Nov 282022
 

Article by Matt Diano

 

Charlie English (Sr.); RB/SS – Fordham Prep Rams

Singled-out for recognition for the third time this season (previously POTW honors in weeks 1 and 7) the 5’11, 175-pounder [English] will forever remember the final occasion in which he donned the Ram colors on the gridiron…

Participating in the 99th rendition in one of the greatest traditions in scholastic sports (first meeting occurred in 1887) before taking his talents to Middlebury College next fall to play for the Panthers, English capped off a brilliant varsity tenure by shining on both sides of the ball in Fordham Prep’s 41-25 victory over rival/2022 AA-2 Champs, Xavier!!

The victory, the fourth in the past five chapters for the Bronx based program, raised their overall lead in the saga to 53-41-4!!!

Literally saving his finest showing for the very end on offense, it is not very often that a player can overshadow a teammate’s 5TD passing display (Matthew Moorehead; 16-for-241), but that is exactly what the senior captain succeeded in achieving, as he rushed for a career-high 173 yards on 16 carries to crack the 1,000-yard milestone for the year (1,001 on 171)…

His last act being a 66-yard TD run (his 13th of the season) late in the 4th quarter that closed out the scoring for FP, even when he was the not the one punching the ball across the goal line, his fingerprints were evident…

On Fordham’s first series of the morning, it was his 41-yard dash that moved the ball across midfield and into the red zone (own 30 to opposing 19) to set up Moorehead’s eventual 25-yard connection to Tommy Gies (3 receptions, 51 yards, 2 TD hauls) to break the ice (7-0 3:30 remaining in the 1st)…

Demonstrating his versatility out of the backfield as a pass-catcher, the longest of English’s 3 grabs (career-best 74 yards) occurred on the last possession of the 1st half, as his 43-yard catch put the Maroon & White on the doorstep (XR 4), and served as a precursor to a 4-yard play-action strike from Moorehead to Keegan Doody (4 receptions, 51 yards) with :07 remaining before the break to increase the cushion to 28-12!

On defense, he tied his season-high of 8 stops (5 solo, 3 assisted) and crushed any hope of an 11th hour Knight comeback, when he picked off Xavier QB, Shane Zaletofsky, on the Ram 29 (FP up 34-25) for his second INT of 2022!!…The INT came just moments before the aforementioned touchdown blast! 

Concluding the fall with 51 tackles and the 2 INTs, English ranked 4th and 2nd on the squad in those categories to complement his starring role on offense!!

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Kenneth Antoine (Jr.); RB – Cardinal Hayes Cardinals

If legendary NFL Coach and/or broadcaster, John Madden, was still alive; there is no doubt who his “Turducken” selection would have been following a 38-18 triumph that gave Cardinal Hayes their ninth straight victory (in the 79th installment) in the battle for Bronx bragging rights over 2022 NYCHSFL AA-2 runners-up, Mount St. Michael Academy

Officially credited with three touchdowns (career-high) on the morning of November 24th, the 5’10, 180-pound Harlem resident was even more dynamic and instrumental than the box score suggests…

The “w” still very much in the balance (Hayes leading 26-18), Antoine would truly put his personal stamp on the victory when he accounted for a pair of second half touchdowns (one in each quarter) to create the eventual cushion/separation…

Having already extended the drive when he converted a 4th & 1 on his own side of the field (Hayes 40) by picking up a 9-yard gainer, Antoine culminated a 6:28 march when he struck for his second ground TD of the day on a 2-yard plunge up the middle to make the score 32-18 with 3:12 to go in the 3Q….On the prior snap, he ran for a 9 yards to put himself on the cusp!!….A 26-yard scamper from Sophomore QB, Rich Belin (advanced the ball to the Mountaineer 25), as well as a 15-yard hook-up in the air to Alfredo Perez (to the Mount 10) aided the successful series!

With 4:44 still to be play in regulation, he completed his hat trick on the ground when he followed up a TD QB keeper from Belin that was called back due to a penalty by finding a hole on the ensuing snap and cruising 14 yards to the house…The scoring run was his fourth 10+ yard contribution to the drive, as he also had treks of 19, 12, and 12 at various moments throughout the nearly 6:00 sequence of action! 

Responsible for bookend tallies, Antoine drew first blood with 7:00 remaining in the 1st quarter, when on three consecutive snaps, he broke for a 43-yarder to move the ball to the opponent’s 5, added a 4yrd gain to the 1, and then punched it in!

The Cardinals holding a 13-3 edge, his runs of 21 (to the Mount St. Michael 31) and 15 yards (to the 1) respectively was later cashed in on a 2-yard lunge up the middle by Belin to increase the margin to 20-3 (11:53 still to be contested in the opening half)!

To capture just how insanely good #22 was on Thanksgiving, consider that he notched a trifecta, just missed another (on the later Belin sneak), and had a 26-yard TD sprint in the last 2:30 of the 2nd quarter wiped out by penalty!! 

Antoine’s banner day in his junior finale wrapped up 10 rushing touchdown campaign in 2022!

Nov 232022
 

AA-2 (Xavier Knights)

Shane Zaletofsky (Offensive; Sr.; QB/2B)

The on-field author of the “rags to riches” story that captivated the Metro Catholic football fan base from start to finish, in one year as the architect and/or conductor of Xavier’s vaunted single-wing ground attack, the 5’9, 150-pound hometown kid (resident of Manhattan), transformed a program that went 1-8 in 2021 into your 2022 NYCHSFL Double-A-2 titlists (7-2 record)…The crown was the first earned by the school since 2015!

Regarded as the odds-on favorite (at least in my humble opinion) to be recipient of the Offensive Player of the Year award in the division, Zaletofsky entered the title contest as the leading rusher in AA2 and did nothing but further bolster those immensely impressive numbers,  as he turned in a workhorse-like day, that saw him register 23 of the team’s 37 total carries, for 137 of their sum of 275 yards, and score 3 out of 4 ground touchdowns en route to the dramatic 29-22 victory over Mount St. Michael Academy, in a classic #1 vs. #2 showdown!!

Breaking a 22-22 deadlock with under half a minute remaining in the 4th quarter, it was Zaletofsky notching the hat trick on a 2-yard plunge across the goal line that served as the game-winner for the Knights!!!  

Responsible for bookend contributions, it would be the senior in the #3 shirt propelling Xavier to a 14-0 first quarter lead, as he motored on TD runs of 23 & 25 yards respectively on two of the cohort’s first three possessions!

Following the 5-yard TD run in the 3rd quarter by Mehdi Merah that put Xavier back on top (trailed 15-14 prior), it was Zaletofsky initially being stuffed, but absolutely refusing to be denied, as he battled his way through the rugby scrum into the end zone for the 2pter that created a 7-point margin (22-15) that proved …This conversion proved quite pivotal when the Mountaineers struck on a 65-yard TD connection (Marc Pearson Jr., to Kameron Wheeler) on 4th & 9 late in the final stanza (3:00 remaining in regulation)…Now, instead of the PAT giving MSMA the outright lead, all it did was even the scoreboard…

Accumulating 293 yards and SIX touchdowns (3 apiece) in his two 2022 postseason appearances, Zaletofsky will now head into the 99th Annual Turkey Bowl (vs. Fordham Prep) with season totals of exactly 1,100 yards and 15 touchdowns on land…

A century-mark performer on the ground in 7 of his 9 outings this year (no fewer than 84 in a single game), if he is able to reach his eighth 100+-yard display, you best believe that the Knights will be in business as it pertains to winning for the second time in the past three gridiron meetings (note: does not include the virtual 2020 game won by FP)!

 

Sean Donohue (Defensive; Sr.; Safety)

Completing the back half of what we have casually labeled as the “Shane & Sean Show” was the 5’10, 165-pound, senior defensive back hailing from Queens [Donohue]….

A leader and/or trend setter, both by example and by empirical statistical evidence, for a unit that stepped onto field last Saturday as the owners of the top-rated defense in AA2/#2 overall in the NYCHSFL regardless of classification (allowing only 15.1 points per game), Donohue picked a golden moment to play what was undoubtedly the finest game of his scholastic career….

A 48-minute exhibition in which there was not a box in which he left unchecked from his spot as a Rover LB/Safety, it took him only a handful of snaps to make his presence felt, as he would intercept the first pass attempt of the game from the opposing QB [Pearson] and return it the MSMA 24 to set up Zaletofsky’s TD run on the ensuing play that enabled the Knights to quickly draw first blood!

A case of déjà vu, on the Mount’s next possession, #22 made it two consecutive possession-stealing plays, when he picked off yet another aerial try to give him a pair in a matter of minutes…

The INTs being the signature contributions that most will point at as the rationale for his defensive MVP selection, in truth, he was chosen for the comprehensive body of work he accrued from opening whistle to final buzzer…

Everywhere you looked, you saw #22, and every time the PA announcer made a call, you heard the Donohue name proclaimed!!

Amassing his second double-digit effort of the season, the 12th grader who is exploring both Penn State and the U.S. Naval Academy as potential college destinations, established a new career-best in solo tackles (9) and just missed equaling his personal-high in total stops (14 vs. Moore Catholic on Sept. 17th) by racking up 13 bone-chilling hits during championship weekend…

Earlier, we mentioned the importance of Zaletofsky’s clutch 2pt conversion…Well, these same sentiments could/should be just as easily extended to Donohue, who following the Mountaineers’ second TD of the game (14-12 in the 2nd quarter), prevented the foes from the Bronx from tying the contest when he spied Pearson on a QB keeper, chased hiSet featured image m down, and then dragged him for a loss of 3 yards to spoil MSMA’s 2pt bid!

To complement his fine fine (one for each interception) resume, Donohue tacked on two pass break-ups and a QB hurry to the box score!!  

As he readies himself for one final hoorah as a Knight gridiron great on Thanksgiving, he does so as the top man on XR’s totem poll with 72 tackles thus far in his swan song….To boot, he also ranks top-3 in several additional categories—-Fumbles caused (2; 1st), PDs (6; tied for 1st), Interceptions (2; tied for 2nd), Sacks (2; tied for 3rd), etc..

In recognition of his remarkable senior campaign, Coach Stevens has endorsed him as a DPOY candidate! 

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AA-1 (Holy Trinity Titans)

 

Andre Kirton (Offensive; Sr.; WR/DB/Kick Returner)

Not your traditional selection for Most Valuable Player dibs, the 5’8, 175-pound senior [Kirton] was cherished not for what he did on any one particular side of the ball, but rather for the countless offerings he made in a variety of ways that that delivered a second consecutive NYCHSFL crown to Hicksville (HT won AA-2 in 2021) in the form of a 20-14 victory over the Mavericks of Moore Catholic!

The Titans clinging to a 17-14 advantage with just under 5:00 remaining in duration after surrendering a touchdown, it was the #2 jersey electrifying the crowd on the ensuing kick-off, when he fielded the ball on his own 19, started down the visiting sideline, and then cut to the middle of the field to emerge with a 47-yard return that gave the Titans ideal position (MC 34) on their last possession of the 2022 season….The drive was eventually concluded by a 35-field field goal from Evan Glusic (2-for-2 on FGs) that increased the lead to 20-14 and put the Mavs in the unenviable spot of needing to score a touchdown in the last 96 ticks of action…

Something of a trend and/or habit for the “wearer of all hats”, just as he did late in the 2nd half, Kirton would be front-and-center for the most talked about sequence of the opening 24 minutes, as on the last snap before the break, he spoiled a trick-play attempt (halfback back from RB, RJ Pacheco to QB, John Michalski) when he out-jumped the future Sacred Heart University field general to pick-off the ball on his own 30…From there,  he shook off a tackle, darted all the way to the opposite sideline (in front of his own bench) and raced 55 yards behind two blockers before being pushed out at approximately the MC 15….If perhaps one or two more teammates were there to provide assistance, there is a down good chance Kirton would gone all the way to the house for the “6”!!!…Still, just by causing the turnover inside his own territory, he sent the Green & White into the locker room enjoying a 10-7 edge!  

On Holy Trinity’s initial series of the 2nd half, Kirton toasted his man on a deep route, pulling in a 43-yard grab that moved the pigskin from his own 44 to the opposing 13…Had an untimely fumble (high snap) not resulted in a fumble, there is a very high probability that his reception would have later “barred fruit” and provided insurance!  

Still riding the euphoria of hoisting the hardware for the second time in as many tries as an upperclassman, Kirton will now focus his attention on locking up his collegiate future…Per his twitter, he will be in Happy Valley/Beaver Stadium to watch Penn State square off with Michigan State this weekend!

 

Hopeton James (Defensive; Jr.; DE)

A sometimes overlooked or under the radar presence on a defense that has been ranked #1 (all classification) in points allowed the past two seasons, the 6’2, 205-pound 11th grader [James] certainly looked and acted the part of the game-changing superstar…

A disruptive beast who does not appear to have an “off” switch or know the meaning of “half-speed”, for four quarters on November 19th, he exerted and executed like a man who had a major beef/personal grudge with/against Michalski…

In the face of the Maverick quarterback time and time occasion, the #17 jersey is not traditionally known for defensive greatness in football; but it was elevated to that status during ‘ship weekend!!

Amassing 3 (!!!!) sacks during the title contest, as much as the quantity was impressive, it was the quality of his stops that commanded attention/respect!!

While his fellow DMVPs were all credited with official takeaways, the Titan DL carved his niche in a different manner, as his specialty was making the hit that either induced a punt or put the opponent in such a precarious position that they were forced to gamble…  

With one sack already in the bank, but HT trailing 7-3, James demonstrated his prowess as a run-stopper when on 3rd & 1 in the final 4:00 of the 1st half, he broke into the backfield and combined with senior, Irv Briggs IV, to stuff Pacheco for a 2yrd loss, forcing MC to kick the ball away…That punt would settle on the Titans’ 43 and was later turned into a 54-yard TD throw from Rocco Rainone to Chase Cruz, that gave the Long Islanders a lead (10-7) that they would never relinquish!!     

On the next possession for the #2 seed from Staten Island, it was James’s second QB bag of the afternoon (Moore on the HT 29) that pushed the Mavericks out of field goal range and acted as a catalyst/precursor to Kirton’s interception!!!

James wrapped up his personal trifecta (third sack of the game) with just over 5:00 to go in the 4th (HT up 17-7) when on 3rd & 7, he chased down Michalski to create a loss of nine yards…If not for a roughing the kicker call against HT that gave new life to Moore Catholic, this play would have taken on much greater significance as the FG attempt on the next snap was well short!   

All in all, the heat applied by James resulted in Michalski going just 1-for-6 in the air for a career-low 27 yards! 

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AAA (St. Anthony’s Friars)

 

Dante Torres (Offensive; Sr.; QB)

Referring to him as “Superhuman” in our AAA title game recap, the truth is that the more we had the time to marinate on the subject, the more convinced we became that the 6’4, 190-pound, future Fordham Ram field general was shown the justice or flattery that he warranted after posting one of the most scintillating and mind-blowing performances in NYCHSFL title game history…

An individual that performed like he had something to prove, both to himself and to the pundits in each of the two match-ups with defending AAA League and Catholic State champion, Iona Prep, as a follow-up to a 560-yard (530 in the air)/7 touchdown (4 throwing, 3 rushing) during the regular season (48-42 STA victory on October 1st), the Massapequa resident went off in every way possible in vaulting the Black & Gold juggernaut to their 15th overall crown (1st since 2013), behind a 50-18 triumph over the Gaels!

