Sep 262018
 

By Matt Diano:

Myles Proctor (Sr.); RB – Kennedy Catholic Gaels

Off to the program’s best start in quite some time, the current 3-0 Gaels have yet to be tested in 2018 and a big reason for that has been the electrifying performance of their senior dynamic duo in the backfield, Seth Surrett and Myles Proctor….We highlighted the former during the first week of the regular season and now it is the latter’s turn to bask in the spotlight.

An individual who was considered as a POTW candidate last weekend following a 13-carry, 112-yard, 1 TD performance in a 28-0 victory over Nazareth Regional, when we saw Proctor’s numbers from this past Saturday, we were glad we waited the extra week so as to capture his true breakthrough.

Playing only during the first half, the 6’2, 190-pounder out of Yorktown Heights not only logged his second straight 100+ yard showing, he went above and behind, exceeding the 200-yard mark for the first time in his scholastic career in the KC’s 35-0 blanking of St. Dominic’s….Carrying the ball a mere nine times on the afternoon, the 12th grader would rack up a career-high 215 yards (of the 267 earned collectively by the school), scoring three times on treks of 77, 55, and 11 yards…He would also find the energy to record five tackles from his linebacker position on defense to help the Gaels to a second straight goose-egging of the opposition.

Averaging an astounding 141 yards per contest through week #3, Proctor currently leads the “A’ division in all major ground categories with 423 yards on 35 carries (12.1/touch) and four touchdowns.

His 13 total stops also ranks him in the top-10 among Gaels in tackles this season.

Up next for the Gaels will be a week #4 clash against the defending “A” titlists, Cardinal Spellman.  With both teams still undefeated in league play, more than a few pundits are calling for this to be the first of two [also during the last week of the regular season] championship game previews…The host Pilots have yet to surrender a single point against “A” opponents this season.  On the contrary, KC is putting up an average of nearly 33 points per game and have not been held below 28 yet.

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

When you are the reigning Double-A Offensive Player of the Year and a returning 2nd Team All-State selection, one of the biggest challenges you face week after week is the pressure of trying to adhere to your own personal standard of excellence that at times borders on the realm of impossibility…When you are the red-headed assassin who dons the #10 jersey for the defending champion Firebirds, anytime you can succeed in raising the bar for yourself, it is a mighty big deal since that proverbial bar was already incredibly high to start.

This past Saturday night in a game that was being billed as a potential early preview of championship weekend, Sluka would emerge with statistically the best overall game of his two-year high school career in a 47-14 triumph on the road over Xavier.

Improving his record under center to a perfect 14-0, the 6’3, 205-pounder from Roslyn established new personal bests for total offense (362 yards) and passing yards (232), while also tying his previous record of five (set in last year’s AA title game) touchdowns.

Completing 9 of his 11 attempts in the air en route to the aforementioned new milestone, Sluka would post his first three-touchdown-passing effort as a member of the Blue & Gold…Connecting on all three TDs with fellow senior/Week #1 POTW honoree, Matthew Mongelli, Sluka’s first touchdown pass of the game would go for 60 yards and tie the game at six apiece in the first quarter…Leading 12-6, it would be his second dart of the half, a seven-yard strike that increased the lead to 19-6….Sluka’s final home-run hitter of the day would be his longest, as he displayed laser precision in lofting the ball over the outstretched arms of a defender to hit Mongelli along the sideline for an 85-yarder to make the score 40-14.

The state leader in yardage and rushing touchdowns by a quarterback last season in New York State, after being held to just 21 yards in the team’s season-opening victory over Holy Trinity on September 8th, Sluka has regained his top form during weeks 2 and 3, running for 117 and 130 yards respectively and combining to score five touchdowns with his legs…In the “w” over the host Knights, Sluka had one TD run in each half, including a 62-yard pilgrimage in the 3rd quarter in response to Xavier’s touchdown on their first possession of the final 24 minutes.

Sluka also converted on four of six PAT tries to play a role in 34 of the 47 total points accumulated by Kellenberg.

Well on his way to another All-State distinction, what has stood out most about Sluka has been the balance he has demonstrated in his attacks.  A year removed from scoring 70+ percent of his touchdowns on the ground, through three weeks of the season, he is putting up nearly a 1:1 ratio (6:5 to be exact) where his passing talents are slightly outweighing his contributions as a scrambler…Thus far, his stat line reads as follows: 30-for-43 (69.8%) for 513 yards and six TDs in the sky; 268 yards and an additional five scores on 30 carries (8.9 average) via the ground.

This is Sluka’s third career POTW distinction.  As a junior, he had the rare honor of being named twice in a span of three weeks (3 and 5).

 

Bobby Spano (Sr.); RB – St. John the Baptist Cougars

In his bestselling novel, The Five People You Meet In Heaven, author/sports writer, Mitch Albom addressed the subject of selflessness by penning this: “Sometimes when sacrifice something precious, you’re not really losing it.  You are just passing it on to someone else.”

In the case of the 5’7, 165-pound, senior tailback [Spano], much of scholastic career in general and his senior season in particular has been about doing all of the behind the scenes work so that it could be his teammates that were afforded the privilege of being the headliners…A dedicated lead blocker who despite never being the biggest guy on the field seems among the first to throw himself into harm’s way in order to create a hole for one of his peers, the influence that the Bay Shore resident has on the success of the running game far exceeds what you will in a weekend box score.

With these sentiments in mind, there is nothing more special or fitting then when the facilitator finally gets his moment to be the star.  And that occasion came to pass in the Cougar’s 51-6 win on September 22nd over Nazareth Regional.

Entering the week #3 contest having gained just 90 yards on 21 hand-offs (4.3/carry) this season, Spano would transform himself into an undeniable force, requiring only six touches to amass 200 yards (33.3 average).  Included in his career-day would be a 30yrd run in the second quarter that gave SJB a 21-0 lead.   He would also have a 93-yard blast to set up an additional score.

Not one to allow personal achievements to cloud the strong sense of “team” instilled in him by Coach Carusillo, Spano would continue to add to his reputation as a fierce “chaperone” for his fellow ball carriers.  With him serving as a human battering ram, Jayden Louis (60 yards on five carries) and Christian “Marvelous Mister” Maisel (38 yards on three hand-offs) each scored a pair of touchdowns…All in all, the West Islip based program accumulated 325 yards on the ground to improve to 2-1 this season.

The epitome of a “no job too small” philosophy, Spano rounded out his impressive day by doing solid work in all facets of special teams.

 

Joseph Costanzo (Sr.); LB – St. Anthony’s Friars

Our lone defensive player of the week recipient, the Friar senior checked off so many different boxes in the school’s 28-7 victory over Christ the King, last Saturday, that he made it impossible to ignore him.

Facing one of the most naturally gifted offenses anywhere in NYS that featured a running back holding a scholarship offer to the University of Michigan, a quarterback being actively watched by the likes of Penn State and Ohio, and several additional future college players at the other skill positions, the St. Anthony’s “D” would limit the Royals to no more than a  2nd quarter touchdown.

Showing himself to be a complete linebacker who is equally effective in both run and pass coverage, there wasn’t much more that the 5’11, 205-pounder could have done during week #3 to add to his statement-making afternoon.

Credited with 14 total tackles, Costanzo was a big reason why CTK’s highly routed tailback [Tirek Murphy], was kept to only 15 yards (on 8 carries) and the Middle Village school as a whole mustered only 78 yards gained on 27 attempts (2.7 average).

The STA 12th grader also shined in passing down situations, as he earned a quarterback sack and had one of two interceptions [Nick Espada accounting for the other pick] on the day for the boys from South Huntington.

Speaking of creating turnovers, the INT was one of just three change of possessions that Costanzo had a direct hand in bringing to fruition.  His truck-like hits to ball carriers also resulted in a pair of forced fumbles.

Now, as the Reichert-guided Friars inch closer to a week #4 rematch of last year’s triple-A title contest against a very diverse and athletic Stepinac offense (averaging 438.6 yards of total production), the D-unit will be counting on Costanzo to remain locked in…Should the front seven be successful in matching their intensity from last week, the Friars have every reason to feel confident about their prospects of improving to 4-0 in 2018.

 

CJ Riccobono (Jr.); RB/LB – Holy Trinity Titans

Back-to-back weeks that a Titan is being recognized, last time it was the muscle [John Stroughn] catching our eye, whereas today, we are pleased to acknowledge the finesse/skill [Riccobono] of the operation.

Turning the clock back to 2016, when Holy Trinity averaged over 37 points per game behind All-State tailback, Umari Taylor, the Tony Mascia-mentored cohort threw “half a hundred” on the scoreboard for the first time in two years this past Saturday in their 50-20 victory over St. Joseph’s by the Sea.

Providing the spark and further asserting himself as someone who is destined for present and future greatness was the junior tailback out of New Hyde Park, who maintained his workhorse status for a third straight weekend…Setting new career benchmarks for total carries (27) and yards gained [146] in the team’s second win of the season, Riccobono’s pair of touchdowns on the ground were two of the five in all that the Hicksville based school plunged into the end zone on September 22nd….He has now scored at least once in every appearance in 2018 and will head into the fourth week of the regular season riding a two-game two-touchdown streak…His 146-yard showing, which came as a follow-up to the 123-yard show he put on during week #2, made it consecutive 100+ games for the 5’9, 185-pounder.  To accomplish this twice in a matter of attempts, is a sign of a potentially revolutionary player.

Scoring both of his touchdowns in the 2nd quarter, Riccobono would turn a narrow 15-8 edge into a comfortable 29-8 half time advantage when he broke free on runs of 4 and 9 yards respectively to conclude the first 24 minutes of competition.

After three games, Riccobono’s [115.3/contest) 346 yards and five touchdowns both rank within the top-3 in the Double-A division.

Punching the clock on the defensive side of the ball to boot, Riccobono finished the game tied for 3rd on the team with five stops and earned his first sack of the season.   Playing their best game of the season, the front seven held the foes from Staten Island to a modest 2.2 yard/carry average (35 yards on 16 hand-offs).

Photo from SI Live

Michael Regan (Sr.); QB – Monsignor Farrell Lions

For those who do not put much stock in the saying, “It’s not how you start, but how you finish”, consider for a moment the day that the 6’5, 190-pound Lions signal caller [Regan] had this past Saturday in leading the Maroon & Gold to a 34-20 conquest on the road over Chaminade….Commencing the game by missing on his first three passing attempts, if you were to rush to judgement, you’d say that week #3 was not going to be a banner one for the Staten Island resident…YOU’D BE WRONG!!!

Calling it “The most efficient and complete performance” of Regan’s two-year varsity career, Head Coach, Anthony Garofalo, had nothing but praise for his field general, as he witnessed his team start the season 3-0 for a third year in a row.

Battling back from his initial struggles, Regan transformed himself from mortal to Marvel Comics character, as he was about as close to “Bullseye” as you could be for the remaining 3.5 quarters…Connecting on 13 of his final 14 attempts, the Lion co-captain hurled for 187 yards (3rd highest single-game total) and tied his personal best of three touchdown tosses in earning the first Player of the Week designation.

In synch with junior wide-out, Christian Tait (caught 10 of the 13 completions) all afternoon, Regan would double his team’s 7-0 lead in the second quarter when he found his teammate over the middle on a 16-yard strike for the first of their three hook-ups to make the score 13-0…Later in the quarter, it would a perfectly executed over-the-shoulder throw from approximately the same distance to make the score 20-0….The #10 to #13 TD trifecta would be capped off at the onset of the 3rd quarter and would be in response to the host Flyers’ touchdown on their first possession of the 2nd half, keeping the contest a three-score affair, 27-7.

Quite adept with his legs too, Regan was the furthest thing from one-dimensional last Saturday, as he tied his personal-best of nine carries and fell just short of a career-high in yardage (87 last season) with 80.

After completing 51.6 percent (79-for-153) of his passes for 892 yards and nine touchdowns as a junior, the “skyscraper in the pocket” is on track to obliterate his 2017 stat line, as he is currently sporting a 68.1 completion percentage (32-of-47), has already rocketed his way to 390 yards, and is just four TDs short of reaching double digits…His 156 yards on the ground puts him more than half way to the 310 he gained as an 11th grader.

Farrell will face their biggest test of the season thus far in week #4 when they go toe-to-toe with Cardinal Hayes…In their 51-48 loss to Iona Prep, the Cardinals secondary, which consists of several new faces, allowed 324 yards and four touchdowns.  Thus, unless they gelled in a hurry there could be openings to exploit for Regan and the MF receiving corps.

Sep 192018
 

DeShawn Lawton (Fr.); WR/KR – Moore Catholic Mavericks

Just the third freshman to ever make the POTW list, anytime you find yourself in the company of former NYCHSFL great, Matt Valecce, or current Catholic football standard bearer, Justin Lacks (his teammate at Moore Catholic), you know that you are walking on a path to future greatness.

Identified in the 2018 Double-A preview as a special talent whose level of play far exceeds his youthful age, Lawton is only two games into his varsity career and already he has emerged as the Mavericks’ top threat out wide, as supported by a stat sheet that lists him as having twice as many receptions (8), yards (170), and touchdowns (2) as his next closest peer on Merrill Avenue.

Making six of his eight career grabs in the 34-32 victory on September 15th over Holy Cross, the 5’8, 155-pounder from across the bridge (Newark, New Jersey) accumulated 156 yards and caught a TD pass for a second straight Saturday.  His yardage output was the highest posted by a Maverick receiver since the program was reinstated in 2016.  Lawton also used his hands to successfully convert on a 2pt try, thus providing the final margin of triumph.

The fab frosh added to his impressive afternoon by gaining 20 yards on his lone rushing attempt.  Carrying the ball only two times this season, on both occasions he has broken for 20 or more yards, as he gained 23 on his one touch in week #1.

Explosive in all areas of the game, 28 of his 204 All-purpose yards earned last weekend came on a big fourth quarter punt return that flipped the field and enabled the host Mavs to enjoy ideal positioning.

All of the aforementioned being given its proper credit, remarkably, the biggest contribution that the Garden Stater made during the second weekend of the regular season is one that will not appear in most box scores.   Following an interception by Holy Cross, Lawton would sprint 80 yards and make a game-saving tackle to preserve the “w”.

By virtue of improving to 2-0 on the young season, Moore Catholic has already equaled their win total from a year ago.

Sonny Badyna (Sr.); QB – St. Peter’s Eagles

Speaking on the importance of one’s ability to be adaptive at all times and make necessary adjustments, American author/toymaker/creative theorist, Roger Von Oech stated, “Flexibility is a requirement of survival.”….Charles Darwin expressed identical sentiments, saying, “It’s not the strongest of the species that survives, but rather the one that is most adaptive to change.”

