Oct 092019
 

By Matt Diano:

Aidan Bernal (Sr.); Two-Way Lineman – Kennedy Catholic Gaels

In his 2010 song, “Timing is Everything”, Country singer/actor Garrett Hedlund proclaimed, “When the stars line up and you catch a break, people think you’re lucky, but you know its grace.”…For the Gaels in their 28-12 regular season title clinching win over Cardinal Spellman last Friday, it was a case of creating their own fortune and it all started with a game-changing play from their senior captain [Bernal].

Trailing 6-0 in the first quarter and in danger of falling into a deeper hole, the 5’11, 205-pound senior knocked the pigskin loose right before a Pilot runner could break the threshold.  In doing so, he created a 12-point swing in momentum (KC scored on the ensuing possession) and the Dom Tassone mentored program was never looked on their way to clinching the top seed in the “A” playoffs for a second straight season.

The forced fumble was the first of two turnovers that the Ossining resident generated as he later added an interception to go along with his second double-digit tackle game of the year (10 stops—3 solo, 7 assist, 2 TFL).

Paid the ultimate compliment by Head Coach, Dominick Tassone, when he was hailed as the “Soul of the Offensive Line,” Bernal’s stellar effort at the pivot laid the tracks for five different Gael ball-carriers to combine for 118 yards and three touchdowns on the ground…Junior QB, Clayton Proctor (team-high 50 yards and two rushing TDs) was also afforded the protection in the pocket to complete 7 of his 9 pass attempts for an additional 114 yards and another touchdown…

All in all, with #52 setting the example, the OL has enabled the Kennedy offense to score 25.8 points and accumulate 292 yards per appearance, while the defensive unit is permitting just 8 points in their three contests versus fellow “A” schools.

KC will take a break from NYCHSFL competition in week #6 and instead go hunting for Westchester supremacy against Woodlands High School.

 

Kameron Robbins (So.); RB/LB – Holy Trinity Titans

For a school that has always enjoyed a rich history at the tailback position (NYCHSFL All-time rushing leader, Anthony Brunetti amongst them) week #5 witnessed the birth of a new legend for the Green & White in the person of the 6’0, 175-pound 10th grader out of Baldwin [Robbins].

Playing in his first Homecoming game as a Titan, the three-way starter put the rest of AA-2 on high alert as to what to expect during the next 2.5 seasons, as he led the Hicksville based program to their first victory of the season, 45-20, over Mount St. Michael Academy.

Unstoppable for much of the afternoon, Robbins averaged an extraordinary 14.6 yards on his 14 carries, ending the game with 205, as well as finding pay dirt on three separate occasions to awaken a Holy Trinity offense that came in scoring a little over 14 points per contest through their first four appearances in 2019…

Defensively, the super sophomore was a key part of a unit that did not allow the Mountaineers to complete a single pass (0-for-5) while holding their foes to 164 yards on the ground (11 below their normal production).

Having given first-year Head Coach/Titan alumnus, Kahmal Roy, his first career win on the sideline of his alma mater, Robbins and his teammates will be road bound this coming Saturday as they square off with Moore Catholic…With Robbins on one side and Mavs’ three-year All-League selection, Justin Lacks, on the other, this surely will be a clash of the future versus the present in terms of backfield stardom.

 

(Photo Courtesy of Geoff Walter)

Brandan Coward (Sr.); LB – Chaminade Flyers

Like the irony of calling tall people “Tiny” and large people “slim”, when it comes to #40 in Crimson & Gold, you should never let the name fool you; because if you do, you are going to pay the price…There is not a single atom in the 5’11, 200-pound body of the Flyer senior captain that is meek, passive, or unassuming; this was a fact he proved repeatedly last Sunday in Chaminade’s 42-14 win at home over St. Francis Prep.

Credited with seven solo tackles (not including three he recorded on special teams) and assisting on nine additional stops, the Westbury resident’s total of 16 (2 TFL) was a team-high; he has now reached double digits in four consecutive games after registering performances of 13, 19, and 15 in weeks 2-4 against Stepinac, Iona Prep, and St. Peter’s respectively.  His season output of 71 stops ranks 2nd (behind only Moore Catholic’s Artie Padilla) in the entire NYCHSFL and 7th overall in New York State.

When not stuffing the run (the Terriers gained just 79 yards on the ground), Coward was just as disruptive as a pass rusher, logging two of the school’s seven sacks.

A superstar in the pool who helped Chaminade to 4th and 5th place finishes at the NYSPHSAA Federation Championships as the lead-off leg of the 4×50 and 4×100 freestyle relay squads, Coward showed that he is quite capable of scoring some points on the gridiron too, returning an interception 30 yards in the 4th quarter for the Flyers’ final touchdown…Earlier in the day, he had a 1st quarter (second snap of the game) fumble recovery on the opposing 31-yard line that set up the first score of the game (32-yard TD pass from Ryan Walsh to Donovan Wood).

Coward and the rest of the Flyer defense will face an immense challenge in week #6 as they are slated to play two-time defending champions, Kellenberg Memorial, in the 2019 Marianist Bowl…Facing a rival that is racking up over 34 points and 425.6 yards (284.8 on the ground) of total offense, it goes without saying that it will be imperative that Coward continues to show up in a major way if Chaminade hopes to get revenge from last year’s 42-14 loss at the hands of the Firebirds.

 

Nick Ruvolo (Sr.); ILB – St. Joe’s by the Sea Vikings

For the first time since the 2012 season, the Vikings are off to a 5-0 start and a key reason has been the sensational play of the 6’2, 205-pound Staten Islander…

Beginning his three-year varsity career as a wide receiver (33 catches between the 2017 and 2018 seasons), it is no coincidence that the resurgence of the SJS program has come in the same year that Ruvolo switched focuses towards being an anchor on “D” from the MIKE linebacker position…Since making the full-time transition to other side of the line of scrimmage, Ruvolo has been at the forefront of an effort that has seen Joe’s by the Sea go from a squad that allowed 40+ points per game in 2018 to a group that is surrendering less than 20 for the first time since 2008.

This past weekend, in the school’s 29-26 comeback victory over St. Peter’s in a war for local bragging rights, it was the ability of the defense to make halftime adjustments that served as a difference-maker…Trailing 12-7 at the break, the Vikings held the visiting Eagles to just 76 yards of total offense during the final 24 minutes of competition, making it possible for their offensive counterparts to rally for 22 unanswered points to make the score 29-20 at the midway mark of the 4th quarter.

The heartbeat of this second half lockdown, Ruvolo, tied his career-high of 10 tackles (all solo) and added his third sack is as many weeks.  After five games, he currently sits atop the team leaderboard in both categories, with 37 total stops and the aforementioned three QB bags…The SJS 12th grader even got a chance to showcase those prized hands that served him so well as a former receiver, intercepting a pass on a St. Peter’s 2pt conversion attempt.

As the Vikings try to extend their winning streak to six in a row when they host Mount St. Michael Academy this weekend, anticipate another impactful day for #87 against a very run-heavy Mountaineer scheme.

 

Devin Grant (So.); QB/Safety – Holy Cross Knights

In what may go down as the game of the year in the tri-state area, it was the 6’2, 165-pound, sophomore quarterback putting a fitting exclamation on the 30-29 victory over New Jersey’s Hanover Park, last Friday Night.

His team trailing by one point (following his second touchdown pass of the night) with :02 remaining on the clock, Grant called his own number on a QB keeper and cruised across the goal line for the winning 2pt conversion…It was the perfect ending for a young man who enjoyed a breakout performance in willing his team to the “w”.

HC trailing 14-0 midway through the third quarter, Grant became the spark that ignited the offensive fire when he dashed 45-yards to the house to get the Knights on the board.

Now down 21-16, Grant’s 40-yard TD completion to senior Ladon Hicks with approximately three minutes remaining in the 4th gave the Green & White their first advantage of the night, 22-21.

One minute and 40 seconds later, it was the host Hornets turn to issue a response, which they did on a nine-yard touchdown run to regain the lead, 22-21…This set the stage for the dramatic final saga that witnessed Grant march his troops down the field before culminating the drive with the aforementioned 14-yard strike (also to Hicks) to make the score 29-28…You know the rest!

Sharing the love with all of his limbs, by the time the final horn blared, the 10th grader had amassed 304 yards of total dominance, completing 15 of 26 throwing attempts for 204 yards (2 TDs) and trekking 100 yards on seven carries (1 TD).

Grant also found the energy to contribute on defense, recording five solo tackles and intercepting a pass from his role in the secondary.

Likely still riding the adrenaline wave of his late-game heroics, Grant and the Knights will travel to Suffolk County for an October 13th, AA-2 matinee against the Cougars of St. John the Baptist…The two schools have split their last two meetings, with SJB winning 17-14 in 2018.

 

Kevin McKenna (Sr.); RB/LB – Archbishop Stepinac Crusaders

If Christian McCaffrey was also a relentless defender who dulled out crushing blows on defense, then he would be Kevin McKenna…

Drawing comparisons to the current NFL rushing leader for the Carolina Panthers, the 5’11, 190-pound two-way stud from Somers is that priceless individual that If you watched on every snap, you would surely see him do something remarkable.

Renowned as a complete package who can do anything and everything in the name of victory, the future two-sport (lacrosse and football) student-athlete at the University of Utah put his bundle of specialties on full display this past Sunday in the Crusaders’ 42-7 win over St. Anthony’s.

Wasting absolutely no time at all in getting his name into the box score, McKenna probably surprised even himself when on Stepinac’s first play from scrimmage, he was both a receiver and a quarterback in one, converting the rare double-pass by first catching the ball in the backfield and then hurling a perfect dart to a wide-open Matt Halas (4 catches for 56 yards) for the 31-yard TD.  This was the first aerial attempt in the three-year career of the AS captain and could not have been executed any more perfectly.

Having tossed his first career TD pass in the 1st quarter, as an encore, the jack-of-all-trades added another “first” to his resume two minutes into the 2nd when he was on the receiving end of a 16-yard bullet over the middle from Joey Carino to make the score 21-7…The touchdown catch was one of two grabs recorded by McKenna, who accumulated 30 yards on the day (after totaling only 30 receiving yards combined between 2017 and 2018).

Turning his attention to the side of the ball that earned him All-State honors (5th team) a season ago, McKenna brought his usual assertive, authoritative, take-no-prisoners mentality to the LB position…Posting a stat line comprised of a team-best nine total stops (5 solo, 4 assisted), including two that yielded a loss of yardage, the 12th grader was a main catalyst in a collective effort that held the visiting Friars under 10 points for the first time since the opening weekend of the 2008 season.

Next up for Stepinac will be a date on October 13th with unbeaten Christ the King…Thus far in 2019, the 5-0 Royals have been putting up nearly 456 yards of offensive production per week.  Hence, if Stepinac hopes to issue that initial blemish to their hosts from Middle Village, it will require McKenna to be at his very finest…With several NCAA DI prospects featured in the CTK line-up, this Sunday will be the perfect opportunity to give any Ute enthusiasts a preview of the intensity he plans to deliver when he arrives in Salt Lake City next fall.

Oct 022019
 

By Matt Diano:

Daniel Settino (Sr.); QB – Kellenberg Memorial Firebirds

Any rumors of Firebird domination at the signal caller position being over (following the graduation of 2x All-State selection, Matt Sluka) have been greatly exaggerated; and this past weekend, the 5’10, 178-pound senior [Settino] more than proved it in leading KMHS to their 24th straight win over a double-A opponent, 30-7, against Xavier.

Displaying sharpshooter-like precision all afternoon, Settino successfully connected on 19 of his 24 attempts (79%) for 290 yards and three touchdowns in the air…In addition to being personal-bests, his completion and yardage totals also happened to be the finest posted by a Kellenberg quarterback since Joe Grimm tossed for 449 yards in week 3 of the 2016 season and then hit on 21 of 33 two weeks later…The three TD hurls matched Sluka’s performance in last year’s AA title game against this same Knight foe.

Adding 35 yards and one additional score on the ground, the Bethpage resident was the igniting force behind a run of 30 unanswered points.

The two-time defending champion Blue & Gold juggernaut trailing 7-0 at the time, Settino broke the ice for Kellenberg when he hit junior, Maximus Mongelli (6 catches for 66 yards), in perfect stride for a 43-yard touchdown to even the contest of 7-7 at the end of the 1st quarter.

In what was the eventual game-winning score in the second quarter, Settino faked a hand-off and plunged the ball into the end zone from two yards out to give the Marianist school a 13-7 edge at the break.

Remaining en fuego in the 3rd, #11 and his teammates pulled away when Settino found two different targets—Jordan Delucia (4 grabs for 112 yards) and Joseph Foley (4 snatches for 82 yards) on a pair of 70+ yard TD hook-ups to increase the lead to 27-7…Delucia’s touchdown was a short-distance screen pass that the returning All-Stater turned up field and took the rest of the way for the 74-yarder…A wide-open Foley caught the pigskin in front of his sideline at midfield, cut back to evade a defender, and then cruised the last 40 yards untouched for the 72-yrd strike.

Having bested their 2018 finals’ opponent in week #4, Kellenberg will look to do the same against the school they defeated in 2017 as they go on the road to face Fordham Prep…

 

Justin Lacks (Sr.); RB – Moore Catholic Mavericks

When you are already a three-time All-Catholic selection, multiple-time All-State recognized player (5th team as a freshman, 3rd team as a junior), and two-time U.S. Army All-American Combine invited student-athlete, there reaches a point when you simply exhaust every possible honor and/or label that can be bestowed upon you…For the 6’1, 215-pound Adonis, this past Saturday enabled him to cross off another title, as he was the “hero” in the Mavericks’ 28-22 overtime victory against Holy Cross.

Carrying the ball 28 times during week #4, Lacks just barely missed tying his career-high for yardage, falling one yard short of the 235 yards he accumulated in a 2018 victory over Mount St. Michael Academy…However, aside from this one minor factoid, the rest of the day would go smashingly well for the Staten Island resident, as he single-handedly was responsible for 20 of the school’s previously cited 28-point outing.

Scoring the second (had a 3-yarder earlier in the game) of his three rushing TDs when he put the finishing touches on a 96-yard, 8:00+ series in the third quarter by exploding into the end zone from the HC 33, everything looked to be in total control for Lacks and his Moore Catholic teammates as they held a commanding 22-6 edge.

But alas, a late rally from the boys from Flushing (blocked punt set up the equalizer in the 4th quarter) resulted in the contest extending into extra time…And, with the “w” hanging in the balance, Coach Giannatasio, knew exactly whom to lean on, putting the fate of his program on the proverbial shoulders of Lacks.  This trust was rewarded when #6 emerged with a seven-yard game-winning touchdown to improve the Mavericks to 3-1 in 2019.

Currently being pursued by the likes of Long Island University (C.W. Post) and Wager College, Lacks will be determined to make it three straight weeks with 200 or more yards running when MC battles host Xaverian in a potential AA-2 semifinal or finals preview…Interestingly, in a decorated career that has seen him surpass 100-yards on 22 separate occasions and record two or more rushing touchdowns 18 times, in two previous meetings (both in 2016), the Clippers have limited him to an average of 64.5 and have allowed him to reach pay dirt just once.  Hence, expect him to bring some added motivation on October 4th.