Tormenting his nemeses from New Rochelle to the tune of a 481-yard/6 score demonstration to close out the championship weekend triple-header at Mitchel Athletic Complex, Torres connected on 14 of 19 pass attempts for 336 yards (4 touchdowns), while simultaneously using his other limbs to collect 145 yards and two additional TD on eight carries!!!

Not only a collision on the team front of whom many regard as the top-2 programs in the entire Empire State, but also pegged as a mano-a-mano shootout with his counterpart signal caller, Ajani Sheppard (reigning Metro & NYS Offensive Player of the Year), it is quite difficult to imagine anyone other than the young man in the STA #3 jersey stockpiling all of the local and state-wide accolades in 2022!!

Teaming up with his favorite target/consensus best WR on Long Island, KJ Duff Jr. (7 grabs for 205 yards), on all four of his touchdown strikes, the duo got the Friars on the board with 5:14 remaining in the 1st quarter when they capitalized off of a Jaeden Jenkins interception (his first of two on the night) by hooking up on an 85-yard exchange on the next snap to give the contingent from South Huntington an initial 7-0 edge!!!

IP having cut the deficit to 7-6 late in the 1st, Torres temporarily traded in the rocket (arm) for the turbo boosters (legs) in the 2Q as he called his own number on TD treks of 4 (10:37) and 76 (6:14 remaining in the half) yards to propel St. Anthony’s to a 22-6 cushion (2pt conversion pass to Duff after the first scoring run)…

“Sticking with the bro that he brought to the party”, Torres closed out an explosive 29-point opening 24 minutes when on 4th & 20, he tossed up a jump ball to his 6’5 weapon [Duff], allowing the heralded junior to high-point the ball, come down on the 1-yard line, and then walk the last few inches to polish off the 30yrd hook up!! 

The all-night tag team of #3 joining forces with #1 did not slow down in the second half, as they combined on mutual hat tricks (Torres’s third TD pass; Duff’s third TD haul) with 3:15 to go in the 3rd quarter, when the latter was somehow left undefended, making for an easy 29-yard pitch-and-catch down the sideline that increased the margin to 43-12…

The final act came on the first play of the 4th quarter, when Duff caught a WR screen, evaded a defender, and cruised into the promised land on an 11-yarder to cap off the Friars’ seven-touchdown/50-point endeavor!!  

On the lone score that Torres did not directly have a hand-in, let it be known that it was his 30-yard completion to Ian Strong (2 grabs for 69 yards) that advanced the ball across the midfield and paved the way for Frank Ruta (63 yards + 1 TD on 13 carries) to eventually dance in from  23 yards out midway through the third stanza (made the score 36-12)….

Having hurled for 953 yards (12 touchdowns) and scrambled for 243 yards (5 TDs) in three postseason appearances, Torres raised his monstrous 2022 stat line to the following: 166-for-244 (68%) for 3,204 yards (35 touchdowns); 474 yards & 11 scores on 65 carries!!!

In a career where he surely owns just about every school passing record possible, the final piece of his unforgettable legacy will come on November 26th as he suits up on one last occasion to face off against St. Francis (Monsignor Martin titlists) with the Catholic State brass ring at stake!    

 

Vincent Spina (Defensive; Jr.; DB)

Deemed as the most outstanding performer off of a starting-11 that could not have played a better game on November 19th, to truly capture and/or appreciate the breadth of both the individual and the unified effort, we have to remind you of just how darn good the Iona Prep offense was this fall…

Nine times in their previous 11 outings (all in a row), the Gaels scored 35 or more points…For the second straight season, the aforementioned Sheppard was the only person in Westchester County history to record a 2,000/1,000 season, as he generated 3,684 yards & 32 touchdowns in his swan song….Colin O’Garro, who seems to have a new college reaching out to him on a weekly basis, rushed for 1,319 yards and 17 touchdowns (both tops in AAA)…

Hence, the fact that Spina and the Friars limited them to their second lowest output of the season is itself an achievement worthy of celebration…

An all-encompassing “pest” or “bulldog” depending on the role he is being asked to assume out of the STA secondary, Spina not only posted team-highs with 12 solo and 14 total tackles (just missing personal-bests of 13 and 17 vs. Stepinac in the regular season finale), but he also logged an interception + return that set up the Friars on the opposing 20-yard line and later was cashed in by Duff’s 2nd TD catch of the night…

A mainstay among a last line of defense that forced Sheppard into an 11-for-22, 95-yard passing evening (his only sub-100-yard throwing day in the past two years), Spina’s INT was one of four earned by St. Anthony’s defensive backs, as he was joined on the list by Jenkins (2) and Kenyon Miles (1)…

Averaging 9.3/stops during the three-game playoff journey to Titletown, Spina currently ranks 2nd on the team in both tackles and sacks with 86 & 2 respectively!!  

 

 

 

Nov 172022
 

Article by Matt Diano

NYCHSFL Playoffs- Semifinal Round (November 12th, 2022)

 

Isaiah Vanterpool (So.); OLB – Moore Catholic Mavericks

They call the 6’1, 185-pound 10th grader [Vanterpool] “Ice” and that is exactly how he has played in helping the Mavericks reach Championship weekend for the fourth time since 2016…

Cool and unshakable (ice water in his veins) by nature, after turning in a very solid regular season that witnessed him collect 41 stops (3 TFLs), the Staten Island resident has elevated his game even further during Moore’s two-game postseason, as he followed up a six tackle, 1 sack effort in the quarterfinals (35-7 win over St. Francis Prep) by registering a seven-stop, 2 sack, one interception performance this past weekend in the program’s 14-7 semifinal triumph over St. John the Baptist in a clash of 2021 Metro Catholic runners-up… 

A contest where points where obviously at a premium and every halting play took on greater magnitude, it was Vanterpool at the center of a significant momentum-shifting sequence when midway through the opening quarter and the visiting Cougars in the midst of a very promising drive (inside the Mav 13), it was the #16 jersey recording his second INT of the year to keep the game scoreless…

SJB would not have as good an opportunity until the very latter moments of the 4th quarter when they finally scored to cut the deficit to 14-7 with under 2:00 remaining in regulation…

On the ensuing onside kick attempt, it was Vanterpool without the slightest hint of nerves, “icing” the dub when he fielded the last-ditch effort and allowed MC to proceed into victory formation!!!  

Sparking the offense for Head Coach, Nick Giannatasio, was the unstoppable duo of senior QB, John Michalski (157 yards on 19 keepers), and sophomore RB, RJ Pacheco (155 yards and 1 touchdown via 23 carries) who combined to accumulate 312 pounds on the ground…Michalski, who was also 6-for-10 in the air for an additional 127 yards, connected with Jay’len Johnson (2 grabs for 46 yards) on a 16-yard strike for MC’s first TD of the afternoon!!!

Up next for the Red & Black will be a rematch of a week #6 instant classic versus Holy Trinity in a collision of returning NYCHSFL finalists (HT won the 2021 AA-2 crown; MC were the AA-1 bridesmaids)…When the two team last played on October 16th, the game seemed headed to overtime before a late score by the Titans allowed them to emerge with the 21-14 victory…

Despite the outcome, Vanterpool’s performance was quite exemplary in the loss to Holy Trinity, as he posted a stat line that read as follows: 6 tackles, 1 TFL, and 2 pass break-ups!…With him roaming around in that OLB/S role, the Moore secondary was able to limit opposing signal caller, Rocco Rainone, to his lowest completion percentage of the year (36.4%; 8-for-22, 65 yards) including inducing a pair of interceptions!!

If the Mavericks are victorious, it would be the school’s fourth NYCHSFL crown, joining the 2003 and 2016 squads that won it in the “A” division, as well as the 2019 cohort that were kings of the AA-2 classification!  

 

Devon Gonzalez (So.); RB/LB – Holy Trinity Titans

Making his post-season debut for the top-seeded Titans after spending his freshman year at Glen Gove, the 5’11, 210-pound, every down standout showed just why Coach Kahmal Roy & company regard him as the future leader of the program on both sides of the line…

Handling the pigskin just seven times on offense, the 10th grade sensation accrued 140 yards and two touchdowns worth of total production, carrying the ball on six occasions for 68 yards, while also hauling in a 72-yard reception…

Singlehandedly responsible and/or an accessory to 50% of Holy Trinity’s four scores in a 28-7 semifinal victory over Fordham Prep, to paraphrase legendary major leaguer, Reggie Jackson, “Gonzalez was the straw the stirred the drink” for the Green & White machine on November 12th

HT, the owners of both the top-rated offense and the #1 defense in the AA-1 division in 2022, clinging to a modest 7-0 advantage at break, it was the “Bull” donning the #14 shirt that put the team on his back and blew open the game in the 3rd quarter…

The igniter, as well as the closer, to a 21-0 rally in the third stanza, Gonzalez doubled HT’s lead when on the school’s first possession of the 2nd half, he found a hole up the gut and motored 28 yards untouched to the house to make the score 14-0…

Later in the 3Q (HT now up 21-0 thanks to a 30-yard pick-6 from Jayden Simpson), Gonzalez tacked on the final TD of the afternoon for Trinity when he turned an innocent screen pass that should have been yielded maybe 5-10 yards into a home run, shaking off and tearing through Ram defenders on his way to the aforementioned 72-yard pilgrimage to paydirt! 

Defensively, Gonzalez was tagged with four tackles as part of the ensemble that shutdown a Ram offense that entered having scored 56 points in their previous two outings…

As the Titans go in search of their second consecutive downstate Catholic brass ring, there might not be a happy person than Gonzalez at the idea of squaring off with Moore Catholic for the second time this fall….During the initial meeting in week #6, he went off to the tune of a 168-yard/1TD rushing (12 carrying) display, highlighted by the 73-yard game-winning trek in the last minute of the 4th quarter! 

 

Tyler Bobe (Jr.); RB – Mount St. Michael Academy Mountaineers

Falling 14-6 during the regular season to Xaverian in a game in which Bobe was not available, the Bronx based Mountaineers got their revenge against the Clippers last weekend and are now headed to the ‘ship for the first time since 2013!!!

His school exploding for 35 points in the semifinals, Bobe may not have been afforded the privilege of crossing the goal line himself on November 12th, but he darn-sure was the one that facilitated just about everything that the Mount managed to execute in attaining their vengeance!  

“Called upon repeatedly any time there was a need for a big play to extend a series,” per Head Coach, Mario Valentini, Bobe established new career-highs in both carries (19) and rushing yards (153)…

An example of his heroics came on the first possession of the afternoon for Mount St. Michael’s, as it was his 22-yard run on 3rd &2 that advanced the ball to the 2-yard line and allowed the “Murdock Mafia” to draw first blood…He later commenced the 2nd half when he darted for a 28-yard gain that moved the ball to midfield and got the wheels rolling on a drive that ended with the final offensive TD of the contest for MSMA (to make the score 28-7)! 

An individual that heats up and/or does his best work down the homestretch, Bobe is now a two-time POTW recipient, as he was previously honored in week #8 of the 2021 campaign after running for a then personal-best of 76 yards/2TDs in a victory over Nazareth Regional…One week after being honored, he recorded the first century-mark (113 yards, 2 touchdowns on 16 attempts) in a quarterfinal loss to Holy Cross!

One of three primary options utilized out of the backfield—Franklin Dominguez (59 yards/1 score on 8 carries) & Jonathan Otoo (46 yards/1 touchdown on 8 hand-offs) being the others—to put into perspective how valuable Bobe’s presence is to the success of the Mountaineers, consider that in addition to their point total skyrocketing, their average yards per carry increased by nearly 2 yards, meaning that the threat of him created better opportunities for his teammates!!

As the second-seeded Mount prepares themselves to face-off with a #1 Xavier that has surrendered just 13 points in their last two appearances and held a very solid Kennedy Catholic running attack to under 100 yards, they know that in order to hoist hardware, they are going to need for #25 to be every bit as good this coming Saturday as he was one week prior!

 

Shane Zaletofsky (Sr.); QB – Xavier Knights

“The best thing about this nomination is that Shane had a great attitude about this situation all season, and he was happy that his contributions helped the team to win acknowledging that his personal accolades were never the most important thing. Sometimes justice prevails and good things come to those who sacrifice and wait.”—Xavier Head Coach, Chris Stevens

This verbatim quote is everything we know and all we cherish as it pertains to the 5’9, 150-pound, senior hailing from the Big Apple [Zaletofsky]!!

Sitting patiently while three of his teammates have been honored this season (his stellar play cited in all three write-ups), Coach Stevens is correct in stating that it is a source of pride to the NYCSFL to at long last recognize a person who personifies the qualities on and off the field that define us as Christians!

And boy did Zaletofsky pick an ideal moment to command the spotlight as his individual exploits are a huge reason why the Knights are headed back to championship weekend for the first time since 2018 and are the favorites to win Double-A prize for the first time since 2015…

Pitted not only in a collective collision between top-seeded Xavier and #4 Kennedy Catholic with a berth in the AA-2 finals on the line, but also in a one-on-one personal clash with the Gaels’ Nick Duryea (93 yards on 16 attempts) to finish atop the Metro  Catholic divisional rushing leaderboard, it was the gentleman in the #3 shirt logging his sixth 100+ yard game of the fall that vaulted the host Knights to a 48-7 semifinal victory against their foes from Somers… 

Challenging his personal record book in two categories, Zaletofsky’s 156 yards on the ground were just four short out of his output during the week #3 match-up with KC, in which he amassed 160 yards on 23 carries (vs. 16 last weekend)…His three land scores were one short of the 4 touchdowns he notched in a week #1 win over Xavier…

And while he may not have etched out new personal-bests, he did succeed on two fronts, as his massive yardage sum enabled him to jump Duryea (963 to 958), and his trifecta of TD runs tied him with teammate, Mehdi Merah (78 yards + 1 touchdown on 8 tries) for co-leader status, as each enters the title game with 12!

Doing his damage in a bookend capacity, Zaletofsky came out of the locker room on fire, as a pair of 1st quarter touchdown runs from distances of 21 and 19 yards approximately three minutes apart (6:52 remaining, 3:48 to go) enabled the Blue & Maroon to jump out to a 14-0 edge after the opening 12 minutes…

The cushion having ballooned to 42-7, Zaletofsky completed the hat trick and rounded out the scoring in the last half minute of the 3rd quarter, as he called his own number and jetted up the middle for the 46-yard TD sprint (his longest run of the night) to account for the final tally!

The ringleader and/or conductor from start to finish in a resurgence that has witnessed Xavier go from 1-8 in 2021 to one step award from being on the mountaintop, it is quite simple to see the caliber of impact he has made in his swan song story!!!  

Gavin Gallagher & Emir Yuksel were also worthy of commendation for their outstanding respective efforts during the semifinal round….The former racked up 151 yards and scored twice on 5 carries (Xavier ended the night with 422 yards and 6 TD running), while the latter scored on a 54-yard pick-6 (one of three interceptions earned by XR)! 

 

Capri Martin (Sr.); DL/NG – Iona Prep Gaels

A consummate champion who has already won team league and state titles on the gridiron, to complement the two individual golds he has achieved on the wrestling mat, there is not a more fitting way for the 6’2, 270-pound nose-guard to close out this chapter of his football career than to go in search of more hardware!!!  

Returning to the Iona Prep line-up after being temporarily sidelined with a minor ailment, the 2021 All-Catholic team member and/or All-State Honorable Mention selection made up for lost time in the Gaels’ 41-28 semifinal victory over Archbishop Stepinac… 

Registering double-digit stops (10), including three that resulted in a loss of yardage, the future Villanova Wildcat lived in the face of opposing quarterback, Will Currid, sacking the Crusader junior on 1.5 occasions!!