For the now 1-1 Eagles of St. Peter’s, when they reflect back on the 2018 season, it may be that their saving graces can be found in the willingness and promptness of their senior signal caller [Badyna] to go back to the drawing board and be receptive to the introduction of a new offensive scheme.

A week removed from being shut out 33-0 by Moore Catholic during the first week of the regular season, the Staten Island school realized that an overhaul was necessary and put their trust in the experienced leader to quickly absorb the new game plan….Indoctrinated into the school’s new philosophy on Tuesday, by Saturday of last week, the 6’2, 180-pounder from Brooklyn had already mastered it, as the Eagles soared up and down the field to the tune of a 49-14 win over rival, St. Joseph’s by the Sea.

The classic drop-back passer during the first three years of his scholastic career, Badyna only attempted to run the ball 32 times last year and finished with negative production.  Therefore, to transform from gun-slinger to scrambler in a matter of days is nothing short of miraculous.

Entering the week #2 All-SI clash having never run for a touchdown, the Eagle captain might as well change his legal name to Newton [in reference to Panthers Starter/NFL record holder for career TD by a QB] as he would make the journey to the promised land on four separate occasions…He ended his afternoon having gained 90 yards on 21 carries.

While the new-look blue print did limit the number of times he was able to air out the pigskin, when those opportunities did occur, Badyna looked as polished as ever, completing all four of his passes for 142 yards and tacking on a fifth touchdown.

When the news of St. Peter’s dropping down to the “AA” division was released, this was the imagine of dominance the experts envisioned.  And now that the real Eagles have spread a fresh set of wings, we dare anyone to try and clip them.

Daniel Vittiburga (Sr.); RB/QB/Punter – Xavier Knights

A program that has always made their name on keeping points off of the scoreboard, this 2018 edition of the Knights have been downright nasty on both sides of the gridiron so far this season…Averaging 35.5 points per game through the first two weeks of the season, as the expression goes, this is not your “daddy’s Xavier team anymore.”

At the heart of this offensive explosion has been the astronomical rise to stardom by the senior jack-of-all-trades, Vittiburga….Utilized in every aspect of the game, the Brooklynite does so many things within a 48-minute time frame that by the end you have a difficult time pinpointing what his biggest contribution was on that given day.

More of a complementary piece during his junior season, #36 wrapped up 2017 having carried the ball just 28 times for a modest 78 yards and two scores.  As a passer in the single-wing formation, he failed to connect on any of his nine attempts.  In fact, if not for splitting time as the punter and excelling as a kick returner, it could be argued that last year was a bit forgettable for the 5’8, 165-pounder.

Fastforward to 2018 and if there is one word that will never be written in describing Vittiburga again, it is “forgettable”.  Rather, terms such as “irreplaceable”, “invaluable”,
“indispensable” and so forth have become the new vernacular when describing this amazing student-athlete.

Fresh off of a team-leading 17-carry, 77-yard, two touchdown performance in the season opening win over Holy Cross on September 8th, Vittaburga would again treat those in attendance to a show.  Atop the statistics sheet for the second outing in a row, the Knight senior continued to rewrite his personal record book in a 42-7 victory over St. John the Baptist this past Sunday…Notching the first 100+-yard game of his career (160), Vittiburga carried the ball 24 times (6.7/run average) and scored twice more (on runs of 6 and 9 yards) on the ground to increase his season total to four touchdowns.

Per Xavier Head Coach, Chris Stevens, who achieved a milestone of his own (100th career victory) during week #2, what made the 12th grader’s day even more spectacular is that even on the plays that did not yield touchdowns, Vittiburga still had a significant impact on every drive.

Trailing 7-0 at the time, Vittaburga’s first career pass completion would be a 60-yarder to fellow senior, Demetrios Demetriades, to set up the Knight’s first TD of the game to cut the Cougar lead to 7-6.

Later in the contest and with the New York City based school now holding a 12-7 edge, it would be the punting precision of Vittiburga that paved the way for a backbreaking score late in the 3rd quarter…Kicking a 40-yard boomer, he buried SJB inside their own 20.  A fumble on an ensuing play gave the Maroon & Blue excellent field position, which they capitalized on by scoring their third TD of the game to make the score 18-7…Using Steven’s words, “this TD opened the flood gates” as Xavier went on to score 18 4th quarter points to pull away.

After getting swept last season, including a 28-7 semifinal loss, Xavier will have revenge on their mind during week #3 as they face-off with defending champions Kellenberg, in a what is quickly materializing as a possible preview of the double-A title game.

John Stroughn (Sr.); Two-Way Lineman –Holy Trinity Titans

Because the nature of accolades such as POTW has always favored players occupying the skill positions, on the few chances per year that we get to shine the spotlight on a lineman, we rejoice.

The first of his breed to be honored in 2018, the 245-pound resident of Uniondale is nothing if not an unsung hero for the Titans week after week.

The leader of the road graders as the pulling guard, with Stroughn plowing would-be tackler and pass rushers, the Tony Mascia mentored program is averaging just under 250 yards of total offense and 20 points per game after two weeks (1-1)…In both cases, these numbers signify a quantum leap over a 2017 campaign that saw the Hicksville based school muster averages of 151.3 yards and nine points.  The increased effectiveness of the running game especially has stood out, as 78 yards a year ago has been replaced by 199.5 yards of ground attack.

In this past Saturday’s 26-22 win over Xaverian, all of the Titans points would come by way of the run, as three runners combined to score four touchdowns.  Through two games, Holy Trinity has already recorded six TDs on the ground.

Defensively, Stroughn has picked up right where he left off from his junior season.   The team’s tackle leader with 63 stops in 2017, he appears well on his way to repeating this feat.  His 15 tackles and four sacks rank 1st in both categories for the defense.

In the aforementioned win over the visiting Clippers last weekend, Stroughn was particularly active, making six solo tackles (2 TFL), adding a sack to his resume, and being both the cause and the capturer of a Xaverian fumble…Collectively, it was a signature afternoon for the HT D-line, as they held their opponents to just 44 yards rushing (1.8 carry average).

Having already played their most likely toughest test, defending champion Kellenberg Memorial and their potent offense in week #1 (34-14 loss), as impressive as Stroughn and the Titans stats have been thus far; you should expect them to get even better as the season progresses.

Jimaar Edwards (Sr.); DT – Iona Prep Gaels

If the first two weeks of the 2018 season are any indication of what the remainder of the year is going to be like in New Rochelle, then it might be necessary to stop calling Iona Prep the Gaels and instead begin referring to them as the Cardiac Clan!!!

For the second time in a matter of weeks, it would be a game-changing play in the final minutes of the 4th quarter that ultimately enabled Coach Joe Spagnolo and his cohort to emerge victorious.

One week removed from senior quarterback Derek Robertson’s dramatic 3-yard touchdown pass in a 41-34 non-league win over Bishop Henricken (RI), it would be a member of the defensive personnel’s turn to “snatch victory from the hands of defeat.”  And that individual would be none other than the 5’11, 250-pound nose guard from White Plains, [Jimaar] Edwards.

Trailing for the majority of the game (including being down 28-14 with 4:27 remaining in the final quarter) to defending Triple-A League and Catholic State Champion, Archbishop Stepinac, the Gaels would launch a most impractical comeback for the ages…A 60-yard touchdown pass from Robertson to Matt Panker cut the deficit in half, setting the stage for what could legitimately be the defensive sequence of the year…With the clock acting as a bigger enemy than the gentlemen lined up on the opposing sideline, Iona Prep knew that if it had any chance of knocking off the Crusaders for a second consecutive season, they would need to either force a quick punt or create a turnover…Cue Edwards!!!

Clinging to the one TD lead but buried in their own zone with 2:30 remaining in the game, everyone, including the commentators predicted that Stepinac would run the ball to kill clock.  Instead, they would attempt a screen pass on 3rd-and-19 and it would be Edwards throwing his hands up, picking off the throw and cruising 20 yards to the house to level the game at 28 apiece with 2:22 on the clock…The war between the top-2 teams in the Lower Hudson polls would go into overtime and it would be a Frankie McFadden two-point conversion that followed, followed by a stuff on Stepinac’s 2pt attempt that proved to be the deciding factor in the 36-34 home triumph.

Lucas Turco (Sr.); RB/WR – Monsignor Farrell Lions

There is a saying in sports that there is a difference between being injured and being hurt.  In the case of the 6’0, 220-pounder from Staten Island [Turco], the pregame scouting report may have suggested that he was less than 100%.  However, by the time the final buzzer sounded, the only ones truly hurting were the host Royals of Christ the King, as Farrell improved to 2-0 behind a 15-14 comeback win in hostile territory.

Hampered for much of the preseason and forced to miss the Lions’ season-opener on September 7th while recovering from multiple afflictions, like a gift from “Uncle Louie” on Christmas day, the Farrell coaching staff were forthcoming in admitting that they were not completely sure what, if anything at all, they would receive from their three-year varsity stud…But, in the face of adversity, Turco would show himself to be the consummate “by any means necessary” warrior, as he endured obvious discomforts in his declaration of selflessness and excellence.

Customarily utilized as the team’s #1 target (28 catches for 289 yards and 4 touchdowns as a junior) in the aerial attack, Turco was unexpectedly thrust into the role of primary running option when the Lions’ Honorable-Mention All-State selection, Vin Wagner, was unable to return to the game after sustaining an injury following his lone carry…Despite inheriting some mighty large cleats to fill, Turco delivered, averaging over 14 yards per carry on his five touches to lead all Maroon & Gold rushers with 71 yards.

Too exceptional to allow them to go to waste, Turco’s hands also came into play at key moments of the game, as it would be him on the back end of a 3-yard shovel from Mike Regan early in the second quarter that got Farrell on the board and tied the contest at 7-7….This touchdown reception was one of three grabs made by Turco, as he added 20 yards as a pass catcher to raise his total yardage output to 91.

With 9:40 remaining in the 4th quarter and MF now trailing 14-7, Regan connected with Christian Tait on an 8-yard TD strike to draw the Staten Islanders within a point…Rather than settle for the PAT to tie the game, Head Coach, Anthony Garofalo, elected instead to gamble and go for the 2pt attempt…Aware that points had been at a premium all afternoon, when deciding whom he trusted most to come through in the clutch, it would be a no-brainer for the Garofalo, as he went back to the well and again converted on a shovel pass to Turco for what ultimately was the game-winning points.

Erring on the side of caution, the Farrell coaching staff did say that Turco will continue to be eased back into the line-up in their week #3 match-up against Chaminade.  But alas, if his debut last weekend proved anything, it is that 75 percent of Turco is still 110% capable of taking fate into his own hands (and legs for that matter).

Sep 142018
 

Before we turn the page to a full slate of exciting Week 2 games lets first look at the player’s who had impressive performances last weekend to kick the season off.  Here are the Week 1 NYCHSFL Players of the Week.

By Matt Diano:

 

 

“A”

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

If there is one thing that we love about the opening weekend of every season, it is that it always brings with it the opportunity to see which of our new core of seniors have turned that proverbial corner and committed themselves to becoming team leaders in their final appearances wearing the school colors.  And for Gael senior, Seth Surrett, his swan song could not have gotten off to a better start, as he seemed to do a little bit of everything in helping Kennedy Catholic to a decisive 35-14 victory over St. Dominick’s under the Friday night lights.

A young man that we predicted was destined to have a big season for the Somers, NY based school, his week #1 performance exceeded even our loftiest of expectations, scoring four of the team’s five touchdowns and accounting for an astounding 256 yards of total production.

Accumulating 150 yards and scoring one touchdown on 17 carries all of last season, it took the 5’10, 180-pounder from Newburgh less than 48 minutes to surpass those marks, as he was on a man on a mission against the Bawhawks, averaging 16.8 yards per carry on 11 hand-offs to finish the season opener with 185 yards and three ground TDs.

Demonstrating the versatility of his talents, Surrett also had moments of brilliance as both a receiver and a kick-returner…Going all of last year without a TD catch, the Gael speedster’s lone catch last weekend resulted in a 21-yard score…In addition, the 50 yards he earned as a punt returner was key to giving his school excellent field position on two of their drives.

The merit of his offensive and/or special teams credentials alone would have garnered him POTW honors.  But alas, as a final, he would excel in the defensive backfield, making three tackles (1 for a loss) and recording a sack from the free safety position.

 

“AA”

Nicholas Delcore (Sr.); WR/DB – St. John the Baptist Diocesan Cougars

For some athletes, making the transition from one position to another can prove to be an impossible task.  But for the Cougar senior [Delcore], if you did not know any better last Sunday afternoon, you would think he’d been playing wide receiver all of his life.

The school’s starting quarterback in 2017, Delcore displayed such athleticism in the running aspect (491 yards, 4 TDs) of the position that when it came time to decide how he could best be utilized on the field, it became clear to Head Coach, Ralph Carusillo, that the way to truly unleash his play-making ability would be to put him in situations where he could go out into open space and just burn everyone with his natural quickness…Through one week of the season, Carusillo looks like a genius!!!

Involved in all five of the SJB pass completions in their 30-15 win over St. Francis Prep, Delcore caught four balls for 140 yards, including a 95-yarder early in the third quarter that increased his team’s lead to 23-0.

On the only other successful pass attempt of the day for St. John the Baptist, Delcore would revert back to his field general roots by hitting sophomore, Christian Maisel, on a 40-yard strike.

As could be expected, just because he was lining up out wide, did not mean that the Smithtown resident would not easily find his way into the running game as well.  As a ball carrier, he posted a team-best average of 9.2 yards per hand-off, ending the day with 55 yards, highlighted by a 28-yard 4th quarter trek for his second TD of the day (he scored both 2nd half TDs for SJB) to ice the “w” for the visiting Cougars.

Representing a school that believes that it is the duty of their personnel to make impacts on both sides of the gridiron, Delcore’s day was far from complete…Instead, he would take a few swigs of Gatorade and immediately get back to work as a key member of the secondary.

Credited with eight stops (third most on the team), a fumble recovery (returned to the Terrier 5-yard-line) and two successful pass defenses, Delcore and his fellow defensive backs held their hosts to a 38.5 completion percentage and surrendered less than 100 yards in the air.