 

Christopher Annitto (Jr.); CB – St. John the Baptist Cougars

Double digit tackles? CHECK; Multiple sacks? CHECK; Pick-6? CHECK…This past Saturday, in the visiting Cougars’ 35-0 victory over defending “A” champs, Cardinal Spellman, there wasn’t much that the 5’10, 180-pounder did not contribute on defense in helping his school to raise their 2019 record to .500 (2-2).

The very definition of “stopper” during week #4, Annitto was so active that if you did not know better, you would have sworn that Coach Alba cloned him and lined him up at all 11 positions on the field.

Equally polished at smothering the run game, as well as creating a no-fly zone from the secondary, the Amityville resident was the catalyst in SJB’s first shutout since the fourth week of the 2014 season.

Credited with 13 tackles, including three that yielded negative yardage, the dual-sport student-athlete (scored 32 goals and assisted on 14 others as a sophomore attackman on the lacrosse team) would solidify his player of the week status by adding a pair of sacks.

Annitto would also be front and center in regards to dominating the turnover aspect of the contest, recovering one fumble and transforming defense into offense by returning an interception 18-yards for a touchdown for Baptist’s final score of the afternoon.

In week #5. SJB will attempt to snap a two-game losing streak to Xavier when they host this coming Saturday…During these past two meetings, the Knights have averaged 248 yards and four touchdowns on the ground…For this reason, it goes without saying that Annitto will need to be at the top of his game and continue his ransacking tendencies.

 

Jarel Washington (Jr.); RB – Iona Prep Gaels

Nominated for the second time this season (previously recommended, but not chosen in week #1) and earning the first POTW bid of his scholastic career, the 5’11, 185-pound 11th grader continued his brief, but immensely impressive track record of making HUGE, “get the audience out of their seats” caliber plays in the Gaels’ dramatic 36-35 triumph over two-time defending league and state champs, Stepinac, last Saturday.

The prototypical “Swiss army knife” weapon that Iona Prep seems to have year-in and year-out on offense, no single weekend has gone by in 2019 without the White Plains resident demonstrating the full array of his universal/all-purpose skill set…Ranking 1st on the team with 238 receiving yards and 2nd with 204 on the ground, Washington is averaging a mind-blowing 16.4 yards per touch between his 16 carries and 11 receptions.

Remarkably, given the already out-of-this-world stat line with which he entered, Washington found a way to dazzle to an even higher degree in the week #4 win over the host Crusaders, accumulating 182 yards of total offense on just six chances (30.3/play)…Establishing new highs across the board with 74 rushing yards (4 carries) and 108 receiving yards (2 grabs), it wasn’t just the sheer production that distinguished the dynamic junior from his peers; it was also the impeccable timing of his breakthroughs that cemented his inclusion on this list.

With Iona Prep on the wrong side of a 14-7 game with a little under 5:20 remaining in the opening half, Washington took a hand-off on 2nd-and-13 and motored 68 yards down his own sideline to the house to pull the New Rochelle based program even…A 22-yard connection between Darius Wilson (18-for-32, 238 yards, 2 TD passes) and Justin Jolly (6 catches for 61 yards) in the last three minutes of the 2nd quarter sent the Gaels into the locker room with the 21-14 advantage.

Now down 35-28 (three third quarter TDs by Stepinac, followed by an IP score with 7:35 remaining in the 4th) in the final 3:20 of regulation, Washington saved the Gaels’ perfect season when he pulled off what has to be an early favorite for play of the year honors…Plagued by a 3rd and 27 on their own 14, IP hit the jackpot when Avery Turton (6 receptions for 58 yards) made a catch and then shoveled it to Washington on the old hook and lateral for a 68-yard gain to put Head Coach, Joe Spagnolo’s squad inside the red zone (Stepinac 18)…Five snaps later, Wilson teamed up with Alex Williams on a nine-yard TD connection to make the score 35-34….Opting to gamble and chase the win by going for two, a QB draw by Wilson was initially ruled down at the 1.  But, upon review, the call was changed to say that the ball was fumbled and thus live, making Williams’s recovery in the end zone the difference maker.

In week #5, Iona Prep will attempt to start the year 5-0 for a second consecutive season when they welcome in Monsignor Farrell…The last time that the Lions squared off with a fellow AAA foe, they allowed 359 yards and three touchdowns in the air to Christ the King on September 20th…Between 2017 and 2018, IP has averaged 238 yards throwing and 222 yards rushing in three games versus MF…Therefore, the well-roundedness of Washington will certainly present a challenge to the visitors from SI.

 

Chris Anarumo (Jr.); QB – Monsignor Farrell Lions

Exalted to the heavens by the Lions coaching staff as a true leader who “does all the right things on and off the field”, the junior signal caller absolutely lived up to that reputation last Sunday in Farrell’s 42-6 win over St. Francis Prep.

Ascending to QB1 status and making his first career varsity start under center following an injury to Michael Marten, the 5’9, 170-pounder was a maestro that effortlessly orchestrated the offense to the tune of the school’s third-highest point total in the past five seasons (scored 48 in week 5 of the 2016 season against Kellenberg; scored 48 in week #7 last year versus Fordham Prep).

Playing pitch-and-catch with fellow 11th grader, Matt Wessels on a pair of TD tosses and then tacking on a third touchdown hurl to returning All-Stater, Christian Tait, if Anarumo can perform this well in his debut, just imagine what the future holds once he logs more reps and gains more confidence in the coming weeks…While we will resist the urge to make a Lou Gehrig-Wally Pipp comparison, the validity of the situation is that after losing the preseason battle to be the starter, his achievements on September 29th makes quite the compelling argument.

The learning curve will become much steeper in week #5 as Anarumo and the Lions will journey to New Rochelle to battle undefeated Iona Prep.

Sep 252019
 

By Matt Diano:

Shane Greene (Sr.); RB/LB – Xaverian Clippers

We don’t know if the 5’10, 175-pound two-way force from Brooklyn is sentimental; but what is keenly obvious is that there is just something about the hoopla of Homecoming weekend that causes Greene to elevate his performance to an entirely different level…Honored as a POTW in the fourth week of the 2018 season (also Homecoming) after running for a career-high 155 yards and two TDs in a win over Mount St. Michael Academy, the Clipper senior made it two straight years that he was the “King of the Homecoming Gridiron” when he led Xaverian to the 42-23 triumph over Holy Trinity.

Single-handedly accounting for nearly 25% of his school’s scoreboard output, Greene scored one of the team’s five rushing touchdowns when he took the ball to the house from 10 yards out.  He then added a pair of successful 2pt conversions to end the afternoon with 10 points.

Carrying the pigskin a team-high 14 times, Greene eclipsed the century mark for the second consecutive week (101 yards in a win over St. John the Baptist on September 13th), finishing the day with 130 of Xaverian’s 245 yards rushing…In his two-way varsity career, he has now notched four 100-yard efforts…He added a 15-yard reception to further his outstanding showing on the offensive side of the ball.

Never one to take any time off, Greene cemented his Player of the Week candidacy by transitioning to defense and recording five stops.

The returning All-Catholic selection from a season ago will look to extend his streak of 100+ appearances to three in a row when the Clippers venture to the Bronx to square off with the same Mountaineer squad that he torched in 2018, as noted above…1-2 on the season, the last time that MSMA faced an All-league tailback, it was Moore Catholic’s Justin Lacks, gaining 129 yards on 13 carries.  Hence, the opportunity should be there for Greene to experience some déjà vu.

 

Matthew Geruso (Sr.); FB/Punter – Xavier Knights

Finding themselves in desperate need of a victory following an 0-2 start to the 2019 season, the Knights knew exactly with whom to turn as they stepped onto the field for their Double-AA Division-I league opener against St. Francis Prep.

Placing their trust in the immense talents of the 5’10, 195-pound senior full back, Head Coach, Chris Stevens, and his staff were thrilled at the response they received from the two-year varsity starter who calls the Garden State (Hoboken) home…Simply put, Geruso rose to the occasion this past Sunday and every endeavor in which he undertook, he successfully made his impact felt to the fullest degree…The end result would be a 28-14 triumph on the road for the returning AA league runners-up from the Big Apple.

An individual who is becoming a habitual thorn in the side of the opposing Terriers, Geruso has now garnered Player of the Week distinction both times that he has faced them in his varsity career.  In a week #8 contest last season, he established a new personal-best when he rushed for 157 yards on eight carries…And while his numbers this past weekend may not have been as utterly mind-blowing, the truth is that in many ways, you could argue that the breadth of his contributions actually made this a superior performance.

Utilizing all of his limbs in some fashion over the course of the 48-minute foray, #8 in your program notched his first 100-yard effort of the season on the ground (4th of his career), accumulating 120 yards and finding pay dirt twice on 17 attempts.  One of these TDs, which Geruso took 54-yards to the promised land, was hailed by Stevens as the proverbial backbreaker, as it gave Xavier a 14-point edge in the 3rd quarter.

A year removed from completing just 1 of 6 aerial attempts for nine yards, the Knight 12th grader also demonstrated significant improvement in this area of his game, as he connected on both of his throws (for 37 yards) on Sunday, thus enabling the Knights to prolong their drives and dominate possession (held a 48-28 advantage in regards to offensive snaps).

An often undervalued and/or overlooked aspect to his full array of beneficial activities was the mastery he showcased as a punter.  Flipping the field on all four of his kicks (average of 31.5), Geruso was so on-point in his precision that St. Francis was unable to even try a return…In the 4th quarter, he posted his top boot of the day, burying STF on their own 1-yard line with a 42-yard missile!

Xavier will be on the hunt for revenge in week #4 as they go head-to-head with Kellenberg Memorial in a rematch of the 2018 AA title contest…In two meetings against the host Firebirds last season, Geruso combined to run for 79 yards on 27 carries…Aware of the high stakes, look for him to greatly improve upon that stat line.

 

Bossuet Jules (Sr.); RB/LB – Kellenberg Memorial Firebirds

In the 1999 cult classic, “Varsity Blues”, senior Jonathan Moxon (James Van Der Beek) challenged his teammates to “play the next half of football like gods and be heroes.”…This past Sunday, it was a student-athlete who was not even alive when the movie was released that took the message to heart and “left it all out on the field” in propelling the two-time defending double-A titlist Firebirds to a 29-22 come-from-behind win on the road over the Mavericks of Moore Catholic.

Billed in the days leading up to the clash of top ranked programs as a potential one-one-one showdown between KMHS’s Jordan Delucia (215 yards and 3TDs) and MC’s Justin Lacks (203 yards and two scores) for front-runner status in the Offensive Player of the Year race, it was another tailback in Blue & Gold that donned the cape in the most critical moments.

Deadlocked at 22 apiece at the conclusion of three quarters, the 6’0, 200-pound senior from Uniondale emerged with the game-winning score when on 2nd-and-12, he changed courses midstream, initially cutting to the inside before dancing to the outside, where he found a lane and sprinted 27-yards for the touchdown to give Kellenberg the advantage for the first time all afternoon…

And while this aforementioned clutch trek under pivotal circumstances might be the highlight that gets publicized, the truth is that it would be a disservice if we failed to acknowledge all of the intangibles/selflessness that Jules displayed in keeping the Marianist school unblemished in 2019.

Despite the nearly 90-degree heat, Bossuet (who maintains perfect attendance in the classroom) refused to leave the field, playing almost every snap on both sides of the ball in the final 24 minutes of action…Stepping up to offer the occasional rest to Delucia, so the team’s All-State standout could remain fresh, #3 in jersey gave the type of effort common to a #1 RB…Averaging an astounding 11 yards per carry, the consummate “team above self” young gentleman set new career-highs in carries and yards gained with 11 for 88 respectively.

On the strength of his offensive output alone, Jules’s POTW candidacy was mighty impressive…But alas, he proved himself to be every bit as tantamount on defense…Credited with eight total tackles, including two in the backfield for a loss, even when he was unable to completely stop Lacks, his aggressiveness and determination went a long way towards forcing the Mavs’ three-time All-Catholic selection to alter his path, deviating from his preferred down-hill, between the OTs style to more of a bounce to the outside and run wide approach…In addition, at a time when the “D” appeared to be on the cusp of faltering and allowing what could have been a deflating score in the 3rd, it was JB springing to the rescue, creating a turnover on downs with a key pass break-up to both regain possession for the offense and afford the defense a chance to regroup and recharge….All in all, Kellenberg owned the second half, pitching a shutout and recording 22 unanswered points to escape with the win in a game that will be rememberd as one of the most entertaining of the year.

As noted above, next up for the “Berg” is a date with their rivals from NYC, Xavier…When the two schools butted heads during the 2018 regular season, Jules scored on his lone touch, cruising 20-yards for the TD run.  Expect his workload and resume to be quite more substantial this time around!

 

Luke Barranger (Jr.); LB – Iona Prep Gaels

Requiring less than one minute for him to set the tone of the kind of day it would be for the Gael defense, the 5’11, 190-pound linebacker created a turnover on the third snap of the game when he intercepted a pass on the opposing 40-yard line…Iona Prep immediately took advantage of this ideal field position when Darius Wilson connected with Justin Jolly on the ensuing play to give the hosts from New Rochelle the early 7-0 lead over Chaminade.  IP never looked back, improving to 3-0 behind a 33-14 victory.

The INT was be a microcosm of the overall lockdown pass coverage exhibited by Iona Prep, as they held Flyer senior signal caller, Ryan Walsh, to 10-for-30 passing and a QB rating of 47.4.

As well-rounded a linebacker as you will find in the NYCHSFL, when he was not busy disrupting the aerial game, the 11th grader from the Bronx was just as active in corralling the Chaminade ground attack, recording 12 tackles, including four stops that yielded a loss of yardage…The team’s leading tackler as a 10th grader in 2018, Barranger is seemingly on his way towards repeating this feat.

Surrendering an average of just 13.7 points per game through three weeks of the season, the perennial honor roll student-athlete [Barranger] and his fellow defensive-minded teammates will need to continue to be at their best in week #4 as a battle of unbeatens will commence this coming Saturday when IP travels to White Plains to take on two-time defending AAA league and Catholic State champions, Archbishop Stepinac…Thus far in 2019, the Crusaders are accumulating 391 yards of total offense while scoring just over 41 points per contest.

 

Da’vaine Cushnie (Sr.); LB – Archbishop Stepinac Crusaders

The perfect illustration of the “reload, not rebuild” mentality that has enabled the Crusaders to advance to the triple-A title game five straight seasons (winning four times + claiming three state crowns), the 5’11, 190-pound linebacker transformed himself from a role player in 2018 to one of the staples for a Stepinac defense that has allowed a mere 11.7 points per game so far in 2019.

Credited with 26 tackles during his entire junior season, it only took the Yonkers resident three games into his swan song campaign to surpass his previous body of work…

Reaching double digits stops for the second time in the past three weekends (set a career-high of 11 during week #1 versus Lincoln) in AS’s 48-14 “w” over St. Peter’s last Saturday, Cushnie registered six solo tackles and assisted on four others to end the afternoon with a combined 10.  In doing so, he raised his team-leading total to 30, which ranks him 2nd in AAA, 5th in the NYCHSFL (all divisions), and 24th in the Empire State.

Putting his versatility on full display late (3:30 remaining) in the first half, Cushnie ensured that his first career interception will be one he never forgets, stepping in front of a pass over the middle and returning it 40 yards to the Eagles’ 1-yard line…Quarterback, Joey Carino, plunged the ball across the line to make the score 28-6.

