza, Joly’s elite mitts were put to good use as he hauled in a 12-yard TD grab off of a fade route to tack on some insurance (31-9) with 9:51 to go in regulation…The touchdown hook-up between the junior QB [Sheppard] and his favorite senior WR was their second of the afternoon and the 10th of the fall…

Doing it on both sides of the line of scrimmage, it was a Joly 4th & 10 tackle on defense that ultimately created a turnover on downs and set up Iona Prep with solid starting field position (own 40) with 7:54 still to play!…He later culminated their final scoring march of the fall when five minutes later, he took a handoff up the gut, spun out of a tackle, evaded a defender diving at his ankles and danced into the end zone on an 11-yard gain to salt away the “w” (38-9 with 2:44 on the clock in the 4th)!

For good measure, Joly even was the one to recover the onside kick attempt in the final 1:00 that enabled the Gaels to assume victory formation and commence the celebration!


Defense:  Ellis Robinson IV (So.); DB/Returner – Iona Prep Gaels

In that always fine line between defensive prowess and special teams’ excellence, the #4 national prospect in the class of 2024 [Robinson IV] is capable of doing it all!!!

Intercepting 8 passes this season despite hesitation from opposing quarterbacks to even throw the ball in his direction, the value that #2 brings to the “D” is hard to measure if you just read the stat sheet!

An individual who always steps up to embrace the “best on best” match-ups for the Gaels’ “no fly zone”, more times than not last Saturday, Robinson IV found himself one-on-one with the Red Raiders’ top target, Logan Reaska (entered having made 30 catches for 470 yards and 3 touchdowns)…Standing 6’4 and weighing 200+ pounds, the 11th grade receiver has been a nightmare for opponents all fall…But alas, with the Gaels sensational sophomore on the job, Reaska was limited to just two grabs (only the third time he failed to catch three or more passes this season) and generated just 25 receiving yards (tied for 2nd lowest)!

As part of the collective, gang-tackle, flock to the ball mentality, Robinson IV was part of a unit that succeeded in holding their foes from upstate to their lowest total of the season on the ground (37 yards on 24 attempts)!

Where Robinson IV was especially spectacular though was in his role as a punt returner!!!

On two separate occasions, he registered returns of 20 or more yards (long of 50) that acted as catalysts to series that eventually yielded points for IP!

With the game still scoreless, his 50-yard return to the opposition’s 20, was the signature sequence in what later became a 24-yard FG conversion by Sean O’Neill, that drew first blood and put Iona Prep in front, 3-0, with 6:12 remaining in the 1st quarter!

His second big return (in the last 1:00 of the half) again landed his school inside the red zone (St. Francis 17) and enabled the Gaels to push their margin of lead to 17-3 when six snaps later, Sheppard powered his way to the promised land on a 2-yard keeper!

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