 

Cameron Holmes (Jr.); WR/LB – Moore Catholic Mavericks

In an early season clash for Staten Island bragging rights, it would be the Mavericks making an epic statement when they cruised to a 33-0 triumph over St. Peter’s last Saturday afternoon…Pitching the school’s first shutout since the reinstatement of the varsity program in 2016, Moore Catholic took a big step towards putting the rest of the “AA” field on notice that they are for real and will be in the conversation come November.

Starring in this hunt for goose-eggs would be the 6’1, 185-pound Garden Stater, Holmes, who checked off just about every possible box from his outside linebacker role…Darn-near equaling his #10 jersey with the amount of tackles he made, his nine stops (3 for negative yardage) would be the second highest total posted by an MC player [Artie Padilla Jr. finished with 11) and put him just seven shy of matching his defensive output from all of last season…A full-range tormentor of opposing offenses, when Holmes was not busy stuffing the run, he was inflicting all kinds of damage to the Eagles’ pass attack, logging the team’s only sack and even turning “D” into “O” when he turned his first career interception into a 40-yard pick-6.

Adding to this memorable day of 1sts for the junior would be a 25-yard TD grab at the end of the 1st half.  And, as you may have guessed, this was the first pass catch of his career to boot!

With Holmes scoring at a rate of 100 percent on touches to touchdowns, something tells me that going forward, the Mavs are going to make a concerted effort to get the pigskin into this young man’s every chance possible.

 

Conrad Perry (Sr.); RB/LB – Mount St. Michael

The 5’10 190 Conrad who is a returning team leading rusher, all-League Player for the Mount, and who has already had Player of the Week honors bestowed upon him last year wasted no time to make his mark on the 2018 campaign.

The Mountaineers emerged victorious in Week 1 with a thrilling 38-34 win over fellow ‘AA West; foe St. Joseph’s by the Sea. The significance of the score is that Conrad remarkably matched the Vikings 34 points all by himself last Saturday afternoon. Carrying the ball 27 times for 265 Yards may have been enough alone to get him POTW Honors.  However, it is not Mr. Perry’s style to let up once the ball gets into the Red Zone, he plowed his way into the promised land not once, not twice, not….BUT 5 TIMES!!!  Most offensive weapons would need to get to the sideline gather their breath and get some water after all those scores.  Unfortunately for the Vikings this is not your ordinary player, in this tight contest where the Mount was clinging to the lead Conrad also punched in a pair of 2 Point conversions to seal the win.

Accounting for 178 carries 1,1,188 Yards (6.7 YPC & 118 YPG) and 8 TD’s in his Junior Season this Student Athlete from the Bronx, based on his week 1 performance is ready to take his game to the next level.  No longer is best on the team and all-league honors the goal, Conrad just put the rest of the League, all of New York City (and NYS for that matter) on watch.  When you line up against the mountaineers in 2018 you better bring a lunch because it’s going to be a full day of work.

 

Matthew Mongelli (Sr.); WR – Kellenberg Memorial Firebirds

The repeat bid is on!!!!  A year removed from posting a perfect 11-0 record and hoisting the “AA” hardware, the Firebirds extended their winning streak to 12 in a row last Saturday afternoon, winning an All-LI affair, 34-14 over hosts, Holy Trinity.

Playing on a team that is so stacked with superstars on the offensive end, it can often be difficult to be the one to command the headlines.  However, for the 6’3, 176-pound resident of Flower Hill, that is precisely what happened during week #1.

Posting what was undeniably the best game of his varsity career, the Firebird senior wide-out emerged with a career-high four catches, exceeded the 100-yard receiving mark for just the second time (105), and notched his second multiple-score (2) showing.

A commodity that was already well-known to the folks in Uniondale, Mongelli was the team-leader in every major receiving category as a junior (17 catches for 426 yards, and four TDs)…So, the fact that he came out of the gate on fire was not the least bit surprising to the KMHS coaching staff.

Two of Mongelli’s initial catches would set up eventual Kellenberg scores as a WR screen that he brought to the 10-yard line would be punched in a few plays later by QB, Matt Sluka to get the Blue & Gold on the scoreboard in the 1st quarter…One quarter later, he would beat his man down the sideline and go up to grab a 40-yarder to put the Berg back in the red zone.  Frank Roder later completed the drive with an 11-yard TD run.

Having been the aforementioned facilitator on a few of his team’s earlier drives, it would be Mongelli’s turn to get his name in the box score, which he did, when he broke completely free (had a 10-12 yard advantage on his defender) over the middle for a 44yrd TD catch in the 2nd quarter to make the score 28-7….His second and final touchdown came in the 3rd on a possession that he pretty much owned.   Making a long catch to get the team into scoring position, he would then put the finishing touches on the drive by being on the receiving end of a perfectly thrown 12-yard back-shoulder route

This POTW distinction is the first of Mongelli’s career, but the second such honor for his family.  In 2016, his brother, Marco, was named to the list in a heroic effort during a quarterfinal loss.  In both cases, Holy Trinity was the common foe.

       

“AAA”

Greg Campisi (Sr.); QB – St. Anthony’s Friars

Honored for a third consecutive season, Campisi debuted on the POTW list in week #5 of his sophomore year and then returned last year during week #3…And while both of those performances were remarkable in their own right, we are not sure we have seen the Harvard bound lacrosse star look as controlled and smooth under center as he did last Friday in the Friar’s 34-17 home victory over out-of-state rivals, Delbarton (NJ).

Improving his career record to a mind-blowing 13-1 in regular season games (15-2 overall), the 6’1, 185-pounder has never lost a start on his home soil and if the way he performed during the first week of the season is any indication of what the rest of the home schedule will deliver, then we pity any opponent that has the misfortune of travelling to Cy Donnelly Field in 2018.

Completing 12 of his 19 attempts (63.2%), Campisi established a new career high in passing yards, ending his 48-minute saga with 346 yards and three touchdown strikes.

Cutting through the defense like a knife in hot butter, what makes the future Crimson student-athlete so special is his high football IQ.  Watching him play, you notice that one of his greatest traits is that he very rarely forces a ball into a bad spot.  Instead, he allows the game to slow down by exploiting the weaknesses in the opposing defense…Equally essential when it comes to running an offense is that he has the wherewithal to recognize that he is surrounded by a plethora of amazing athletes that just need him to get them the ball.  It would be this poise and willingness to keep it simple that ultimately proved to be the winning formula in his banner night.

With the Friars already leading 6-0 in the first quarter, the National Honor Society inducted member would toss the first of his three TD hurls, on 2nd-and-14, when he drew the defense to him on a mini scramble and then hit running back, Kyle Angus, over the middle for a 75-yard strike.  Following the touchdown, Campisi called his own number on the 2-pt conversation, easily punching it in to double the cushion.

Responding with an emphatic count shot anytime the visiting Green Wave were on the verge of building momentum, Campisi would need just three plays on the ensuing drive following a Delbarton score to restore the two-TD lead…Gaining 14 yards on a pair of QB draws to start the possession, it would be one senior hooking up with another about three minutes into the second quarter as Campisi darted the ball in stride to Daniel Parker, who took it to the house for a 66-yard touchdown to make the score 20-7.

The scoreboard now sitting at 20-10, Campisi would again show his intelligence and maturity when on back-to-back snaps, he connected with junior, Greg Randall, to set up the third TD of the game for the Friars on their opening drive of the 2nd half.  Facing 3rd-and-3, he found Randall on a short pass to extend the drive.  On the next play, he side-stepped the pass rush and put his pinpoint accuracy on display, lofting it over the defender and enabling his 11th grade teammate to go up and make a one-handed snatch to put the ball on the 3-yard line.  Two plays later, Angus ran it in to make the score 27-10.

Campisi’s third and final TD pass of the night would come on the first play of the 4th quarter when, similar to the throw to Angus in the 1st, he dumped a pass over the middle to Makhai Murphy who put the rockets into overdrive to go untouched en route to the 82-yard backbreaker that made the score 34-17.

 

Kevin Gray (Sr.); LB – Archbishop Stepinac Crusaders

In keeping with the theme another returning honoree, the 2017 Honorable Mention All-State selection was last featured in week #2 last season, but is so consistently dominant that if we permitted it, he likely would be named so many times that the unofficial title would become, “The Gray Area.”

Recording the 7th most tackles in New York State last season with 122, the three-year starter for the Crusader linebacking corps wasted absolutely no time in picking up right where he left up…Falling one stop short of matching the personal-best that he established in his previous POTW appearance, Gray’s 18 tackles, 14 of which were of the solo variety would stifle the Central Dauphin East (PA) running game to the point where they looked like they were standing still at times.

Entering his senior season with four career sacks, the 6’3, 225-pounder who calls Hawthorne his home, would also illustrate his improved passing rushing skills, as he had a hand in three of the team’s eye-popping nine quarterback bags on the afternoon….On one occasion, his menacing presence and ferocious pursuit of the opposing signal caller would result in points being put on the board for the “D” as he would join teammate, Doug Simmons (the leader in sacks in NYS in 2017) in earning a 1st quarter safety to make the score 9-0.   The Crusaders would never look back, as they disposed of their visitors from the Keystone State by a tally of 32-14.

With the defending triple-A League and Catholic State champions set to clash with Iona Prep and their always electrifying aerial attack, Stepinac is going to need Gray to remain locked in for another weekend of pain!!!

Note: Gray will need just 12 tackles this Saturday to reach 200 for his career.

Derek Robertson (Sr.); QB – Iona Prep Gaels

Completing the sweep of previously recognized players in the triple-A division is the Gael’s senior quarterback, Robertson, who last made the list during week #4 of his junior campaign…

Throwing his fifth and final TD pass of the game with approximately 1:10 remaining in regulation, the 6’2, 185-pounder from Yonkers showed that real heroes may not wear capes, but they do rise to the occasion when the moment of need is most great.   Playing the pitch-and-catch game with fellow senior, Sean Fleming, this three-yard dart would rescue Iona Prep from a 34-33 hole and enable them to go on to claim the 41-34 triumph over Rhode Island powerhouse, Bishop Hendricken…The winning score would be just one of three occasions that Robertson turned a deficit into an advantage in the second half.

Already the owner of the Westchester County record for passing yards in a single season, throwing for 2,774 in his first year as the Gael starter last season, the Honorable Mention designated field general seems destined to break his own milestone in the twilight portion of an immensely decorated two-year varsity career….Tossing for 320 yards (the third highest single-game total in his 11 varsity appearances), Robertson was on the money all afternoon, completing 30 of 42 attempts (71.4%) in getting the school from New Rochelle off to a 1-0 start for a second consecutive season.

A sniper with impeccable field vision, like any true leader, what puts Robertson in a different class than many of his peers is the ability to not just elevate his own game, but to simultaneously make everyone around him also play at a higher level…Hitting seven different targets (Camari Glascow’s 8 catches being the team-high) throughout the game and finding four unique options for TDs, the IP 12th grader makes it impossible on opposing secondaries because there is no way of knowing where the pigskin is being flung next.

The game deadlocked at 7 apiece in the second quarter, Robertson would chuck the first of his 5 TDs when he faked a hand-off and connected with Matthew Panker on a 32-yarder to make the score 13-7…An 8-yard diving catch in the end zone by Alex Williams would give Robertson his second touchdown throw of the quarter and increase the Gael lead to 19-7

A Hendricken rally before halftime would set the stage for an epic back-and-forth final 24 minutes….Now trailing 21-19,  Robertson hooked up with Glascow on a crossing pattern inside the red zone to regain the lead, 27-21 at the end of three quarters.

Down 28-27 at the onset of the 4th, Robertson and the Gaels needed no more than 1:00 to respond as it would be Glascow again on the back end, catching a 50-yard missile to put IP back on top, 33-28.

Facing their last possession and on the wrong end of a 34-33 tally (the host Hawks had a long TD run with around 9:00 remaining), the Gaels took over with 3:30 still to contest and like the seasoned veteran that he is, Robertson, proved to be unflappable, marching the team down to set up the clincher!

Now 0-2 against a Robertson-led offense (lost 40-22 in 2017), perhaps the only thing that made Hendricken smile last weekend was the knowledge that the Iona Prep quarterback would not be back next season….Combining for nine touchdowns and an average of 281.5 yards tossing, #12 for the Gaels has BH screaming No Mas!!!

Dec 082017
 

Father Philip Eichner S.M. President of the Pincipal’s Council

By Matt Diano: Celebrating the conclusion of yet another exciting, action-packed, and character-building season of New York Catholic High School football, the best of the best in the NYCHSFL gathered together one final time on December 3rd, to take part in the cherished and incomparable tradition of the Annual Communion Championship Awards Mass & Breakfast.

Addressing his congregation, Father Albert Bertoni SM, spoke candidly and passionately about the importance of reflection during the Advent season and how we, as Catholic sons and daughters are called to take a step back from the daily “hustle and bustle” and instead devote our time toward relaxation and properly preparing for the return of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ…..”Preparation”, whether it be in regard to making a place in our lives for Christ or in bringing glory and dignity to our schools via our play on the football field was a theme that naturally permeated the hearts and minds of those young men who were blessed and gifted enough to be revered and decorated as worthy of being a 2017 honoree…..Starting way back in late-August/early September, these blessed student-athletes poured every ounce of their being into being champions, on and off of the field….And, by the grace of God, they were elevated above the rest and will forever be remembered and treasured by virtue of their selection….

In looking over the list of distinguished parties, I can truly say that there were no finer and more deserving alternative than the men cited/profiled below.

Fordham Prep QB Matt Valecce

Winning what many consider the most significant award of the morning, the Monsignor Matthew Peters Award, for the league’s most outstanding student-athlete, would be Fordham Prep senior quarterback, Matt Valecce…..An individual whose feats in the classroom are as impressive and inspiring as his heroics on the football field, the future signal Caller at Boston College must made it a pattern during his 3.5 years in the Bronx of being the head of the class in all endeavors….The proud owner of a 4.28 grade point average (on a 4.0 scale), as a student, Valecce has been recognized as  a General Excellence and scholarship recipient by his school during every step of his scholastic journey….With regard to gridiron accolades, his resume needs no introduction and speaks for itself in evert possible way.   A four-year starter who led the Rams to the “A” Division crown as a 9th grader, what he did in 2014 was simply the culmination of what would grow to be one of the finest high school careers ever by a New York State quarterback….A soon-to-be three-time All-State honoree, the FP captain would throw for 10,027 yards in his career (2nd all-time in NYS) and toss 112 touchdown passes (3rd all-time)….In this, his swan song campaign, the living CHSFL legend would leave nothing in the proverbial tank, setting career highs with 3,333 yards and 41 touchdowns thrown in leading his school to a runner-up finish (10-2) in the Double-A division….Simply put, Valecce was such a once-in-a-lifetime talent that I feel confident in stating that I will never see another of his caliber during my lifetime.