A stark contrast from the regular season meeting (also won by IP, 42-35), with Martin applying consistent pressure, the A.S. aerial attack was not nearly as potent/effective, as Currid went from connecting on 33-of-49 passes for 483 yards (5 touchdowns) during week #5 to a more modest 16-for-34, 185-pound (2 TD/2 interception) day in the rematch!

As the representatives from New Rochelle ready themselves for what has become a bi-annual firefight with the top-seeded Friars from St. Anthony’s, Martin is well aware that his ability to bring the heat could be a make it or break it factor versus NYCHSFL OPOY candidate, Dante Torres!!

Torres was responsible for 560 yards (530 in the air) and 7 touchdowns (4 throwing) during the regular season affair…So anything big #0 can do to disrupt him will be valuable! 

Nov 112022
 

Article by Matt Diano

Patrick Bruno (Sr.); WR – Chaminade Flyers

In the words of Australian singer/musician, Luke Hemmings, “Luck does not happen twice.”…So by default, we must say that the 6’1, 175-pound, senior wide-out out of Rockville Centre [Bruno] just might be the ultimate game-changer and/or clutch performer…

Not an individual whose stat line (9 catches for 149 yards, 2 touchdown receptions) this season is going to cause your “eyes to pop out of your head”, the value of the young man wearing the #82 jersey in Crimson & Gold is that he shows up when the stakes are highest and the moment knows no equal….

A hero for the second time in a matter of three weeks, just as he did in the comeback victory in week #7 over Holy Trinity (38-yard TD grab in tight coverage to end a 19-game winning streak for the Titans, 10-7), it was Bruno separating himself from his defender and hauling in a game-winning catch from senior QB, Matt Dieguez (10-for-14, 142 yards, 2 touchdowns) to summon victory from the pits of defeat in Chaminade’s 19-17 quarterfinal triumph over Kellenberg Memorial in a 2022 postseason edition of the Marianist Bowl!!!

The Mineola Mafia finding themselves trailing 17-13 with only 2:05 remaining in regulation, it was Bruno culminating/punctuating a season-saving final drive when on the last snap of the afternoon (:09 to go), he broke over the middle, but then cut back to the outside on the route, where a scrambling Dieguez was able to hit him perfectly in stride on the 1-yard line, allowing the 12th grade receiver to dive across the line for the TD (triple zeroes now showing on the scoreboard)!!!

The touchdown-yielding snatch was Bruno’s ONLY recorded catch of the game, thus adding to his reputation of bringing QUALITY over quantity!!!  

Earlier in the day (the host Flyers trailing 10-3 midway through the 3rd quarter), in a capacity that does not show up in the box score, Bruno played a pivotal role in helping his school to square the game when on 3rd & 1 and the pigskin spotted just beyond midfield, he beat his man down the sidelines and was able to induce a pass interference call that moved the chains and advanced the ball inside the Firebird 32….Three snaps later, Dieguez lofted a gorgeous 21-yard ball over the shoulder top-target, Gavin Creo (5 receptions for 79, 1TD) for the equalizer!!!  

Punching their ticket to the AAA semifinals for the first since they were back-to-back divisional finalists in 2012 (won the crown) and 2013 (runners-up), if the expression is true that “Once is luck, twice is coincidence, but three times is an enemy action,” then the Flyer faithful are sure hoping that when they go toe-to-toe with rivals/top-seeds, St. Anthony’s, Bruno is incendiary!

 

Jericho Ancheta (Sr.); WR – Fordham Prep Rams

Just hours removed from one senior WR wearing that hero’s cape on Long Island [Bruno], it was another of the breed elevating his game and putting his school on his proverbial shoulders out on Staten Island!!

Credited with just one total touchdown reception during his two-year varsity career [per MaxPreps] and staring the end of his scholastic career in the face if the Rams lost, it was the pride of Hartsdale in the #3 jersey [Ancheta] hauling in all three of junior QB, Matthew Moorehead’s (16-for-27, 179 yards) TD passes to send to FP to a 28-14 road triumph over the Vikings of St. Joseph’s by the Sea!!!  

In doing so, the message was emphatically delivered that the class of 2023 on East Fordham Road are not ready to hang up their cleats just yet!!!

The only one of our nine lower-seeded squads (#5) to emerge with a win last weekend, several of FP’s student-athletes played well, but no one held a candle to the 5’10, 170-pound speedster out wide!!

Catapulting the visiting Maroon & White herd to a 14-0 lead at the halfway point, Ancheta was uncoverable in the red zone during the initial 24 minutes, drawing first blood with 4:56 remaining in the opening quarter when on 3rd & 10 on the opposing 20, he’d start in the slot and then run a flag pattern to the corner where he made the grab over a leaping defender to give the Bronx-based program a 7-0 advantage…

With under :40 ticks to go in the 2nd quarter, Ancheta doubled the lead when he crossed over the middle and pulled in the pigskin while airborne to complete the 16-yard pitch-and-catch!

The scoreboard getting mighty closer down the stretch (Rams clinging to the 21-14 edge), the 4th quarter was the stage of his most important TD, as on 3rd & 10 on the Viking 14, he’d shake his man off the snap, find nothing but unoccupied space in the middle of the end zone and then wait as Moorehead hit him for the uncontested strike that iced the “w” with only 2:13 still to spoken for! 

All in all, Acheta concluded the night with four catches (two short of tying his career-best) for a season-high 58 yards!!!

If he hopes to extend his swan song all the way to a berth in the ‘ship, he is going to need to be just as dominant as the Rams prepare themselves for a semifinal showdown with top-seed/2021 AA-2 titlists, Holy Trinity…

When these two bands previously collided (39-0 HT on October 1st), Ancheta was absent…So his presence in the money rematch could very well swing momentum towards the road warriors!

 

Timmy Longo (Sr.); WR – St. Anthony’s Friars

Staying true to the theme of a senior wide receiver dominated weekend during the quarterfinals was the first-time POTW selection of the 5’9, 185-pound, Northport resident [Longo]…

That constant “pest” (in the best possible way) whose game is a lot bigger than his physical stature, throughout the last two years, there were countless occasions that we felt that “this was the week” that Longo joined the list!

Now that his time has officially come, we concur that the wait was worth it, as the true student-athlete (4.0 grade point average) showed out immensely under the awe of the postseason Friday Night Lights in the host Friars’ 57-42 quarterfinal triumph over Christ the King

An evening where both sidelines treated those in attendance to an absolute offensive explosion, it was the #12 jersey being a slight cut above the rest, as he established new personal-bests in both total receptions (8) and touchdown receptions (2) to launch the top-seeds out of South Huntington into the AAA semifinals…

Sweeping the team-lead in all receiving categories on November 4th (the 98 receiving yards was the 2nd most of his varsity tenure), Longo set up the first touchdown of the evening for St. Anthony’s (already leading 2-0 on a blocked punt produced safety) late in the 1st quarter when on 1st down on the Royals’ 15, he caught a WR screen and raced 12 yards to the 3…On the ensuing snap, Senior QB, Dante Torres (19-of-20, 369 yards, 5 TD tosses; 13 yards, 2 TDs on 3 carries) rolled out and scrambled to paydirt!  

On STA’s next possession (early 2nd quarter), it was Longo’s turn to culminate a successful drive, which he did when Torres faked the hand-off and then hit him on a slant over the middle from the 5-yard line for the first of their two touchdown hook-ups (to increase the lead to 16-0)!

Points continuing to fly up on the scoreboard in droves, with the margin sitting at 43-14, Longo struck again on the first possession of the 2nd half for the Black & Gold, as Torres found him over the middle, where he split two defenders and cruised to the house to polish off the 40-yard TD snatch!!!

His senior stat line now reading 22 receptions for 390 yards, and four TD grabs, Longo has already equaled (touchdowns) or surpassed all of his 2021 totals…And he still has as many as three additional appearances to further add to his legacy! 

 

Nick Duryea (Sr.); RB/FS – Kennedy Catholic Gaels

Completing the senior sweep of quarterfinal POTW nominations was the two-way standout hailing from Wappingers Falls [Duryea]….

No stranger to the limelight, either on the gridiron or the baseball diamond (smooth lefty stroke with power), there have not been many (if any) write-ups involving the Gaels during the past three years where the 5’10, 180-pounder did not elicit a reference of some kind…

Stealing not only the show, but the ball on one occasion (registered his second interception of the 2022 campaign), where Duryea truly proved to be invaluable came on offense where his willingness to embrace the roles of both workhorse and thoroughbred was paramount to Kennedy Catholic’s ability to defend home soil, 29-20, over a very determined and upset-minded foe from Holy Cross!!!

Matching or re-writing all of the accolades of his personal record book, Duryea took the hand-off 30(!!!) times (previous high of 20), exceeded 200 yards for the first time in his career (prior best of 150), and scored twice on the ground (his third multi-rushing TD effort of the season) to single-handedly will the “boys of Somers” into the AA-2 semifinals!

Stepping onto his home field for one last hurrah last Friday night, the KC faithful won’t soon forget his name as he found the promised land on treks from distances of 15 and 5 yards to account for 50% of the Gaels’ four total touchdowns…

Known to be an all-purpose RB, Duryea complemented his strong night on land by also aiding the vertical attack, as he hauled in two of freshman QB, Kenneth Dillon’s (10-for-19, 148 yards, 1TD throw) 10 connections for an additional 20 yards of offensive production!!  

On the cusp of his first 1,000-yard/10 rushing TD season (enters the semifinals with sums of 865 and 9), Duryea will definitely have some extra motivation when the Gaels travel to face top-seeded Xavier with a berth in the finals on the line….When the two schools met on September 23rd, he was limited to just 6 yards on 4 attempts; Hence, he has some unfinished business with the Knights!  

Nov 042022
 

Article by Matt Diano

Week #8 (October 28th-29th, 2022)

 

Dylan Page (Sr.); Two-Way Lineman – Kellenberg Memorial Firebirds

Horace & Harvey Grant (NBA), Daniel & Henrik Sedin (NHL), Mike & Bob Bryan (WTA), Ronde & Tiki Barber (NFL), Morgan & Paul Hamm (U.S. Olympic Gymnastics), Tom & Terry Brands (U.S. Olympic Wrestling), and so forth….

All throughout the history of sports have come miraculous stories of how one “egg” managed to produce two superstars!!…And that notion could not be any more valid than in the case of the 6’7, 290-pound, Cornell bound two-way lineman [Dylan Page] and his twin brother, returning All-Catholic field general, Devin!!!

Both two-year starters and each on his way to the Ivy League next fall (Devin is committed to the University of Pennsylvania), today marks another shared experience as Dylan has officially joined his “splitting image” as a NYCHSFL POTW recipient (Devin has been named twice…Week 8 of the 2021 season; Week #3 of 2022)!!

Like a Bette Midler song (“Wind Beneath my Wings”) about being the one in the shadows that has fostered greatness without the need to command attention and/or praise, the future Big Red student-athlete may be unassuming, but his value in the Firebirds’ 28-6 victory in the regular season finale over 2021 Triple-A runners-up, Monsignor Farrell, was worth more than his weight in (Blue &) Gold!!

On the offensive side of the line of scrimmage, his impeccable passing protection and run blocking from the Right Tackle position paved the way for Kellenberg to rack up 431 yards of production and THREE touchdowns (all on the ground)…

In many situations, the “Twin Magic” was front and center, as Devin not only connected on 15 of his 20 throw attempts for 202 yards, but he also topped all KMHS runners with 136 yards on 19 carries….Fellow seniors—Ethan Cumming and Christopher Moore—registered displays of 75 yards/2 TDs on 11 attempts and 17 yards/1 score on 6 hand-offs to account for the output!!

Defensively, Coach Eric Meisse described Page as the “unsung hero”; in a collective demonstration that saw the Uniondale based program hold their guests from Staten Island to their lowest point total of the fall!!! 

Bringing to the table that consummate stout presence that is so imposing that it demands double teams, thus freeing up his teammates—Sean Cannon (10), Jack Ligarzewski (6), and Matthew Watterson (5) to swoop in and pad their stat sheet—Page cumulative impact far exceeds the four stops in which he was credited!  

All in all, with Page headlining the OL, the ‘Birds have racked up 3,287 yards and 29 touchdowns in 2022!!!

He has added 28 stops and 3 sacks (tied for the team-lead) on “D”!

As the fifth-seeded Firebirds attempt to advance to the AAA semifinals for the first time since 2000, it goes without saying that the battle in the trenches is going to be a deciding factor when they travel to face Chaminade in the quarterfinals on November 5th!!  It need not be said that the KMHS staff is going to lean heavily on their beastly ironman to control both sides of the line!!

 

Mario Ferraro (Sr.); WR/DB – Moore Catholic Mavericks

As if they were not already pretty darn scary, if there were only element that the Mavericks were not in need of reinforcements, it would be the wide-receiver position….

Already boasting a formidable trio in the persons of Mattias Lighten, Michael Zeh, and Jay’len Johnson to go along with their All-State QB [John Michalski], it seems that the wealth of riches on Merrill Avenue continued to skyrocket last Saturday afternoon in Moore Catholic’s 25-22 triumph over Cardinal Hayes….

On a day where he was one of 15 seniors honored and celebrated by the home crowd, the 6’3, 185-pound two-way player [Ferraro] emerged with the play of the game, as he ignited the MC offense when on their first possession of the 2nd half (trailing 14-8), he beat his man and was on the back end of a 71-yard special delivery from Michalski that gave the Mavs an edge to which they would not relinquish!

The TD haul, which was the first of the year for Ferraro, was the signature play in an altogether outstanding showing that witnessed him establish a new career-best in total receptions (5), while posting the second-best yardage game of his career with 90!! 

Peaking at the perfect time of the year, 8 of Ferraro’s 12 total catches this season (233 yards) have come during the past two weeks in victories over St. Francis Prep and the Cardinals!!….The Mavs play the (SFP)Terriers in the quarterfinals on Sunday November 6th; so don’t be surprised if Ferraro repeats or surpasses the 3-catch, 20-yard effort in the 32-10 week #7 win! 

Not one to short-change anybody on effort, Ferraro also collected 7 total tackles (1 short of his career-high) and was responsible for inducing a fumble as part of his all-encompassing performance….For the year, he has registered a stat line of the following: 35 stops, 1 sack, 3 pass break-ups)!

 

Dionis Best (Sr.); RB/LB – St. Francis Prep Terriers

“Best” by name and by performance would be how we’d depict the extraordinary outing put forth by 6’0, 174-pound senior hailing from Brooklyn in St. Francis Prep’s 25-14 regular season finale triumph over the Knights of Holy Cross on October 29th in The Battle of the Boulevard!!!

Falling a single-yard short of matching his career-best of 102 yards (on 9/17 vs. Mount St. Michael Academy), Best “saved his best for last” as he recorded the first multi-TD run game of his scholastic career last Saturday afternoon…

Generating touchdowns on two of his six overall carries (for 101 yards), Best’s signature moment came with 6:48 remaining in the third quarter when he took a misdirection hand-off 57 yards down his own sideline to give SFP their first lead of the afternoon (14-6 after the PAT)…

Less than 2:00 earlier, Best struck for the first of his pair of touchdowns treks when he capitalized off of a Knight turnover (fumble) deep in their own zone by plunging across the goal line from 2-yards away to knot the game at 6-6 with 8:17 to go in 3Q!

The 101 yards, the second century-mark performance of his swan song, raised Best’s yearly accumulation to 559 yards on 50 tries (11.2/per)…The two touchdowns gave him six rushing this year (+1 as a receiver)!!!

Getting into the mix on defense to boot, Best registered three stops to increase his quantity in 2022 to 23!!!