In one of those too cool to make up scenarios, Cushnie caused yet another turnover on the first play of St. Peter’s next drive (making it back-to-back plays on “D” that forced a change of possession) when he stripped Eagles’ fullback, Sal Daleo with 3:05 still to play in the 2nd quarter…Teammate, Jamel Fleming, scooped the ball up at the STP 30…Carino connected with Kyle Benjamin on a 30-yard screen pass to increase the cushion to 35-6 at the break.

Identical to what we wrote about Barranger and the IP defense, the same holds true of Cushnie and the Crusader starting-11…In this match-up of the #2 (Stepinac) and #14 (Iona Prep) ranked teams in New York State (per the NYSSWA), Cushnie will be leaned on heavily as AS attempts to slow down a Gael brigade that has averaged 36.3 points and 442.3 yards.

Sep 182019
 

By Matt Diano:

Derrin Hansen (Sr.); OL/LB – Xaverian Clippers

A bona fide game-changer on both sides of the line of the scrimmage, the 2018 All-Catholic selection (for defense) showed exactly why pundits consider him one of the supreme two-way players in the NYCHSFL by impelling the Clippers to their first win of the 2019 season, 32-0, over St. John the Baptist this past Friday.

Recording double-digit stops for the third straight game (including the 2018 playoffs) and the fifth overall time in his three-year varsity career, the 6’2, 195-pounder out of Staten Island would be the main reason that Mike Jioia’s troops are celebrating their first shutout of an opponent since the second week of the 2017 season (48-0 against Kennedy Catholic).  Adding to the prestige of this feat is the fact that it was the first time since the 2015 AA quarterfinals that the Cougars were held scoreless.

Credited with 12 tackles (giving him a double-A best 26 this year), his second sack in as many weeks, and a forced fumble, the senior classman set the example for a D-Unit that was playing with a chip on their shoulder after allowing 26 points in their previously referenced opening weekend loss to SJS.

Turning over attention to the other side of the ball, Hansen anchored an offensive line that was so adept at “paving highways” that seven different ball carriers combined to rush for 166 yards and score four times on 31 ground attempts (5.4 average/hand-off)…The four rushing touchdowns, which came courtesy of Shane Greene (101 yards, 2 TDs on 16 carries) and James Resker (15 yards, 2 touchdowns on 4 keepers) were the most posted by the school since they logged five in that 2017 triumph over KC.

Hansen and the Clippers will be determined to continue their universal dominance this coming Saturday when they host a struggling but still very capable Holy Trinity…When the two programs squared off last year, it was the Titans jumping out to a 20-0 edge before hanging on for the 26-22 win.

 

Kaiwan Taylor (Jr.); RB – St. Peter’s Eagles

As was stated by the iconic philosopher, Mike Tyson, “Everyone has a plan until they get hit.”…For the Eagles of St. Peter’s, that blow came in the form of three unanswered touchdowns (one in each of the first three quarters) by the Fordham Prep Rams to turn what had previously been a 12-0 deficit into a 21-12 advantage for the visitors from Bronx.

So, with their “backs against the wall”, to quote Head Coach, George Mahoney, what would the new plan be?  The answer was found in the person of his 5’9, 200-pound, 11th grade tailback…

Riding Taylor like the workhorse he has shown himself to be in the past, the Eagles got themselves back in the game late in the 3rd quarter when the two-year starter in the backfield blasted through tacklers on 3rd & Goal to reach the end zone for a 10-yard TD run.  He followed-up the touchdown by converting the 2-point try on the ensuing snap bring his team within a single point (21-20)…Earlier in this drive, Taylor demonstrated immense grit and toughness when he shed multiple defenders on 4th&9 in his own territory to preserve possession.

Fast-forward to what proved to be the game-winning series (5:51 on the clock in the 4th) and again it was the gentleman in the #24 jersey “donning a number of proverbial hats” in order to ensure victory for his school…Commencing the drive on their own 6-yard line, Taylor ran the ball five straight times, advancing the prolate spheroid to the STP 16…Exhibiting the highest level of selflessness, KT then put another facet of his skill set on display, transitioning from the role of carrier to that of primary/lead blocker…Throwing a pair of “bulldozing blocks” to borrow from Coach Mahoney, Taylor cleared out the edge, enabling senior, Michael Politi (2 carries for 80 yards, 1 TD) to erupt for gains of 35 and 45 yards, taking the latter to the house for the clincher (Politi 2pt conversion accounted for 28-21 final score).

All in all, Taylor, who concluded the contest with 130 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries, was directly responsible for 50% of the 28-point output from the Staten Island-based program…His first touchdown (20-yarder) + 2pt conversion combo occurred on the opening drive of the 1st quarter.

Officially in the win column (1-1), St. Peter’s will be relying on Taylor to carry the load, both literally and figuratively this weekend, as they go hunting for an upset on the road versus 2x AAA League/State champs, Archbishop Stepinac.

 

Eber Ponce (So.); RB – Mount St. Michael’s Academy Mountaineers

You can’t call it beginner’s luck when the person in question is as naturally talented as the 5’9, 177-pound sophomore out of the Bronx…

A neophyte to the highest degree of the definition, Ponce was not only playing in the second varsity game of his career; he was playing just his second game of football EVER!!!

Trading the hardwood for the gridiron in his 10th grade season, if you did not know any better, you would never believe how new to the sport the MSMA tailback was; simply put, in the Mountaineers’ 36-21 win this past Friday night over Kennedy Catholic, Ponce looked every bit the part of an individual who was born to shine on the grass/turf.

One of two 100+-yard contributors for the Mount in week #2 (fellow sophomore, Camren Brown; 142 yards, 2 TDs on 14 carries, being the other), Ponce posted team-highs in rushing attempts (20) and yardage (171) in propelling his school to their first victory of the season in the non-league A/AA crossover game contest.

In addition to chewing up large chunks of yardage, Ponce’s breakout evening was highlighted by the scoring of his first two career touchdowns…Darting for 50+ (51, 54) on both TD runs, Ponce also added a successful 2pt conversion to single-handedly account for more than 1/3 of the school’s point total…

Clutch, as well as explosive, with the result still very much undecided (Kennedy rallied from a 22-0 deficit to make it a one-score game in the 4th), Ponce “iced” the “w” for Mount St. Michael when his 20-yard gainer on 3rd down moved the chains and enabled the program to further exhaust the clock.

Road warriors during the first two weekends of the season, Ponce and the Mountaineers will make their home debut on September 21st when they square off with Holy Cross…When these two foes played last season, it was an instant classic, with the Knights prevailing 35-32.

 

Jordan Delucia (Sr.); RB – Kellenberg Memorial Firebirds

One of those rare individuals who everything he touches turns to gold (or in this case, Blue & Gold), the returning All-State, senior tailback out of Bellmore could potentially be nominated every week of the 2019 season based on the consistency of his stat line.

Fresh off of a 256-yard, three-rushing-touchdown afternoon in an opening weekend loss to 2018 AAA runners-up, Cardinal Hayes, the 6’0, 208-pound dynamo showed no signs of slowing down this past Sunday, registering his second straight 250+ yard-game performance (the third 200+ game of his scholastic career) in the Firebirds’ 44-14 triumph on the road over St. Francis Prep.

Putting the “fire” in Firebirds during the initial 12 minutes of play, the perennial honors student (96 unweighted average; heavily recruited by Ivy League schools before committing to the admission’s process at Harvard) took the ball to the house from distances of 25 and 9 yards out to give KMHS a 13-7 lead at the end of the 1st quarter.

About as true of an all-purpose back as you will find in the Empire State and in the nation, Delucia got the opportunity to showcase his excellent hands halfway through the second quarter when he caught a screen pass and took it 20 yards untouched to increase the Kellenberg advantage to 27-7.

Saving his most impressive trek for last, the three-year varsity starter followed up a KMHS’ three-and-out on defense at the onset of the second half by taking the hand-off and turning the corner en route to an 85-yard pilgrimage to the promised land for his fourth overall TD of the contest to make the score 37-7.

No doubt on pace to exceed 300 yards on the ground and add to his already mind-blowing total of seven touchdown in two appearances, Delucia sat out the 4th quarter.

JD and the Firebirds will remain on the road for the second weekend in a row when they travel to Staten Island to face Moore Catholic…A clash of the #1 (Delucia; 1,380 yards) and #3 (Justin Lacks; 1,161 yards) ranked runners from a season ago, September 22nd is sure to be an early preview in the race to claim Offensive Player of the Year distinction.

 

Joey Carino (Sr.); QB – Archbishop Stepinac

In what can best be labeled as a consummate “redemption” effort, the last time that the 6’2, 198-pound two-year starter for the Crusaders faced Chaminade, he turned in what was statistically his lowest performance of the season (116 yards, 3 Interceptions, 0 touchdown passes)…This past Saturday, he could not have been any closer to perfection, captaining the two-time defending league and state titlists to a 42-7 over the host Flyers.

Connecting on 12-of-16 pass attempts for 221 yards, including a new personal-best five touchdown tosses, the former Syracuse University lacrosse commit turned future Albany Great Dane signal caller, accomplished in one half (only played one series into the 3rd quarter) what it takes most mortals to achieve in a full 48-minute outing.

Marching the boys from White Plains up and down the field with utter poise and command, Carino orchestrated successful drives on the school’s first three possessions, hitting Myles Walker (3 catches for 82 yards, 1 TD) from 22-yards out for the first score of the game and then playing pitch-and-catch with Quentin McCauley (4 grabs for 86 yards, 3 TDs) on 34 and 22-yard strikes to make the score 21-0 at the end of the 1st quarter.

Picking up precisely where he left off in the 2nd quarter, the National Honor Society inducted student-athlete teamed with yet another of AS’s deep wide-out corps, making it three unique targets nailed for TDs when he fed the pigskin beautifully to Nazir Hibbert from a distance of 31-yards away to make the score 28-0 with 8:33 to go in the opening half…The game well in hand for the Crusaders, Carino tacked on his fifth and final touchdown hurl of the half in the last 30 ticks, making it a hat trick for McCauley with a six-yard throw over the middle to make the game 35-0 at the break.

In the midst of his huge afternoon, Carino, who currently sits atop the NYCHSFL (all divisions) with eight touchdown passes this season, reached the 3,000-yard milestone in his three-year varsity tenure.  For his career, he has now completed 175 of 291 attempts (60%) for a total of 3,013 yards and 35 touchdowns.

Dating back to last season, Carino will look to extend Stepinac’s current nine-game streak when he and the Red, White, and Blue juggernaut return home for another AA/AAA melee against St. Peter’s on the 21st.

 

Alex Williams (Jr.); WR – Iona Prep Gaels

After losing their top-5 pass-catchers from a season ago to graduation, one of the questions we had heading into 2019 was where would the production come from at WR in New Rochelle?  That question has now been answered thanks to the emergence of this 6’4, 205-pound junior standout.

Bestowed the privilege of playing in MetLife Stadium as part of the Battle For the Bridge triple-header (NY vs. NJ), Williams put forth the finest effort of his two-year varsity career in spurring the Gaels to the 41-21 conquest of Pope John XXIII.

Establishing new career-bests in all receiving categories with five catches for 134 yards and two touchdown receptions, the Harlem resident needed just two games this season to surpass his totals (7 catches, 64 yards, 1 TD) from the entire 2018 season…Thru two weeks, he is second in the AAA division with nine grabs, and his 175 yards receiving ranks 4th per MaxPreps.

Described by IP Head Coach, Joe Spagnolo, as the “Catalyst that jumped started the offense all day,” Williams really made his presence felt approximately four minutes into the 2nd half when he caught a ball, shook off one defender and then side-stepped past another for a 25-yard TD that made the score 20-0…The Iona Prep 11th grader later added his second 25-yard touchdown snatch of the quarter with 1:08 remaining to make the score 34-7.

On an afternoon where everything seemed to go his way, the only obstacle that prevented the Gael student-athlete from having an more outstanding showing was be a penalty call against Iona Prep that negated a 45-yard TD in the 2nd quarter.

Looking forward to week #3, Williams will try to make it three straight years (and four games in a row) where a Gael has posted a 100+ yard receiving day against the Flyers of Chaminade High School.

 

Robert McGee (Sr.); QB – St. Anthony’s Friars

After 21 wins and three regular season crowns (2016-2018) with Greg Campisi under center, there is a new field general in town [South Huntington] and his name is Robert McGee!!!

Despite making just the second start of his varsity career on the grandest of stages [MetLife Stadium], the 6’1, 200-pound senior out of Shoreham proved to be unflappable in seizing bragging rights on behalf of the Evil Empire behind a 16-14 comeback victory over Delbarton.

Equally potent, whether it be via arm or his legs, the Penn State lacrosse recruit had a hand in 199 yards of total offensive production, as well as be at the forefront of both of the Friars’ two touchdowns last Saturday morning…Completing 11 of his 15 aerial attempts (to four different receivers), McGee gun-slinged his way to a 122-yard passing day.  On the ground, he called his own number 21 times, gaining 77 yards.

Epitomizing the “ice water in the veins” maturity that defines greatness, McGee was at his best during crunch time…His team trailing 14-10 with 8:02 remaining in regulation, he responded to the adversity and pressure in an immaculate manner, connecting on all four of his passes, including a 27-yard bullet over the middle to Justin Houston (4 grabs, 55 yards) for the deciding touchdown.

Earlier in the interstate affair, McGee recorded his first rushing TD of the year, when he plunged a 2-yard keeper into the end zone to knot the score at 7-7 in the second quarter.

In recognition of his full body of work, the STA signal caller was the recipient of the game’s Most Valuable Player award!

Up next for St. Anthony’s is a September 21st rematch of last year’s AAA semifinal game, won by Cardinal Hayes, 26-25.

Sep 122019
 

By Matt Diano:

Clayton Proctor (Jr.); QB – Kennedy Catholic Gaels

Last season, it was Gaels’ senior tailback, Myles Proctor, taking the “A” Division by storm, rushing for 978 yards and nine touchdowns en route to being named the league Offensive Player of the Year….This past Saturday, it became quite apparent in Kennedy Catholic’s 24-6 victory over Cardinal Spellman, that younger brother, Clayton, has every intention of making it two years in a row that a Proctor sibling is honored at the Communion Awards Breakfast.

Stepping under center for the first time in his scholastic career, the 5’10, 170-pounder from Yorktown Heights was nothing short of spectacular in every possible way in enacting some revenge for last season’s title game loss…Accounting for 158 total yards between his legs and his arm, as well as having a hand in two of the school’s touchdowns, time and time again, the three-sport (basketball and baseball being the others) standout came up clutch in preserving possession.   As his head coach, Dom Tassone, so perfectly phrased it, “He saved his best for the big moments.”

A season removed from only carrying the ball just once (for negative yardage), Proctor would be a thoroughbred of a different caliber during the opening weekend of the Catholic football season, gaining 128 yards on 10 keepers, including one TD run.

Aerially, he connected on six of his 15 attempts for a total of 58 yards…Two of these completions would be particularly beneficial, as Proctor would hit sophomore, James Brown, for a 3rd down conversation and then return to his emerging favorite target later in the series for a touchdown hurl.

Proctor will be looking to remain a nighmare for opposing defenses when he and the Gaels face off with double-A league member, Mount St. Michael Academy, on Friday the 13th.