Honored for their ability to light up the scoreboard in the blink of an eye were a pair of juniors—Roberto Auguste (Xaverian) and Matthew Sluka (Kellenberg), as well as a departing senior who garnered serious consideration to be last year’s honoree, Lucas Nunez (Cardinal Hayes).

An All-Catholic selection as a 10th grader in 2016, it came as no surprise that the Clipper junior [Auguste] would have a knack for taking over every game in which he played….Surpassing the 100-yard barrier on five different occasions this season, Head Coach, Mike Jioia’s star pupil was a runaway (no pun intended) leader in the “A” Division in all major rushing categories, accumulating 1,196 yards (more than double his next closest challenger) and finding the end zone on the ground 14 times (five more than the #2 person).  His yards per carry average of 7.4 was also tops among all backs who had 50 or more attempts….As Auguste went, so too did Xaverian, finishing as the “A” regular season champs with an unblemished record before advancing to the title game where they just barely fell short of their second title in the past three seasons….2017 marked the second time in the past three years that the Offensive Player of the Year was won by a Clipper.  In 2015, it was Phil DePaulis hoisting the trophy.

Kellenberg QB Matt Sluka

Described by his coaches as “One of most dynamic players to ever step on the field for Kellenberg,” Sluka’s legacy was cemented when he did something no other Firebird field general had ever done by leading KMHS to an immaculate season (11-0) en route to winning their first AA title in history and the first title of any kind since 1999 (A champs)….Nicknamed the “Redheaded Assassin” by me, the Roselyn resident would do something unheard of when he topped all rushing categories in Double-A from the quarterback position….Recently named to the All-Long Island 1st Team (the lone Catholic representative on the list), Sluka ran for 1,619 yards and 24 touchdowns in 2017.   Three separate times this season, he not only surpassed the 100-yard plateau in a game, he blew right past 200+ yards, including a 17 carry, 238 yard, 5 touchdown performance during championship weekend that earned him Offensive MVP recognition….While not the featured part of his game, when asked to play the role of the traditional drop-back passer, Sluka would thrive in this regard as well, completing 61.3 percent of his 93 attempts to rack up 984 yards and 10 touchdowns in the air…If 34 touchdowns and 2,603 yards of total production are not enough to convince you, let it be known that he was also stellar as a place-kicker, converting on 32 of 40 PAT tries….Of the 424 points scored by the Firebirds as a unit this season, Sluka had a direct hand in 236 of them (56 percent)…..A natural leader and born winner, in less than one calendar year, Sluka’s has been instrumental in delivering titles in two different sports to Uniondale.  Last spring, he was a key member of a Kellenberg lacrosse squad that claimed the 2017 AA Catholic State crown….Sluka is the first Kellenberg player since Bobby Mossa (2014) to win Offensive Player of the Year.

Cardinal Hayes WR Lucas Nunez

A second-team All-State pick as a junior, as well as a unanimous All-Catholic selection following a 2016 campaign that saw him make 58 catches for NYS bests of 1,582 yards and 21 receiving touchdowns, when we said that Nunez was a very viable candidate to win the Joe Riverso Memorial Award as the top Offensive Performer in AAA a season ago, we were not overstating his value…..As dangerous a play-maker as the CHSFL has ever seen, the Sacred Heart University bound wide-receiver missed a few games at the onset of his senior season, but still managed to be the #1 yardage gainer in all of New York State in 2017, accumulating 1,400 yards on 66 grabs (4th in NYS), with 15 (2nd in NYS) of his catches resulting in touchdowns…An individual who was both dominant and consistent, Nunez would post 100-yard receiving games in all but one (92 yards in his return from the injury) appearance this season.   Only twice in 2017 was he kept out of the end zone for a full 48 minutes, compared to three occasions that witnessed him catch three TD passes in a single outing…Of the nine games he played in his finale year as a Cardinal, he recorded multiple TD games in six….Nunez closes out this chapter of his scholastic career ranked 5th All-time in the Empire State for total receiving yards.   He is the second straight Cardinal Hayes standout to earn the Riverso.  In 2016, he was beaten out by teammate, Christian Anderson (currently playing at West Point).

While offense has always been the side of the ball that hogs the glory and commands the headlines, if you ask any football purist they will say without the slightest hesitation that the path to the “ring” has always and will forever rest on the shoulder pads of those special young men capable of taking over a game when the ball does not belong to them….In the case of out 2017 Defensive Players of the Year, all three did their part in confining the opinion of the historians, with two—Daniel Wilson (Kellenberg) and Trill Williams (Stepinac)— winning titles in the AA and AAA Divisions respectively, and the “A” selection, Cole Esposito (Kennedy Catholic) leading his school the deepest postseason run in program history.

Kennedy Catholic LB Cole Esposito

A known commodity on the Gael linebacking corps as a sophomore in 2016, the Cortlandt Manor resident [Esposito] would be a breakout star for the unit this past season, finishing second only to Kennedy teammate, Ed Longest (who we will address later) in “A” ball with 92 total stops…Without question the person who will ceremoniously step into the role of defensive trend setter for Head Coach, Dom Tassone’s squad in 2018, Esposito would be unblockable for the vast majority of his junior season, reaching double digits for total tackles in six of his nine appearances, including a 17-stop effort in a week #4 victory over St. Dominic’s that earned him a berth on the POTW list…An absolute animal during the homestretch of the 2017 season, he added 15 and 10 tackle showings in two of KC’s last three games, propelling them to back-to-back shutouts to give the program their first goose-eggs on the defensive side since 2010….In addition to challenging the century mark for tackles, Esposito final stat line this season included 15 tackles for a loss, three sacks, a pair of forced fumbles, an interception, as well as a blocked punt for the cherry on top…The ultimate compliment that we can give to Esposito is justify why he was a perfect choice is to state that with him taking on greater responsibilities this year, the Gaels saw their points allowed average fall from over 26 PPG to just 17.5….Anytime you can play a part in shaving off close to 10 points, you without question are a gem.

Kellenberg LB Dan Wilson

Wilson, whose uncanny ability to roam sideline to sideline like a gazelle fostered a change in position from defensive end to “Mike” linebacker, was nothing short of outstanding in his first season on the Firebird varsity….A three-sport crown jewel who was so special that he was promoted as a sophomore (a rare occurrence for a Marianist school) to both the varsity basketball and Catholic State Champion lacrosse teams, it is a scary though that the Levittown native can be “this good” in what technically might be considered his third athletic endeavor…The team leader in overall stops with 67 (9 TFL), when I watched Wilson play, what immediately commanded my attention was the ferocity in which he could apply pressure to opposing quarterbacks.   Never was this unrelenting pursuit of the foe’s signal caller more evident than when he logged three of his season total six sacks in the regular season victory over Fordham Prep that set the tone for the remainder of Kellenberg’s unblemished year….As complete a defensive player as you will find anywhere on Long Island or in New York State, when Wilson was not busy preventing passes from being thrown, he proved quite adept at knocking them down too, ending his junior campaign with six successful pass break-ups…..The anchor/foundation/pulse of a defensive unit that ranked 1st in AA and 2nd overall in the NYCHSFL (surrendered just 13.6 points per game), the United States’ Naval Academy (Lax) commit will have all of next season to further solidify his status as one of the best student-athletes to ever wear the Blue & Gold….While winning the “AA” DPOY would have been a thrill regardless of any surrounding details, an added bonus was that Wilson received this award on his Aunt Christine’s (alumnus of Kellenberg; class of 1993) birthday.

When it comes the man who lived up to the “thrill” nickname, we could write an entire novel and we’d still fail to do him justice…A dynamic and versatile performer who if it has been needed, could have likely been the Offensive Player of the Year for the 2017 AAA League and Catholic State Champs from Stepinac, Williams has been one of, if not the purest and most feared, athletes in the NYCHSFL since he first stepped onto the varsity grass in White Plains as a sophomore in 2015….A specimen blessed with the total package of athletic tools (4.4 speed being among them), if not for an injury that cost him the bulk of his junior season, there is little doubt that the future Syracuse University Orangeman could have/would have been a multiple-year All-State selection, a mainstay on the All-Catholic team, and a very realistic candidate to have been a two-time winner of the Vincent O’Connor Memorial Award….A consistent shutdown presence at the cornerback position, Williams routinely took the opposing team’s #1 wide-out and erased him from the equation for 48 minutes….Finishing the year with a division-high  five interceptions (including a combined three in back-to-back weekends in the AAA League and State game triumphs) and adding an astounding 20 pass break-ups, this consummate ball hawk was magic when it came to forcing opposing turnovers, complementing his five picks (one of which was returned for a TD) by forcing five fumbles….As a demonstration of his triple-threat abilities, let it be known that the 13 total touchdowns he scored in 2017 came in four different ways, as he caught six TD balls, ran in five others, had the aforementioned pick-6, and even returned a punt in the AAA league finals….The choice of Williams as this year’s DPOY keeps the streak alive for the Crusaders, as they have now won the award four consecutive seasons, starting with Gavin Heslop in 2014 and continuing in 2015 and 2016 with Dan Negron and Gene Brown.

No Player of the Year ceremony would be complete without fully recognizing and showing appreciation for the unsung heroes and resident ironmen within our game, the linemen….Often tagged with the labels of road graders, hole stuffers, QB protectors, and whatnot, no one works harder and needs to be tougher than the boys that bang heads in the trenches….This year’s recipients—Ed Longest (Kennedy Catholic), Joseph Petti (Fordham Prep), and Grayson Cherubino (St. Anthony’s)—all epitomize what it means to be tenacious, courageous, and selfless.   In a league that this is rich in interior talent, for these three superstars to be the ones who emerged as the crème de la crème speaks volumes of just how respected and admired they were for their contributions in the “war zone”.

Kennedy Catholic Lineman Ed Longest

Despite not playing one of the so-called glamour positions, Longest, a four-year starter and two-year team captain, was very much the most important player on the Gael roster this season…A shoe-in to have been the recipient of the “A” DPOY if not for the league’s decision to honor him for the full depth of his immense service, the Kennedy senior was a full-fledged dominant force regardless of which side of the line of scrimmage he was occupying….As an O-lineman , Longest was a role model for a unit that helped the Gaels compile 1,889 yards of production (630 in the air; 1,259 on the ground) and score 18 total touchdowns….Defensively, he was the gold standard, leading the “A” division with 101 tackles (6th in the CHSFL regardless of division) and six sacks….A person who lived in the opposing backfield, 18 of Longest’s century-shattering stop total resulted in a loss of yardage.  A 2016 CHSAA State Wrestling champion, last weekend was not the first time that Longest found himself being atop the proverbial podium as the envy of his competitors.

Fordham Prep Lineman Joe Petti

Hailed by the Ram coaching staff as a “Mountain of a Man”, the 6’6, 295-pounder, Petti, was easily identifiable on the gridiron for much more than just his physical measurements….Another of our two-way studs, when we consider the legendary career of Valecce, it is essential that we remain mindful of the fact that none of it could have been achieved if not for someone the caliber of Petti protecting and affording him a wealth of time in which to survey the field…With the future Navy Midshipman bulldozing anything that got in his way, the 2017 AA runners-up from the Bronx were one of the most lethal offenses in NYS, averaging 30 points and 367.5 total yards per appearance….Unmovable as a DT (which is the spot that he will play at the next level), Petti recorded 19 tackles and three sacks for a defense that allowed less than 20 points per game this season.

St. Anthony’s Linemen Grayson Cherubino

Joining a heralded club of elite Friar linemen that includes the likes of recent Joseph Thomas Memorial Award honorees, Justin Tustin (2012) and last year’s winner, Dan Lord, Cherubino specialized on the defensive side of the ball, but was so stellar at defensive end, that his comprehensive performance demanded that he be among our chosen few…..The linchpin, backbone, and focal point of a St. Anthony’s defense that ranked 1st in points allowed (16.5) in the AAA division, when speaking about their prized weapon, the Friars’ staff painted him as a linebacker trapped in the body of a DL….A quarterback’s worse nightmare, the future Bucknell Bison was renowned for the tireless effort he put into never allowing the opposition’s signal caller from enjoying a second of peace….Closing out his scholastic career with seven sacks and 12 hurries, as well as 14 tackles for a loss and a pair of forced fumbles, if not for the chaos that Cherubino wreaked on a weekly basis, St. Anthony’s would not have seized the regular season title and advanced to their first championship weekend since 2013.

Also highlighted last Sunday as award winners were:

Golden Eleven Award:

Golden 11 Winner’s

Robert Scala – Chaminade

Patrick Mc Ardle – St. Francis Prep

Deuce Prince – Archbishop Stepinac

Jake Valensi – Monsignor Farrell

Michael De Gasperis – Iona Prep

Michael Palermo – St. John the Baptist

Frank Corrado – Xavier

Dominick De Masi – Kellenberg

Gabriel Gelves – Holy Trinity

Claude Watford – Cardinal Hayes

Jack Donovan – St. Anthony

John Buscini – St Joe by the Sea

 

Metropolitan Football Association Award (In Memory of John Bromm)

Sal Maida – Cardinal Spellman & Matthew Gomes – St Joseph by the Sea

The Ken Weinman Award (Donated by the Intercounty Association of Football Officials)

Mark Johnston – St John the Baptist

Andrew Pace – Chaminade

Lieutenant Ronald Winchester Award – Unsung Hero Award (Donated by the L.I.A.F.O. Foundation of New York) 

Daniel Bentivegna – Monsignor Farrell 

 

CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL AWARD WINNERS !!!