As the Terriers get ready to square off with the heavily-favored Moore Catholic Mavs in the AA-1 quarterfinals, it is imperative that the gentleman in the #14 jersey stay fully locked-in…..When the two programs met in week #7, he was contained to a season-low average of 4.5/carry on 10 attempts (45)….It is of the utmost importance that he shine more fully in the rematch!!  

 

 

 

 

Oct 272022
 

Week #7 (October 21st-23rd, 2022) Article by Matt Diano

 

Charlie Battaglia (Sr.); LB – Chaminade Flyers

In a clash of defending Metro Catholic champions (Chaminade in AA-1; Holy Trinity in AA-2) that featured a returning NYCHSFL Defensive Player of the Year (Jameer Reeder), three reigning All-Catholic selections (all on the Trinity sideline), multiple NCAA Division I commits and/or prospects, as well as a pair of on-going winning streaks (HT-19, CHS-3), it was the 6-foot, 220-pound senior LB in the #49 jersey [Battaglia] that showed himself to be the best player on the field on Saturday October 22nd!!  

Pegged as a defensive affair where points would absolutely be at a premium, the contest itself lived up to its billing/reputation as the two Long Island programs that entered averaging a combined tally of 57.6 managed to muster just 17 in the Flyers’ 10-7 matinee triumph on visiting soil!!!  

And through no sheer coincidence, it was the team’s “emotional leader” (as hailed by Coach Dolan) that would be the one at the heart of the play that set up the difference-making score!!!

The battle still scoreless as we approached the final 3:00 of the opening quarter, it was Battaglia intercepting his second pass of the day (he picked off each of the first two throw attempts from opposing QB, Rocco Rainone) inside enemy territory that served as the precursor to junior PK, Timothy Tomlinson, drilling a 28-yarder, that gave the Crimson & Gold a 3-0 advantage with 2:25 remaining in the 1st!

While the deuce INTs (totaling 30 yards in returns, stood out as the signature milestones, in truth, what landed Battaglia his debut on the POTW list (long overdue) was simply the steadiness and completeness of his body of work!

His finest overall effort as a Flyer in our opinion, even in the areas/categories where he did not establish new personal-highs, he challenged his previous benchmarks, as he amassed 13 total stops (5 solo), and recorded 2 TFLs raise his 2022 fall stat sheet to 62 (2nd on the team) and 10 (2nd)…His 3 interceptions in his swan song place him at the top of the totem pole!!!

Battaglia has now registered double-digit tackle efforts eight times in his tenure (3rd time this season; career-finest of 17 in week #1 vs. St. Anthony’s) and was credited with his seventh multiple TFL display (3rd time in 2022; high of 3 against Paramus Catholic) of his stay in Mineola! 

Of equal, if not greater, importance was the way that the captain succeeded in elevating everyone around him to perform at their finest…As a collective unit, the Chaminade “D” was able to hold the host Titans to their lowest output of the season (well below the 37.3/per game), while limiting them to just 102 yards of total offense (64 on the ground, 38 in the air) and generating multiple turnovers (Junior, Seamus Miller, also earned an interception)

Special shoutout is extended to another 12th grade LB, Benjamin Mann, who also was worthy of Player of the Week distinction after setting a new career-best of 11 stops, while tying his mark of 2 TFLs…He tacked on a sack for good measure to round out his superb appearance!!!

Unlike “Encanto”, we do talk about [Pat] Bruno in Mineola….The Senior WR hauled in a 38-yard TD reception from week #6 POTW honoree, Matthew Dieguez (14-for-23, 175 pounds, 1TD toss) in the 3rd quarter for what was the game-winning strike…Bruno finishes the afternoon with 3 grabs for 76 yards and the one touchdown!   

 

RJ Pacheco (So.); RB – Moore Catholic Mavericks

Mr. Richard Pacheco Jr; you have been formally and officially invited to the POTW party!!!  

A year removed from earning a citation among “Diano’s Best of the Rest” during the semifinal round of the AA-1 playoffs (after registering the first century-mark performance of his career; 140 yards on 21 carries), in that write-up last November, we predicted that the 6’1, 175-pounder was destined to make 100-yard efforts on the ground the norm during his next three scholastic seasons…He has since repeatedly proven our prognostication to be valid!!!

Tormenting the Terriers of St. Francis Prep for a second consecutive occasion (the Fresh Meadows based school were on the receiving end of the aforementioned semifinal loss that bestowed fame onto Pacheco) in the Mavs’ 32-10 victory last Saturday night, the 10th grader out of Staten Island emerged with the first multiple-score display of his two-year tenure wearing the MC colors when three of his 13 total carries (172) landed him in the promised land, thus making him single-handedly responsible for more than half (56%) of Moore Catholic’s points harvest!!

Doing all of his damage late in the 1st, 2nd, and 4th quarters, the first of Pacheco’s trio of TD runs came with 4:08 remaining in the opening stanza (MC up 7-0) when he took a draw up the middle, cut to the right and then cruised down the SFP sidelines to finish off  the 39-yard pilgrimage that helped double the lead to 14-0…

Approximately 12 minutes later (4:06 to go in the half), the sophomore sensation further provided insurance (20-0) when he plunged across the goal line from 1-yard away…During this same series, he’d also register his only reception of the evening, catching a 19-yard screen pass that advanced the ball close to midfield!

The “w” never really in doubt (MC leading 26-10), as punctuation/exclamation to his night of stardom, Pacheco crossed the last “T” on his hat trick in the last 2:30 of duration when reminiscent of his touchdown from the 1st quarter, he started up, broke to the outside (in front of the opposing bench), and then busted out some razzle dazzle footwork (high steps and such) en route to the 49-yard crowd-pleaser that accounted for the final tally!!!

One of two Mavericks to rush for 150+ yards during week #7 (Senior All-State QB, John Michalski; 156 yards on 13 carries; 11-of-13 in the air for an additional 178 yards + 1 TD throw), Pacheco has now reached or exceeded 100 yards on the ground in four of eight appearances in 2022 (career-high of 204 versus St. Peter’s on September 3rd)…His cumulative body of work—683 yards/4 touchdown runs both rank 2nd on the team (behind Michalski’s 863 & 8) heading into the regular season finale!!!

Pacheco presently holds a scholarship offer from Temple University!!  But just as we did in 2021, we will make another forecast…By the time November 2023 rolls around, the quantity of NCAA DI suitors will have expanded immensely!!

 

 

Giuseppe Pennolino (Sr.); OLB/SS – Archbishop Stepinac Crusaders

With the war for the top overall seed in the AAA postseason still very much unspoken for, it need not be said that every win, every point, every turnover…Heck, every snap has taken on greater emphasis down the homestretch of the NYCHSFL regular season…

Hence, we are at that moment where a single well-timed effort is all it might take to earn you some praise and accolades!!

For the 6’1, 192-pound hybrid LB out of Highland Mills [Pennolino], it was certainly more than one contribution that garnered him this honor; however, there was a signature moment that absolutely blasted his candidacy over the top in the Crusaders’ 34-30 come-from-behind win on the road over Kellenberg Memorial on October 22nd!!!

The perennial powerhouse from White Plains, having cut the deficit to 23-20 after entering the 4th quarter trailing by 10 (23-13), gained some major momentum thanks to the gentleman in the #16 jersey when on the Firebirds ensuing drive following the Crusader TD jumped in front of a 3rd down pass attempt from KMHS senior QB, Devin Page, for an INT that set up the Red, White, and Blue offensive juggernaut on the opponent’s 30 yard line….

Several snaps later, it was junior tailback, Lorenzo Robinson (14 carries, 67 yards, 1 rushing TD; 3 receptions for 37 yards + 1 TD catch)) darting straight up the gut for the 9-yard TD run that gave the Mike O’Donnell mentored cohort their first advantage (26-23) since the early stages of the 2nd quarter (13-6)…

Complementing Pennolino’s clutch and/or potential game-altering interception was the personal-bests he set in both solo tackles (11) and cumulative stops (14)…With him flying to the ball on every sequence, the Stepinac defense was able to get the essential halts they needed during crunch time!!!

As he embarks upon the final regular season game of his scholastic career, Pennolino does so with an extremely balanced stat line that places him in the top-6 on the squad in almost every key category: 68 stops (2nd on the team), 3 TFLs (6th), 2 sacks (5th), 3 QB hurries (5th), 1 INT (3rd), and 2 forced fumbles (3rd)…

It could be argued that despite playing with a pair of All-Catholic teammates on “D” (JT Krivinskas & All-Stater, Wayne Coleman), no one has been more versatile in carving out the #1 rated “D” unit in the Triple-A division this year (17.1/game allowed) than the honor roll student-athlete (3.8 GPA) “Crab” (Zodiac birth sign)!!

Robinson, alongside junior QB, Will Currid (23-of-34 in the air for 299 yards and 2 TD throws), 11th grade RB, Jordan Osbourne (8 carries for 101 yards; 52-yard TD run), and senior wide-out, Serge Lagardere (8 grabs for 127 yards, 1 TD haul) provided the offensive boom last Saturday afternoon!

 

 

Charlie English (Sr.); RB/SS – Fordham Prep Rams

Like a golden bookend, the 5’11, 175-pound senior [English] started his swan song strong and all signs point at a fast & furious conclusion!!!

Making his second appearance this fall on the POTW list [week #1 behind a 119-yard, 2TD rushing effort in a win over Holy Cross], Fordham Prep needed every watt of energy and/or every bead of sweat they could get out of the Port Chester resident last Friday night, as they fought out of a 14-0 hole to emerge with a 27-24 victory against St. Peter’s

Re-establishing new career-highs across the board in all major rushing categories, 20 of the Rams’ 23 total carried went to the #22 shirt, as he chewed up a net sum of 137 yards, and THREE touchdowns to deliver victory from the jaws of defeat!!!

Getting the hosts from the Bronx back into the game, English closed out the opening half by powering his way into the end zone twice in the final 6:00 (including TD #2 in the final 31 ticks) from short distance to square the contest at 14 apiece!

Even when he was not the person to culminate drive, English had his fingerprint on every single successful series, as his was his 30-yard burst (from his own 30 to the opposing 40 following a failed fake punt + run by SP) late in the 3rd quarter that foreshadowed an eventual 5-yard TD pass from Matthew Moorehead (4-for-4, 38 yards, 1 TD hurl) to Tommy Gies (5 catches for 63 yards, 1TD grab) that cut the Eagles’ 21-14 lead to 21-20 at the onset of the 4th quarter!!!

The honor roll, multi-sport (also shines on the lax field), student-athlete that will take his gridiron talents to the state of Vermont at Middlebury College, polished off both his personal trifecta, as well as the collective comeback when he took the pitch slightly to the left and then exploded through a seam up the middle for the 9-yard, game-winning score that put the Rams for the first time all night with 6:16 left in duration!!….Prior to this GW trek, it was 60-yard sprint down the sideline by sophomore, Jack McKillop (2 carries for 67 yards) that sparked the drive! 

As if a 137-yard/3 TD exhibit was not impressive enough; it needs to be noted that English also was on the receiving end of a 26-yard TD throw in the 1st quarter that was negated by a penalty!

Like the consummate team captain he has been all fall, English was quite impactful on defense too, as he registered a season-best 8 stops (4 solo, 4 assists)!

The proverbial “no snaps off” workhorse will suit up for his final regular season competition in Maroon & White with a team-leading stat line of: 619 yards and 10 touchdowns (116 carries)…His 36 total tackles is good for top-3 status as further illustration that he is the motor that feeds the machine!!!

Oct 202022
 

Article by Matt Diano

Week #6 (October 14th-16th, 2022)

Matthew Dieguez (Sr.); QB – Chaminade Flyers

There is just something very special and miraculous about the heroics we see put forth by seniors each and every year when Mid-to-late October rolls around…It is almost as if they see the end of the road over the horizon and thus become inspired to elevate from “mortal” to “super human”…

For the 6’2, 190-pound field general and/or team captain [Dieguez] there are not words invented yet in the English language that could accurately and sufficiently describe the out-of-this-world performance he exhibited last Saturday on “Senior Day” in the Flyers’ 43-12 triumph over their visitors from Middle Village, Christ the King!

Throwing for only six touchdowns during the entirety of a junior campaign where he platooned with an incumbent signal caller [Thomas Steuber], the Westbury resident in the #5 jersey would need only 2.5 quarters on October 15th to match his 2021 totals…

Connecting on 10 of 19 aerial attempts, the resulting 271 yards is the most recorded by a Chaminade quarterback in a single outing since the 2017 season when Thomas Rogan hurled for 314 yards in a quarterfinal loss to Archbishop Stepinac…And while it cannot be officially confirmed, the SIX (!!!!!!) TD throws is believed to have set a school record (it is the most documented since MaxPreps started tracking yearly statistics circa 2008; and is two short of the NYS record as cited by the New York Sports Writers’ Association)! 

Forced to punt on the team’s initial possession of the afternoon, the Fordham University baseball commit (started at 1st base and batted 5th for the 2022 NYCHSAA State Champs) would proceed to orchestrate touchdown-yielding drives on four of the Crimson & Gold’s next six offensive series to send the hosts from Mineola into the locker room up 29-12!

Registering a pair of TD passes in each of the first two quarters, Dieguez struck for the first time (Flyers’ trailing 6-0) with 5:18 remaining in the 1Q when he hit John Carroll on a 70-yard pump-and-go on 3rd down to put Chaminade in front, 7-6…

Approximately three minutes later on their next drive, the All-Senior duo of Dieguez and Gavin Creo (4 grabs for 88 yards, 3TD receptions) hooked up for the first of their three scoring exchanges on a 26-yard dart over the middle that increased the advantage to 13-6….

The scoreboard now reading 13-12 in favor of the home team early in the 2nd quarter, Dieguez went right back to his favorite target [Creo], playing pitch-and-catch on a short wide-receiver screen and then allowing the Richmond Spider lax pledge to do the rest, as #24 made multiple cuts en route to going 32 yards to the promised land to restore the cushion to 20-12 with 8:55 left in the half…

Following the Chaminade “D” inducing a safety (22-12), Dieguez continued to distribute “the love”, as TD toss #4 was perhaps the most impressive, as he rolled right to create time and then spotted John Tully (3 receptions for 46 yards, 1TD) over the middle on the opposing 20, from which the junior RB would sprint across field and dive at the pylon to finish off the 43-yarder in the last 2:43 before the break!  

Apparently not yet satisfied with his body of work, the future Ram tacked on two additional TD hurls before departing with a little over 6:00 to go in 3Q, as he capitalized off of a short field (botched punt attempt that set up the Flyers in the red zone) by completing the Creo trifecta with a 16-yarder “on the Y” in the back of the end zone to further pull away, 36-12, with 8:30 remaining in the third quarter….

Dieguez’s final act came less than 2:00 later as he dumped the ball off to Jack Francesa (2 catches for 67 yards, 1 touchdown), who encountered nothing but green grass in front of him on a 43-yard screen pass that closed out the scoring for the Jackson Avenue posse!!

Entering week #6 having accumulated 597 yards and 4 TD passes in his swan song, Dieguez’s career-day swelled his 2022 fall stat line to the following: 58-for-113 (51%), 868 yards, and 10 TD throws!!… 

 

Jonathan Otoo (Jr.); RB/DB – Mt. St. Michael Acad. Mountaineers

Last week we said his name needed to be changed to 0too to reflect the goose-eggs he was helping to generate on defense…Today, we proclaim that he needs to add a hyphenated extension….Because with each subsequent outing, the 5’11, 170-pounder from the Bronx [Otoo] is showing himself to be “Otoo-Matic” in terms of taking over the game and propelling the Mountaineers to victory…

Honored during week #5 in recognition for his aforementioned defensive excellence in a 47-0 win over St. Dom’s, this past Saturday afforded him an opportunity to shine on the offensive side of the ball, as he registered the first multiple rushing touchdown game of his scholastic career in a 36-12 triumph over Holy Cross that gave Mount St. Michael Academy their fifth victory in their past six appearances to raise their overall record to an impressive 5-2!!!