 

Photo Courtesy of Geoffrey Walter

Mario Fischetti Jr. (Jr.); RB – Chaminade Flyers

The most valuable player on last year’s junior varsity, the 11th grader from Glen Head wasted no time in confirming that he will be the star of the Flyer backfield for the next two seasons in Mineola.

Carrying the pigskin 10 times this past Saturday, the 5’7, 165-pounder would rack up 121 yards and single-handedly score four of Chaminade’s five touchdowns in their 37-0 triumph over 2018 PSAL runners-up, South Shore.

Breaking for TD runs of 33, 31, and 14 yards respectively in the first half, Fischetti would send the visitors from Long Island into the intermission with a comfortable 28-0 advantage…For good measure, he then tacked on one additional “6” in the third quarter when he took the ball to the house from 12 yards away.

Next up for the talented junior will be his varsity home debut against two-time defending state champions, Archbishop Stepinac.

 

Omarion Jones (Sr.); QB/WR/DB – St. Francis Prep Terriers

When making an appointment of captain, one of the first qualities that a coach seeks is the willingness of the individual to put the betterment of the team ahead of his own personal accolades; to be a captain, you have to be willing to do anything and everything in the name of your school…This is why the 5’10, 170-pounder from Jamaica [Omarion Jones] is the perfect person to hold the title for the Terriers.

A two-year starter at quarterback entering his senior season, when told that he would be moved to wide-out, he embraced the change, knowing that it would strengthen the team and enable them to maximize their season…It is stories of unselfishness like this one that make it all the more rewarding when see that sacrifice be rewarded like it was this past Sunday in St. Francis’s 7-6 comeback win over Holy Cross.

Trailing 6-0 in the 4th quarter, Head Coach, Rich Carroll, would make the decision to put the ball back in the hands of his seasoned vet; and his trust would pay off as Jones completed two of his three passing attempts and laid the foundation for a winning drive that culminated with a TD run by 11th grader, Justice Allah.

While his performance down the stretch will likely be what gets remembered, it need be pointed out that all in all, Jones had an incredibly well-rounded display, contributing in a multitude of ways on the offensive end…As a runner, he gained 15 yards on four carries; as a receiver, he posted a team-high three receptions for 25 yards.

In true jack-of-all-trades fashion, Jones would also get into the act on “D”, making two stops from the secondary.

By virtue of the win, he now improves his career record to 3-0 against the HC Knights…In week #2, he will no doubt continue to be a versatile menace on both sides of the ball as he leads the Blue & Red army into battle against the two-time defending double-A kings, Kellenberg Memorial.

 

Christian Maisel (Jr.); WR/SS – St. John the Baptist Cougars

Speaking of checking off a plethora of boxes, of all our student-athletes honored this week, there was no one that genuinely fit that “Renaissance Man” label more so than the 6’2, 195-pound two-way standout from Amityville, Maisel…Making significant contributions in all three facets (offense, defense, and special teams) of the game, the Cougar 11th grader proved to be the determining factor in why SJB was able to go on the road and emerge with an important 22-7 win over 2018 Double-A semifinalists, Holy Trinity.

A year after rushing for 38 yards and catching six passes (including two touchdowns) all season, Maisel’s opening weekend effort left little doubt that he is well on his way to shattering all of his previous offensive milestones…Whether it be as a runner (80 yards on five carries), or receiver (5 receptions for 83 yards, two touchdowns), every possession for John the Baptist seemed to be just another opportunity for Maisel to shine.

Responsible for bookend scores, Maisel’s 10-yard TD catch in the first quarter from senior Nicholas Mazziotti, would give SJB the early 6-0 edge…In the 4th, with SJB now up 14-7, Maisel would inflict the proverbial “death blow” to the Titans, when he found himself on the back end of a 41-yard touchdown strike from sophomore, Kyle Chase, to account for the final tally.

When he wasn’t busy putting 12 points of his own on the scoreboard, the three-year varsity member would be instrumental in keeping them off on defense…Recording five tackles (1 TFL), causing one fumble, and alertly recovering three loose balls, Maisel and his D-unit colleagues were smothering, holding HT scoreless during the entire second half.

The Cougars will remain on the road for a second week in a row, traveling to Brooklyn on Friday night to square off against Xaverian.

 

Jesse Addesso (Sr.); DB – St. Joe’s by the Sea Vikings

Contrary to many of the gentlemen who join him in this week’s selections, the senior defensive back from Staten Island is proof that you don’t always need to compile gaudy statistics in order to be recognized for your value…As he affirmed last Friday in the Vikings’ 26-20 win against Xaverian, sometimes one big play at the perfect time can be just as cherished.

With his team clinging to the six-point lead (following a 10-yard TD run by Kyle Gaor) in the closing seconds of the 4th quarter, it would be Addesso that emerged as the saving grace when he intercepted a pass attempt on the goal line in the final five seconds to thwart the Clippers’ bid to steal the “w”.

In addition to the game-saving pick, much of what made Addesso so special in week #1 were the intangibles that often get overlooked in the box score…For instance, with the contest being such a back-and-forth affair all night, the fact that he recovered an onside kick attempt meant that his school was afforded another possession…

Furthermore, while the stat sheet may only read one tackle on “D”, it neglects to mention that the 6’0, 175-pounder was so dominant on the corner that he completely erased (1 catch for 8 yards) Xavier’s perceived top target.

Addesso and the Vikings will now look to start the season 2-0 for the first time since 2013 when they return home to host Nazareth this coming Saturday in an A/AA crossover.

 

Noah Bodden (Jr.); QB – Christ The King Royals

If week #1 was any indication of the junior campaign that the 6’4, 225-pound field general has in store for the NYCHSFL faithful, then it is no wonder he is currently regarded as the #3 overall 2021 recruiting prospect in the entire Empire State!!!

Commencing his third season as the starting quarterback for the Middle Village based program, Bodden would easily put forth the finest effort of his scholastic career in CTK’s 40-0 win over St. Peter’s…

Rewriting his personal record book last Saturday, the returning All-Catholic selection from a year ago, would establish new single-game bests in completions (19), passing yardage (264), accumulative offensive production (303 yards) and total touchdowns (3) in helping the Royals get off to their first 1-0 start since the 2016 season.

Having previously never thrown for more than 227 yards (last year’s AAA quarterfinal loss to Stepinac) in an outing, Bodden would tear apart the Eagle secondary, hitting five different receivers as part of a 19 for 34, 264-yard, two-TD passing afternoon…The two touchdown strikes (15yrds to Tirek Murphy; 14-yarder to Stanley Oxford) tied the personal best he set against St. Anthony’s as a freshman and then matched last season versus Stepinac.

Not content to just show off his proficiency as a gun-slinger, the so-called “pocket-passer” would give recruiting experts a reason to relabel him as a “dual-threat” weapon when he scrambled 39 yards on his only carry for the first rushing touchdown of his career.

Bodden and the Royals will journey to the Keystone State this week to go toe-to-toe with 2018 PIAA State quarterfinalists, Pottsgrove, under the Friday night lights.

 

Jalen Smith (Sr.); RB – Cardinal Hayes Cardinals

An example of how sometimes even those with the most hype surrounding them can still find a way to completely blow your mind, you need look no further than the performance put forth this past Saturday by Cardinals’ senior running back, Jalen Smith, in Hayes’ 54-26 victory over Kellenberg Memorial.

Pegged in our 2019 AAA preview as a potential preseason favorite to win the Offensive Player of the Year award, Smith would leave even us speechless following a 16-carry, 330-yard, four touchdown afternoon that propelled the Bronx based school to week #1 glory in a clash of 2018 league finalists (Hayes—AAA runners-up; KMHS-2x defending AA champs).

With the Cardinals trailing 6-0 in the opening quarter, #23 would tie the score with the first of his aforementioned four treks to the end zone when he sprung up the middle and went 84 yards untouched…He then added a second 1st quarter TD when he cruised 70 yards on his school’s next possession to give Hayes a 12-6 edge at the end of 12 minutes.

Picking up where he left off, the senior speedster issued a fierce response to a KMHS 2nd quarter touchdown (to again knot the game at 12 apiece), darting 61-yards for his third straight touchdown of the half to put Hayes back in front 18-12…This TD sparked a streak of 18 unanswered points that made the score 30-12 at the break.

It would be déjà vu at the onset of the 3rd quarter, as Smith prevented the host Firebirds from ever truly getting back into the game when he again had a rebuttal for a Kellenberg score, finding pay dirt one final time from 27 yards away to provide additional (36-20) padding to the lead.

Including the 2018 postseason (116 in the semis versus St. Anthony’s; 105 against Stepinac in the finals), Smith has now surpassed the century mark in three straight appearances. Should he succeed in making it four consecutive contests with 100 or more yards, he will exceed last year’s total of 394 yards on the ground.  Doing so though will present a challenge as the Cardinals will be pitted against defending New Jersey State titlists, St. Joseph’s Regional (Montvale).

Best of luck to all teams this week!

Dec 042018
 

CHSFL 2018 Awards

~ Players of the Year Awards ~

Monsignor Matthew Peters Award – Student Athlete Award

David Amelemah – St John the Baptist

 

Golden Eleven Awards

Brandt Mandia – Monsignor Farrell

Tom Bossert – St Peter’s

Matthew Mongelli – Kellenberg

Brendan Kennedy – Fordham Prep

Brendan Lebitsch – Kennedy Catholic

Antonio Corrado – Mount Saint Michael

Matt Panker – Iona Prep

Philip Arnold – Chaminade

Joseph Garbowski – Archbishop Stepinac

Stephen Ryan – Xavier

Brandon Ramrattan – Xaverian

 

Special Teams Player of the Year

A Special Teams Player of the YearBrendan Lebitsch (Kennedy Catholic)

 

AA Special Teams Player of the YearNick Guglielmo (St. Peter’s)

 

AAA Special Teams Player of the YearAnthony Pecorella (Chaminade)

 

Defensive Player of the Year

A Defensive Player of the YearCole Esposito (Kennedy Catholic)

AA Defensive Player of the YearValery Gwardyak (Xavier)

Vincent O’Connor Memorial Award – AAA Defensive Player of the YearMakhai Murphy (St. Anthony’s)

 

Offensive Player of the Year

A Offensive Player of the YearMyles Proctor (Kennedy Catholic)

AA Offensive Player of the YearMatt Sluka (Kellenberg)

Joe Riverso Memorial Award – AAA C0 – Offensive Player of the YearDerek Robertson (Iona Prep)

Joe Riverso Memorial Award – AAA C0 – Offensive Player of the YearGreg Campisi (St. Anthony’s)

 

Lineman of the Year

A Lineman of the YearBrenton Winter (Nazareth)

AA Lineman of the YearTedi Kushi (Moore Catholic)

Joe Thomas Memorial Award – AAA Lineman of the YearAnthony Bonavita (Iona Prep)

 

Metropolitan Football Association Award

In Memory of John Bromm

Joshua Rivera – Holy Cross

Joseph Rodda – Iona Prep

Michael Angelone – St. Joseph by the Sea

Joseph Leone – Xaverian

Irving Ithier – Cardinal Hayes

 

The Ken Weinman Award

Donated by the Intercounty Association of Football Officials

Brandon Cerciello – St. John the Baptist

Thomas Rogan – Chaminade

John Rainis – Kellenberg

 

Lieutenant Ronald Winchester Award – Unsung Hero Award

Donated by the L.I.A.F.O. Foundation of New YorkPeter Hagan – St. Anthony’s

 

-Team Awards-

~ Bob Stenger Memorial JVB Sportsmanship Awards ~City – Cardinal Spellman

Long Island – St. John the Baptist

 

~ Junior Varsity Awards ~

AA Division ChampionsKellenberg

AA ChampionsSt. Francis Prep

AAA Division Champions & John Marchassalla Award

Iona Prep

 Presented to the League Champions

Head Coach Award

Jerry Thompson 

Assistant Coaches Awards

Presented by the Head Coach

Darrin Gilenwater

Jordan Reid

Keith Cordero

Eli Moise

 

~ Varsity Awards ~

Division Awards

Joe Sullivan Award – A Division ChampionKennedy Catholic

Howie Smith Award – AA Division Champion

East DivisionKellenberg Memorial

West Division Xaverian

Bro. Neri Fulton, O.S.F. Award – AAA Division Champion

St. Anthony’s

 

Championship Awards

Tom Murray Award – A ChampionCardinal Spellman

 

Joe Lamas Memorial Award – AA ChampionKellenberg

Michael Cunnion Memorial Trophy

Presented to the League Champions Archbishop Stepinac 

Joseph Tricario Memorial Trophy Presented to the Winning Coach Michael O’Donnell

 

Assistant Coaches Awards

Presented by the Head Coach

Joe Venice

Jonathan Demarco

Ken Barger

Adam Gullo

Joe Collins

Greg Sanzari

Gene Johnson

Lowell Robinson

Jamel Richardson

Kevin Magee

NYSCHSAA State Championship Plaque

Archbishop Stepinac

Dec 022018
 

By Matt Diano:

As we closed the book on another action-packed season of NYCHSFL football and commenced with the process of bidding farewell to our treasured class of 2019 members, we did so in the manner in which the Lord has taught us, by sitting down as one league, one community, and one family to partake in one of our grandest rituals, the Annual Communion Awards Breakfast.

Father Albert of Kellenberg celebrates Mass

Hosted once again on the campus of Kellenberg Memorial High School, prior to breaking bread and paying homage to our best and brightest performers from the 2018 season, celebrant, Father Albert Bertoni SM would impart upon his congregation the lessons of Luke 21: 25-28, 34-36, reminding the captive audience that Jesus will reveal himself in a variety of forms.  Therefore, we must always be attentive to the signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars for the return of our savior in the clouds.

Perhaps not quite the literal definition of this gospel passage, but in reflecting on all of the “power and glory” that our esteemed honorees brought with them to the field every day for the past three months, it was not difficult to spot the presence of God in these present-day stars!!!

David Amelemah of St. John the Baptist

Claiming the morning’s most prestigious and cherished distinction, the Monsignor Matthew Peters Award, in recognition of being named the top scholar-athlete in the NYCHSFL this season was St. John the Baptist senior running back/defensive back, David Amelemah…A two-year starter and three-year member of Head Coach, Ralph Carusillo’s varsity squad, the resident of Amityville finished third on the team in rushing yards (157 yards on 30 attempts), while also ranking in the top-10 among SJB tacklers with a defensive stat line that included 21 stops and one interception…However, while his contributions on the gridiron were nonetheless outstanding, what would set Amelemah apart from his peers this season would be the breadth of resume he possesses in all areas of his scholastic journey…On pace to be the salutatorian (second highest grade point average) of the class of 2019 at the West Islip based high school, the 17-year-old, three-sport athlete (also runs track during the winter and spring seasons) holds an average of 104 while enrolled in a curriculum that includes several advanced placement and honors courses.  He scored a remarkable 1530 on the scholastic aptitude test (SAT), darn-near achieving a perfect score in the mathematics section with a 790…Having already been an invited participant to the Cornell University CATALYST Academy, as well as having secured a six-year internship with National Grid, this future engineer is equally as selfless as he is brilliant.  A retreat leader, a mentor in the Big Brothers/Big Sisters program, active in Habitat for Humanity, while also serving as a volunteer at both Good Samaritan Hospital and the Long Island Cares Corporation, Amelemah is the epitome of all the values in which we hold sacred within our league, thus making him a perfect selection.