Dec 032017
 

The annual CHSFL Communion Championship Awards Breakfast  recognized the championship teams and players for the 2017 season.  The ceremonies began with mass and was followed by breakfast in the cafeteria of Kellenberg Memorial High School.  The 2017 award winner are as follows;

Monsignor Matthew Peters Award – Student Athlete Award

Matthew Valecce – Fordham Prep

Golden Eleven Awards

Robert Scala – Chaminade

Patrick Mc Ardle – St. Francis Prep

Deuce Prince – Archbishop Stepinac

Jake Valensi – Monsignor Farrell

Michael De Gasperis – Iona Prep

Michael Palermo – St. John the Baptist

Frank Corrado – Xavier

Dominick De Masi – Kellenberg

Gabriel Gelves – Holy Trinity

Claude Watford – Cardinal Hayes

Jack Donovan – St. Anthony

John Buscini – St Joe by the Sea

Defensive Player of the Year

Vincent O’Connor Memorial Award – AAA Defensive Player of the YearAtrilleon Williams (Archbishop Stepinac)

 

AA Defensive Player of the Year – Daniel Wilson (Kellenberg)

A Defensive Player of the Year – Cole Esposito (Kennedy Catholic)

Offensive Player of the Year

Joe Riverso Memorial Award – AAA Offensive Player of the YearLucas Nunez (Cardinal Hayes)

AA Offensive Player of the Year – Matt Sluka (Kellenberg)

A Offensive Player of the Year – Roberto Auguste (Xaverian)

Lineman of the Year

Joe Thomas Memorial Award – AAA Lineman of the YearGrayson Cherubino (St. Anthony’s)

AA Lineman of the Year – Joseph Petti (Fordham Prep)

A Lineman of the Year – Ed Longest (Kennedy Catholic)

 

Metropolitan Football Association Award

In Memory of John Bromm

Matthew Gomes – St Joseph by the Sea

Sal Maida – Cardinal Spellman

The Ken Weinman Award

Donated by the Intercounty Association of Football Officials

Mark Johnston – St John the Baptist

Andrew Pace – Chaminade

 Lieutenant Ronald Winchester Award – Unsung Hero Award

Donated by the L.I.A.F.O. Foundation of New YorkDaniel Bentivegna, Monsignor Farrell

Bob Stenger Memorial JVB Sportsmanship Awards

Long Island – Holy Trinity

City – Fordham Prep

 Players of the Week Awards 

Week 1

Frankie Roder (Jr.); RB/LB – Kellenberg

Mike Nicosia (Sr.); QB – Archbishop Stepinac

Vin Wagner (Jr.); RB – Monsignor Farrell

Sean Bryan (Sr.); RB – St. Anthony’s

Malkelm Morrison (Sr.); DB/KR – Iona Prep

Will Loffredo (Sr.); WR – Fordham Prep

Marc-Anthony Dalce (Sr.); LB/FB/P – St. Francis Prep

Week 2

Elijah Jones (Sr.); WR/CB – Cardinal Hayes

Justin Felder (Sr.); RB – Holy Cross

Chris Viglilante (Sr.); QB – St. Joseph’s by the Sea

Roberto Auguste (Jr.); RB/DB – Xaverian

Will Ford (So.); WR – St. Dominic

Kevin Gray (Jr.); LB – Archbishop Stepinac

Week 3

Marquis Jimenez (Sr.); QB – Mount St. Michael

Matt Sluka (Jr.); QB – Kellenberg

Matt Kindya (Sr.); OL – Monsignor Farrell

John Stroughn (Jr.); OL/DL – Holy Trinity

Greg Campisi (Jr.); QB – St. Anthony’s

Sonny Badyna (Jr.); QB – St. Peter’s

Week 4

Matt Valecce (Sr.); QB – Fordham Prep

Roberto Auguste (Jr.); RB/DB – Xaverian

Christopher Auricchio (Sr.); FB/LB – St. Francis Prep

Derek Robertson (Jr.); QB – Iona Prep

Cole Esposito (Jr.); LB – Kennedy Catholic

Justin Hairston (Sr.); LB – Archbishop Stepinac

Week 5

Demetrios Demetriades (Jr.); WB/CB – Xavier High School

Michael DeGasperis (Sr.); WR – Iona Prep

Grayson Cherubino (Sr.); DE – St. Anthony’s

Matthew Sluka (Jr.); QB – Kellenberg

Omarion Jones (So.); QB/DB – St. Francis Prep

Michael Palermo II (Sr.); RB/LB – St. John the Baptist

Week 6

Liam McHale (Sr.); WR – Fordham Prep

Michael Palermo II (Sr.); RB/LB – St. John the Baptist

Sofian Massoud (So.); QB – Cardinal Hayes

John Kelly (Sr.); LB – Monsignor Farrell

Conrad Perry (Jr.); RB/LB – Mount Saint Michael

Anthony Pecorella (Jr.); PK/P – Chaminade

Week 7

Jack Rooney (Jr.); QB – St. Dominic

Thomas Force (Sr.); TE/SS – St. John the Baptist

Isaiah Amazon (JR.); WR/DE – Xaverian

Omarion Jones (So.); QB – St. Francis Prep

Makhai Murphy (Jr.); CB – St. Anthony’s

Ryan Scelzi (Sr.); RB – St. Joseph’s by the Sea

Week 8

Jonathon Geruso (Sr.); RB – Xavier

Ki’Shyne Shipmon (Sr.); RB/WR – Iona Prep

Matt Valecce (Sr.); QB – Fordham Prep

Ed Longest (Sr.); OL/DL – Kennedy Catholic

Justin Medina (Sr.); RB/DB – Cardinal Spellman

Playoffs – Quarter Finals (Week 9)

Jayden Lambert (Jr.); RB/CB – Iona Prep

Valery Gwardyak (Sr.); LB – Xavier

Justin Ancheta (Sr.); RB/LB – Fordham Prep

Wyatt Rumpf (Jr.); OL/LB – Kennedy Catholic

Chris Beyers (Sr.); LB – Kellenberg

Elijah Jones (Sr.); WR/CB – Cardinal Hayes

Playoff  – Semi-Finals

Ian Devine (Sr.); DE/DT – Fordham Prep

Shawn Harris (Jr.); RB/WR – Archbishop Stepinac

Brendan Whitehead (Sr.); DL/OG – Kellenberg Memorial

Robert DiGregorio (Sr.); PK – St. Anthony’s

Championship Game Offensive & Defensive MVP’s

AAA Championship Offensive MVP – Atrilleon Williams (Archbishop Stepinac)

AAA Championship Defensive MVP – Kevin Gray (Archbishop Stepinac)

AA Championship Offensive MVP – Matthew Sluka (Kellenberg)

AA Championship Defensive MVP – Shawn Hughes (Kellenberg)

A Championship Offensive MVP – Isaac Yearwood (Cardinal Spellman)

A Championship Defensive MVP – Michael Booth (Cardinal Spellman)

Thanksgiving

Claude Watford (Sr.): DB – Cardinal Hayes

Joseph Petti (Sr.): OL – Fordham Prep

 

 

 

 

Nov 302017
 

Joseph Petti (Sr.); OT/DT – Fordham Prep Rams

Donning the Ram colors for the final time in his scholastic football career, Petti closed out this chapter of his gridiron saga in much the same way all of the previous pages were written—by being a dominant force on both sides of the line of scrimmage in sending Fordham Prep to their second straight “W” in the Annual Turkey Bowl (celebrating its 94th anniversary last week), 28-0, over the rival Knights of Xavier.

Known more for his work as the hole-plugging centerpiece (DT) of the FP defensive line, when it comes to protecting his quarterback, we find that Petti is pretty darn good on the offensive side of the ball as well….With the gentle giant watching his blind side, the Rams’ record-setting signal caller, Matt Valecce, would give those who have had the privilege of watching him under center the past four years, a proper finale, completing 16 of his 23 yards for 220 pounds and four more touchdowns……Having the luxury of ample time in which to survey the field thanks to the likes of Petti, the future Boston College Eagle concluded 2017 having completed 64.2 percent of his passes for 3,338 yards and 41 touchdowns.

Turning our attention to his more renowned side of the ball, Petti and his fellow D-linemen would have reason to celebrate in a big way, as they held their nemesis Knights scoreless in the historic Thanksgiving showdown for the first time since 2003 when they coincidentally were victorious by an identical 28-0 score….While it is next to impossible to completely shut down the potent Xavier ground game, let it be known that the 214 yards rushing by the young men from West 16th Street was their lowest output since week #6 of the regular season when they totaled just 156 in a loss to Holy Cross.    Last Thursday was also the only time this season that Xavier failed to record at least one rushing touchdown.

The 6’6, 295-pound lineman will now trade one tradition for another, as Turkey Bowl heroics will be replaced by the thrill, honor, and distinction of playing in the most cherished contest in the history of the sport, the Army/Navy game….Petti will continue his career next fall as a Midshipman at the United States Naval Academy.

 

Claude Watford (Sr.); DB – Cardinal Hayes Cardinals

Another student-athlete taking one final bow in his scholastic career, when he looks back upon this day in 20 years, the Hayes’ senior defensive back will have nothing but found memories, as it was his huge individual performance that was a difference maker in enabling the Cardinals to extend their Thanksgiving day winning streak to five in a row following a 44-16 triumph over Mount St. Michael Academy.

Already the leading tackler on the team entering the game with 58 stops, the 5’8, 165-pounder from the Bronx decimated his previous career-high of 11 (set against Monsignor Farrell during a week #7 win), recording nine solo tackles and assisting on seven more to conclude the game with a total of 16 (an average of one every three minutes!!!).

In addition to his prowess as a sure-tackler, Watford would also be a turnover creating machine, forcing two fumbles and doubling his interception totals in 2017 to four by stepping in front of a pair of Mountaineer pass attempts….Speaking of his shutdown pass coverage skills, he also tacked on one successful break-up to round out the remarkable effort in his culminating appearance in the Cardinal & Gold.

Trailing 16-15 at the end of the 1st quarter, it was the play of Watford that played a huge factor in Coach O’Neill’s squad’s ability to throw three consecutive goose-eggs on the board during the 2nd through 4th quarters.

One of those special human beings that puts the “student” in the term “student-athlete”, the proud owner of a perfect 4.0 grade point average and 1220 on the SATs is destined to do wondrous things in the future, both on and off of the gridiron….And while his next stop remains unknown, there is no shortage of life-charging options as his 24/7 Sports profile lists his top college/university choices as Columbia, UPenn, Princeton, and Yale from the Ivy League ranks, as well as Stony Brook (a top-100 university) and Stonehill (ranked #111 among National Liberal Arts schools)…He is bound for greatness in all endeavors!!!

Nov 152017
 

Before we turn our attention to Championship Saturday let’s look back at some of the players who shined in getting their teams there. By Matt Diano:

Ian Devine (Sr.); DE/DT – Fordham Prep Rams

Described as “the anchor on the defensive side of the ball” in Fordham Prep’s 41-14 AA semifinal victory over St. Francis Prep, the 6’2, 260-pounder impacted the game in every way possible, serving as the Ram’s primary run-stopper (4 tackles), as well a relentless pass rusher on Terrier toss attempts…With the Pelham resident applying constant pressure from the edge, the FP defense limited St. Francis Prep to a 20 percent (3-for-15) completion percentage and a modest 54 yards while forcing them into a trio of interceptions….

Among these three interceptions, the most outstanding of the bunch would be posted by Devine himself when, with the #2 seeded Rams already leading 27-0 in the second quarter, he would get his paw on a throw attempt, knocking it into the air and allowing himself to make one-handed grab…Seeing nothing but open field in the horizon, the senior lineman completed the highlight reel play by cruising 37 yards into the end zone for the touchdown…The INT return to the house was one of two pick-6s on the evening for Fordham Prep.  Earlier in the game, fellow 12th grader, Ryan Gilchrist, had a 50-yard journey to the “promised land” off of an interception.

Demonstrating his immense athleticism, Devine also managed to make the most a rather unusual situation when he fielded a kickoff and returned it 50 yards to give the Rams ideal field position to start one of their drives.

Next up for Devine and the Rams will be a chance at avenging their only blemish (34-24) of the 2017 season against Kellenberg Memorial, in the CHSFL Double-A Title game.  In the first meeting between the #1 and #2 seeded program in the division, Devine had a solid performance in the losing effort, making six total stops….Champions in 2014 while playing “A” ball, Fordham Prep last reached the AA championship game in 2011 when coincidentally, they claimed the hardware with a 22-21 victory over this same Firebird program.

 

Shawn Harris (Jr.); RB/WR – Archbishop Stepinac Crusaders

We don’t know what it is, but playing against Cardinal Hayes in the postseason really brings out the best in the 11th grader from Mount Vernon….A little less than a year removed from catching a 43-yard TD pass (one of six total grabs for 109 yards) in the final minute of last year’s AAA title game to keep the dream of a three-peat alive (before ultimately dropping a 41-39 on a missed 2pt conversion), Harris would finally get the “w” that escaped him in 2016, as the Mike O’Connell guided #3 Crusaders are bound for championship weekend for the fourth straight season following a 13-12 victory over their second-seeded hosts from the Bronx.

Deadlocked at 6-6 in the triple-A semifinals, Harris would take over on what ended up being the game-winning drive, running for back-to-back first downs in Stepinac’s initial drive of the second half to move the ball to the opposing 38.   After a few untimely late hit calls moved the ball just outside of the red zone, Harris struck for the difference maker, as he took the pitch to the outside and out-ran the Hayes’ defense, chugging 23 yards to the house for the TD to regain the lead for the boys from Westchester, 13-12.

Proving that he is a stellar young man who elevates his game when the stakes are at their highest, the performance that Harris put on last Saturday was a vast improvement over the numbers he compiled in a 47-21 week #6 loss to these same Cardinals…Combining for just 19 yards of total offense (4 carries for 14 cards; 1 catch for 5 yards), it was like he was an entirely different person this past weekend, posting his first 100+ yard rushing game of the year by averaging 7.3 yard per touch on 16 carries to end the contest with 116 yards of ground production.   He added 27 yards as a pass catcher via a pair of snatches to tally 143 overall between his dual skillsets.

When they step football on Mitchel Field this Saturday evening for the AAA title game against the Friars of St. Anthony’s, his teammates owe Harris more than a few thank you’s.   After all, in their two playoffs victories to reach the “ship, Harris has a mind-blowing total of 425 yards and five touchdowns….In the Crusader’s 48-38 quarterfinal triumph over Chaminade, he darn-near had a triple-century effort, rushing for 99 yards (2 TDs), catching two passes for 84 yards (1 TD), and bringing a kick all the way back 99 yards to end the opening round with four scores.

As attention turns to the aforementioned title game this weekend, it goes without saying that Harris will enter with extreme confidence.   When the two programs went to battle on September 15th (38-19 Stepinac win), the three-sport student-athlete (also runs track in the Winter and Spring) who has drawn the admiration of Central Connecticut State among other suitors, had one of his finest showings of his junior campaign, making a pair of TD grabs to rack up 75 yards receiving, while simultaneously averaging 35 yards on his three kickoff returns (105 yards total) to constantly be giving his school excellent field position….If the top-seeded Friars do not do a better job containing his explosive tendencies, it could be a long day for the Friar faithful.