To be named as a POTW twice in one season is a feat worthy of commendation; to do it in consecutive weeks is a tale of legend…But yet, Otoo is simply making it impossible to exclude him with the party!  

Carrying the pigskin on eight occasions for 42 yards (his second highest total of his tenure), Otoo was the “finisher” for The Mount during the majority of the game, as he was responsible for the school’s first three TDs of the day (one touchdown apiece in each of the first three quarters) to personally account for 50% of their October 15th output!  

Breaking the ice in a previously scoreless game with 1:02 remaining in the opening quarter, #20 logged the first of his hat trick when he took halfback toss to the left, turned the corner, and then cut back to the inside to arrive at paydirt from 5 yards out to give the Mountaineers a 7-0 lead…

His team still clinging to the one-score advantage with just under 2:00 remaining in the 1st half, Otoo delivered again, as he took the pitch from Marc Pearson Jr. off of a QB option and darted into the end zone for a 6-yard TD trek that increased the margin to 15-0 (Nico Bustamante turned a failed PAT into an intuitive 2pt conversion run) at the intermission!!!

The visiting Knights having answered with a TD of their own to cut the deficit to 15-6, Otoo completed the “natural hatter” when he made the guests from Queens pay for a very costly turnover in their own territory (HC 13) by plunging across the goal line two snaps later (both his carries) from a distance of 7 yards to again create separation (22-6) with 2:51 to go in the 3rd quarter!  

Cut in the cloth of that “Jack of All Trades” that we admire so much, just because he was having a banner day on offense does not mean he neglected his duties to the “D”…On the contrary, he collected a team-best 8 total stops (tied for the team-high of 5 solo), was credited with a TFL, and even helped generate a turnover when he pounced on a fumble!  

Heading into week #7 of the regular season, Otoo currently ranks first on the team defensively in the following categories—Stops (34), TFLs (5), and interceptions (tied with 2)…To boot, he is 2nd in ground TDs (5) and 3rd in rushing yardage (223) as an illustration of his all-encompassing impact!!

 

Michael Cogoni (Sr.); OL – Archbishop Stepinac Crusaders

5 MILES!!!  That is approximately the distance that the Crusaders’ offense has traveled in terms of total offensive production since the 6’3, 285-pound Left Tackle out of Hopewell Junction [Cogoni] assumed a starting position on the OL as a 10th grader!

A punishing road grader and/or personal security guard depending on his assignment, watch one series of game tape and you clearly see why the senior leader in the trenches is drawing collegiate interest from the likes of Marist and Coastal Carolina!

In Stepinac’s most recent victory this past Saturday (56-20 over Cardinal Hayes), the monstrous honor roll student-athlete was do dominant that he all but negated a very capable Cardinals’ pass rush by never letting them near his junior signal caller, Will Currid….

The byproduct of having a comfortable pocket and ample time to survey the field was that the 11th grade QB1 was able to connect on 15-of-22 attempts for 348 yards and four touchdown passes…And while that may seem to be exceptional; the truth is that the protection has so consistent and outstanding all season that Currid has actually slinged for no fewer than 270 yards in any game this year (max of 483 in a week #5 loss to Iona Prep), while also tossing multiple touchdowns in six of seven outings to give him mind-blowing totals of 2,370 yards and 21 TDs….That is the intrinsic and often underappreciated value that a stellar OT can bring to your program!!!

And it is not as if Cogoni is one-dimensional or discriminates in his authoritative obligations; he is just as sovereign as a run-blocker; a fact that was displayed when A.S. chose to cut left on both of their scoring rushes (3-yarder by Lorenzo Robinson in the 1st quarter; 4-yard trek by Jordan Osbourne in the 2nd)!!! 

The doer of the dirty work that produced 443 yards and six touchdowns on home soil on October 15th, with Cogoni setting the tone for the blockers, Stepinac has now generated sums of 286 points (40.9/game), 2,395 yards passing (342.1/game), and 754 yards rushing (107.7/per) in their seven contests this fall…If these gains sustain, it would be the most prolific performance since the 2018 season when Stepinac seized the NYCHSAA State Crown!!!

 

Kieran Connolly (Sr.); OLB – Iona Prep Gaels

In a time and place where more student-athletes in the Empire State are inking name/image/likeness deals, we believe we have the perfect partnership for the 6’0, 190-pound Rover LB hailing from Yonkers [Connolly]…GATORADE ZERO!

Because every time that it seemed as if the Gaels might lose their shutout this past Saturday, the two-year starter/2022 team captain would make a play that blew up a promising Firebird drive… 

On at least four separate key occasions, the young man with the 3.7 GPA heard his name called on an effort that either directly or indirectly resulted in a change of possession in the Gaels’ 49-0 triumph over visiting Kellenberg Memorial

Checking off just about every possible box on the defensive stat sheet, The Iona Prep senior amassed 9 total tackles (3 solo), multiple TFLs, a pair of sacks, and even a perfectly-timed INT to propel the Maroon & Gold to their second shutout of the fall (previously accomplished in week #1; 27-0 over Cardinal Hayes)…

Making his debut on the POTW list this week, the first signature stop that caught our attention occurred with IP up 7-0 with a little more than 10:00 remaining in the opening face…The visitors facing 3rd & 3 with the ball spotted just past midfield, Connolly flew into the backfield with a clean-up tackle that yielded a 3-yard loss and induced a KMHS punt…

A little more than 4:00 later (IP having increased the lead to 14-0), Connolly answered the call again when on 2nd & 2 on his own 34, the former safety turned hybrid LB dropped into pass coverage and picked off a pass while backpedaling on the Gael 10-yard line to halt another series for the guests from Long Island…

The scoreboard only getting further tilted towards the hosts from New Rochelle (21-0 early In 3Q), #6 posted was personally responsible for creating yet another turnover, as he charged in on 4th & 2 and dragged Firebird All-Catholic QB, Devin Page, down by his jersey for a sack that set up Iona Prep with their best starting field position of the afternoon (opposing 19)…

After Kellenberg temporarily gained some momentum (they survived the predicament above by generating an INT), for the fourth time of the matinee, Connolly crushed their souls when his second QB bag of the contest (on 3rd & 10) mandated another punt!!!  

The linchpin of a D-Unit that held the ‘Berg scoreless for the first time since the 2016 season, Connolly and his brothers surrendered only 207 yards of total offense, which is KMHS’s lowest output of 2022 and well below the 373.7 they were averaging thru six games!

 

Isaiah DeCruz (Sr.); QB/DB – St. Francis Prep Terriers

“Short and sweet, nimble with feet…Lock & Load, Toggle Beast Mode” is somewhat cheesy and/or lame, but yet it provides a fairly spot-on assessment of how the night of October 15th transpired for the 5’10, 154-pound senior out of Jamaica [DeCruz]

Departing one series into the third quarter of the Terriers’ 20-0 victory over Xaverian, the dual-threat field general certainly made the most of the limited time he was patrolling the offense, as he connected on 4-of-7 throw attempts for 105 yards (1TD), while also rushing for an additional 42 yards and two more scores (6 carries) to directly account for 18 of SFP’s 20-point output…

Firing on all cylinders straight off the bus, after the Francis Prep defense forced a punt on the Clippers initial drive of the game, it was DeCruz immediately putting his school on top when on their first possession of the evening, he faked a hand-off and called his own number, sprinting into the end zone from a distance of 6 yards out to give the squad from Fresh Meadows the quick 6-0 advantage just 3:56 into the 1st quarter…

He added his second rushing touchdown of the night with 7:28 left to play in the 1st half when on 4th & goal, he found a hole slightly off center and plunged up the middle for the 2-yarder that increased the cushion to 12-0….Prior to the short-distance keeper, it was 30-year hook-up from DeCruz to junior WR, Payton Buchanan (1 grab for 30 yards), that put the Terriers in business, moving the ball from the opposing 35 to 5-yard line!  

His talents as a runner already cemented/confirmed for the night, the man in the #5 jersey took a turn at showcasing his arm at the onset of the third quarter, as he more than just converted on 3rd & 14 when he scrambled around and hurled a beautiful 36-yard pass into the waiting arms of his top target, Sebastian Quartarolo (3 grabs for 82 yards, 1 TD catch) who needed to take just one step to reach the promised land!

The three total touchdowns orchestrated by DeCruz tied a career-high that he previously set twice (both times against St. Joe’s by the Sea during the 2021 season and in week #3 this fall)!!!  

One of only a handful of quarterbacks in the NYCHSFL that sees considerable time on both sides of the ball, from his cornerback spot, DeCruz broke up a pair of passes to put himself into a tie for the overall team-high this year with 3 PDs!!!

The blanking of Xaverian was the second shutout of the season for St. Francis Prep, who also did the deed in a week #4 win (41-0) over Cardinal Spellman!

With two regular season contests and the postseason still awaiting DeCruz before his journey on the gridiron for SFP reaches its conclusion, it is a certainty that he will surpass all of his 2021 totals on offense (755 yards/5 TDs passing; 183 yards/5 touchdowns on the ground)…He has already tossed for 587 yards and 6 TDs (29-of-57 in the air), while running for 174/1TD (24 tries)!!! 

DeCruz is now a two-time Player of the Week honoree; He was first bestowed the distinction during week #4 of the 2021 campaign!

 

Cristian Pinto (Jr.); QB – Monsignor Farrell Lions

Sitting at 2-4 in the standings and having lost their All-State RB [Messiah Burch] for the season weeks prior, the state of affairs on Amboy Road have not been the most favorable throughout the majority of the 2022 year…

That having been said, the Maroon & Gold have continued to hang their hats and find strength and comfort in the knowledge that despite what the win/loss column reads, they are a very dangerous squad with a wealth of playmakers that could spark an explosion at any moment!!!

That eruption came to fruition last Saturday afternoon as Monsignor Farrell scored early and often on their way to a 51-0 triumph in a battle of Staten Island bragging rights over the host Vikings of St. Joseph’s by the Sea!    

On a day where there was no shortage of individuals deemed worthy of the spotlight, it was the 5’11, 175-pound junior QB [Pinto] being slightly a cut above the rest of his peers as he commanded the offense to the program’s highest-scoring appearance since 2005 (69-0 over Moore Catholic)! 

Incorporating the full array of his targets into the aerial attack, his 15 connections (on 24 attempts) were distributed to SIX different receivers, as he registered the fourth 200+ yard effort of his two-year starting varsity career by ending the day with 201 yards!  

In addition, his career-best four touchdown throws were dispersed to three different weapons, as he truly made it a priority to elevate everyone around him!!!

Farrell already out to a 15-0 lead following a pair of TD runs by John Caufield (10 carries, 101 yards, 2TDs), Pinto struck for the first of his golden-armed quartet when he faked a pitch and then hit a wide-open Nick Souffrin (5 receptions for 130 yards, 2 touchdown grabs) down the visiting sideline for a 90-yard hook-up with 4:38 remaining in the 1st half!

Staying engaged and focused despite the comfortable advantage, most of Pinto’s damage would be inflicted during the second half, as there was a span that witnessed him culminate three straight drives (between the middle of the 3rd and early 4th quarters) by chucking TD passes from distances of 7, 24, and 10 yards respectively to Souffrin, Shawn Keegan (3 receptions for 35 yards, 1TD), and Justin Guzman (5 grabs for 51 yards, 1TD)…

Now up 44-0, he’d exit after TD toss #4 with 11:45 still left to be finished in the final quarter!  

While it did not land him in the end zone, let it be noted that #11 averaged over six yards per carry on five attempts to end with 32 rushing yards to complement his strong display in the air!  

By virtue of his 200+-yard/4TD spectacle, Pinto cracked the 1,000 yard plateau for a second straight year (1,025 after accumulating 1,273 yards as a sophomore) while also exceeding his TD pass quantity from a year ago (9 in 2022 vs. 7 in 2021)!    

 

Elijah Alvarez (Sr.); RB/Safety – St. John the Baptist Cougars

For a family that deserves nothing but respect and admiration, we could not be any happier or more privileged to be featuring the 5’11, 178-pound, two-way difference-maker for the Cougars [Alvarez]!!

His mother deployed overseas and unable to be there in a physical form to enjoy her baby boy’s swan song year as a scholastic student-athlete, every attempt is made for mom/son to catch-up via Facetime as often as possible!

When that next video chat comes goes down, there is going to be A LOT that the Cougar team captain is going to be able to proudly announce, as he was utterly and absolutely remarkable in SJB’s 21-7 victory over Xavier this past Saturday night!! 

“Making his bones” a year ago primarily as a menacing defensive back (94 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 INTs) while also serving as the understudy to All-State RB, Mark Anthony Scott, in the backfield (314 yards and 3 touchdowns on 39 carries), now that he has stepped into a dual-purpose starting role in all endeavors, the sky (as well as any other part of Earth) is the limit for Alvarez…And he is proving it on a weekly basis!!!

Responsible for all three of the Baptist scores, the National Honor Society member/Honor roll student/team captain reached and surpassed the century mark for the third time in his last four outings (sandwiched around a 97-yard game versus St. Peter’s), carrying the pigskin 15 times for a net gain of 113 yards and scoring a pair on the ground…

He’d furthermore augment his lucrative exhibition by notching the first 100-yard receiving game of his career, as he hauled in two grabs for 119 yards and an additional touchdown to cap the night having generated an astounding sum of 232 yards of offensive production!!

The host Cougars trailing 7-0 in the 3rd quarter, Alvarez would even the scoreboard in the blink of an eye when off of a HB draw, he found a hole up the gut and turned on “ludicrous speed” on his way to a 46-yard cruise to payday!

The score still deadlocked at 7 in the 4th, this time it was Alvarez showing off his skillset as an option in the vertical game, and he beat his man around the corner on a wheel route and was in perfect position when junior QB, Kevin Pilewski, hit him over the shoulder in open field, allowing him to sprint the remainder of the 78 yards to the house for what would be the eventual game-winning tally!!!…

Alvarez later polished off the first 3TD game of his scholastic storybook when he banged his way up the middle for a 3-yarder for an insurance touchdown in the waning minutes of duration!  

Always the dutiful defender, he contributed 4 stops (3 solo) and a pair of pass break-ups to an SJB ensemble that held the Knights to their lowest point total all season (entered averaging 31.6/per) and limited them to just 221 yards of total offense (nearly 150 less than the 372 they were averaging)!!!

 

Having run for a touchdown in four straight games (currently riding a streaking of three 2TD games in a row), Alvarez heads into week #7 with a stat line that reads as follows: 60 carries for 588 yards and 7 TDs…

Oct 142022
 

Article by Matt Diano

Week #5 (October 8th-9th, 2022)

 

Ajani Sheppard (Sr.); QB – Iona Prep Gaels

Legendary academician/foremost expert on management/leadership, Peter Drucker, defined the term as ” lifting of a man’s vision to higher sights, the raising of a man’s performance to a higher standard, the building of a man’s personality beyond its normal limitations.”

For the 6’3, 230-pound, reigning Metro Catholic and New York State Offensive Player of the Year [Sheppard], no one can or ever will argue that during the past year-and-a-half as the ringer leader of a vaunted Gael offense, he has been the vision of consistency and spectacularism….