Hailed for their abilities to consistently dazzle the crowd with spectacular exploits with the pigskin in hand were a quartet of senior showstoppers—Derek Robertson (Iona Prep), Greg Campisi (St. Anthony’s), Matthew Sluka (Kellenberg Memorial), and Myles Proctor (Kennedy Catholic)—who are this year’s recipients of the Offensive Player(s) of the Year in their respective divisions.

So special and paramount to the successes enjoyed by their schools, when it came time to pick this year’s Joseph Riverso Memorial Award winner (AAA Offensive Player of the Year), it became apparent that the only way to truly achieve justice and fairness was to establish a precedent and recognize TWO heralded signal callers in the persons of Robertson and Campisi.

Throwing for a Westchester County record of 2,774 yards as a junior in 2017, the two-year starter under center for the Gaels [Robertson] may not have succeeded in breaking his own milestone this season, but was quite extraordinary in every other possible way…Topping all triple-A field generals and finishing 5th overall in the Empire State in both categories in his swan song, the 6’2, 185-pounder out of Yonkers would complete 201 of his 312 attempts (64.4%) for 2,556 yards and 31 touchdowns in leading Iona Prep to a 7-2 mark this season…Combing to hurl for 5,330 yards and 58 touchdowns during his tenure in New Rochelle, Robertson led the Gaels to the AAA semifinals in each of his two years as the starting quarterback…He becomes the third Gael this decade to receive the Riverso, joining the likes of Mario Biaggi (2012) and Robert Madison (2014).

Bound for Harvard University next fall, there may never again be a dual-threat quarterback the caliber of Campisi in South Huntington.  Absolutely unstoppable at times during his 2.5-year reign running the Friar offense, the 6’1, 175-pounder contributed two NYCHSFL regular season titles and a 2017 runner-up finish to the rich STA football history, as he compiled an incredible 19-3 record against New York Catholic foes (21-4 overall)…Named Honorable Mention All-State as an 11th grader last year following a season where he accumulated 2,432 yards and 20 touchdowns of total production, Campisi would surpass all of his previous personal bests in his final season donning the Black & Gold…Named to the Newsday All-Long Island 1st team earlier this week, #11 would have a senior campaign for the ages, completing 60.3 percent of his throw attempts (138-for-229) for 2,109 yards (3rd in AAA) and 25 touchdowns (3rd in AAA), while simultaneously rushing for 942 additional yards and scoring 12 more times to account for a mind-blowing 37 TDs in 2018…Closing out this chapter of his football career having thrown for 4,879 yards and 47 touchdowns, and run for 1,641 yards and 24 scores, Campisi may have never won the AAA league title, but he certainly won the hearts of all NYCHSFL aficionados and enthusiasts…Campisi is the first Friar since fellow signal caller, James Brady (2007), to win this award.

Never tasting defeat (22-0) in his two-year varsity stint as the field general for the KMHS Firebirds, 2018 must have felt like déjà vu for the Roslyn resident [Sluka], as he complements the back-to-back Double-A team titles he won with the Blue & Gold juggernaut by adding a second All-Long Island 1st team designation this past Wednesday and now a second consecutive NYCHSFL Player of the Year plaque to his mantel…The centerpiece and/or focal point for an offensive cohort that averaged over 40 points per game in both of his seasons taking the snaps, the 6’3, 205-pound red-headed stud leaves behind a legacy in Uniondale that will forever survive the test of time…Inheriting a program that went 1-8 in 2016, Sluka’s influence would bear witness to Kellenberg rising to the #3 ranking in NYS in the latest polls…A 2nd-Team All-State selection in 2017, it goes without saying that when the NYSSWA releases the 2018 edition, he will again be featured prominently…A year removed from a 2,603-yard (1,619 on the ground; 984 in the air), 36-touchdown (24 rushing, 10 passing) all-purpose season as a junior, Sluka would be even better this season, as his commitment to the development of his passing skills would yield a 69.2 percent completion rate (74-for-107), as he tossed for 1,203 yards and 14 touchdowns…The emergence of All-League running back, Jordan Delucia (led AA with 1,380 yards) meant that Sluka would not need to be as busy with his legs.  But still, despite calling his own number on fewer occasions, the Marianist gem would be the NYCHSFL TD king on the ground, finding pay dirt on 22 separate occasions as a part of an 1,131-yard effort…Posting 11 touchdowns (seven rushing, four throwing) in two title game appearances (2x Offensive MVP) in 2017 and 2018, perhaps what fans will miss most about Sluka next season is his propensity to play his best when the stakes were their highest…The first NYCHSFL player since Matt Hahn (St. Anthony’s; 2002/2003) to repeat as an Offensive Player of the Year winner, Sluka is the third Firebirds this decade to earn the award, joining Matthew McDaniels (won the AAA award in 2011) and Bobby Musso (A/AA recipient in 2014).

A true breakout star during the 2018 season, Proctor, alongside teammate, Seth Surrett, would traumatize opposing defenses this year, finishing as the top-2 runners in the A-division and combining to gain close to 2,000 yards and score 19 touchdowns…Just barely edging out his “partner in crime” in the rushing yards race, Proctor finished second to Surrett in touchdowns scored, with the former crossing the goal line nine times, while the latter accomplished the feat on 11 different occasions…Together, this dynamic duo would make history in Somers, delivering the first “A” division regular season title to Head Coach, Dom Tassone, and taking the Gaels to championship weekend for the first time in school history…Surpassing the 100-yards running plateau in six of the eight games he played this season (ran for 96 yards in another contest), the 6’2, 190-pounder out of Yorktown Heights was a human highlight reel as a senior, averaging over eight yards per carry…Proctor was twice selected as a POTW in 2018, including an afternoon of career-bests during a week #3 victory over St. Dominic’s where he ran for 215 yards and three touchdowns on just nine carries…By virtue of their senior tailback’s selection, Kennedy Catholic has now claimed this award in the two of the past three seasons, as quarterback, David Keogh, earned the prize in his senior season in 2016.

Turning our attention to the other side of the ball, whether it be Lombardi, Ditka, Saban, or any other legendary coach in any sport in this country, the sentiments regarding defense remains the same…Whereas the offense tends to be the face of many winning teams, it is the 11 men on the other side of the line of scrimmage that operate as the heart, soul, and backbone of any perennially successful organization…Three young men who always put their schools in a position to obtain victory, Makhai Murphy (St. Anthony’s), Valery Gwardyak (Xavier), and Cole Esposito (Kennedy Catholic) are precisely the type of individuals that military historian, John Keegan was writing about when he spoke of an “inability to compromise, an unrelenting devotion to the standards of duty and courage, an absolute loyalty to others, and a refusal to let the task at hand go until it is has been sufficiently done.”….Two of our three selections [Gwardyak and Esposito] would be dominant linebackers on divisional runner-up programs, while the third [Murphy] was the shutdown defensive back for not one, but a pair of AAA regular season crowns.

Murphy, who finished 2nd in the triple-A division (top-20 in NYS) with four interceptions for the second straight season, was such a feared commodity at the cornerback position that more times than not, he would successfully negate the top receiver on the opposing team, thus creating many a long afternoon or night for adversarial quarterbacks…Tasked with the unenviable challenge of being a D-back in a league that boasted four of the top-20 passing quarterbacks in the entire Empire State, when you look at the numbers that those signal callers mustered versus the Friars as opposed to other secondaries, you begin to garner a deep appreciation for how unique a talent the 5’10, 175-pounder truly is…When St. Anthony’s played eventual league and State champs, Archbishop Stepinac, the Friar defensive backfield held Crusader signal caller, Joey Carino to a 52.4 completion percentage, which was seven points below his season average…In two showdowns this season against returning 3rd Team All-State field general, Sofian Massoud (Cardinal Hayes), from an individual perspective, Murphy notched one INT apiece and the secondary as a whole forced the Cardinal junior into his only two interception game of the regular season and limited him to a modest 106-yard tossing in the AAA semifinals…Competing against another 2018 All-Catholic performer, Farrell QB, Mike Regan, Murphy would post another interception and the last line of defense collectively limited the Lions to 11-for-29 for only 108 yards…The first STA student-athlete since Scott Vallone (2007) to be named the Vincent O’Connor Memorial Defensive Player of the Year, Murphy snaps Stepinac’s four-year streak (Gavin Heslop, Dan Negron, Gene Brown, and Trill Williams).

League President Chris Hardardt

As it pertains to vaunted defensive tradition built by Xavier Knights’ head coach, Chris Stevens, the saying goes, show me a bunch of goose-eggs and I’ll show you a star linebacker at the eye of the storm…Following in the footsteps of Frank Masella (2015), Gwardyak would put an exclamation mark on his incredible scholastic career by captaining the NYC based school back to championship weekend for the first time since winning in 2015…And while the Knights may have fallen short of hoisting the hardware on November 17th, the loss in no way detracts from what was one heck of an individual and unified effort by the Maroon & Blue “D”…Pitching four shutouts during the course of the year, including two straight in the quarter and semifinal round of the double-A playoffs, Xavier may have bent a bit at times, but they hardly every broke during the homestretch…A person who flies to the ball with a natural fluidity and tenacity, Gwardyak would top all Knight tacklers for the second year in a row, reaching the 70+ stop milestone for the second time in as many attempts…Finding himself in the opposing backfield on more than a few occasions, the Staten Island resident would post double-digit tackles for losses this season…In addition, after not being credited with a single sack in his junior year, #44 would rank second on the team in the category with 2.5 QB bags.  He would add the first interception of his career to further enhance his solid resume.

Like Gwardyak, Esposito too would prove himself to be a revolutionary player, as it would be his stellar play from the LB position that enabled the Gaels to reach the “A” title game for the first time in program history…The second [Sluka above] and final repeat award winner of the morning, the 6’1, 205-pound Cortland Manor native was to the Gael defense what his teammate, Proctor, was to the offense; a God-given play-maker that elevated those around him…A three-year linchpin and/or anchor in the middle of the Kennedy Catholic front-7, Esposito would earn DPOY status in 2017 following a junior campaign that saw him finish second overall in “A” with 95 tackles (12 TFL), while adding three sacks and two caused fumbles…Demonstrating that he had no intention of resting on laurels, his numbers would explode through the roof in his senior year, as he wrapped up his last season as a Gael by being ranked in the top-20 in NYS with 120+ tackles (3rd in the “A” Division), tying for the Empire State lead with 49 stops for negative yardage (tops in the NYCHSFL), and tacking on seven sacks (tied for best in “A“)…Making 10 or more tackles in seven of his team’s 10 appearances in 2018, Esposito would put forth his finest display in the 2018 semifinal round when he accumulated 17 total tackles, while setting new personal records for TFL (11) and sacks (3….Praised a year ago for being a huge reason why Kennedy Catholic was able to shave 10 points off of their per game allowed average between the 2016 and 2017 seasons, Esposito would do it again in 2018, as KC would surrender only 12.2 points per contest this season (8.1 against “A” division foes).

Rounding out our list of distinguished student-athletes that were recognized on Sunday morning were the young gentlemen who have the often thankless and undervalued job of banging heads in the trenches…The proverbial “straws the stir the drink”, if you watch game film at any level of the sport, you will clearly see that nothing worthwhile occurs without a lineman of some kind providing a much-needed spark…A constant clash for territory, there is no purer art in the realm of athletics than the “dance” that these 200-300 pound warriors perform week in and week off…The muscle within a game that is becoming more and more finessed, there is no “half speed” or “plays off” when trying to be the ultimate difference maker in a battle for inches…Leading the charge for this year’s talented OL/DL class were Anthony Bonavita (Iona Prep), Tedi Kushi (Moore Catholic), and Brenton Winter Jr. (Nazareth).

Bonavita, one of the most potent and polished offensive linemen in New York State, put himself in a club all his own today, as he became the first IP player to earn the Joe Thomas Award…Standing 6’3 and tipping the scales at an even 300 pounds, the Irvington resident certainly passes the eye test of what a dominant lineman ought to resemble…However, in bestowing upon him this honor, the selection committee looked more at the measurement of his skillset than at his physical stature…Simply put, this is a beast that knows how to push people around…In fact, so good was Bonavita this season, that it could be argued that without him serving as primary protector, Robertson’s candidacy as OPOY would have greatly compromised…Part road grader, part body guard, no matter what was asked of him this season, Bonavita would go above and beyond the call of duty in all endeavors…Paving the way for a Gael running attack that accumulated 1,500 yards (167 per game) and scored 19 touchdowns, as well as kept Robertson and his 2,556 yards + 31 touchdowns in the air upright, the Iona Prep senior OL provided the grit and foundation for an offense that ranked 1st in AAA in points per game (40.8) and averaged 452 yards of total output.

Kushi, who at 6’6 and 330 pounds might be one of, if not the only Catholic League football player capable of making Bonavita look small by comparison, would be our favorite kind of linemen, a two-way, 48-minutes a day, unapologetic animal for the Mavericks….Named to the All-Catholic team for the third time in his scholastic career, the mainstay at left tackle for Moore Catholic would be an invaluable asset as both a lead blocker and a blindside watchdog…Running through the tunnels built by their massive senior OT, the Mavs’ assortment of rushing options (led by sensational junior, Justin Lacks; 1,161 yards, 19 touchdowns) would accumulate 2,000 yards (222.1/game) of ground production, scoring 27 touchdowns…Aerially, senior quarterback, Vincenzo Scarola, would make the most of the clean pocket, as he hurled for career highs in yardage (971) and TDs thrown (11)…All in all, the MC offense averaged 348 all-purpose yards while scoring 34.2 per outing.  This represented a 7.5-point and 88-yard improvement in one year’s time…Already established on the offensive side of the gridiron, Kushi’s greatest area of improvement came on “D” where he went from making just 13 stops as a junior to being one of the most menacing and disruptive DTs in the league, as evidenced by his 48 tackle, .5 sack, two fumble recovery showing as a 12th grader…And just as the points scored average would increase, the points surrendered stat would fall from 26.7 (2017) to a 17.8 (2018).

Just the second ever Kingsmen to amass individual honors (the other being 2015 Defensive Player of the Year, Tariq Gordon), Winter Jr. would set the tone for a program that performed considerably better than their 1-8 tally might suggest…Gelling by the end of the 2018 season, Nazareth Regional would lose both games, but succeeded in pushing “A” champions, Cardinal Spellman and divisional runners-up, Kennedy Catholic, to the brink, losing by respectable scores of 9-8 and 21-12…A diamond on a roster of promising but still developing coal, Winter Jr. would leave no doubt as to his prowess as a pass rushing specialist, leading the “A” division with five recorded QB hurries and finishing tied with Esposito for the top honors with seven sacks…In addition, he would raise his stop total from 19 in 2017 to 32 in his last hurrah donning the Maroon & Gold jersey.

One final gentleman most certainly worthy of commendation and acknowledgement is St. Anthony’s senior defensive back, Peter Hagan.  One of those rare exceptional human beings whose contribution to his team and his school transcended what appears within a box score, repeatedly throughout the 2018 season, the 5’11, 175-pounder  conducted himself as the consummate “team-first” ally, putting the best interests of the Friars ahead of any personal acclaim or fame…It was due to this ideal demeanor that there was no more fitting a candidate to be the recipient of this year’s Lieutenant Ronald Winchester Award, presented to the person deemed to be the unsung hero of the roster…Handed out in tribute to the former Chaminade High School/United States Naval Academy offensive lineman who sacrificed his life on September 3rd while fighting for his country in Operation Iraqi Freedom, Winchester was described by former teammates as the “guy who was behind the scenes making the block that no one saw; the guy who would play with broken ribs; the guy who stood out because of his work ethic.”…Like Winchester, Hagan has made his patriotic vow, accepting admission into West Point (United States’ Military Academy) as a part of the class of 2023.