 

Brendan Whitehead (Sr.); DL/OG – Kellenberg Memorial Firebirds

One of the toughest and most respected two-way linemen in the Catholic Football League, as well as the backbone and/or foundation of a Firebird program that boasts the distinctions of possessing both the #1 offense (all divisions) and the top-rated defense in the Double-A division (#2 among all division), Whitehead has dominated the line of scrimmage in every game in every imaginable way in leading Kellenberg to a perfect 10-0 season and their first championship weekend berth since advancing and losing in the finals in consecutive season in 2010 and 2011…

Emerging with a season-high nine tackles (3 for a loss) against the famed Xavier Single-Wing formation, the 6’1, 225-pound resident of Glen Gove, played a monumental role in containing the Knights’ star tailback, Jonathan Geruso…Entering the game having run for 341 yards and seven touchdowns between the final week of the regular season and the quarterfinal playoff round, Geruso was held just a single score last Saturday night (28-0 at the time) as Kellenberg picked up the 28-7 win to sweep the 2017 series over a foe who had traditionally given them problems in big games.

Whitehead proved to be quite adept as a pass rusher too, notching a pair QB bags to double his total on the season to four.

When he was not busy plugging every hole in sight, Whitehead found the time and energy (played 99.9 percent of all snaps in the game) to create more than few craters of his own from his OG spot…Trekking behind him and the other beasts along the KMHS offensive line, quarterback Matt Sluka (102 yards, 2 touchdowns) and the running back duo of Frankie Roder (83 yards, 2 TDs) and Jordan DeLucia (27 yards) posted a collective sum of 212 yards and the aforementioned four touchdowns….For the season, Kellenberg has run behind Brendan and the O-Line for 2,933 yards and 42 touchdowns.   They have reached 200+ yards in all 10 games this season and have even surpassed 300+ in six of 10 appearances.  The Firebirds have also scored three or more times on the ground every time out this year.

Finding themselves on the cusp of an immaculate season, the Firebirds will ride Whitehead and his fellow trench warriors one final time when they square off with Fordham Prep….When the two schools faced off on October 6th, the ‘Berg had a monster night with their legs, running for 337 yards and five touchdowns in handing the Rams their only loss of the year to date….Whitehead also contributed four tackles on defense.  Expect for this number to increase as FP has embraced a more balanced attack recently.

 

Robert DiGregorio (Sr.); PK – St. Anthony’s Friars

Easily the most unique selection that I have had the pleasure of featuring in my four years writing this piece, usually when spotlight a special teamer, it is because of a game-winning field goal or a huge kick return….However, never have we had a case like that of the senior kicker, DiGregorio.

All week, the plan was simple; keep the ball out of the hands off the often dynamic Iona Prep offense….While in most cases, this might mean running a ball control offense and chewing clock….But alas, you don’t need to change anything on offense when every time you score, your kicker does something to get you the ball immediately back.

In one of the most bizarre, but equally amazing feats, on three separate occasions in the second quarter, DiGregorio would execute perfect onside kicks, thus allowing the top-seeded Friars to turn their original 7-0 lead into a runaway 21-0 advantage at the break en route to an eventual 35-7 win in the AAA semifinals.

Using a variety of different techniques,  DiGregorio’s first attempt (the only one that was planned per Coach Rich Reichert) came with 8:36 remaining in the half following a Sean Bryan TD run to give STA the previously cited 7-0 lead.  A slow nubber with a lot of spin up the middle, the ball could not be fielded cleanly by the Gaels and ended up bouncing back into the arms of the young man himself.

Kick #2, which was more of a pinball shot, came following a Kyle Angus 45-yard touchdown rush.  Again aimed directly up the middle, when impact was made with the IP player, the ball ricocheted off to the side with such force that the Friars were able to jump on it at approximately midfield.

Finally, with just over 1:00 remaining in the opening half and again right after a Bryan score, DiGregorio would incorporate yet another tactic, lofting the ball into “no man’s land” and enabling his charging teammate to out race Iona Prep and recover right around the Gael 43.

When all the magic was pulled out of the hat, what was yielded was a time of possession advantage of 17:59 to 6:01 at the intermission….More importantly, Iona Prep never was permitted to establish rhythm and because of that, struggled all night to find their usually lethal attack.

Overshadowed by his trick kick heroics was the fact that DiGregorio did connect on both on his PAT attempts and had several booming kickoffs that buried IP deep in their own zone.

Now looking to win the crown for the first time since 2013, #1 St. Anthony’s may be the higher seed, but they know that after losing by a considerable margin in the regular season match-up, they are going to need to bring something special to the field with them this Saturday in the rematch against Stepinac….And by special, we are not ruling out some more incredible SPECIAL TEAMS antics.

Nov 092017
 

By Matt Diano:

Jayden Lambert (Jr.); RB/CB – Iona Prep Gaels

There is no sweeter time to get revenge than in the postseason….Only a few weeks ago, the Gaels of Iona Prep were left with that bitter feeling in their stomachs when Monsignor Farrell rallied late in the game to steal the week #6 match-up by a mere point, 29-28…This past weekend, the two storied programs squared off again in the opening round of the triple-A playoffs and unlike the first meeting, there would be no back-and-forth drama, as the visitors from New Rochelle scored at the halfway point of the first quarter to take the 7-0 advantage and never looked back, exploding for 52 points in their 52-20 victory over the Lions.

While the firepower and quick striking ability of the Gaels as a unit came as no surprise (they average nearly 40 points per game), the individual who ended up doing the bulk of the damage was a bit of a surprise…Until last Saturday, Lambert, the 11th grader out of Mount Vernon, had been utilized more consistently on the other side of the ball as a defensive back…However, when starting tailback/reigning NYCHSFL Player of the Week honoree, Ki’Shyne Shipmon, sidelines with an injury, a call to duty was put out to all available hands on deck and Lambert answered that call with an emphatic career night that witnessed him reach the end zone on every single carry he took.

Entering the game having touched the ball just 19 times combined as a runner/receiver during the regular season, the 5’10, 170-pounder proved that quality will always trump quantity, as he needed just four handoffs to accumulate a season-best 77 yards (previous high was 30 yards in a 42-0 win over Christ the King).  As noted above, he also managed to shatter his touchdown count, increasing his total of two TDs through eight weeks to four in a single 48 minute span, as he personally outscored the opponent, 24-20.

With the Gaels already leading by that 7-0 margin, Lambert scored the first of his quartet late in the opening quarter, running five-yards to the house to double the IP lead to 14-0….Following a Farrell TD and an Iona Prep field goal that put the score at 17-7, it was Lambert again creating additional separation on the scoreboard, as he dashed nine yards with 2:25 remaining in the half to pad the lead to 24-7.

Having already equaled his 2017 scoring total during the first 24 minutes of play, Lambert came out of the break and was even stronger during the back half of the contest, as his third touchdown of the night came via his longest run of the game, as he broke for 36 yards at the midway point of the third quarter to balloon the score to 45-7….His 26-yard scamper in the final minute of the 3rd rounded out the scoring for Iona Prep.

Apparently not satisfied with being a one-man point-scoring juggernaut, it is worth noting that Lambert also played every down on defense and per Head Coach, Joe Spagnolo, “Made a handful of tackles and was solid all evening in his coverages.”

Having avenged one of their three 2017 losses in the quarterfinals, the Gaels will not set their sights on making it two vengeances triumphs in a row as they remain on the road to face top-seeded St. Anthony’s in the semifinals on Friday, November 10th….When the two teams went toe-to-toe back in week #3, it was the Friars withstanding a late charge by an injury depleted IP squad to hold on for a 14-7 win….Whether Shipmon is back or not, the emergence of Lambert, coupled with the decision to promote freshman, Frankie McFadden (13 carries, 71 yards, 1 TD in the quarterfinals), from the junior varsity up to the big club, means that the fifth-seeded Gaels will have no shortage of capable options out of the backfield.

 

Valery Gwardyak (Sr.); LB – Xavier Knights

You can’t call it an upset when they seem to do it every year!!!!  For the second straight season, the Knights entered the first round of the AA playoffs as sizeable underdogs to a higher seeded opponent.  In 2016, they shocked top-seeded Christ the King, forcing four turnovers and blocking a field goal attempt in prevailing 28-27….This past Saturday they had a déjà vu experience as again it was a stout, turnover producing defensive effort that led them to a 26-22 victory over third-seeded Holy Cross.  The semifinal berth securing win came just three weeks removed from a 14-7 loss to this same HC squad.

Serving as the backbone of the D-Unit last weekend, as he has done during all of the 2017 season, was the junior linebacker, Gwardyak, who added to his team-leading tackle total by making seven solo stops and assisting on five others to conclude the day with a cumulative tally of 12…On the year, he has now made 77 tackles (8.6/game), 17 more than his next highest teammate….His three tackles for a loss in the quarterfinal victory over HC was also a team-high and tied him [w/Derek Orbe] for the seasonal top spot with eight overall.

While he himself may not have been credited with one, the example and tenacity that Gwardyak brought with him to the gridiron on November 4th set the course for a collective defensive showcase that yielded four total turnovers (3 INTS, 1 fumble recovery), including a key pick in their own end zone….In addition, after holding this lightning fast Holy Cross offense to their lowest point total of the season during the previously cited week #6 loss, the 22 points surrendered on November 4th was the second lowest output for the Queens based program….

Speaking of shutting down opposing offenses better than most, it needs to be pointed out that this Knight defensive corps, which has given up the third least amount of points in the Double-A division this year (17.8), has the distinction of being tied with St. Joe’s by the Sea in keeping their semifinal opponent, top-seeded Kellenberg Memorial to their lowest score of the year, as the undefeated Firebirds put up 27 points in the 27-7 “w” on September 30th.  The 27 points is more than 12 fewer than the KMHS 2017 average of 39.3 against all other schools….In this first meeting, Gwardyak (11) and fellow junior LB, Kevin Connelly, teamed up to make 28 stops in limiting the Firebirds to 215 ground yards, which is 87 yards less than their yearly average.

 

Justin Ancheta (Sr.); RB/LB – Fordham Prep Rams

Playing for a team that has become legendary for their vaunted passing attack, the senior tailback picked the perfect time to have a coming out party, as his career day was a big part of why the second-seeded Rams are AA semifinals bound following a 35-6 victory at home over the Cougars of St. John the Baptist.

A complementary piece and/or supporting cast member for much of his swan song campiagn, the 210-pounder seems to have a strong sense for the finish line.   And, as he nears the conclusion of his scholastic career at FP, he seems fully intent on leaving a legacy behind….Gaining no more than 58 yards in a single game through week #5, the past three weeks have been something of a transformation for Ancheta as he is quickly developing into a major weapon on the ground for Head Coach, Pete Gorynski, and the Ram staff….Since the team’s lone blemish of the 2017 season [34-24 to Kellenberg], the Hartsdale resident has been an entirely different breed of animal, establishing, breaking, and then smashing his career high for rushing yards in three straight games…..Commencing with a 19 carry, 86 yard effort in a 42-30 victory over Moore Catholic during week #7, Ancheta was even better the following weekend, just missing the century mark when he needed just 11 touches to reach 99 yards in the 38-6 conquest of Holy Trinity….

But alas, as much as he excelled down the home stretch of the regular season, no one could have/would have predicted how incredible he would be in Fordham Prep’s opening round playoff contest this past weekend….Reaching the 100-yard milestone for the first time in his varsity career (160 yards on a season-high 21 carries; 7.6 average/rush), Ancheta also recorded his first multiple touchdown game as a Ram, running for a pair of scores to give him four TDs total this season.

The rebirth of Ancheta as a monster rusher is the best thing that could happen to the Rams and their title ambitions….Because of their reputation this as a “throw heavy” offense, Fordham Prep has often had to deal with opposing defenses neglecting run responsibilities and focusing exclusively on dropping extra men into coverage in the hopes of disrupting All-Everything field general, Matt Valecce’s crusade towards affirming himself as one of the best to ever play the Quarterback position on the high school level in the Empire State….Now that the offense is enjoying much greater balance, foes will no longer have the luxury of putting all of their eggs into one defensive basket.   As a result, an already lethal FP offense (33.1 points per game) might be darn-near unstoppable now!

All that stands in the way of the Rams returning to Championship Weekend for the first time since winning the “A” Division in 2014, is a rematch from the regular season finale against St. Francis Prep in the Double-A semifinals….Winning the first meeting 20-13, FP was without the services of Ancheta.  Now that he has returned to the line-up and is reaching new heights week after week, it will be interesting to see if his presence yields a much more comfortable margin of victory in front of the home crowd.

 

Wyatt Rumpf (Jr.); OL/LB – Kennedy Catholic Gaels

After going years without pitching a shutout, all of a sudden the Gaels defense has become impenetrable, as they have now gone eight straight quarters without allowing a single point to put on the board following a 20-0 goose-egging of St. Dominic’s last Friday night….The “w”, which improved Kennedy Catholic’s Single-A League record to 2-2, had major seeding ramifications, as it secured the Somers based school the #3 spot in the bracket, meaning that it will be able to avoid seeing undefeated/top-seeded Xaverian until a possible finals match-up…

Identical to last week, the catalyst for Head Coach, Dom Tassone and staff was a two-way student-athlete who more than got the job done on both sides of the ball….Eight days it was Ed Longest being named to the POTW list in recognition of his dominance along the line.   This week, it is his fellow OL, Wyatt Rumpf, who proved to be so outstanding that he forced us to make him one of weekly selections.

An anchor in every aspect of the game for the Gael program, there is little doubt that next season, after Longest has moved on to the next level, that Rumpf will be one of, if not the most featured and feared players on the KC roster as a senior….

Tying his career high of 15 tackles (both times came this season against the Bayhawks), Rumpf has now been credited with 65 stop on the season, ranking him third on the team in the category….His sack, one of two earned by the KC defense [the other by Cole Esposito], gave him three on the season, placing him atop the Gaels’ stat sheet.

Not enough to keep the opponent completely stifled when on “D”, Rumpf also proved to be quite essential when Kennedy Catholic had the ball, as he, along with his gronks in the trenches, opened up so many holes and laid down tracks for so many running lanes that for the first time all season, the team had multiple 100-yard rushers, with Greg Brann (100 on 12 carries) and Myles Proctor (100 yards on 15 handoffs) combined for 200 of KC’s season-best 270 yards of production on the ground…The 270 total, which surpassed their previous high of 264 yards set one week earlier, is nearly 190 yards more than their ground attack average entering the game.

Looking to advance to the “A” finals for the first time in program history, Kennedy Catholic will need to continue to have both sides of the ball locked in when they face second-seeded Cardinal Spellman on the road on November 11th….In the previous meeting between the two squads, Spellman emerged with a 19-7 victory.

