AA-2 (Xavier Knights)
Shane Zaletofsky (Offensive; Sr.; QB/2B)
The on-field author of the “rags to riches” story that captivated the Metro Catholic football fan base from start to finish, in one year as the architect and/or conductor of Xavier’s vaunted single-wing ground attack, the 5’9, 150-pound hometown kid (resident of Manhattan), transformed a program that went 1-8 in 2021 into your 2022 NYCHSFL Double-A-2 titlists (7-2 record)…The crown was the first earned by the school since 2015!
Regarded as the odds-on favorite (at least in my humble opinion) to be recipient of the Offensive Player of the Year award in the division, Zaletofsky entered the title contest as the leading rusher in AA2 and did nothing but further bolster those immensely impressive numbers, as he turned in a workhorse-like day, that saw him register 23 of the team’s 37 total carries, for 137 of their sum of 275 yards, and score 3 out of 4 ground touchdowns en route to the dramatic 29-22 victory over Mount St. Michael Academy, in a classic #1 vs. #2 showdown!!
Breaking a 22-22 deadlock with under half a minute remaining in the 4th quarter, it was Zaletofsky notching the hat trick on a 2-yard plunge across the goal line that served as the game-winner for the Knights!!!
Responsible for bookend contributions, it would be the senior in the #3 shirt propelling Xavier to a 14-0 first quarter lead, as he motored on TD runs of 23 & 25 yards respectively on two of the cohort’s first three possessions!
Following the 5-yard TD run in the 3rd quarter by Mehdi Merah that put Xavier back on top (trailed 15-14 prior), it was Zaletofsky initially being stuffed, but absolutely refusing to be denied, as he battled his way through the rugby scrum into the end zone for the 2pter that created a 7-point margin (22-15) that proved …This conversion proved quite pivotal when the Mountaineers struck on a 65-yard TD connection (Marc Pearson Jr., to Kameron Wheeler) on 4th & 9 late in the final stanza (3:00 remaining in regulation)…Now, instead of the PAT giving MSMA the outright lead, all it did was even the scoreboard…
Accumulating 293 yards and SIX touchdowns (3 apiece) in his two 2022 postseason appearances, Zaletofsky will now head into the 99th Annual Turkey Bowl (vs. Fordham Prep) with season totals of exactly 1,100 yards and 15 touchdowns on land…
A century-mark performer on the ground in 7 of his 9 outings this year (no fewer than 84 in a single game), if he is able to reach his eighth 100+-yard display, you best believe that the Knights will be in business as it pertains to winning for the second time in the past three gridiron meetings (note: does not include the virtual 2020 game won by FP)!
Sean Donohue (Defensive; Sr.; Safety)
Completing the back half of what we have casually labeled as the “Shane & Sean Show” was the 5’10, 165-pound, senior defensive back hailing from Queens [Donohue]….
A leader and/or trend setter, both by example and by empirical statistical evidence, for a unit that stepped onto field last Saturday as the owners of the top-rated defense in AA2/#2 overall in the NYCHSFL regardless of classification (allowing only 15.1 points per game), Donohue picked a golden moment to play what was undoubtedly the finest game of his scholastic career….
A 48-minute exhibition in which there was not a box in which he left unchecked from his spot as a Rover LB/Safety, it took him only a handful of snaps to make his presence felt, as he would intercept the first pass attempt of the game from the opposing QB [Pearson] and return it the MSMA 24 to set up Zaletofsky’s TD run on the ensuing play that enabled the Knights to quickly draw first blood!
A case of déjà vu, on the Mount’s next possession, #22 made it two consecutive possession-stealing plays, when he picked off yet another aerial try to give him a pair in a matter of minutes…
The INTs being the signature contributions that most will point at as the rationale for his defensive MVP selection, in truth, he was chosen for the comprehensive body of work he accrued from opening whistle to final buzzer…
Everywhere you looked, you saw #22, and every time the PA announcer made a call, you heard the Donohue name proclaimed!!
Amassing his second double-digit effort of the season, the 12th grader who is exploring both Penn State and the U.S. Naval Academy as potential college destinations, established a new career-best in solo tackles (9) and just missed equaling his personal-high in total stops (14 vs. Moore Catholic on Sept. 17th) by racking up 13 bone-chilling hits during championship weekend…
Earlier, we mentioned the importance of Zaletofsky’s clutch 2pt conversion…Well, these same sentiments could/should be just as easily extended to Donohue, who following the Mountaineers’ second TD of the game (14-12 in the 2nd quarter), prevented the foes from the Bronx from tying the contest when he spied Pearson on a QB keeper, chased hiSet featured image m down, and then dragged him for a loss of 3 yards to spoil MSMA’s 2pt bid!
To complement his fine fine (one for each interception) resume, Donohue tacked on two pass break-ups and a QB hurry to the box score!!
As he readies himself for one final hoorah as a Knight gridiron great on Thanksgiving, he does so as the top man on XR’s totem poll with 72 tackles thus far in his swan song….To boot, he also ranks top-3 in several additional categories—-Fumbles caused (2; 1st), PDs (6; tied for 1st), Interceptions (2; tied for 2nd), Sacks (2; tied for 3rd), etc..