Congratulations to our decorated student-athletes…And to all of our departing seniors, we whole-heartedly thank you for the wealth of memories you leave behind…Win or lose, you always did yourselves, your families, your school, and our league mighty proud!  May your future journeys, both on and off of the field football field be met with continued blessings and wisdom from above.

Nov 272018
 
CHSFL ALL-LEAGUE 2018
OFFENSE
Last First Class Pos. Ht. Wt. Hometown High School
Grant Malik 12 RB 5’10 190 Bronx Archbishop Stepinac
Harris Sean 12 WR 5’11 175 Mount Vernon Archbishop Stepinac
Mucciolo Jonathan 12 OL 6’5 295 Mahopac Archbishop Stepinac
Wise Chris 12 RB 5’8 175 Harlem Archbishop Stepinac
Escobar Michael 12 WR 6 170 Bronx Cardinal Hayes
Tamarez Angel 12 WR 6’2 185 Bronx Cardinal Hayes
Brown Jeremeye 12 RB 5’11 170 Bronx Cardinal Hayes
Powell Lance 12 WR 5’11 180 Bronx Cardinal Spellman
McCormick Connor 12 WR 6’3 205 Islip Chaminade
Janosko Brandon 12 RB 6’0 210 Westbury Chaminade
Martin Richard 12 OL 6’3 255 Floral Park Chaminade
Pecorella Anthony 12 K/P 6’3 190 Malverne Chaminade
Bodden Noah 10 QB 6’4 210 Long Island Christ the King
Elgammal Adam 12 OL 6’7 260 Long Island Christ the King
Fuller Darryl 12 OL 6’4 270 Queens Christ the King
Murphy Tirek 11 RB 6’1 210 Queens Christ the King
Silvera Rudy 12 WR 6’2 220 Brooklyn Christ the King
Bufano Derek 12 QB 6’1 165 Cortland Manor Fordham Prep
Goodkin Jack 12 WR 6’0 205 Briarcliff Fordham Prep
Kennedy Brendan 12 OL 6’2 235 Rye Fordham Prep
McCarthy Matt 12 WR 6’2 155 Harrison Fordham Prep
Villarba Andre 12 OL 5’8 235 Yonkers Fordham Prep
Wallace Zachary 11 RB 6’0 175 New Rochelle Fordham Prep
Henglein Michael 12 QB 5’10 185 Broad Channel Holy Cross
Beaubrun John 11 WR 5’11 185 West Hempstead Holy Cross
Razzano Ryan 12 QB 5’10 190 Manorville Holy Trinity
Robertson Derek 12 QB 6’2 185 Yonkers Iona Prep
Bonavita Anthony 12 OL 6’3 300 Irvington Iona Prep
Fleming Sean 12 WR 6’4 230 Dobbs Ferry Iona Prep
Glasgow Camari 12 WR 6’0 190 Bronx Iona Prep
McFadden Franklin 10 RB 5’8 190 Yonkers Iona Prep
Panker Matt 12 WR 5’9 165 Hawthorne Iona Prep
Sluka Matt 12 QB 6’3 205 Roslyn Kellenberg
DeLucia Jordan 11 RB 510 175 Bellmore Kellenberg
Mongelli Matthew 12 WR 6’3 175 Flower Hill Kellenberg
Cipolla Thomas 12 OL 6’4 245 Island Park Kellenberg
Proctor Myles 12 RB 6’2 190 Yorktown Heights Kennedy Catholic
Regan Michael 12 Qb 6’4 190 Staten Island Monsignor Farrell
Lubrano Nicholas 12 OL 6’0 270 Staten Island Monsignor Farrell
Comitini Carmine 12 OL 5’10 225 Staten Island Monsignor Farrell
Wagner Vin 12 RB 6’0 210 Staten Island Monsignor Farrell
Tait Christian 12 WR 6’3 175 Staten Island Monsignor Farrell
Lacks Justin 11 RB 6’0 215 Staten Island Moore Catholic
Kushi Tedi 12 OL 6’6 295 Staten Island Moore Catholic
Lawton Dashawn 9 WR 5’9 155 Newark, NJ Moore Catholic
Perry Conrad 12 RB 5’10 190 Bronx Mount Saint Michael
Manzanet Justin 12 WR 5’8 125 Bronx Mount Saint Michael
Wynter Jr. Brenton 12 OL 5’6 250 Brooklyn Nazareth
Campisi Greg 12 QB 5’11 170 Long Island St. Anthony’s
Parker Dan 12 WR 5’10 165 Long Island St. Anthony’s
Angus Kyle 12 RB 6’1 190 Long Island St. Anthony’s
Wright Chris 12 OL 6’3 275 Long Island St. Anthony’s
Blyman Charles 12 OL 6’5 280 Hicksville St. Dominic
Jones Omarion 11 QB 5’9 152 Queens St. Francis Prep
Mitchell Aubrey 10 RB 5’10 160 Queens St. Francis Prep
McFarlan Nazareth 12 RB 5’9 188 Queens St. Francis Prep
Delcore Nicholas 12 WR 6’2 180 Smithtown St. John the Baptist
Stroble Matthew 11 OL 5’8 220 Blue Point St. John the Baptist
Tucker Jackson 10 QB 5’10 165 Staten Island St. Joseph by the Sea
Simermeyer Ryan 12 WR 6’3 185 Staten Island St. Joseph by the Sea
Badyna Sonny 12 QB 6’2 180 Brooklyn St. Peter’s
Sluder Peter 12 OL 6’5 330 Staten Island St. Peter’s
Greene Shane 11 RB 5’11 190 Brooklyn Xaverian
Perlstein Jason 12 WR 6’0 170 Brooklyn Xaverian
Vittiburga Dan 12 RB 5’8 165 Brooklyn Xavier
CHSFL ALL-LEAGUE 2018
DEFENSE
Last First Class Pos. Ht. Wt. Hometown High School
McKenna Kevin 11 LB 5’11 190 Somers Archbishop Stepinac
Gray Kevin 12 LB 6’3 225 Hawthorne Archbishop Stepinac
Smith DeAndre 12 LB 5’10 170 Cortland Manor Archbishop Stepinac
Simmons Doug 12 DL 6’1 211 White Plains Archbishop Stepinac
Garbowski Joe 12 DL 6’3 255 Putnam Valley Archbishop Stepinac
Atuahene Joel 12 LB 5’10 160 New York Cardinal Hayes
Pearsall Chyon 12 LB 5’10 180 New York Cardinal Hayes
Sherrod Maurice 12 DE 6 255 New York Cardinal Hayes
Zapata Christian 12 DL 6’2 240 Bronx Cardinal Hayes
Azcona Johan 12 DL 6 250 Bronx Cardinal Hayes
Carmona Zoilo 12 DL 5’9 230 Bronx Cardinal Spellman
Arnold Philip 12 LB 6’1 210 Williston Park Chaminade
Schaefer Dan 12 DB 6′ 170 Lido Beach Chaminade
Tariche Sean 12 DB 6’1 170 Garden City Chaminade
Hunte Jared 12 DL 6’5 285 Queens Christ the King
Lester Zephron 11 DL 6’1 270 Queens Christ the King
Sundar Jahlani 12 DB 6’0 170 Queens Christ the King
Kenny Donte 12 LB 5’11 200 Williamsburg Holy Cross
Stroughn John 12 DL 6’1 245 Uniondale Holy Trinity
Rivers Jalen 12 DB 5’10 180 Westbury Holy Trinity
Edwards Jimaar 12 DL 5’11 260 White Plains Iona Prep
Stanton Charlie 12 LB 5’11 185 Hastings Iona Prep
Lambert Jayden 12 DB 5’10 170 Mount Vernon Iona Prep
Wilson Dan 12 LB 6’3 195 Levittown Kellenberg
Deakin Jake 12 LB 5’10 170 Wantagh Kellenberg
Brzezinski Thomas 12 DL 6’5 295 Seaford Kellenberg
Esposito Cole 12 LB 6’1 205 Cortland Manor Kennedy Catholic
Rumpf Wyatt 12 LB 5’10 165 Ossining Kennedy Catholic
Monaco JonMichael 12 DB 5’9 165 Staten Island Monsignor Farrell
Lasako Anthony 12 DB 5’10 170 Staten Island Monsignor Farrell
Mandia Brandt 12 DB 5’11 170 Staten Island Monsignor Farrell
Miller Mausari 12 LB 5’9 180 Staten Island Moore Catholic
Randazzo Joe 12 LB 6’1 230 Staten Island Moore Catholic
Corrado Antonio 12 LB 6’1 220 Bronx Mount Saint Michael
Simmons Jamar 12 DB 5’9 165 Bronx, Mount Saint Michael
Fleetwood Kevin 12 LB 5’11 190 Brooklyn Nazareth
Murphy Mahkai 12 DB 5’10 175 Long Island St. Anthony’s
DePaul Anthony 12 DL 6’1 240 Long Island St. Anthony’s
Espada Nicolas 12 DB 6’0 190 Long Island St. Anthony’s
Fitzgerald Billy 12 DL 6’4 205 Long Island St. Anthony’s
Joyner Jamel 12 LB 6’0 195 Long Island St. Anthony’s
Whitcomb Niko 12 LB 5’11 230 Eaton Neck St. Dominic
Castro Xavier 12 DL 6’1 225 Queens St. Francis Prep
Gasparik Tim 12 LB 6’4 185 Seaford St. John the Baptist
Licata Nickolas 12 DL 5’9 180 Bay Shore St. John the Baptist
Ryan Aidan 11 DB 5’9 165 Staten Island St. Joseph by the Sea
Hoffler Mike 12 DL 6’4 230 Brooklyn St. Peter’s
Torres Eric 12 DB 6’1 180 Brooklyn St. Peter’s
Bossert Tom 12 LB 5’9 215 Staten Island St. Peter’s
Auguste Roberto 12 DB 6’0 180 Brooklyn Xaverian
Hansen Derrin 11 DL 6’2 225 Staten Island Xaverian
Langan Brian 12 LB 6’1 170 Brooklyn Xaverian
Resker Thomas 11 LB 6’1 185 Brooklyn Xaverian
Sosa Jordan 12 DL 6’3 220 Manhattan Xavier
Guzman Milton 12 DL 6’0 235 Yonkers Xavier
Connelly Kevin 12 DB 6’0 185 Queens Xavier
Gwardyak Valerie 12 LB 5’10 180 Staten Island Xavier
Nov 152018
 

By Matt Diano:

Seth Surrett (Sr.); RB/DB – Kennedy Catholic Gaels

Playing for the first time this season as a “solo act” in the backfield after it was announced that his band mate”, Myles Proctor (Single A rushing leader with 978 yards) would be sidelined for their semifinal game against Nazareth Regional, the 5’10, 180-pound Newburgh native [Surrett] would clarify that even if he wears jersey #2 and entered the game trailing his teammate for the top spot among all A Division runners, he most certainly does not play second fiddle to anyone in the NYCHSFL.

The first student-athlete of the 2018 season to be named a Player of the Week on three separate occasions (previously recognized during weeks 1 and 4), the Kennedy Catholic senior would score all three of his school’s touchdowns in their 21-12 victory at home last Friday night.

A defensive stalemate for first 17 minutes of competition, Surrett would break the ice with approximately seven minutes remaining in the opening half when he punched in his 10th rushing touchdown of the season from the 1-yard-line to make the score 7-0 Gaels.

With the KC advantage cut to 7-6 early in the 3rd quarter, again it would be Surrett providing the spark, as he responded to a Nazareth punt by exploding up the middle, cutting to the outside, and then side-stepping a Kingsmen defender to go 42 yards to the house to increase the lead to 14-6.

His third and last score of the evening came about two and a half minutes later (7:08 remaining in the 3rd), when on 3rd-and-8 from his own 33, Surrett would showcase his abilities as receiver, making the grab on a screen-pass and then simply out-running the entire Naz defense, as he cruised 67-yards in front of his own sideline for the backbreaking TD that made the score 21-6.

All in all, by the time the final horn sounded, Surrett had broken his previous career-highs for carries and rushing yards by handling the ball 23 times for 194 yards.  His two touchdowns on the ground marked the fourth time (2x against Nazareth) this season he ran for multiple scores…His three total TDs was the most he had posted since having a three rushing + 1 receiving touchdown effort in the week #1 win over St. Dominic’s….The 261 yards of all-purpose contributions was a new personal-best.

Defensively, he rounded out his night by making four stops, including one for minus yardage.

Now one win away from claiming the first NYCHSFL crown in program history, all that stands in the way of Surrett and the Gaels from taking the trip to Titletown is a third showdown with the defending champions, Cardinal Spellman….Aiding his school in sweeping the regular season home-and-home series by identical 21-7 scores on September 29th and October 26th, Surrett combined to rush for 145 yards and three touchdowns on 18 carries (8.1/carry) between the two contests…Dangerous in any situation where the pigskin is in his arms, he also returned a punt 80 yards for a touchdown during the second meeting.       

EDITOR’S NOTE:  Last Years NYCHSFL “A” Defensive Player of the Year, Cole Esposito, The 6’1, 205-pound Cortlandt Manor resident played what was statistically his finest game ever as a three-year member of the Gael varsity…Falling one tackle short of tying his personal-best of 18 that he established against St. Joseph’s by the Sea on October 19th, it would still be a record-breaking night for #51, as his 11 tackles for a loss and three QB bags were new career-highs.  He cemented his phenomenal performance by generating a turnover on his third forced fumble of the season.

 

Ethan Ortiz (Jr.); FB/DL – Cardinal Spellman Pilots

For the fourth straight season, William Cawley and the Cardinal Spellman Pilots will be advancing to championship weekend.  The Bronx based school successfully earned the right to defend their “A” division crown this past Saturday when they shutout their guests from Oyster Bays, the St. Dominic’s Bayhawks, for the third time this season, 23-0.

Setting the example on both sides of the ball for our defending champions would be the 6’0, 202-pounder local product [Ortiz] who pulled off the rare “double-play” on November 10th, scoring points on both offense and defense.

A seldom utilized option out of the backfield in 2018, Ortiz entered the game having carried the ball just 12 times this season for 97 yards…However, despite only taking one hand-off for an 11- yard gain in the two regular games between the two schools, the Pilots’ coaching staff must have seen a match-up they felt they could exploit, as Ortiz would be fed a season-high eight times last weekend, gaining 40 yards and scoring one of the three rushing touchdowns earned by Spellman.  This was just his second TD of his junior campaign, with his first introduction to the end zone coming all the way back during a week #4 loss to the Pilots’ finals opponent, Kennedy Catholic.

Defensively, the 11th grader would be equally imposing, as he tied his career-high of 20 tackles (previously set against this same Bayhawk squad on October 6th), including one stop that in the Dom’s end zone that resulted in a safety.  These two points would give Ortiz eight overall on the afternoon, making him the team’s leading scorer for the day.