However, never was the breadth of his abilities as a comprehensive leader/role model more on display than this past Saturday afternoon as part of IP’s 42-35 triumph on the road over their previously unbeaten rivals, Archbishop Stepinac, in a clash of what could potentially have served as a preview of the eventual NYCHSFL Triple-A title contest next month!!

An individual who has put up video game type numbers several times in the past (after all, he generated 3,400 yard of total offense and had a hand in 38 touchdowns as a junior), the stat line, while undeniably incredible, took a backseat to the fact that the gentleman in the #3 jersey did something that he had never been forced to do in the past…He picked up the pieces following his first career loss versus a fellow NY Catholic school [dropped a 48-42 game to St. Anthony’s the previous week] and emphatically proclaimed that neither he, not the Gaels had any intention of staying down on the proverbial mat for a 10-count!!!   

Responding to the adversity and heartbreak of the week #4 blemish (let it be known he racked for 6 TDs in the loss—5 passing; 1 rushing), the future Old Dominion University Monarch showed that he is still a “KING”, as he connected on 12-of-25 throw attempts for 231 yards (3 touchdowns), while also running for an additional 174 yards on 16 carries to amass 405 yards of cumulative production (the second highest of his scholastic tenure; 435 one week earlier)…

Spreading/Distributing the pigskin to FIVE different targets throughout the afternoon, Sheppard surpassed 200+ yards in the air for the second consecutive outing (329 vs. STA) and for the ninth time overall in his three-year varsity stay!!!….Fellow seniors—Colin O’Garro (also rushed for 139 yards and a pair of TDs), Michael Senatore, Ethan Acevedo, and Isaiah Bennett, all hauled in three grabs apiece for receiving yardages of 108, 53, 47, and 36 respectively…Acevedo (2) and Senatore (1) were on the back-end of the TD tosses!!

Accounting for all three of his scoring passes during the opening half, Sheppard and Acevedo hooked up on the first of their double-dose of TD-yielding pitch-and-catch efforts when the former hit the latter with a quick shovel and then allowed his receiver do the rest, as #1 turned the corner and sprinted to the house for finish off the 24-yard TD that gave the visitors from New Rochelle a 7-0 lead with 2:46 to go in the stanza…Just prior to the TD pass, Sheppard extended the drive when he used his legs to convert a 4th & 3! 

The game now tied at 7 all at the onset of the 2nd quarter (less than 2:00 in), Sheppard again displayed his creativity and athleticism, as he turned a 3rd & goal scenario into a highlight reel when he scrambled in one direction, turned and fired to the opposite side of the field and lofted a perfect throw into the waiting arms of Senatore to put IP back on top, 14-7 (10:12 remaining in 2Q)…Previously they teamed up on a 40-yard bomb that moved the ball from their own 20 to the opposing 40 when Senatore made a diving catch on 3rd & 9…

A little more than 2:00 later (after Iona Prep induced a punt), Sheppard continued to inflict damage, as he followed up a 65-yard completion to O’Garro (own 15 to Stepinac 20) by finding Acevedo over the middle in the end zone from 20 yards out to increase the advantage to 21-7 (8:15 before the break)….

Registering the seventh century-mark showing of his career on the land (3rd time this season), Sheppard may not have been credited with a touchdown with his legs, but as cited above, his dual-threat arsenal was essential to preserving drives and keeping the opposing “D” on their toes!!!  

Already named as Iona Prep’s Athlete of the Week recipient, Sheppard garners his second official POTW selection (first achieved in week #6 of the 2021 season)…He was also included among the informal “Diano’s Best of the Rest” in the semifinal round of the ‘21 playoffs, and was singled out for recognition as the Offensive MVP of the AAA title contest last November!

Well on his way to yet another remarkable 2,000/1,000 compilation between air/ground, he is not going to surrender that “POY” distinction without a fight…Thru six appearances, MaxPreps credits him with the following: 1,118 yards (13 touchdowns) via the sky on 66-for-119 (55.5%), complemented by additional 673 & 3 on the ground by way of 69 carries (9.8/per)!    

 

Chad Case (Sr.); LB/Safety – Holy Trinity Titans

“If God Is for Me; Who Can be Against Me?”….The personal motto of the 5’8, 180-pound LB/Safety for the Titans, he has referred to himself as the “Chosen One” and he certainly proved to be prophetic in HT’s HUGE 28-19 victory this past Sunday over AAA contender, Kellenberg Memorial!   

A collision of two immaculate squads that entered with a combined record of 10-0, to say that the pundits were likely predicting a Firebird victory would not be an out of bounds claim….Those members of the peanut gallery are now eating crow as the Hicksville based Titans rose to the occasion on both sides of the ball en route to upending their highly-touted hosts from Uniondale….

The All-LI showdown broadcast live on Varsity Media, Case and the #10 jersey he donned was praised repeatedly throughout the day by the play-by-play announcers as he would collect a career-best 15 total tops (11 solo), 2 TFLs, and forced a fumble as part of an ensemble that played at a lights-out level from start to finish…

Quieting doubters/critics who said that the challenge of being a starting-11 comprised of mostly ironmen would cause them to fade in the 2nd half against better rested foes, there was not a single moment on the Sabbeth where the Trinity intensity level dipped below 150%!!!

Disruptive in every sense of the word, with Case as the catalyst, the vaunted Green & White “curtain” held KMHS to 12 points less than their 31.2/game average, forced All-Catholic senior field general, Devin Page, to 19-for-38 (50%) passing for just 168 yards, and stuffed a Marianist ground attack averaging 200+ yards to the tune of a modest 121…

Weeks 2 and 4 POTWs—Jameer Reader & Rocco Rainone—each contributed a pair of touchdowns in the win, as the junior RB [Reeder] went for 136 yards on 18 carries, while his fellow 2024 class member/QB [Rainone] was recognized by Newsday a having hit on 10-of-19 passes for 180 yards and two TD dimes (45-yarder to Andre Kirton; 59-yard connection to Josiah Brown)!

Case is now a two-time Player of the Week honoree, having previously been nominated for the accolade during the opening week of his junior campaign!

The win streak now sitting at 18, there will be no freedom to rest on laurels and cruise into the postseason for Coach [Kahmal] Roy’s battalion as they wrap up the regular season by squaring off with returning AA-1 runners-up, Moore Catholic, in what is shaping up to be an early glimpse into the eventual title-weekend match-up, on October 16th, before engaging 2021 AA-1 titlist, Chaminade (promoted to AAA), in the finale on the 22nd!

 

Jonathan Otoo (Jr.); DB/RB – Mt. St. Michael Acad. Mountaineers

If the recent performance of the Mountaineer defense becomes rules as opposed to exception, then perhaps the 5’11, 170-pouder out of the Bronx [Otoo] is going to have to change the legal spelling of his name to J0nathan 0t00, because the Mount has pitched zeros in two of their past three outings to raise their record this fall to a strong 4-2!!!

After earning a mention/foot note in the week #3 POTW article featuring Tyler Cadienhead, the prime spot/headline belongs to him today as he contributed in all facets of MSMA’s 47-0 conquering at home over St. Dominics!!!

Tying for the team-lead on October 8th with 4 total stops (2 solo, 2 assists), including logging his Mountaineer-best 4th TFL of the year, the specimen wearing the #20 jersey did not merely prevent the opponent from getting on the board; he went that proverbial extra mile and turned “D” into “O” on two separate occasions to have an indelible influence over the collective dub!

Sparking the “Murdock Avenue Machine” on the first snap from scrimmage, Otoo charged into the backfield, jumped in front of an attempted double-reverse, and raced 15 yards to the promised land for the fumble recovery TD that gave the Mount an immediate 6-0 advantage just :08 into the 1st quarter!

On the Bayhawks’ next possession, Otoo again was front and center on the signature play of the defensive stand, as he rushed off of the left edge and swatted the Dom’s punt attempt backwards before pouncing on the loose ball to set up MSMA on their own 15-yard line….Three straight hand-offs later (all to sophomore, Franklin Dominguez (6 carries, 41 yards, 1 TD), Mount St. Michael crossed the plain for the second time in less than 3:00 (9:18 remaining in 1Q) to double their cushion to 12-0!

Factoring in Otoo’s two carries for 15 yards (just for good measure), the Mount concluded the afternoon having compiled 299 yards and four scores on 29 ground attempts (10.3/per)….In addition to the aforementioned Dominguez, Eleazer Valera (6 carries for 72 yards), Tyler Bobe (4 hands-offs for 26 yards), and Marquis Dixon (5 rushes for 84 yards) all ran to paydirt once each!!

Putting forth quite the case to be named to the All-Catholic squad in November, after six appearances, Otoo ranks in the top-3 on the team in total tackles (3rd with 26), TFLs (1st with 4), and interceptions (co-1st with 2)…While it was not needed last weekend, let it be acknowledged that he is also 3rd on the team in rushing yards (181), and is tied for runner-up honors with two ground TDs to round out his two-way resume!

 

Michael Zeh (Sr.); WR/S – Moore Catholic Mavericks

Holy Trinity were not the only ones defying odds and muting naysayers this past weekend…

In what was just the second meeting all-time between the two Staten Island based programs (initial match-up occurring in 2005 and ending 69-0 in favor of Monsignor Farrell), it was the Mavericks of Moore Catholic prevailing, 30-27, in overtime on home turf in a clash of respective 2021 NYCHSFL runners-up on October 9th!  

Earning his first POTW distinction following a dynamic and clutch play-making performance on both sides of the ball last Sunday was the three-year starting honor student, Zeh!!!

The often referenced and finally (long overdue) celebrated 6’2, 185-pounder out of S.I. had never been a stranger when it comes to finding his way into the end zone…After all, in his junior campaign, he finished tied for 2nd on the Mavs with 4 TD receptions!

However, his stellar performance in week #5 of his swan song just felt different!!!  It was almost as if he was willing his team to victory and was not about to accept any other outcome!!

Tying his career-highs of 5 grabs (108 yards) and 2 TD hauls (both previously established last season in an early-season defeat at the hands of Archbishop Stepinac), the National Honor Society inducted member and/or 4.0 cerebral stud represented a good portion of the MC offense during the opening 24 minutes of action…

The recipient of both of All-State QB, John Michalski’s (12-for-17, 208 yards, 2 TDs) pair of touchdown hurls during the 1st half, Zeh drew first blood on his school’s second possession of the game when he snatched a 33-yarder to advance the ball into enemy territory and then cemented the successful drive moments later when he was found on a 28-yarder in the corner to put the Mavericks up 6-0!

With their team now trailing 21-14 in the 2nd, the Michalski to Zeh connection struck again, as the former chucked a 27-yard dart that dissected two opposing defensive backs into the hands of his teammate in the #5 shirt to cut the deficit to 21-20 at the break!

His impact thoroughly felt on offense already, the second half afforded Zeh an opportunity to exhibit the full range of his value, which he did by turning his focus to his duties as the leader of the “No Fly Zone”!!!

Moore still trailing by a small margin (24-20) but in danger of letting the game creep away in the 4th, it was Zeh alertly picking off (tying him for the team-lead with 3) an overthrown pass attempt from Lions’ junior signal caller, Cristian Pinto, and returning it 22 yards across midfield (MF 48) that acted as the momentum swing that Coach Nick Giannatasio was seeking!….Minutes later, Michalski capitalized off of the turnover by plunging across the line from 6-yards out give MC a 27-24 lead…

Zeh, who added 5 stops and one pass break-up to complement the game-altering INT is going to need to be just as potent in all endeavors in his next appearance as awaiting the Mavs is the epic showdown with HT!…The Titans boasts both the #1 offense and the top-rated defense in AA-1; hence, a repeat of Zeh’s heroics might be the recipe to serve some more “upset” soup!

 

Mehdi Merah (Jr.); FB – Xavier Knights

In the esteemed words of Dan Patrick, when it comes to the level at which the 5’10, 215-pounder out of the Big Apple [Merah] has been performing the past two weeks, it truly is accurate to say that “you cannot stop him; you can only hope to contain him”….And to be quite honest, we’re not sure he can even be contended at the present time!!

Vaulting the Knights to the top of the 2022 AA-2 Metro Catholic standings (4-1) following back-to-back victories over the likes of Holy Cross (46-20 on Oct. 1st) and St. Joe’s by the Sea (35-27 this past Saturday), Mehdi has morphed into perhaps the most dominant backfield option in the division, as he has embraced the role of the proverbial workhorse to such a degree that has gone from a net of 138 yards and a pair of TDs (26 carries) in Xavier’s first three games to astounding/mind-blowing totals of 432 yards and 7(!!!) touchdowns in his past two outings…

One week removed from a 257 yards/3 score display (18 attempt) versus HC, the multi-sport fiend (he can terrorize you on the Rugby pitch as well) was just as good in week #5 against the host Vikings, as he anchored a three-headed galloping beast that chewed up 380 yards and scored all 5 of the school’s touchdowns to deliver the “w”….

Uniting with seniors—Shane Zaletofsky (113 yards on 21 carries) & Gavin Gallagher (92 yards/1TD on 8 hand-offs), the power of Merah yielded a second straight century mark-plus demonstration, as he racked up 175 yards and scored on four different occasions to be the star of stars among the committee…

The Knights already up 7-0 (10-yard TD run by Gallagher), Merah doubled the lead when he took the direct snap through the gut and cruised 21-yards untouched to the house to make the score 14-0 with 1:32 remaining in the 1st quarter…

A SJS rally (touchdowns during the opening 2:00 of both the 2nd and 3rd quarters) squared the contest at 14 apiece, but Merah was just warming up!

Answering the game-tying score on the Knights’ ensuing drive, Merah capped off a 76-yard, 6:38 sequence when he pounded his way across the plain from 1-yard away to restore the Xavier lead, 20-14, with 3:59 remaining in 3Q!

He completed the trifecta (the first of his two 4th quarter tallies) approximately 1:15 into the final stanza when on 2nd & 6, he handled the snap, faked a pitch, and then sprinted up the middle for the insurance TD (27-14)…

A quick retort (64-yard TD pass) by Joe’s by the Sea cut the deficit to 27-21 with 9:39 still to play, but Mehdi ensued that there would be no stealing of the dub when he capitalized off of a turnover on downs (on the SJS 21) by tacking on a deciding 3-yard TD run in the final 2:25 to register TD #4….As a bonus, he then converted the 2pt try to close out a 26-point individual showcase!!!

As if his legend was not sufficient enough, Merah’s legs did more than just run, as he enjoyed quite a fine afternoon to boot with his boot….Serving as the school’s punter, he averaged nearly 50 yards (48.2) and dictated field position on his five kicks!!

All three (Gallagher, Merah, and Zaletofsky) of their primary weapons averaging over 100 yards per game this season on the ground, it is safe to say that the tradition has returned in full force….Merah’s 9 rushing touchdowns tops the cohort, while his 570 yards ranks 3rd behind the 608 and 587 amassed by Gallagher and Zaletofsky!

Oct 072022
 

Article by Matt Diano

Week #4 (September 29th-October 2nd, 2022)

Dean Aquilina (Sr.); DE – Chaminade Flyers

“We killed it; We’re Back!; We’re back!…These were the words that the 6’3, 250-pound Defensive End out of East Williston used to describe the comprehensive and stellar performance put forth by the entire defensive unit in the Flyers’ 36-20 victory at home over Cardinal Hayes on Sunday October 2nd

An instant classic when the two teams squared off last fall (Won 42-39 by the Cardinals on a last-second Hook and ladder), #66 in Red, along with all of his peers among the front-7 made sure that there would be no repeat of history in 2022, as they tormented and harassed opposing field general, Rich Belin (holding DI offers from Syracuse, Temple, etc.) on nearly every snap!