In recognition of his remarkable senior campaign, Coach Stevens has endorsed him as a DPOY candidate!
AA-1 (Holy Trinity Titans)
Not your traditional selection for Most Valuable Player dibs, the 5’8, 175-pound senior [Kirton] was cherished not for what he did on any one particular side of the ball, but rather for the countless offerings he made in a variety of ways that that delivered a second consecutive NYCHSFL crown to Hicksville (HT won AA-2 in 2021) in the form of a 20-14 victory over the Mavericks of Moore Catholic!
The Titans clinging to a 17-14 advantage with just under 5:00 remaining in duration after surrendering a touchdown, it was the #2 jersey electrifying the crowd on the ensuing kick-off, when he fielded the ball on his own 19, started down the visiting sideline, and then cut to the middle of the field to emerge with a 47-yard return that gave the Titans ideal position (MC 34) on their last possession of the 2022 season….The drive was eventually concluded by a 35-field field goal from Evan Glusic (2-for-2 on FGs) that increased the lead to 20-14 and put the Mavs in the unenviable spot of needing to score a touchdown in the last 96 ticks of action…
Something of a trend and/or habit for the “wearer of all hats”, just as he did late in the 2nd half, Kirton would be front-and-center for the most talked about sequence of the opening 24 minutes, as on the last snap before the break, he spoiled a trick-play attempt (halfback back from RB, RJ Pacheco to QB, John Michalski) when he out-jumped the future Sacred Heart University field general to pick-off the ball on his own 30…From there, he shook off a tackle, darted all the way to the opposite sideline (in front of his own bench) and raced 55 yards behind two blockers before being pushed out at approximately the MC 15….If perhaps one or two more teammates were there to provide assistance, there is a down good chance Kirton would gone all the way to the house for the “6”!!!…Still, just by causing the turnover inside his own territory, he sent the Green & White into the locker room enjoying a 10-7 edge!
On Holy Trinity’s initial series of the 2nd half, Kirton toasted his man on a deep route, pulling in a 43-yard grab that moved the pigskin from his own 44 to the opposing 13…Had an untimely fumble (high snap) not resulted in a fumble, there is a very high probability that his reception would have later “barred fruit” and provided insurance!
Still riding the euphoria of hoisting the hardware for the second time in as many tries as an upperclassman, Kirton will now focus his attention on locking up his collegiate future…Per his twitter, he will be in Happy Valley/Beaver Stadium to watch Penn State square off with Michigan State this weekend!
Hopeton James (Defensive; Jr.; DE)
A sometimes overlooked or under the radar presence on a defense that has been ranked #1 (all classification) in points allowed the past two seasons, the 6’2, 205-pound 11th grader [James] certainly looked and acted the part of the game-changing superstar…
A disruptive beast who does not appear to have an “off” switch or know the meaning of “half-speed”, for four quarters on November 19th, he exerted and executed like a man who had a major beef/personal grudge with/against Michalski…
In the face of the Maverick quarterback time and time occasion, the #17 jersey is not traditionally known for defensive greatness in football; but it was elevated to that status during ‘ship weekend!!
Amassing 3 (!!!!) sacks during the title contest, as much as the quantity was impressive, it was the quality of his stops that commanded attention/respect!!
While his fellow DMVPs were all credited with official takeaways, the Titan DL carved his niche in a different manner, as his specialty was making the hit that either induced a punt or put the opponent in such a precarious position that they were forced to gamble…
With one sack already in the bank, but HT trailing 7-3, James demonstrated his prowess as a run-stopper when on 3rd & 1 in the final 4:00 of the 1st half, he broke into the backfield and combined with senior, Irv Briggs IV, to stuff Pacheco for a 2yrd loss, forcing MC to kick the ball away…That punt would settle on the Titans’ 43 and was later turned into a 54-yard TD throw from Rocco Rainone to Chase Cruz, that gave the Long Islanders a lead (10-7) that they would never relinquish!!
On the next possession for the #2 seed from Staten Island, it was James’s second QB bag of the afternoon (Moore on the HT 29) that pushed the Mavericks out of field goal range and acted as a catalyst/precursor to Kirton’s interception!!!
James wrapped up his personal trifecta (third sack of the game) with just over 5:00 to go in the 4th (HT up 17-7) when on 3rd & 7, he chased down Michalski to create a loss of nine yards…If not for a roughing the kicker call against HT that gave new life to Moore Catholic, this play would have taken on much greater significance as the FG attempt on the next snap was well short!
All in all, the heat applied by James resulted in Michalski going just 1-for-6 in the air for a career-low 27 yards!
AAA (St. Anthony’s Friars)
Referring to him as “Superhuman” in our AAA title game recap, the truth is that the more we had the time to marinate on the subject, the more convinced we became that the 6’4, 190-pound, future Fordham Ram field general was shown the justice or flattery that he warranted after posting one of the most scintillating and mind-blowing performances in NYCHSFL title game history…
An individual that performed like he had something to prove, both to himself and to the pundits in each of the two match-ups with defending AAA League and Catholic State champion, Iona Prep, as a follow-up to a 560-yard (530 in the air)/7 touchdown (4 throwing, 3 rushing) during the regular season (48-42 STA victory on October 1st), the Massapequa resident went off in every way possible in vaulting the Black & Gold juggernaut to their 15th overall crown (1st since 2013), behind a 50-18 triumph over the Gaels!