Ortiz, who has posted double-digit tackles games in eight of his nine appearances in 2018, will step onto the Mitchel Field Athletic complex this weekend as the leading tackler in the “A” division with 121 stops.   This statistic also ranks him 2nd in all of the NYCHSFL and places him 6th in terms of the Empire State as a whole…

Taking into consideration that the path to a Spellman repeat will likely involve the ability to shutout the 1-2 punch of Proctor and Surrett, it goes without saying that #34 in Scarlet & White will need to be at his best on November 17th…In two games this season against the Gaels, he has averaged 13.5 stops.  As impressive as this may be, the bar may be set even higher if the “w” is in the cards.

 

Milton Guzman (Sr.); OT/DT – Xavier Knights

As Knights’ Head Coach, Chris Stevens, phrased perfectly, “What a difference a few weeks can make.”…When Xavier and Holy Trinity met during the regular season on October 13th, the two school combined to score 57 points (29-28 Titan victory) and accumulate 664 yards of total yardage.

This past Sunday, in a CHSFL double-A semifinal contest that pitted the #2 seeds from the Eastern Conference [HT] against the #3 from the West [Xavier], points would be at a premium and the NYC school would get their revenge, as the lone score of the game would come in the last 90 seconds of the third quarter when Anthony Bruno finished out a 92-yard drive with a touchdown run to send the Knights back to Championship weekend for the first time since they won it all in 2015.

Opposed by a Titan offense that took the field averaging 33 points and just under 305 yards of total production (249.9 on the ground), the Knights would be unrelenting and punishing in their pursuit of Holy Trinity ball carriers…Holding their hosts from Hicksville both scoreless (the third consecutive shutout posted by the Maroon & Blue) and under 100 yards rushing for the first time this season, there is no doubt that we are witnessing a flashback to the days of Frank Masella, Zach Cilmi, Rory Kinsella, Anthony Pugliese, Clayton Kendrick-Holmes, Malik Fisher, and all of the other members of that impenetrable defense from three years ago that swallowed up enemy running backs like a black hole…The only difference is that the names and faces of the personnel have changed…Instead of the gentlemen cited above, the new wave of superstars are known as Valery Gwardyak, James Donaldson, Kevin Connelly, Jordan Sosa, and especially the 6’0, 235-pounder out of Yonkers, [Milton] Guzman.

Hailed by his head coach for the ideal timing of his big afternoon, Guzman had would be credited with a season-high 10 stops (4 solo, 6 assisted) in last Sunday’s semifinal triumph…Entering the game tied with Sosa for the team-lead in tackles for a loss, #54 for Xavier now sits alone atop the stat sheet, as his two TFLs give him 11.5 on the season…To complement his stellar effort, Guzman would also tack on his second sack of the season, and remarkably recorded yet another fumble recovery, making it two appearances in a row and three of his past four games that his alertness yielded a turnover.

Having passed one immense test in the semis, the Knights defense will now face their greatest challenge in the finals when they square off with defending AA champs, Kellenberg Memorial…The owners of the #1 offensive in the entire NYCHFL (40.9 ppg), the Firebirds have run for 2,957 yards and 45 touchdowns in 2018….In the first meeting during week #3, the Xavier defense did a solid job holding KMHS to 20 yards on the ground (91 yards less than their seasonal average)…Guzman would make four tackles, including one for negative yardage on September 22nd.

 

Thomas Cipolla (Sr.); OT/DE – Kellenberg Memorial Firebirds

The captain, anchor, and heartbeat in the trenches for the defending AA champion Firebirds, there is not much, if anything, that occurs along the line of scrimmage that the two-year starter out of Island Park does not have an integral role in making happen.

A force on both sides of the ball, at 6’4, 243-pounds, the KMHS 12th grader is difficult to miss on the sidelines because of his stature, but impossible to overlook on the field because of his skillful and often times dominant level of play.

Forced to abandon the balanced offensive scheme they prefer due to excessive winds last Saturday night, Kellenberg would rely heavily on the ground game in their semifinal game against Fordham Prep.   With 41 of their 46 offensive plans coming in the form of a run, much of the success enjoyed by the Blue and Gold in their 47-20 victory would be a byproduct of the spectacular performance put forth by Cipolla and his line mates…Running behind their stout right tackle, seven different KMHS student-athletes would take a turn at carrying the ball, as the Hanifan guided program established new season-highs for attempts (41), yardage (384), and touchdowns (7) in punching their own ticket back to championship weekend!

Led by the three touchdown apiece showings of Matt Sluka (77 yards on 16 carries) and Jordan Delucia (191 yards on 16 hand-offs), Kellenberg would find the end zone from distances of 21, 21, 42, 1, 41, and 8 yards out through the first three quarters…Well in control of the contest (up 40-14) at the time, Kellenberg added one final TD on the ground when senior, Nick Repoli, scored his first touchdown of the year on a 13-yarder early in the 4th quarter…While he did not score, another senior, Frankie Roder, contributed 66 yards on just three carries.

Demonstrating that there is “no rest for the wicked,” to borrow from a Cage the Elephant tune, the honors student/Eucharistic Minister/Marianist mentor would play almost every snap of the game…Teaming up with fellow senior, Paul “PJ” McGuinness, Cipolla earned the praise of his head coach, who stated the following: “Our ends were flying off the edge in every pass situation, causing great discomfort to the always potent the Rams’ aerial attack.”…Recording one of his school’s six sacks on the night, #71 was consistently in the backfield, finishing the game with three stops in total, a caused fumble, countless QB hurries in helping Firebird Football Nation to their 21st consecutive win.

With just one game remaining in his Kellenberg career, look for Cipolla to close out his scholastic career in fitting fashion.   In the initial meetings with the Knights, as noted above, Xavier did do a fine job of slowing the running attack.  However, Cipolla would provide excellent pass protection, giving Sluka all the time he needs en route to setting a career-high with 232 passing yards…On defense, he was a key part of a unit that limited the #3 rusher in the AA division, Dan Vittiburga, to his lowest output of 2018, as he gained just 59 yards on 16 carries.

 

Jalen Smith (Jr.); RB/WR – Cardinal Hayes Cardinals

A team that on paper was never supposed to get this far in the triple-A playoffs, the CJ O’Neill guided Cardinals has emerged as the Cinderella story of the NYCHSFL postseason following a pair of victories over opponents who had previously defeated them during the regular season.

Seeded 5th in the bracket with a 2-4 record, Cardinal Hayes would turn some heads and made a statement in the quarterfinal round when they transformed a 26-24 loss to Monsignor Farrell during week #4 into a 33-9 triumph two weeks ago…This past Friday, the Cardinals would do something that no other New York Catholic school had succeeded in doing since 2014; they went on the road to South Huntington to face top-seeded St. Anthony’s and walked away with a “w“ by a score of 26-25.  This semifinal victory over the favored Friars came just four weeks removed from a 56-32 loss on the same field.

So, what might you ask has been the catalyst behind this unforeseen rally to the AAA finals? One possible answer has been the growth of a defense that went from giving up nearly 38 points per game early on (1-3) to a unit that has surrendered an average of just 17 during the most recent four-week stretch (3-1)…But, another logical and valid explanation could be found in the person of the 5’9, 165-pound junior, Smith.

The primary target of fellow junior/returning All-State QB, Sofian Massoud, in the aerial attack for much of the 2018 season, Smith entered the playoffs as the team’s leader in every major receiving category with 40 catches for 542 yards and seven touchdowns…And while he continued to be a steady presence in this aspect of the game (six snatches for 84 yards total in the postseason; 3 grabs for 36 yards specifically in the semifinals), what has really stood out about him of late has been his increased involvement within the Hayes rushing attack.

Carrying the pigskin no more than three times in any game during the regular season, prior to the playoffs, #23 had a career-high of just 41 yards running, which he established during that week #6 defeat at the hands of St. Anthony’s….But alas, in the past two weeks alone, Smith has had his number called 23 times for a total of 214 yards, including his first two TD runs (one each week)…Barely missing his first 100-yard effort in the quarterfinals when he finished with 98 yards on seven attempts, Smith would easily surpass the milestone in the semis, as he accumulated 116 yards on 16 hand-offs (7.3/touch).

With the Cardinals already leading 6-0 in the 1st quarter, Smith would showcase a level of field vision and elusiveness that you’d expect to only see from a polished running back, when he completed a Hayes drive in the last 3:00 of the opening quarter by traveling 21 yards on consecutive hand-offs to increase the lead to 12-0.  The TD run itself, which came from a distance of 12-yards was highlighted by the 11th grader dragging multiple Friars defenders with him as he muscled his way across the goal line…Massoud added the 2pt conversion on a QB keeper to up the advantage to 14-0.

Now trailing 25-14 midway through the 3rd quarter, Smith would have a sizeable impact on the drive that awoke Hayes and put them back in the ballgame….Facing 3rd &4 on his own 14-yard-line, he would preserve the drive by being on the receiving end of a 17-yard screen pass…Moments later, with CH having moved to the opposing 30, he exploded for a 26-yard run to put the ball on the 4.  Massoud did the rest, using a QB draw to cut the deficit to 25-20.

Smith would again rise to the occasion on what would end up being the game-winning drive at the onset of the 4th quarter.  Still down 25-20 on the scoreboard, he would catch a pass out of the backfield on 3rd & 6 (on the STA 31) and power/spin his way inside the red zone…Three snaps later, Massoud connected with Michael Escobar on a 14-yard TD strike to put Cardinals in the lead for good.

2-for-2 thus far in gaining vengeance, if Cardinal Hayes wants to hoist the hardware for the second time in the past three years, they will need for the glass slipper to fit one last time as they square off with Archbishop Stepinac in the title game…When the defending league/state champion Crusaders last saw Smith, he carried the ball three times for 16 yards and caught five passes for an additional 42 yards in the 23-20 loss in the regular season finale…But, as is clearly evident, there is no longer the same Cardinal Hayes program and it most certainly is not the same [Jalen] Smith.  So, AS best take nothing for granted!

 

Malik Grant (Sr.); RB – Archbishop Stepinac Crusaders

When previewing last weekend’s semifinal match-ups, we made it a point to mention that the absence of the senior running back from the Crusader line-up during the first meeting with Iona Prep was undeniably a game-changer…Hampered by injuries for much of the first half of the 2018 season, Grant would carry the ball just twice for a gain of eight yards in the 36-34 overtime loss on September 15th. 

What we did not realize (but perhaps should have because of his postseason reputation) is the extent to which the 5’10, 190-pounder from the Bronx would take over the game this past Saturday….A performance so electrifying, mind-blowing, and unprecedented, to call it a “career day” would be to fail to do it the justice that it warrants…Young Mr. Grant did not simply post a new personal-best for rushing yards; he created a standard and landmark that may never be approached, let alone equaled or surpassed by another NYCHSFL student-athlete.

Exhibiting the caliber of leadership that you’d expect and demand to see out of a senior hungry to extend his scholastic career, Grant would have the kind of game that your grandkids will tell their grandkids about half a century from now.

Carrying the ball 32 times (personal high), Grant would erupt for 405 yards (12.7/touch) and score three touchdowns (his first career 3 TD game) in sending the Crusaders to title weekend for the fifth straight year, following their 37-26 road victory over the Gaels….The inaugural member of the 400-yard club in the NYCHSFL, Grant did not just knock IP out of the 2018 postseason, he also removed one of their alumni from the annals of history, as his superhuman display shattered the previous record of 393 set by Jeffrey Mack in 2008.

His team holding a 10-7 edge at the time, Grant made the first of his previously acknowledged three pilgrimages to the promised land with approximately 6:00 remaining in the 1st half, when he answered an Iona Prep touchdown by rocketing 65-yards up the middle on the first play of Stepinac’s ensuing position to make the score 16-7….Grant would add an additional two points to his team’s tally just before the intermission (13.8 ticks remaining) when following the second TD hook-up of the afternoon between senior WR Shawn Harris and junior signal caller, Joey Carino, he would find himself on the receiving end of a very unusual (pushed back due to penalties) 18-yard two-point conversion pass to make the score 24-7.

The Crusader advantage trimmed to 24-14, the memories of Iona Prep rallying from a 14-point deficit in the 4th quarter of the first meeting would not be lost on Grant….Powerless to stop the momentum shift in September, he would show no mercy and take no chances last Saturday, punching in his second touchdown of the game on a 9-yard run with 3:33 remaining in the 3rd quarter to make the score 30-14.

Unable to shake or break the spirits of the second-seeded Gaels for much of the day, it would be fitting that it was Grant who inflicted the death blow, as his third and final touchdown came with 8:20 remaining in regulation when on a 3rd & 4 inside the IP 5-yard line, he battled his way into the end zone to make the score 37-20.

Grant, who dating back to last season’s state title victory over Canisius, has now rushed for 130, 170, and 405 yards (as well as six collective touchdowns) respectively in his last three playoff contests, should anticipate another heavy workload on November 17th….Rushing for 79 yards on 14 carries (his only sub-100 game since the end of September), but kept off the scoreboard in Stepinac’s 23-20 win over Cardinal Hayes in week #8, if one thing is guaranteed, it is that #4 in the red, white, and blue jersey is not going down (literally or figuratively) without a heck of a fight.

By virtue of Grant’s 400+ yard day in the semifinals, he will step onto Mitchel Field as the current #1 ranked rusher in all of the NYCHSFL.  His 1,284 yards gives him a +48 lead over Kellenberg’s [Jordan] Delucia…So, with both studs playing for divisional crowns this weekend, the rushing race should make for an intriguing sidebar.

Nov 082018
 

By Matt Diano:

Sean Fleming (Sr.); TE – Iona Prep Gaels

Two years ago, the Monmouth University commit was a 190-pound sophomore who made just 13 catches for a Gael program that won the 2016 Double-A title…Fast-forward to the present time and what you now have is a 6’4, 235-pound stud who looks every bit the desired prototype for the tight end position…A testament to the amount of blood, sweat, and tears the Dobbs Ferry resident has sacrificed during the transformation process, it is not just Fleming’s physical traits that have grown; so too has his overall skill set and the level of impact he has been able to make as a part of this high-octane IP passing attack.

Taking to the field on Saturday evening needing just one reception to equal his 2017 season total, the Iona Prep captain would explode for nine catches for 71 yards (just eight yards short of tying his previous single-game best from last season) in propelling the host Gaels to a 42-21 victory in the quarterfinal round of the AAA playoffs…Among these nine grabs, three would result in IP touchdowns, giving Fleming the first three-score performance of his scholastic career.

By virtue of his statistically best game in Maroon & Gold last weekend, Fleming has successfully surpassed all of his records from a season ago, as he now has 50 catches (42 in 2017) for 478 yards (463 last year) and seven touchdowns (6 as a junior)…His 50 catches currently ranks 2nd in the NYCHSFL (behind only teammate, Matthew Panker’s 55) and puts him in a tie for 11th overall for most catches this season in the entire Empire State.

Fleming would catch his first TD of the game on his school’s opening possession of the game, capping off a sub-.2:00 drive by catching a 13-yard dart over the middle to give Iona Prep the initial 7-0 lead…He would add his second touchdown of the game late in the 3rd quarter when he caught a pass on 3rd & goal from the 7 and stretched across the line to make the score 28-14 in favor of the #2 seeds from New Rochelle….His third and final score came in the last 3:20 of regulation as again he made a grab short of the line and then dove his way in for a touchdown…Fleming also had a 2pt-conversion reception in the 2nd quarter to wrap up his night with an even 20 points.