Off to a fast start to his senior campaign as an individual (13 stops, 4 TFLs) in his first three games, all the cosmos aligned for both person and team last Sunday as Aquilina’s career-day was a definitive reason as to why Chaminade was able to get off the schneid and break into the win column!

Living in the Cardinal backfield, the Newsday Top-100 selection was able to register personal-bests across the board, as he was credited with 9 total stops, 5 tackles for negative yardage, and a pair of sacks to limit an explosive Hayes’ offensive (entered averaging over 35ppg in their previous two outings) to a modest 20!

Joining Aquilina in turning in a dominant display up front were the likes of fellow seniors—Claudio Pinto (DE) and Benjamin Mann (LB)…Each racked up 10 tackles, with the former [Pinto] also earning a pair of QB bags, while the latter [Mann] pounced on a loose ball to notch a fumble recovery!

Offensively, Jack Tully (career-bests of 28 carries, 203 yards, 3 rushing TDs), Gavin Creo (3 grabs for 73 yards, 2 touchdown receptions), and Matthew Dieguez (5-of-14, 102 yards tossing, 2 TD hurls) steered the ship!

 

Rocco Rainone (Jr.); QB – Holy Trinity Titans

Put another “w” in the book for the Big, Bad, Green Machine!!!  The defending NYCHSFL AA-2 Champions out of Hicksville [Holy Trinity] remained unblemished (5-0) and extended their year-plus-long winning streak to 15 straight following a commanding 39-0 victory at home over a very capable Rams squad from visiting Fordham Prep (entered at 2-2 and on the heels of a respectable, 28-13, loss to AAA member, Kellenberg Memorial)!

Providing the Titans with the early “punch” they would need to eventually runaway with last Saturday’s matinee triumph was the 6’0, 190-pound, junior signal caller hailing from Glen Cove [Rainone] who connected on not ONE, not TWO, but THREE touchdown passes during the opening quarter to propel his school to a 20-0 advantage from which they never looked back…

The 11th grader, who has assumed full-time starting duties after splitting time last fall, drew first blood approximately 5:15 into the 1st when he hit a diving Josiah Brown over the middle on a 15-yard strike to give the Titans the quick 7-0 lead!

The duo hooked up again for a second consecutive score-yielding occasion with a little over 3:00 remaining in the stanza, Rainone found the 4-star national prospect [Brown] on a short completion and then allowed the speedster to do the rest on his own, as Brown collected serious YAC on his 93-yard dash TD catch + run to the promised land that increased the cushion to 13-0!  

In the last minute and change of the initial 12:00 period, Rainone closed out his TD hurling trifecta when he lofted a beautiful ball into the corner of the end zone into the hands of sophomore, Jayden Simpson, for the 10-yard pitch-and catch…It was a fitting choice of targets as moments earlier, it was Simpson’s interception that put HT in prime scoring position!

All in all, Rainone, who has been nothing short of phenomenal thus far in 2022, compiled a stat line that read as follows: 9-for-12 in the air, 180 yards throwing, and the already cited three TDs!

Incredibly, after throwing multiple touchdown passes just once during his sophomore campaign (9 in total), the Long Islander has now done the deed THREE times in five appearances this season, as he previously notched a hat trick in week #0 and Week #1 wins over Kennedy Catholic and St. Francis Prep respectively…In a week 2 victory over Garden State opponent, Immaculata, he tossed for 1 and ran for two additional scores!

Rainone and his 14 combined TDs (11 in the air; 3 on land) will need to be at his best this coming Sunday (October 9th) as the Titans face perhaps their biggest challenge of the year when they take the short trip Mitchel Field to face-off with Kellenberg in a battle of unbeatens!  

 

Wayne Coleman (Sr.); DE – Archbishop Stepinac Crusaders

In a game where one team’s “0 had to go”, it was again the impenetrable defense of the visitors from White Plains, Archbishop Stepinac (5-0), that paved the way for the Crusaders to emerge with a 40-0 victory over Moore Catholic (4-1) under the Friday Night Lights of September 30th!!

In fact, the concept of zero has seemingly become something of a mantra on Mamaroneck Avenue, as Head Coach, Mike O’Donnell, made certain to call attention to the fact that his “D” has not allowed a single touchdown to be scored against them in three consecutive games, boasts a league best average of only surrendering 9 points per game (deceptive since 21 of the 45 points allowed were in the 4th quarter with reserve personnel on the field), and have registered defensive TDs in each of the past two outings to out-scoring the opposing offenses from Chaminade and MC by margins of 12-3 and 8-0!  

And while it can be stated that this swarming, stifling, stout display is a total team effort where there is no shortage of game-changers from one appearance to the next, one of the most constant and/or visible on a routine basis is the presence of the standout in the #43 jersey, Wayne Coleman….

The kind of player whose name echoes in the ears of the public address announcer after saying it repeatedly for 48 minutes in a given day, the 6’2, 305-pounder returning All-Catholic/All-State (5th team) selection caught our eye during previous conquests (8 stop, 4 TFL, 1 sack vs. DePaul Catholic on September 17th; 8 tackle/2 sacks against Chaminade during week #3), so we had a feeling that his spotlight moment was coming sooner than later!!!   

That recognition has now arrived following a performance that witnessed him rack up 8 stops (his third 8-tackle game in a row), 2 TFLs, a sack, a forced fumble, and even a blocked FG for good measure….

It was his ability to bulldoze his way up the gut, throw up his paws, and reject the 47-yard kick attempt like he was NBA HOFer, Dikembe Mutombo, that ultimately created a wave of momentum that Stepinac was able to ride to a decisive victory…

The game scoreless at the time with 7:48 remaining in the half, Coleman’s clean denial gave the Crusaders possession on their own 35….Shortly thereafter, Jordan Osbourne (65 yards on 8 carries, 1 TD) punctuated the ensuing drive with a 1yard TD run to give AS the 7-0 lead!…They would erupt for three additional scores (10-yard pick-6 by Deonte Douglas with 2:20 remaining in 2nd quarter; safety-inducing off of a mishandled kick-off by Samuel Madu; 34-yard FG by David Encina In the last half minute) to carry the 19-0 cushion into the halftime break!!!

As a brigade, Stepinac yielded only 61 yards of opposing offensive production to the Mavericks, as All-Catholic/2nd Team All-Stater, John Michalski, was contained to the tune of an 8-for-16, 32-yard, 2 INT effort aerially, while the running game gained on 29 yards on 13 attempts!  

Coleman, who was credited with 77 tackles, 4 TFLs, and 4 QB bags as part of his All-State junior demonstration, is on pace to surpass/shatter all of these numbers, as he already has 34 stops, 8 TFLs, and 6 sacks thru his first five games this fall!   

 

Anthony Massa (Sr.); OG – Monsignor Farrell Lions

Every year we wait for it; and every year it delivers!!!  

An ode to the toughest of the tough; the grittiest of the gritty; the men who possess proverbial “mountains” between their legs….A.K.A the Offensive lineman that bangs for 48 minutes in the trenches and wears his battle scars proudly!

The first individual fitting the profile to be bestowed POTW honors since the semifinal round of the 2021 Metro Catholic playoffs, the 5’11, 250-pounder out of Staten Island [Massa] was the catalyst/facilitator for an explosive afternoon that saw the host Lions prevail, 40-0, over St. Peter’s in a clash of SI’s finest on October 1st!!

A two-year varsity starter who was originally expected to be at center, but later was placed at left guard, the beefy brainiac (4.0 grade point average) who garnered All-Catholic accolades in 2021, demonstrated the form that makes him a legitimate candidate to be in the conversation for NYCHSFL Lineman of the Year prestige in November!

Credited with FIVE pancakes and utilized as the lead-blocker in “traps” and/or “power-running formations” per Farrell Head Coach, Rocco Del Priore, with mighty #51 flattening and/or demolishing anyone who crossed his path, the returning Triple-A runners-up from Amboy Road darn-near etched themselves into school history, as they accumulated 401 yards and scored five touchdowns to just miss the all-time mark by a mere 40 yards!  

The damage was inflicted by a six-headed monster backfield led by seniors—Mauricio Cetina (126 yards, 2 touchdowns on 8 attempts), John Caufield (116 yards, 1 touchdown on 7 carries), Shawn Keegan (70 yards, 1 score on 6 hand-offs), and Messiah Burch (First game back in the line-up; suffered an injury after gaining 45 yards on 4 tries)…

With Massa providing grade-A protection and keeping the pocket unoccupied, junior QB, Cristian Pinto, enjoyed success in all endeavors, as he completed 3-of-5 passes for 100 yards and one TD, while also taking off and using his legs to add a complementary 45 yards and an additional “6” on just 2 keepers!!!

Embracing all roles and helping the team in any manner possible, Massa acted as the long-snapper on all kicks/punts, with junior PK, Christopher DiGiacomo converting four PATs, and Caufield averaging 33.3 yards on his three punts!

Despite being without the services of their All-State RB [Burch] for almost the entirety of 2022 thus far, Massa has done such a superb job setting the mood among the OL that thru five appearances, Farrell is averaging just under 187 yards and two touchdowns rushing!!!

 

Brian Daly (Sr.); Two-Way Lineman – St. Francis Prep Terriers

While this was in no way planned, week #4 was clearly the weekend of the brutes as the 6’1, 248-pound resident of Franklin Square [Daly] is making his first career appearance on the POTW list one spot below his fellow all-purpose beast in the war zone [Massa]!!!  

Labeled by the Terrier coaching staff as the most authoritative presence on both sides of the line of scrimmage in SFP’s 41-0 toppling of Cardinal Spellman last Saturday night, there was no need for Daly to choose between “immoveable force” or “unstoppable object”, because like a superhero come to life, he proved that he could be both!!!…

Dictating terms from his spot on the OL at Left Tackle, Daly’s ability to consistently win his match-up and blow his counterpart off the ball as part of the “Ground & Pound” game-plan incorporated by Coach, Rich Carroll, laid the tracks for a nine-person running back committee (no one carrying the ball more than six times) to collect 198 yards and strike for all SIX touchdowns on just 24 attempts (team average of 8.3/hand-off)…

The strong showing rushing was a continuation of a resurgence displayed this season by the Fresh Meadows posse…A year removed from netting only 808 yards/10 touchdowns on the ground, with capable linemen such as Daly doing the dirty work up front, the Terriers have already logged 673 yards + 11 scores of land production despite having carried the pigskin 100 less times in comparison!!!

Reaping the benefits of the pummeling demeanor of the OL on October 1st were the likes of Anthony Collura (tied his career-best of 35 yards and scored the first two rushing TDs of his time as a Terrier), Dionis Best (accumulated 53 yards and notched a rushing TD for the second straight week), and Christopher Felle (personal-high of 53 yards and his first TD run)!

Described as the “Alpha Male” of the defense a few weeks ago In the season preview, Daly lived up to his reputation when he shifted to the other side of the ball…

Causing a loss of yardage on every one of his 5 tackles (2 solo, 3 assisted) and adding a sack (loss of 8), Daly is well ahead of the team-best marks he posted in 2021, as his five TFL performance gives him 8 on the year (14 all of last season) and the QB bag raises his total to 2 (5 as a junior)…

On a tear during his past two outings, had it not been for the fact that his squad suffered a hard-fought loss at the hands of St. Joe’s by the Sea, it is almost inevitable that Daly would have been recognized last week (career-high 13 stops, 3 TFLs, 1 sack)!

His individual feat, coupled with equally impressive showings from Brandon Ricupero (5 stops, 1 TFL, 1 forced fumble), Simon Sanchez (3 stops, 2 TFL, 1 caused fumble), Logan Cross (2 assisted stops; both yielded negative yardage), and Brandon Francis (finished tied with Daly and Ricupero for the team-lead with 5 tackles) all contributed the Terriers’ pitching only their second shutout in the past decade (per MaxPreps)!

Not that he was asked to do much of it in win #4, but let it be acknowledged that with his build, Daly is one of the most physically intimidating punters in the entire Evil Empire!

 

Anthony Castaldi (Sr.); QB – Kennedy Catholic Gaels

Making his return to the POTW list after debuting in week #5 of the 2021 season is the 5’10, 185-pound, Dual-threat field general hailing from Wappingers Falls [Castaldi]!

A captain in every sense of the word when he steps out on the gridiron, the ‘21 All-Catholic selection has accomplished so much during his three-year stay on the Gael varsity that it is not always easy to establish a new milestone….But alas, he would be successful in hitting a plethora of new heights on September 30th as part of KC’s 47-7 win over the visiting Bayhawks from St. Dominic’s!

Connecting on 9 of 12 his throw attempts, the 4.0 student-athlete would record both his first 200-yard (208) hurling game of his scholastic tenure, as well as set a new best for TD passes in a single-game with THREEE!!!  

Utilizing the talents of his fellow seniors in the aerial assault, two of Nick Calandros’s three receptions (3 grabs for 85 yards) would result in touchdowns, as Castaldi put the ball over the shoulder of the team’s top target on tosses from distances of 45 and 21 yards respectively….

Nick Duryea (2 catches for 79 yards), was on the back-end of Castaldi’s remaining TD pass as the former would scramble to create time, side-stepped an intended ankle tackle and the dump it off his running back, who broke out of an arm-tackle and found space down the sideline to polish off the 21-yard TD reception…

Demonstrating the full array of his skill set, Castaldi’s legs also came into play, as he called his own number on five occasions for a net gain of 71 yards and two additional scores to log the fourth multi-rushing TD effort of his career (1st of 2022)!

Having amassed four touchdowns (2 in the air, 2 on the ground) the previous time he received Player of the Week acclaim, his FIVE scores last Thursday constituted yet another raising of his individual bar!!!  

Feeling nostalgic, Castaldi even channeled his former wide-receiving self when he hauled in a 7-yard reception!

At the halfway point of his swan song, Castaldi is well on his way to matching, if not blowing past the 2021 stat totals that earned him league-wide renown….Hitting on a 56% completion rate (28-for-50), his 454 yards already surpassed the 441 he recorded a season ago; and the four TD passes are identical to his 2021 output…His 309 yards and 2 TDs on 39 carries is actually statistically superior to the 743 + 9 he notched as a junior (115 attempts)!

 

Ian Strong (Sr.); WR/Rover – St. Anthony’s Friars

Welcome to the parade, Ian Strong!!!  

Regarded by every pundit as one of the top overall players in both the Metro Catholic League on a micro level and the entire state of New York on the macro, it came as a shock when it dawned on us that the 6’4, 195-pound, impact performer out of Coram had yet to be featured as a NYCHSFL Player of the Week!  

That enigmatic predicament is about to be rectified as the Rutgers University bound senior can no longer be ignored following one of the finest and most clutch displays that we have seen in recent times during the Friars’ statement-making 48-42 triumph on the road over defending League and State champs, Iona Prep, this past Saturday afternoon (Oct. 1st)…

Having spent the majority of his scholastic journey concentrating exclusively on the defensive side of the ball, Coach Joe Minucci’s decision to allow the future Scarlett Knight to play both ways has added an undeniable element to an already lethal STA vertical attack…The 1999 alumnus of “Friarville” [Minucci] is being rewarded 246-fold today for his intuition, because that is precisely the number of yards the gentleman in the #5 jersey amassed in avenging his school’s two heartbreaking losses to the Gaels last year (including a 35-28 OT defeat in a AAA semifinals) …

When sharing a depth chart with the likes of a KJ Duff Jr. (6 catches for 77 yards, 1 TD reception) caliber teammate, it is not very often that you are going to be one who steals the show out wide; but that is precisely what Strong succeeded in doing as his 13-catch, 246-yard, 3-TD haul resume is believed to be the most decorated/documented effort by an STA receiver in at least the past 20 years (MaxPreps stats)!!!….In fact, his sums are just 5 grabs and 55 yards shy of the NYS record that MaxPreps list!