 

Chris Beyers (Sr.); LB – Kellenberg Memorial Firebirds

For a matter of seconds, the #1 defense in the Double-A division actually looked mortal….Surrendering a touchdown on just the second play of the game to fall behind 6-0 in their quarterfinal contest against St. Joe’s by the Sea, the top-seeded Kellenberg Memorial Firebirds, would neither bend, nor break during the final 47.5 minutes of play, finishing the game on a 27-0 run to cruise into this weekend’s AA semifinal round.

One of the primary reasons that the Uniondale based, Marianist institution was able to adjust so quickly and shake off the disappointing opening ticks was the standout performance of their senior linebacker, Beyers….An individual who may have entered the week a bit under the radar on a roster where the 11th graders have hogged much of the headlines and spotlights, the 5’10, 205-pound Bellmore resident went out of his way to make sure that his name would be on the tongues of all NYCHSFL enthusiasts this week, as he put forth by far his best overall effort of 2017 in keeping KMHS undefeated (9-0) and moving them one step closer to a dream season that will hopefully culminate in two weeks with them hoisting a championship plaque for the first time since 1999 when they prevailed in a 43-40, 3OT classic to win the
“A” crown.

Referred to as a “dual-threat LB” by the Firebird coaching staff, Beyers lived up to the billing last Saturday night, as he played an exceptionally well-balanced game that witnessed him be both the top run stopper as well as their most substantial playmaker in pass coverage…..

Leading the team with nine total tackles (including 3 TFL), Beyers made a habit of being in the backfield all evening, as he complemented his run-stuffing skills by also tacking on a sack….However, nothing was more defining of his impact and thrilling for those in attendance than the highlight reel play he made in the 3rd quarter with the ‘Berg leading 20-6…Sensing that his team’s offense was not in their usual rhythm and knowing that a determined Vikings cohort had no intention of going quietly, Beyers took it upon himself to put the proverbial final nail in the coffin when he halted a promising SJS drive by stepping in front of a pass and trekking 80 yards to the house for the pick-6….One series later, he came up huge again, knocking away a key third down pass attempt to stymie yet another Joe’s attempt to get back into the ballgame.

Beyers and his Firebird football brethren now turn their attention to a semifinal match-up against upset-minded Xavier….If you look at the history of their head-to-head match-ups at all three levels of competition, you see why KMHS is not taking the Knights lightly…Xavier is a program that over the years has just seemed at times to have the Blue & Gold’s number….For this reason, despite Kellenberg’s 27-7 win in week #4, Coach Kevin Hanifan, knows that his team will be in a battle and will need to match the always sky-high intensity of the young men on the opposing sideline….Expecting a heavy dose of power-run football, Beyers will be counted on to repeat his quarterfinal showing as a reliable tackler with an uncanny ability to blow up plays before they even get started.

 

Elijah Jones (Sr.); WR/CB – Cardinal Hayes Cardinals

When he committed to Boston College on June 16th, the feeling was that Jones’s future on the collegiate level may lie as a defensive back for the Eagles….With this in mind, if we are bearing witness to his final games as a rampaging, indefensible, man-among-men on the offensive side of the ball, the 6’3 senior who hangs his hat in the Bronx is certainly giving us a plethora of memories to treasure in his final scholastic games as a Cardinal student-athlete.

Without question a sure-fire/no-brainer, All-Catholic, All-City, All-State, heck maybe even All-Galaxy selection in his swan song, the future Eagle showered some present day Eagles (St. Peter’s) that he is not big on resting on laurels, exploding for a career-high five total touchdowns to catapult Cardinal Hayes to a 50-14 quarterfinal win at home.

Surprisingly finding themselves in an early 14-0 hole, the defending AAA titlists knew exactly who they needed to feed in order to turn around their fortune….Buried on their 1-yard line, sophomore QB, Sofian Massoud would team up with Jones on the longest play (either regular season or postseason) in Hayes history when he hit his senior target on a 99-yard strike to cut the deficit in half.

This same tandem hooked up again in the final 10 seconds of the opening quarter when Massoud found Jones on a 50-yarder.  A two-point conversion by Hayes put them ahead for good, 15-14.

Already the owner of a multiple touchdown effort after just 12 minutes, Jones was far from done inflicting damage in the first half as he followed up his two TD opening quarter by scoring another pair in the 2nd, running for a 2-yard score with 9:52 remaining before making his third touchdown grab of the day from 55-yards away with 2:36 still on the clock to increase the Cardinals’ advantage to 29-14.

The outcome no longer in doubt, Jones found the end zone for the fifth and final time in the third quarter when he took a handoff on a jet sweep and then kicked it into “ludicrous”, using the 11.1 100-meter speed he possesses to turn the corner and disappear to make the score 44-14.

Setting season highs in almost every possible offensive category, Jones concluded his day with 75 rushing yards (scored on both of his carries) and 244 receiving yards (on six grabs) to end the day with a whopping 319 yards of total offensive output….The 30 points he record by himself was more than the amount earned by 13 of the 20 Catholic football teams in action last weekend.

Aiming for a berth in the Triple-A finals for a third streak year, Hayes’s path goes through the team they have faced in the title game the past two seasons, Archbishop Stepinac in the #2 vs. #3 match-up….A shockingly one-sided result (47-21 in favor of CH) when they played in week #6, Jones had a typical banner day by his standards, rushing for 78 yards and a TD on three carries, as well as catching a pair of bombs for touchdowns to finish with 131 yards receiving.  He also had an interception and recovered a fumble on defense….Considering that we are fully anticipating a MUCH closer rematch, one should expect that Jones will again be a featured weapon in some capacity every second he is on the field.

Nov 012017
 

By Matt Diano:

Jonathon Geruso (Sr.); RB – Xavier Knights

Unlike Iona Prep, Xavier took the field during the last week of the regular season not knowing their exact fate.   Entwined in a four-team battle for only three postseason berths, the Knights took the field on October 28th knowing that if they did not win, it might mean a premature conclusion to their 2017 season….Making an already fairly dire situation worse was the fact that not only did they need a win to feel safe, they needed to earn that win over one of the top teams in the AA division, the Mountaineers of Mount St. Michael Academy (the 3rd place team heading into the contest).

Well aware of the explosiveness of the MSMA ground attack, Coach Stevens and his staff would “dance with the lady who has brought them so much success over the years.”….Rather than try to engage in a slug fest/fire fight, the Knights would rely on their ball-control, clocking eating, tough-nosed brand of power football.   And, as it has done so many times in the past, this test of wills and determination would ultimately win the day for Xavier, as they emerged the victors by a score of 21-16 over their highly regarded opponent.

At the forefront leading the charge for Xavier was their senior workhorse, Geruso….No stranger to a heavy load in his final season as a Knight, the 5’10, 170-pound Garden State native had carried the ball 20 or more times in six consecutive games, crossing over the 100-yard plateau in four of them, and scoring a touchdown in five out of six….All of these previous preparation would come up in handy, as Geruso, on a day when his school needed the very best of him, would find that next level of grit, establishing a season-high for carries with 35 and just missing another personal best when he finished with 155 yards (one less than his performance in a week #5 win over Moore Catholic).  Week #8 also had the distinction of witnessing his first multiple TD game of the season, as he plunged into the promised land three different occasions (adding a 2pt conversation on one of his trio of touchdowns) to single-handedly account for 20 of his team’s 21 points.

With his team trailing 8-0 at the time, Geruso would even the contest with approximately five minutes remaining in the opening quarter when he followed the first of his three TD runs by successfully completing the 2pt conversion….The score remained unchanged until it was Geruso again scoring with just around 7:00 remaining in the second quarter to send the Knights into the break leading 15-8….His third and final TD, which proved to be the game-winner, came early in the 4th quarter, turning a 16-15 deficit into our final tally.

A most telling statistic is such….For the game, the Mount ran 40 plays; as noted above, Geruso ran 35 by himself.   This translated into MSMA being limited to their lowest ground total of the season, as they gained just 158.  A team that had become accustomed to reaching the 300 and 400s range with their running attack, week #8 was the first time all season that Mt. St. Michael failed to reach at least 200 in any game this season.

In the end, not only is Xavier safely into the playoffs; they have actually improved their lie immensely, moving all the way up to the #6 seed.  They will face off with third-seeded Holy Cross….In the first meeting between these two teams (a 14-7 win for HC in week #6), Geruso ran for 91 yards and one TD….With the way he has been pounding the ball down the throats of opposing defenses, it is a formality that he will easily pick up the 29 yards he need to reach the 1,000 milestone for the year.  Should he land in the end zone just once, that will also give him double-digit (10) scores in 2017.

 

Ki’Shyne Shipmon (Sr.); RB/WR – Iona Prep Gaels

A player that came within seconds of being honored a few weeks ago following a season-high 170 yard, two touchdown effort, had it not been for a dramatic Monsignor Farrell comeback in the closing seconds of their week #6 game, the Gael senior [Shipmon] would have been joining the exclusive club of 2017 multiple-time honorees….Fortunately, as he prepares to embark on those final few moments as an Iona Prep football player, we were honored to get another opportunity to shine the light on him in the regular season finale….

Knowing that win or lose, the New Rochelle based program was already locked into the #5 seed in the postseason, last weekend held a bigger purpose for the team captain from Yonkers; it was about unfinished business and bragging rights, as Iona Prep’s 38-34 victory [ended the five-game head-to-head losing streak] over their Westchester rivals marked the first time in his varsity career that Shipmon could say he bested the Crusaders.

One of, if not the most complete offensive weapons in all of Catholic Football, the truth is that Shipmon is so universally gifted that whether it is as a ball carrier or a pass catcher, he finds a way to make his #7 jersey stand out in a crowd week after week.  The ways in which he can and will beat you are infinite.   This is a lesson that the Stepinac defense had to learn the hard way as they had a much undesired front-row seat for the 5’9, 180-pounders best effort of the season, as he ran for 98 yards on 16 carries, as well as caught 10 balls for an astounding 145 yards to end the evening with a remarkable 243 yards of total production…Included in this variety act of sensational play-making were a pair of scores (one running, one receiving) which kept him as the leading touchdown earner for the Gaels with nine overall (1.3/game).

An instant classic that went back-and-forth right up until the final whistle, there would be eight total lead changes in the contest.   Two of these shifts in momentum came courtesy of Shipmon as his 62-yard dash to the end zone late in the 3rd quarter put IP up 24-21….A touchdown by Stepinac before the end of the third stanza briefly gave the Crusaders the advantage back, but again it would be the Shipmon making his presence known, catching a 16-yard bee bee from junior signal caller, Derek Robertson, less than two minutes into the final quarter to regain the edge for the Maroon & Gold, 31-27.

Shipmon heads into the postseason having rushed for 600 yards and six touchdowns on just 90 carries.  He leads the Gaels in every major running category….As a pass-catching target, his 30 snatches for 349 yards rank him fourth and third on the team.

Knowing that it is win or hang up for the pads from this second forward, Shipmon’s path to a second straight 50-yard line celebration commences when Iona Prep square off with Monsignor Farrell in a AAA quarterfinal game on Saturday November 4th….As noted above, the last time these teams met, Shipmon went crazy in the losing effort.  You best believe that he will be looking to maintain his individual dominance in an attempt to flip the team outcome.     

 

Matt Valecce (Sr.); QB – Fordham Prep Rams

On a day where the rain poured on most of us, for the senior QB from Fordham Prep, the proverbial sun shined bright, as he bared the harsh elements to throw a trio of TD passes that not only delivered a 20-14 come-from-behind victory to the Rams over St. Franc Prep, but also gained him membership into an exclusive club that before him only three men had earned entry.

Trailing 13-0 in the 2nd quarter, if we have learned nothing from watching this stud over the course of his varsity career, it is that no deficit is out of reach when he is the guy hurling the pigskin on the other sideline….The Boston College bound field general would cut the deficit in half when he connected with his favorite target, fellow senior, Will Loffredo on a 16-yard TD strike to make the score 13-7…..In addition to putting the Rams firmly back into the game, this single toss would be accompanied by much greater prestige and significance as it was 100th of its kind thrown in the career of Valecce…By reaching the career century mark, the 6’5, 210-pounder joined the likes of Greg Paulus (152), current Wisconsin QB Jack Coan (128), and Joe Capobianco (100) as the only scholastic signal callers in Empire State history to achieve the feat.

Having tied Capobianco for third all-time just prior to the intermission, Valecce would blow past him on the first play of the 4th quarter when he hooked up on a short-yardage toss with Tommy Walsh to even the score at 13 apiece…..This one-yard completion was the first of a pair that the teammates would combine in during the final 12 minutes of play….And the latter would be considerably more grand, as it came from 29 yards out in the final half minute of regulation to act as the game-winner.

With the victory, the Rams improved their record to 7-1.   They enter the AA playoffs as the #2 seed, making them one of the favorites to advance to championship weekend…Should a title game appearance materialize, it could have major ramifications individually for Valecce who needs just 662 yards to pass Coan and move into second-place All-time in the NYS record books…The owner of an already amazing 304/game average, there is not much more the Rams can ask of Valecce.  For this reason, that third postseason game could be make it or break it for his record book ambitions.

Valecce and the Rams open up their title hunt this Saturday when they play a surging St. John the Baptist team that has won three of their past four games…When these two schools met all the way back in Mid-September, Valecce completed 14 of his 23 attempts for 304 yards and four scores.        

 

Ed Longest (Sr.); OL/DL – Kennedy Catholic Gaels

While many pundits are guilty of pointing at the skill positions as the difference makers in the game of football, I have always been a believer that the game (especially on the scholastic level) is won and lost in the trenches…If you look at every Catholic Championship football squad over the years, you see that across the board, each had that one beast that constantly was blowing plays in the backfield on defense or that stellar offensive line-up that had so many pancakes to his name that he might as well been nicknamed IHOP….For the Gaels, that person, both this season and for the better part of his entire stay in Somers, NY has been the 6’1, 265-pound two-way monster, Longest.

A returning All-Catholic selection from a season ago, there has been no senioritis for this 12th grader from Katonh….Making 68 stop on defense all of last season, the former CHSAA State wrestling champion has already surpassed his 2016 total following a 15 tackle (4 solo, 11 assisted, 3 TFL) performance in the Gaels’ 38-0 egging of Nazareth Regional….His fifth straight double-digit tackle game, Longest barely missed tying the 2017 high he set the previous weekend when he accounted for 16 stops in  a loss to Xaverian….While updates stats were not available at the time of publishing, we believe his season total to be just south of 80, which would make him the most prolific stopper in the “A” division.