Tormenting his nemeses from New Rochelle to the tune of a 481-yard/6 score demonstration to close out the championship weekend triple-header at Mitchel Athletic Complex, Torres connected on 14 of 19 pass attempts for 336 yards (4 touchdowns), while simultaneously using his other limbs to collect 145 yards and two additional TD on eight carries!!!
Not only a collision on the team front of whom many regard as the top-2 programs in the entire Empire State, but also pegged as a mano-a-mano shootout with his counterpart signal caller, Ajani Sheppard (reigning Metro & NYS Offensive Player of the Year), it is quite difficult to imagine anyone other than the young man in the STA #3 jersey stockpiling all of the local and state-wide accolades in 2022!!
Teaming up with his favorite target/consensus best WR on Long Island, KJ Duff Jr. (7 grabs for 205 yards), on all four of his touchdown strikes, the duo got the Friars on the board with 5:14 remaining in the 1st quarter when they capitalized off of a Jaeden Jenkins interception (his first of two on the night) by hooking up on an 85-yard exchange on the next snap to give the contingent from South Huntington an initial 7-0 edge!!!
IP having cut the deficit to 7-6 late in the 1st, Torres temporarily traded in the rocket (arm) for the turbo boosters (legs) in the 2Q as he called his own number on TD treks of 4 (10:37) and 76 (6:14 remaining in the half) yards to propel St. Anthony’s to a 22-6 cushion (2pt conversion pass to Duff after the first scoring run)…
“Sticking with the bro that he brought to the party”, Torres closed out an explosive 29-point opening 24 minutes when on 4th & 20, he tossed up a jump ball to his 6’5 weapon [Duff], allowing the heralded junior to high-point the ball, come down on the 1-yard line, and then walk the last few inches to polish off the 30yrd hook up!!
The all-night tag team of #3 joining forces with #1 did not slow down in the second half, as they combined on mutual hat tricks (Torres’s third TD pass; Duff’s third TD haul) with 3:15 to go in the 3rd quarter, when the latter was somehow left undefended, making for an easy 29-yard pitch-and-catch down the sideline that increased the margin to 43-12…
The final act came on the first play of the 4th quarter, when Duff caught a WR screen, evaded a defender, and cruised into the promised land on an 11-yarder to cap off the Friars’ seven-touchdown/50-point endeavor!!
On the lone score that Torres did not directly have a hand-in, let it be known that it was his 30-yard completion to Ian Strong (2 grabs for 69 yards) that advanced the ball across the midfield and paved the way for Frank Ruta (63 yards + 1 TD on 13 carries) to eventually dance in from 23 yards out midway through the third stanza (made the score 36-12)….
Having hurled for 953 yards (12 touchdowns) and scrambled for 243 yards (5 TDs) in three postseason appearances, Torres raised his monstrous 2022 stat line to the following: 166-for-244 (68%) for 3,204 yards (35 touchdowns); 474 yards & 11 scores on 65 carries!!!
In a career where he surely owns just about every school passing record possible, the final piece of his unforgettable legacy will come on November 26th as he suits up on one last occasion to face off against St. Francis (Monsignor Martin titlists) with the Catholic State brass ring at stake!
Vincent Spina (Defensive; Jr.; DB)
Deemed as the most outstanding performer off of a starting-11 that could not have played a better game on November 19th, to truly capture and/or appreciate the breadth of both the individual and the unified effort, we have to remind you of just how darn good the Iona Prep offense was this fall…
Nine times in their previous 11 outings (all in a row), the Gaels scored 35 or more points…For the second straight season, the aforementioned Sheppard was the only person in Westchester County history to record a 2,000/1,000 season, as he generated 3,684 yards & 32 touchdowns in his swan song….Colin O’Garro, who seems to have a new college reaching out to him on a weekly basis, rushed for 1,319 yards and 17 touchdowns (both tops in AAA)…
Hence, the fact that Spina and the Friars limited them to their second lowest output of the season is itself an achievement worthy of celebration…
An all-encompassing “pest” or “bulldog” depending on the role he is being asked to assume out of the STA secondary, Spina not only posted team-highs with 12 solo and 14 total tackles (just missing personal-bests of 13 and 17 vs. Stepinac in the regular season finale), but he also logged an interception + return that set up the Friars on the opposing 20-yard line and later was cashed in by Duff’s 2nd TD catch of the night…
A mainstay among a last line of defense that forced Sheppard into an 11-for-22, 95-yard passing evening (his only sub-100-yard throwing day in the past two years), Spina’s INT was one of four earned by St. Anthony’s defensive backs, as he was joined on the list by Jenkins (2) and Kenyon Miles (1)…
Averaging 9.3/stops during the three-game playoff journey to Titletown, Spina currently ranks 2nd on the team in both tackles and sacks with 86 & 2 respectively!!