The Gaels will now host #3 seed, Stepinac in the AAA semifinals…When these two programs met during the regular season, it would be a late IP rally (trailed 28-14 in the 4th), coupled with a clutch stop on a two-point conversion attempt that yielded a 36-34 overtime victory over the defending State Champions….Fleming had five catches for 52 yards and one touchdown as a part of the win.

 

Maurice Sherrod (Sr.); OL/DL – Cardinal Hayes Cardinals

It was an evening of redemption this past Saturday for Head Coach, CJ O’Neill, and the Cardinals of Cardinal Hayes High School….Just five weeks removed from witnessing their 11-point lead at the half get squandered in a 26-24 week #4 loss to the Lions, the boys from the Bronx could not have picked a more perfect moment to play their most complete game on both sides of the gridiron.   They advance to the semifinals for a fourth straight season behind a 33-9 triumph on the road over Monsignor Farrell.

A defense that surrendered an average of over 30 points per game during the regular season, if you were to judge Hayes based solely on their performance during the quarterfinal round of the triple-A play-offs, you’d think they were the 1970s Steelers (Steel Curtin) based on how well their line executed in the trenches.

Pitted against the regular season rushing king in the triple-A division, Vin Wagner, the Cardinals’ DL would hold the Farrell senior to his lowest production of the season (note: not including week #2 where an injury forced him out early), limiting him to a modest 77 yards on 16 carries…This strong performance up front marked a significant difference from the first meeting where Wagner rushed for over 200 yards.

Starring in this statement-making effort for the Cardinals was the 6’0, 255-pounder out of the Big Apple…Credited with 11 total tackles, 2 TFL, and zero sacks heading into the postseason, Sherrod would be the best version of himself on November 2nd, making 8 stops (6 solo), including three for a loss of yardage, as well as earning a sack and three QB hurries.

A lock to have been a POTW selection just on his defensive merits, Sherrod would not be content just dominating on one end of the line of scrimmage.  Instead, he would play almost every snap at left tackle, providing supreme protection to his returning All-State quarterback, Sofian Massoud, and making it possible for Hayes’ junior field general to complete 2/3 of his throw attempts (14-for-21) for 160 yards and three touchdowns.

With one hurdle down, the 5th seeded Cardinals will now face a massive challenge in the semifinal round when they square off with top-seeded St. Anthony’s this Friday….56-32 losers when the two schools went head-to-head during week #6 (October 12th), Cardinal Hayes allowed 523 yards of total offense to the Friars.  Hence, if they have any hope of making it 2-for-2 in avenging previous defeats, it will be necessary for Sherrod to pick up where he left off and continue to get the better of the exchanges in the war zone (line of scrimmage).

 

Jonathan Mucciolo (Sr.); OL – Archbishop Stepinac Crusaders

Staying on the topic of behemoth linemen who know a thing or two about what it means to be a bona fide monster in the trenches, for two-years, this 6’5, 297-pound beast has been a linchpin member of what we consider to be quite possibly the finest offensive line in New York State….

A standout at Offensive Guard, anytime you see the Crusaders break a big run, you best bet that more times than not, it was the Mahopac resident that was the one to throw the big block that paved the road for the Stepinac ball carrier…

Such was the case this past Sunday, as Mike O’Donnell notched his 200th career win and  his team took their first steps toward defending their league and state crowns when they defeated visiting Christ the King by a comfortable 51-13 margin.

Accumulating close to 600 yards of total offense behind the wall of protection provided by Mucciolo and his line mates, Stepinac would rack up over 300 yards on the ground, including four touchdowns (Malik Grant-2 on runs of pair of 13-yard runs; Shawn Harris-1 on a 38-yarder; Joey Carino-1 on a 1-yard QB sneak), while also passing for 265 yards (Carino went 14-for-19; 3 TD passes)

As a result of their unstoppable rushing attack on November 4th, the Crusaders have officially surpassed their running total from all of 2017, as they have improved from 2,218 yards (184.8 per game) a season ago to an astounding 2,296 yards (250.9/appearance) this year despite playing three fewer games…With #64 in red, white, and blue serving as their personal chaperon, three Crusaders (#1 Grant-879; #7 CJ Wise-486; and #9 Mekhi Green-376) currently rank in the top-10 in rushing yards this season in the triple-A division.

Stepinac will have the daunting task of trying to keep their repeat bid alive when they go into hostile territory to face the 2nd-seeded Iona Prep Gaels…And while the game of inches may have cost the Crusaders the opportunity for victory during the regular season, there is still much reason for optimism…Competing without the services of Grant for much of the contest, AS still managed to run for a season-high 369 yards and scored four TDs on the ground.

Mucciolo is committed to Sacred Heart University where he will join former NYCHSFL royalty, Randy Brito and Lucas Nunez (both of Cardinal Hayes), as well as St. Anthony’s alum Eli Terry, and Brendan Whitehead (Kellenberg) in suiting up for the Pioneers in the fall of 2019.

 

Jack Goodkin (Sr.); WR/LB – Fordham Prep Rams

It is said that one spark is all that is needed in order to start a five-alarm blaze…For the 2017 Double-A runners-up, Fordham Prep, that flare would be delivered by senior wide-receiver/linebacker, Jack Goodkin, in the most unusual of ways during Saturday’s 39-12 quarterfinal win over St. John the Baptist.

With the Rams trailing 6-3 in the second quarter, the visiting Cougars looked to have all of the momentum until the 5’11, 200-pounder from Briarcliff Manor instantly turned the tables by transforming a negative into a positive…Marching deep into SJB territory, Fordham Prep would have their drive prematurely ended on an interception.   However, rather than accept the loss of possession, #36 would bolt like a bat out of hell, chasing down and stripping the Baptist defender to win back control of the pigskin.  His hustle and grit would prove to be a catalyst as a few plays later, FP would take their first lead of the game (10-6) on a strike from senior QB, Derek Bufano to junior receiver, Owen Loffredo…This turnover into touchdown conversion would mark the beginning of a 36-0 unanswered streak as the #2 seeds out of the Western Conference never looked back again en route to securing a semifinal berth for the fourth time in the past five seasons (including a 2014 title journey in the “A” division).

Speaking of the string of 36 consecutive points, Goodkin would not only be the motivating factor behind them, he also was a central figure during the rally, scoring on three of his six total catches to account for 18 points…A true Cougar killer, after previous personal best of 89 receiving yards and two touchdown receptions in last year’s game against this same foe, Goodkin would establish new career-highs in all receiving categories, finishing with 147 yards to go along with his aforementioned 6 grabs and three touchdowns.

By virtue of his huge afternoon during the first round of the postseason, Goodkin has now taken over the team lead with seven TD receptions and has moved into second place for cumulative catches with 25 in 2018.

He added to his “outstanding game” to borrow the term used by FP Head Coach, Pat Deane, by contributing four tackles on defense.

Goodkin and the Rams’ mission will be two-fold this weekend as they attempt to advance to title weekend in back-to-back seasons while also seeking revenge on the team who denied them the crown in 2017, Kellenberg Memorial.

 

Jalen Rivers (Sr.); RB/DB – Holy Trinity Titans

Playing in what was by far the best game of the opening weekend of the NYCHSFL playoffs, to say that Holy Trinity’s 27-26 victory over Moore Catholic went down to the wire would be an understatement.

Entering the game with many of the pundits expecting to see an extremely run-heavy game plan (as we ourselves predicted in the quarterfinal preview), Rivers and the Titans would make us all eat a big bowl of crow this past Sunday…Tying their season-high in pass attempts with 15, the 5’10, 175-pound Westbury native had a sizeable hand in enabling his fellow senior, field general Ryan Razzano, to post a new 2018 best with 10 completions…On the back end of four of those double-digit connections, Rivers would increase his already team-leading pass catching numbers, as his four grabs for 59 yards and one TD would put his seasonal totals at 20 snatches for 289 yards and five scores.

Getting the host Titans off to a great start, Rivers would be the recipient of the first of Razzano’s three touchdown passes, when he caught a 31-yard strike to give the Green & White the 7-0 advantage at the end of 12 minutes.

Used as a spot ball carrier throughout the afternoon, Rivers would tack on an additional 17 yards rushing on five attempts to finish the game with an all-purpose total of 76 (his second highest total of 2018 if you exclude kick and punt returns).

As solid a job as he did on offensive, what really set Rivers apart from many of his peers was the career-defining day he put forth on the other side of the ball…Known for his consistent tackling skills, #43 would establish individual highs in both total tackles and TFL, being credited with nine and three respectively.  His nine stops led a HT defense that limited Moore Catholic’s star tailback, Justin Lacks, to a season-low, 61 yards on the ground.  The 26 points scored by the Mavericks were also 11 less than the team average in games that Lacks played all 48 minutes.

The #2 team in the Eastern Conference will now turn their attention to a semifinal showdown against Xavier (who they defeated 29-28 on October 13th)…In the first meeting between the Titan and the Knights, Rivers would catch a four-yard TD pass for his lone reception of the game; he also added 18 ground yards, as well as five tackles and a sack on defense.

 

Valery Gwardyak  (Sr.); LB – Xavier Knights

“Offense fills the seats, but defense wins championships.”  These were the words expressed by Knights Head Coach, Chris Stevens, following Xavier’s 27-0 blanking of Xaverian last Sunday night in the NYCHSFL Double-A play-offs…Seeded 3rd in the east, the shutout over the Western Conference champ Clippers makes it three years in a row that the Maroon & Blue platoon has gone on the road and knocked off higher placing opponents in the first round of the postseason.

Known for their long history of posting goose-eggs on defense, because this year’s Xavier squad is the school’s most offensively gifted since the 2012 season (averaged 28 ppg during the regular season), more times than deserved, the “D” has gotten the short end of the stick when it comes to handing out praise…However, true to the tradition and consistent with what you would demand and/or expect to see out of a Stevens’ mentored group, as the games have taken on greater importance, the defense has responded by turning up the intensity…Unscored upon in their past eight quarters of work, the West 16th Street posse has been unforgiving, unrelenting, and punishing down the stretch…And at the heart of it has been their 5’10, 180-pound power backer [Gwardyak].

The reigning Defensive Player of the Year for the Knights after leading the team in stops with 79 (including 8 TFL) as a junior in 2017, the Staten Island resident has not shown a hint of slowing down in his final season as a Xavier student-athlete…Sitting in the familiar spot atop the team leaderboard with 51 tackles during the regular season, Gwardyak’s effort this past weekend would only pad his cushion, as he posted a season-best 11 stops (5 solo, 6 assisted), while tacking on his first full sack of the season and adding a pass deflection for good measure in holding the opponent to under 200 yards of total offense.  He has now reached double-digit stops in consecutive games after putting up a 10-tackle game in the season finale versus St. Francis Prep.

However, while we would never deny the impressiveness of his stat line, much like Goodkin above, it was not just the quantity of his numbers that won us over; it was also the quality and intangibles attached to his output that made the greatest impression…And, identical to the aforementioned Ram, it was a forced fumble by Gwardyak that ultimately served as a game-changer…With Xavier clinging to a 7-0 edge in the 3rd quarter, the Clippers would mount a potential game-tying drive, advancing the ball to midfield.  But alas, that attempt at squaring up the score would meet a premature demise as #44 would jar the ball loose and return it to the opposing 33…A few plays later, Dan Vittiburga would punch in his second TD of the game to double the lead to 14-0…The Knights would never look back, as the turnover ignited a 21-0 streak to end the game.

Riding the wave of confidence that results from holding a former NYCHSFL Offensive Player of the Year [Roberto Auguste] to a meager 29 yards on the ground in the first round of the playoffs, Gwardyak knows that the challenges will not get any easier in the semis, as he will be tasked with containing a Holy Trinity rushing attack that has accumulated 2,248 yards and 32 touchdowns in 2018….When these two schools played on October 13th, the Titans gained 259 yards and scored three touchdowns in emerging with the 29-28 victory…And while Gwardyak (9 total tackles; season-best 3 TFL) would perform well individually in the losing effort, he knows that it will be his responsibility to elevate the entire team if they hope to return to AA title game for the first time since winning it all in 2015.

 

Matt Sluka (Sr.); QB – Kellenberg Memorial Firebirds

The last time that the defending Double-A champion Firebirds played St. Peter’s during week #7 they needed a touchdown in the last 1:00 of regulation in order to preserve their two-year unbeaten streak

This past Saturday, the 6’3, 205-pound red-headed assassin [Sluka] made sure that the rematch would be a lot less dramatic, as he accounted for five touchdowns (four rushing, 1 passing) in improving his career record on the varsity level to 20-0 behind the 48-14 victory.

An absolute phenom who may deserve to have his #10 jersey retired the moment the clock hits 0:00 in his final game for the Blue & Gold, what is heavenly about a player like the Roslyn native is that as dominant as he is during the regular season (and trust us, he is plenty dominant; 1,786 yards of total offense/23 total touchdowns), he seems to possess the uncanny ability to find an entirely new gear once the postseason rolls around.  It is as if the first eight weeks of the year are a mere warm-up act and the playoffs is the featured attraction.

Scoring 10 total touchdowns (an average of 3.3) in last year’s three-game trek to Titletown, Sluka would post a career-high six total touchdowns (5 rushing + 1 passing) in the finals victory over Fordham Prep to earn Offensive MVP honors…Using last year’s championship weekend effort as proof that he is an individual who is known to perform his best the higher the stakes, if five touchdowns in the quarterfinals on November 3rd is the starting point for Sluka this postseason, one can only imagine what he has instore for the crowd during the next two weeks (should KMHS return to the ‘ship).

Carrying the ball 14 times for 140 yards and the previously cited four touchdowns last Saturday, Sluka needs just 55 yards rushing during the semifinal round to earn his second 1,000-yard season in as many tries.

The two-year starter under center would break the ice quickly in the first quarter, scoring on an 8-yard dash to give KMHS the early 7-0 advantage…Following an Eagles’ score to knot the game at 7 apiece, Sluka would notch his second TD of the opening 12 minutes when he took the keeper up the middle and then cut to the outside to run 60-yards down the near sideline to make the score 14-7….Now leading 21-7, Sluka would record his third rushing TD of the game on Kellenberg’s initial drive of the second half, shedding several tacklers and spinning into the end zone from 6-yards out to make the score 28-7…The quattro would come with 6:30 remaining in the 3rd quarter when Sluka capitalized off of a St. Peter’s turnover (fumble caused by Jake Deakin, recovered by Alain Telfort) by hitting Bobby Filshie with a 24-yard strike over the middle to move the ball to the 16-yard line and then took it the rest of the way on the next play via QB keeper…As a cherry on top, Sluka (6-for-9 passing; 88 throwing yards) would side-step a pursuing defender and toss a perfect 24-yard pass into the back of the end zone to find Frankie Roder to make the score 41-14 in the last minute of the 3rd.

Sluka and the ‘Birds will now prepare themselves for a semifinal showdown against a very familiar foe in Fordham Prep….A perfect 3-0 in his scholastic career against the Rams, we already told you about his title-game brilliance from last November.  However, it should be noted that in two regular season meetings (including the 2018 finale on October 26th), the reigning 2nd-team All-State selection has been lights out, rushing for a career-best 244 yards and three TDs last season and then flipping the script two weeks ago by connecting on 6-of-8 attempts for 121 yards and three touchdowns in the air (also ran for 64 yards and 1 TD)…So, with 13 overall TDs (9 rushing, 4 throwing) among three head-to-head match-ups, there is no situation in which FP can and/or should feel safe.