In captaining what is believed to be KC’s first defensive shutout since the 2010 season, Longest complemented his 15 tackles by adding his third sack of the year.

On the other side of the ball, he was his usual wrecking ball self, knocking down walls and giving his running backs massive lanes through which to trek….Behind Longest, the Gaels rushed for 235 yards and four touchdowns in posting their highest point total of the year.

Unlike the “AA” and “AAA” divisions, A-Ball does not jump immediately in to the postseason next week.  But alas, just because it is not considered a playoff game does not mean the stakes are any less….With semifinal position still to be decided, the Gaels will be seeking the sweep when they play host to St. Dominic’s this Friday….When the two teams clashed on September 29th, KC was a 13-6 winner….In that game, Longest had 12 tackles and 1 sack…He and his fellow O-linemen helped Kennedy to a strong 4.7 average on the ground.

 

Justin Medina (Sr.); RB/DB – Cardinal Spellman Pilots

Medina would prove to be all the offense the Pilots would need under the Friday night lights last week, as he accounted for every last point in the team’s 14-7 victory on the road over the Bayhawks of St. Dominic’s…The victory, which improved Spellman’s league record to .500 (2-2) has the boys from the Bronx looking good to earn no worse than the #2 seed in the upcoming “A” playoffs.

With the game still scoreless, Medina busted out the first of his two touchdowns runs on the run when he found a hole on the right side of the line and dashed through It, fighting off would-be tacklers and evading multiple attempts by Dom’s to trip him up by diving at his ankles….When all was said and done, he had taken the ball 56 yards to the house to put his school up 6-0 in the 1st quarter.

Medina’s second scoring play of the night may not have possessed the same highlight reel style, but it was every bit as important as it turned a 7-6 deficit into a 12-7 lead….For good measure, he also personally tacked on the 2pt conversation.

Of the 253 yards compiled by CS, 188 of them could be credited to Medina, as he averaged 9.4 yards on his 20 touches in setting a new 2017 personal best.

Defensively, Medina was equally valuable from his position in the secondary….Securing the lone interception of the game for his school, he, along with the rest of the Spellman D-back corps, held the Bayhawks to just 30 yards in the air per Max Preps….He added six tackles.

Up next for Spellman is the always classic rivalry game between them and fellow perennial title contender, Xaverian.   When the two storied programs last played on September 30th, the visiting Clippers squeaked out a hard-fought 14-13 victory….The Pilots will be fully intent on returning the favor when they take the road trip to Brooklyn this Friday night…Xaverian, led by the “A” rushing king, Roberto Auguste, is sure to do a lot of damage on the ground.  Hence, it is imperative that even if he does not match his nemesis step for step, Medina will need to have another strong showing.

Oct 252017
 

 

 

By Matt Diano:

Jack Rooney (Jr.); QB – St. Dominic’s Bayhawks

If we have said it once, we had uttered it 100s of times, “the test of the true leader is when the chips are stacked against you, you still find a way to prevail”….For the Bayhawks and their junior signal caller, the situation was not looking particularly good last Saturday, as they trailed Nazareth Regional 6-0 late in the 4th quarter….In desperate need of a spark, the Oyster Bay based program would put their fate in the proverbial hands and the literal arm of the Syosset resident.  Coach Robert Ploth and his staff would be rewarded for the confidence they showed in their “Jack of All Trades” quarterback as Rooney would orchestrate the game-tying drive when he dropped back and hit senior, Robby Rossiter, on an 82-yard strike in the final 6:00 of regulation to even the score at six apiece.  This touchdown throw snapped a streak of three consecutive 3-and-outs and provided precisely the spark and momentum shift needed when the game was extended into overtime.

Following a clutch effort by the St. Dominic’s defense, holding the Kingmen scoreless on their only possession of the extra frame, the “w” was now up for the seizing and Rooney was not about to allow that opportunity to slip away…Demonstrating his dual-threat capabilities, the 5’11, 165-pounder put his running prowess on display, as he capped off the come-from-behind triumph when he took the keeper from the four-yard line and dashed into the end zone to account for the final 12-6 tally.

A day of personal bests for Rooney across the board, the Dom’s field general tied his 2017 high for completions on 9-for-15 passing en route to accumulating a new top mark of 180 yards in the air.   In addition, after not rushing for more than 45 yards in any previous game this season, Rooney nearly doubled it, racking up 80 yards 13 touches (6.2).   He also posted just his second multiple score game of the year (both against Nazareth).

Not only responsible for single-handedly putting all 12 points on the board himself, Rooney was so in control of everything that the Bayhawks were doing during week #7 that when the total numbers were crunched, it was discovered that his 260 yards of total output represented just under 89 percent of the 293 yards earned collectively by the entire Dom’s squad.

For the season, Rooney is completing 52.3 percent of his passes (34-for-65) in hurling for 522 yards and three TDs.   On the ground, he has equaled his touchdown production, running for 224 yards and a trio of scores on 54 carries.

With the #2 seed in the Single-A playoffs remaining on the table, Rooney will have the chance to add to his growing legacy when St. Dominic’s squares off with Cardinal Spellman on October 27th.  When the teams last met, it was Spellman emerging with the 7-0 victory

 

Thomas Force (Sr.); TE/SS – St. John the Baptist Cougars

The sleeping giant has officially awoken and Carusillo’s Cougars will head into the last week of the regular season on fire, as their 19-12 victory at home over Moore Catholic was the third in a row for St. John the Baptist….What once was shaping up to be a forgettable, rebuilding season is now more closely resembling what we have come to expect from the Red and White in West Islip, a serious postseason contender.

Following back-to-back weeks of honoring one two-way senior superstar [Michael Palermo], it is another SJB 12th grader making the cut this week in the person of the 6’1, 180-pounder, Force.

A leader and exceptional performer on both the gridiron and the baseball diamond, Force is committed to pulling off the rare feat of competing in both sports at the next level.

One of those unsung heroes that we love to chronicle, while Force’s contributions may have slipped the eye of the occasional/moderate fan, his efforts have been fully recognized by his coaches and teammates…That is why, on a day where he did get to assume the role of the star, it was fitting and completely deserved that he receive the respect and press reserved for those game-changing caliber of student-athletes.

A one-man show during the first quarter, Baptist’s first score of the game had Force’s imprint all over it, as it was his 35-yard interception return that gave the Cougars prime real estate on the Maverick side of the field…There could be no better conclusion to the drive than for the young man who dealt the hand to also be the one afforded the luxury of cashing in the chips, as Force made his only catch of the game on the lone pass attempt from quarterback, Nick Delcore, for a 17-yard TD to give SJB the early 6-0 advantage…Only the second grab of the season for Suffolk County resident, both have resulted in touchdowns as Force previously had a 25-yard scoring snatch in a hard fought loss to St. Francis Prep on October 1st.

Living up to his name, Force proved himself to be quite “the force” as a blocker too, consistently getting out in front of his backs and paving the way for a unified effort that produced 220 yards and two touchdowns on the ground for SJB.

Reflecting on his impact on offense alone, Force was a strong candidate for selection to the POTW list.  However, his catching and road grading skills are only half the story of his tremendous afternoon…. Complementing his 1st quarter interception would be a full 48 minutes of consistent play as both a run-stopper and an excellent coverage man…Opposed by one of the most imposing tailbacks in the league [Justin Lacks], Force finished the game with 13 total tackles (2 TFL) and was a part of a defensive secondary to held Mavs’ QB, Vincenzo Scarola, to a modest 39 yards in the air on 2-for-9.   Scarola’s 22.2 percent completion rate was his lowest of 2017 and his yardage was the second fewest tossed by him this season.

 

Isaiah Amazon (JR.); WR/DE – Xaverian Clippers

An individual who unquestionably was born to play the game of football, when you look at the build, athleticism, and dynamic play-making ability of the 11th grader from Brooklyn, the last thought that would enter your mind is that this young man is a rookie!!!

Suiting up for just the seventh time in his 1st-year playing the sport, the 6’2, 2010 pound two-way player is wasting little time in showing that as nice as beginner’s luck may be, nothing replaces God-given talent…The more that Amazon plays, the easier it becomes to see that this is a special talent who is going to be a household name, both during the remainder of 2017 and all throughout his senior campaign next season.   You simply cannot teach the explosiveness that this stud possesses on both sides of the ball…His meteoric rise from newcomer to “can’t take your eyes off of him” status is just another reason why Coach Jioia and his staff should feel encouraged as we rapidly approach the postseason….Unblemished in their “A” league games, if opponents did not already have enough to worry about trying to game plan against star running back, Roberto Auguste, the expedient coming of age of Amazon is sure to cause them some sleepless nights.

Last Friday, in a game that was perhaps closer than many would have anticipated (Xaverian won the first meeting 48-0), Amazon would monopolize the field on sides of the line, compiling eight total tackles, 1 sack, and a huge fumble recovery on “D”….On offense, his ability to go up and get the ball proved essential as it was a leaping 40-yard catch that saw him shed multiple tacklers on his way to the end zone that put the Clippers in front on the scoreboard in the third quarter and provided them with the jolt they needed to finish off the 25-19 victory over the Gaels of Kennedy Catholic…The TD grab was one of three made by Amazon under the lights, as he concluded the game with 71 yards as receiving to either tie for or hold the outright team lead in all major categories in the win.

Xaverian will have a bye turning week #7, meaning that the NYCHSFL aficionados will need to wait till the calendar changes to November before we see the next of what is sure to be an endless highlight reel put forth by this budding phenom.

 

Omarion Jones (So.); QB – St. Francis Prep Terriers

Honored as a player of the week for the second time in the Terriers’ last three games, the sophomore sensation under center was literally the definition of perfection in St. Francis Prep’s 14-7 victory over Xavier last Saturday.

The owner of an often talked about but rarely achieved immaculate quarterback rating (by National Football League standards) of 158.3, Jones would complete all eight of his attempts in the air, averaging just under 22 yards per connection to toss for 174 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

With the game scoreless after the opening quarter, the 5’9 10th grader took it upon himself to break the ice, as he launched a 58-yard bomb to senior Patrick Mcardle, to send Francis Prep into the locker room with a 6-0 advantage.

Following the break, Jones again would show off his “on the money” passing precision, giving the Terriers some additional breathing room when, as described by the school’s football twitter page, he “threw a 57 yard dart to Marc Anthony Dalce” to more than double the lead to 14-0….This was all the cushion that the school from Queens would need as they surrendered a touchdown in the final quarter but still emerged with the win to improve their 2017 record to 4-3.

Having already guaranteed that his school will do no worse than finish at .500 during the regular season, motivation will not be an issue during week #8 for Jones and company as the team goes in pursuit of a winning record when they play host to Fordham Prep on Sunday afternoon….With the Rams featuring record book passing king, Matt Valecce, and Jones taking to the field fresh off of the best game of his scholastic career, expect for an epic battle of signal callers…..While the 6-1 Rams do represent a mighty challenge, Jones and his dual-threat skillset (626 yards passing, 7 TDs in the air; 357 yards rushing, 1 ground TD) might be the most multi-faceted quarterback FP has faced since losing to a Matt Sluka-led Kellenberg team in week #5.

 

Makhai Murphy (Jr.); CB – St. Anthony’s Friars

Never one to back down from a challenge, the Friar junior cornerback has routinely drawn the responsibility of covering the opposing team’s best receiving option….Such was the case again last weekend in the Friar’s 29-3 victory at home over rival (in everything) Chaminade.

We will have to wait until after the New Year to find out if Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow; however, we know that Flyer senior WR, Chris Nicholas, definitely saw quite a bit of his during week #7, as the 5’10, 170-pounder [Murphy] was everywhere his elder opponent seemed to go…..Incorporating a strategy that allowed for the short yardage gain, but completely negated the big play potential, Murphy limited Nicholas to only 78 yards on nine catches.  The 8.7 yards per grab is the only time this season that the touted Flyer wide-out has not at least averaged at least 16.5/catch.  He was also held without a receiving touchdown for just the second time in 2017.

As encumbering as the task of shutting a receiver of Nicholas’s caliber is by itself, Murphy’s overall performance was not just about stopping the opposition; he also found ample opportunities to make plays of his own, recording three tackles and a trio of pass breakouts….He would save his most thrilling contribution for the 4th quarter though, when, with STA already leading 22-3, he stepped in front of a Thomas Rogan pass attempt and took the pigskin to the promised land for a 35-yard pick-6 to account for the final score….This was his second defensive score of the year, as he previously returned a fumble for a TD in St. Anthony’s week #5 win over Cardinal Hayes.

In the regular season finale, when the Friars go on the road to face the Eagles of St. Peter’s, look for Murphy to again be thrown into the deep end as he likely will be lined up opposite another of the NYCHSFL’s most coveted WRs, Chris Ledlum…In the five games he has played this season, Ledlum has surpassed 100-yards receiving in four of them.  In addition, he has caught an average of two TD passes in each of the past two weeks.  Hence, if Murphy can put a lid on him, it will solidify the Friar as an emerging shutdown defensive back.

 

Ryan Scelzi (Sr.); RB – St. Joe’s by the Sea Vikings

It is not very often that a player on a losing team is bestowed POTW honors.   However, in the case of Scelzi, he was so unbelievably great last week, that regardless of outcome, we could not deny him his moment in the spotlight.

Back in the line-up after losing his entire junior campaign to injury, the 5’8, 165-pound tailback was a key reason why Mount St. Michael had to sweat out every second of their 36-28 victory over the Vikings of St. Joseph’s by the Sea.

Playing like a man on a mission, Scelzi did not just surpass his previous career highs, he completely shattered them….Entering the game without a 100-yard performance on his resume this year, the Viking RB responded but cracking the 200-yard milestone and scoring two touchdowns (his first multiple score game of the season) on 24 carries…From the 272 yards earned on the ground by SJS, 221 of them belonged to Scelzi.

A person who is willing to do anything asked of him, when he was not busy chewing up large chunks of yards out of the backfield, the 12th grader from Staten Island had enough in the tank to average nearly 13 yards on six kickoff returns.

As the Viking approach the final week of the regular season locked in a three-way tie for the #7 spot in the standings, it needs not be said that a victory this weekend over Holy Trinity could very well determin whether or not they will be postseason bound…For this reason, with the stakes so high, we are predicting that for the second time in as many weeks, the senior leader will put on a show and give his school every possible chance in the world to obtain the much needed and desired “w”.