Strong commenced his three touchdown-grab exhibition when on 3rd & 4, he found space in the middle of the field and hauled in a 25-yard over-the-shoulder toss from senior signal caller, Dante Torres (28-for-38, 530 yards, 4 touchdown passes; 30 yards +3 TDs on the ground via 5 keepers) to square the game at 14 apiece with approximately 9:40 remaining in the 1st half…

A little more than four minutes later (STA against trailing by a touchdown; 21-14), Torres and Strong hooked up again, as the statuesque target used every bit of his lengthy frame to high-point a jump ball for the 7-yard TD snatch that squared the “firefight” at 21 apiece with 5:09 still to go in the 2nd quarter!

The hat trick was finalized during the opening minute of the 4th quarter (game tied at 35-35) as Strong made a leaping catch down the visiting sideline and then took 2-3 more steps into the end zone for a 28-yarder that gave St. Anthony’s their second lead of the day!

Officially classified as another undefendable headache for opposing secondaries, Strong has now registered a TD reception in each of his past three outings….Two weeks ago, while playing on his future college home field (Shi Stadium), he boasted a 4-grab, 160-yard, 3TD vitae in a high-scoring loss to St. Joe’s Regional (NJ)….He then followed it up with a 2-reception, 76-yard, 1TD performance in a win over Monsignor Farrell on September 24th!  

Never forgetting his roots, Strong was also responsible for making 8 stops (2 solo, 6 assisted) on the other side of the ball!!!

Writer’s Note: Dante Torres was also nominated for POTW this week; and it need not be said that he was absolutely worthy…However, the decision was based on a desire to shine a spotlight on a fellow 12th grader who had not yet been given the warranted recognition!  

Sep 292022
 

Article by Matt Diano

Week #3 (September 23rd-24th, 2022)

 

Devin Page (Sr.); QB – Kellenberg Memorial Firebirds

Years before the 6’4, 195-pound, senior field general out of Valley Stream [Page] was even born, fictional professional football coach, Jimmy McGinty (Gene Hackman) said that the separation between winners and losers was the ability “get back on the horse after you’d been kicked in the teeth.”

Thankfully for the Firebirds, the now 4-0 program has their own version of a “Shane Falco” whose character and dedication to team is second to none…Because for the majority of their road showdown with Cardinal Hayes, they found themselves plagued with adversity!

A “Replacement” during the 2021 season, the future University of Pennsylvania student-athlete stepped up to fill the cleats of incumbent starter, Ethan Greenwood, and went on to earn All-Catholic distinction behind a campaign that witnessed him accumulate 1,575 yards (1,221 in the air; 354 on the ground) and 15 touchdowns (13 passing; 2 with his legs)…

Four appearances into his swan song in Blue & Gold, it is quite apparent that All-League is a formality and All-State is the reality!!!  

And never was the proof more in the pudding than the heroics he orchestrated last Saturday afternoon in leading the Uniondale based squad back from the 28-7 deficit to emerge with a 36-35 triumph over the host Cardinals 

Having already scored on a 74-yard touchdown trek in the 1st quarter (tied the contest at 7 apiece) for what up to that moment had been the only points of the game for the Marianist institution, Page’s immense athleticism and knack for innovation proved to be a Godsend in the waning moments (under 1:00 remaining) of the 2nd quarter, as he was able to create magic out of thin air, preserving a broken play by scrambling before eventually finding his fellow 12th grader, Peter Sluka (3 catches for 67 yards;  1TD) on a 57-yard Hail Mary that trimmed the hole to a more manageable 28-13 at the break…

The scoreboard unchanged (still 28-13) after a scoreless 3rd stanza, there wasn’t a tool in the box that Page did not display during the final 12:00 of action, as he utilized his sniper accuracy to make deep connections as precursors to calling his own number on THREE rushing touchdowns (his 2nd, 3rd, and 4th ground scores of the game)…

Launching the ball over the back-shoulder of Cluade-Albert Makelele (2 catches for 68 yards) on a 50-yard completion to move the ball into the red zone, Page culminated the drive a few snaps later on a 4-yard keeper to draw the Firebirds to within a single score (28-20) with approximately 10 minutes to go in regulation…

A Sean Cannon onside kick recovery on the ensuing play put the pigskin immediately back in the hands of Page, who then rewarded his “three-way” teammate, by hooking up with Cannon (5 reception for 95 yards; game-clinching INT) on a 42-yard hitch-and-go to advance the ball inside the opposing 5….Page did the rest, scoring on both a short TD run and then using his legs to march in the 2pt conversation to even the game at 28-28 with about 9:00 unspoken for!

After Hayes regained the lead on a TD pass (35-28), Page was there again to come to the rescue of his school, as he fed off of the momentum that came courtesy of a huge run from Ethan Cumming (67 yards on 13 carries) by taking a snap around the corner and then bolting 20-yards down his own sideline into the end zone….

Coach Meisse being the gambler that he is, rather than settle for the tie; he trusted his signal caller was rewarded for his faith as Page played pitch-and-catch with Cummings on the 2pt conversion to finish off the comeback!

Having a direct hand in every single tally for Kellenberg, Page concluded his day with 442 yards of total offensive production…He connected on 16 of his 24 aerial attempts for 279 yards (1 TD toss), while recording a new career-highs in rushing yardage and touchdowns with 163 and the aforementioned 4 on 12 carries….

Having scored at least three touchdowns in every outing thus far in 2022 (15 TDs), Page heads into week #4 with a stat line that reads as follows: 61-for-83 passing (73.5%) for 899 yards and 8 TD throws; 363 yards/7 TDs on 34 carries (10.7/per)!

Page is now a two-time POTW honoree in his career, after first earning the accolade in week 8 last fall!

 

Emir Yuksel (Jr.); ILB – Xavier Knights

Let’s hear it and toast to those plays that never show up in the box score, but yet are intrinsically invaluable in creating the contrast between victory and defeat…Too often, it is easy to reflect and celebrate the highlight plays; but what defines a true football fan is the ability to recognize and rejoice in the well-timed and/or clutch effort where a person did not display “flair”, but rather simply did their jobs effectively to the betterment of the entire organization….

It was in this humble capacity that the 6’1, 190-pound junior MIKE LB hailing from the Big Apple [Yuksel] earned his first career POTW spoils during the Knights’ 26-6 victory over their hosts from Kennedy Catholic on September 23rd!

Expressed perfectly by legendary Xavier Head Coach, Chris Stevens, “In a game where we rushed for 377 yards, led by two individuals that each surpassed 150 yards, one would think that a member of the offensive personnel would get the nod League Player of the Week honors; but yet, it was the bend, don’t break showing from the defense that proved to be the fortune from which propelled us to a key divisional [AA-2] win!

A contest that as described by Stevens as much closer and/or competitive that the final score might indicate, there were two opposing drives that were snuffed out that the coaching staff pinpointed as instrumental in halting any momentum that KC was attempting to establish….And in each case, it was the 11th grade gentleman donning the #9 jersey that was at the heart of generating/facilitating an eventual turnover on downs!

With the showdown deadlocked at 6-6 midway through the 2nd quarter and the Gaels in the midst of a promising drive inside the Xavier red zone, it was Yuksel getting a paw on the pigskin for a pass break-up/deflection that ended the series on the Knights’ 15-yard line and sent the game into the half all even…Prior to the PD, it was Yuksel’s ability to bring pressure on the pass rush that further derailed the Kennedy march!  

Fast-forward to the early stages of the 4th quarter (Xavier now holding a 20-6 advantage) and it was the “deja vu” magic of Yuksel that again prematurely stymied a potential game-changing sequence when he followed up a pair of vital tackles recorded earlier by using his mitt to register yet another crucial pass break-up on 4th down to deny the boys of Somers on the XR 7-yard line!

Undeniably outstanding and complete in everything he did under the Friday Night lights, one week after notching his first scholastic double-digit tackle outing (10 in a loss to Moore Catholic), Yuksel continued his emergence as “one to watch” by amassing 8 solo hits and 4 assists to end the evening with a new career-best of 12 total stops…In addition, he logged his first multiple TFL effort (2.5), was credited with multiple QB hurries (2), and had those two priceless pass defenses!!!

As a sidenote, not lost in the crowd and worthy of being heralded for their offensive exploits were—Gavin Gallagher (188 yards and two rushing TDs on 16 carries), Shane Zaletofsky (160 yards/1 touchdowns on 23 keepers), and Mehdi Merah (29 yards + 1 score on 9 hand-offs) who provided the boom on offense!!

Winners of only one game a year ago, Stevens has the Knights sitting at 3-1 and firmly in the hunt for that proverbial postseason “top line” of the bracket!

 

Kori Small (Sr.); Safety – Archbishop Stepinac Crusaders

While always exciting, the commonplace of a defensive touchdown is so rare that thus far this season, only nine of the 32 teams in the National Football League has recorded one during the 2022 season…In 2021, the average per game was 0.17, with 26 squads accounting for 2 or less total for the entirety of a 17-game season!  

So to say that the 6’1, 184-pound, two-year-starting defensive back out of Mount Vernon [Small] had himself one heck of a thrilling, but unique afternoon in the Crusader’s 34-3 win over Chaminade on September 24th would be spot on….

Entering week #3 of his senior year having recorded neither an interception, nor a fumble recovery (per MaxPreps) during his stay on the White Plains based campus, the gentleman clad in the Red/White/Blue #11 “shirt” would not only notch one of each category, he’d go the extra mile and return both to the promised land to spark Stepinac to a 20-0 halftime lead over the host Flyers….

Scoring the first of his pair of defensive TDs with a little over 6:00 remaining in the opening quarter, Small drew first blood in a 0-0 contest when he pounced on a ball knocked loose by senior LB, Jandiel Jimenez, scooped it up, and raced 34 yards to paydirt to help the Crusaders jump out to a 7-0 advantage…

The lead having nearly doubled to 13-0 (5-yard TD pass from Will Currid to Jahi Gary less than 4:00 into the 2nd quarter), Small’s intuition/instincts and/or nose for the ball wreaked havoc once again, as he thwarted a very encouraging Chaminade drive when he cut in front of a Flyer receiver on the AS 20 and sprinted 60 yards untouched (to the opposing 20), before doing a darn fine matador impression to evade a tackle (from the CHS QB) en route to finishing off the 80-yard pick-6!

Every bit as much “substance” as “style” from his spot in the secondary, not lost or forgotten in the elegance of his two scores was the fact that he played stellar fundamental football, collecting a new personal-best of 13 stops (8 solo, 5 assists), while tying his previous high of 2 successful pass break-ups as part of an ensemble that limited the Chaminade passing attack to just 94 yards (12-of-34) and surrendered only 226 yards of total offense overall in holding their host to their lowest output since the 2017 season!

Already named as the recipient of the LoHud Player of the Week, Small’s tremendous outing last Saturday now yields him another proverbial feather in his cap!   

 

Tyler Cadienhead (Sr.); DE – Mt. St. Michael Acad. Mountaineers

The anchor of a collective bounce back defensive display that witnessed the Mountaineers go from allowing 48 points (in a 54-48 victory over St. Francis Prep in week #2) to barely being threatened at all, the 5’10, 195-pound, senior defensive end was paramount in steering Mount St. Michael Academy to their first shutout since the 2020 campaign and only the fourth for the program in the past decade, as they bested Cardinal Spellman, 27-0, on September 24th…

An All-Catholic selection as a junior on behalf of the Bronx based school, the hometown standout has consistently played at a steady, if not outstanding level throughout his journey as a Mountaineer….However, last Saturday literally and figuratively “hit differently”!!!

Establishing a new personal-high of 7 solo tackles (8 total stops) while adding a TFL and a sack, Cadienhead is on track to shatter his 2021 totals (37 tackles, 3 TFL, 2 sacks) as he has already racked up 28 stops following three consecutive appearances of 8 or more!  His QB bad in week #3 gave him 1.5 this fall!

After winning just two games last year (2-8), Coach Mario Valentini, has his brigade “cooking with gasoline” as their victory over the Pilots improved them to 3-1 overall (3-0 in divisional contests), putting them atop the AA-2 standings!!!

While Cadienhead, along with Malique Outlaw-Butler (10 stops), Jaire Edwards (7 stops, 2 TFLs), and Nico Bustamante (1 INT) all held down the fort on “D”, it was Marc Pearson Jr. (reigning NYCHSFL POTW selection) igniting the offense with a 3TD (1 pass, 2 run) exhibition…The junior signal caller upped his TD quantity to 14 (9 on the ground, 5 via sky)!

Junior RB/DB, Jonathan Otoo, was also worthy of praise after contributing on both sides of the ball…On offense (2 carries for 7 yards), he earned a rushing TD for the second straight appearance…Defensively, he posted 3 stops, including one hit that resulted in negative yardage!

 

Dowan Coachman (Sr.); RB/LB – Moore Catholic Mavericks

Standing 5’11 and tipping the scales at a chiseled 215 pounds, the two-way standout for the Mavericks [Coachman] is a human headache/nightmare for opposing coaches no matter the capacity in which he is being utilized…

Sometimes he inflicts damage out of the offensive backfield (312 yards and 3 TDs last season); on other occasions, the pain he causes is the direct byproduct of menacing hits as a member of the linebacking corps (65 stops in 2021)….

And then there are those really traumatizing days where he simply does it all and never permits the foes to enjoy a moment of peace!!   

Last Friday night (September 23rd), in Moore Catholic’s 28-13 road victory over the Rams of Fordham Prep, the Staten Island resident toggled “beast mode” and took over the game in all aspects in helping the Mavs remain among the ranks of the unbeaten (4-0) this fall!

A NYCHSFL POTW selection for the second time in his career (previously week #2 of last year), just as he did last September, it was Coachman setting a new career-high for rushing yards, while simultaneously recording double-digit tackles that secured his berth among the week #3 elite!!!

Needing only 10 carries to surpass his prior high-mark (81), Coachman averaged just under nine yards per attempt to conclude the night with 88 yards, including a bulldozing 1-yard TD carry in the final 1:25 of the 4th quarter that iced the “w” and rounded out the scoring!

Much earlier in the night (1st quarter), it was his 26-yard dart that moved the ball inside the red zone (the Ram 15) and paved the way for the eventual first TD of the contest (3-yard QB keeper by John Michalski

Turning his attention to the other side of the gridiron, Coachman continued to be a tackling machine for MC (no fewer than 8 stops in any of his four appearances in 2022), as he topped all Maverick personnel with 10, including a pair of hits that resulted in a loss of yardage…As an added bonus, he was part of one of the three turnovers induced by the “D”, as he regained possession for his school when he alertly hopped on a fumble caused by Michael Zeh (8 tackles, 1 INT, 1 FF)!!

Fresh off of a 4-touchdown display that garnered POTW status in week #2, Michalski was again the primary weapon offense, as he ran for two scores and tossed for one additional touchdown increase his 2022 total to 14!…Just missing a 300/200 game when he fell 19 yards short on the ground, he amassed 490 yards of production (309 in the air; 181 on land)!

Moore Catholic is going to need for all of their stars to stay locked-in and on fire as they prepare next for perhaps their biggest challenge of the season when they welcome in AAA juggernaut, Stepinac, in a collision of the unblemished on Friday Sept. 30th!