Oct 112018
 

By Matt Diano:

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

A modern-day Jessie Tuggle [NFL All-time Tackles leader] for the Pilots defense, behind the leadership of the 6’0, 202-pound 11th grader, Cardinal Spellman successfully pitched their third shutout of the season on Saturday afternoon, defeating the Bawkhawks of St. Dominic’s by a score of 21-0.  The victory completes the early season sweep of their Long Island foe and raises the Bronx based program’s overall record to 3-2 (3-1 in league play).  In eight quarters of play between the two schools, Spellman did not allow a single point to St. Dom’s.

Living in the offensive backfield during the fifth week of the regular season, Ortiz’s ability to consistently “beat the opposing running back to the point of attack” made him a nightmare from which the Bayhawks would never awake…Of his career-high 20 total stops (10 solo), more than a few would yield a loss of yardage, forcing their opponents from Oyster Bay to constantly be buried behind the proverbial 8-ball.

Increasing his 2018 total to 70 tackles (a mind-blowing average of 14/game), Ortiz is currently the clubhouse leader in the category among all Division “A” student-athletes, and ranks 2nd in the NYCHSFL regardless of classification [behind only Chaminade’s Phillip Arnold, who has 71]…An individual who never seems to take a week off, Ortiz has now reached double digit stops in all five of his appearances this season, commencing with a 14 tackle effort in the season-opening win over Nazareth and never slowing down since.

And while his defensive skill set may be his trademark, let it be known that this young man is equally as tenacious when it is his team that has possession of the pigskin…Molded in the image of former 14-year NFL veteran, Lorenzo Neal, when lining up at FB, Ortiz is a lethal lead blocker, as evident by the 200+ yards his teammates were able to accumulate on the ground last Saturday…With Ortiz paving the way, the Pilots are running for an average of just south of 170 yards (169.2) per game.

 

Photo Courtesy of SI Live

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

From the same oxymoronic standpoint that causes us to laugh when tall men are named “Short”, or when we nickname our chubby friend, “Slim”, the fact that this 6’0, 215-pound gifted specimen has the last name Lacks is proof that God has a darn good sense of humor…We say that, because if anyone has watched what the Maverick 11th grader has been able to accomplish during the first 2.5 years of his scholastic career, you know all too well that there is not a single tool that this prodigy is lacking.

A combination of breakaway speed and chiseled muscle, it was neither coincidence, nor luck that the New Jersey native was invited to the US Army All-American combine last December, signifying him as one of the top-600 class of 2020 student-athletes in the nation.

By far the most statistically dominant runner in all of the NYCHSFL this season, even before the 18 carry, 235 yards, three touchdown performance he put forth during Moore Catholic’s 42-12 triumph over Mount St. Michael’s Academy this past Saturday, Lacks already stood atop the leaderboard in every major rushing category.  The only difference is now he has separated himself from the rest of his peers and established a class all his own.

Well on his way towards a third consecutive 1,000+ yard season, at the midway point of his junior campaign, Lacks has gained 883 yards on 116 carries (7.6 average) and is currently tied for 3rd in NYS (despite playing one fewer game than the gentlemen above him) with 13 touchdowns on the ground…In terms of his decorated career, his TD treks of 70, 60, and 9 yards in the win over the Mountaineers a week ago give him 13 multi-touchdown games (including all five this season)…His 235 yards on October 6th was a career-high and now gives him three 200+ yard games in his career (including two in 2018; also ran for 221 yards and tied his career-best of four TDs in a week #2 win over Holy Cross).

A special talent that could effortlessly be a POTW candidate every time his team picked up a “w”, Lacks returns to the list for the first time since week #8 of his freshman season….However, with his team remaining unblemished (5-0) and moving ever closer toward their second championship weekend in the past three years, there is no doubt that the only individual honor he has on his mind is another [was the 2016 “A” recipient] the title game Offensive MVP trophy.

 

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

48 minutes?  Who needs 48 minutes? Based on what he has accomplished the past two weekends, the 6’1, 175-pounder out of Bellmore certainly does not need them…Nope, there is no punching a time clock for this junior Firebird; he is quite content doing three times the damage of his mortal counterparts in half the time.

A week removed from exploding for three first half touchdowns and 144 total yards (91 rushing on 11 carries; 3 receptions for 53 yards) in a 34-11 victory over St. John the Baptist, the Marianist phenom tailback would be even more otherworldly this past Saturday, running for a career-high 186 yards and another three TDs on 14 carries (13.3 average) in a 41-3 drubbing over Holy Cross.

Getting off to a boiling hot start for the second weekend in a row, Delucia would double Kellenberg’s 1st quarter lead to 14-0 [following a Jake Deakin TD earlier) when he shook off one tackle and then cruised untouched the rest of the way down the near sideline for a 57-yard touchdown…Approximately six minutes later (10:05 remaining in the 2nd quarter), he would bust free again, this time from 47-yards out, starting his trip along the opposite sideline but then cutting back toward the inside to record his second TD of the half [5th 1st half TD in the past two weeks) to make the score 21-0.

Spending much of the final 24 minutes being rested while other teammates got their names in the paper, Delucia would turn on the jets one final time late in the 3rd quarter, when he took the triple-option hand-off straight up the middle and ran 17 yards undeterred to close out the scoring for KMHS (41-3).

As a result of his aforementioned career-best rushing day, through five weeks of the regular season, Delucia ranks 1st on the team in every running category.   And, despite having to share carries, his 420 yards (on 51 carries) ranks 7th overall in Double-A and his eight touchdown runs puts him in a four-way tie for 2nd among all NYCHSFL players regardless of classification.

Winners now of 16 contests in a row, Coach Kevin Hanifan’s cohort may face the biggest challengers to their streak this coming Sunday when they are pitted against their brother school, Chaminade, in the 2018 Marianist Bowl….Picking up their most recent victory in this series back in 2010 (0-5 since), should Kellenberg hope to prevail over their brethren, they will need to receive another huge contribution from  DeLucia…The host Flyers (2-3) are surrendering an average of 255.8 yards and two touchdowns per game on the ground.  Therefore, Delucia and the rest of the stacked Firebird offensive backfield have every reason to feel confident that there will be ample openings from which to exploit in their bid to stay unscathed.

 

Zachary Wallace (Jr.); RB/KR – Fordham Prep Rams

Way back during the first week of the season, we wrote in the preview that in order for the Rams to enjoy another winning season, they would need to incorporate a more balanced approach to their offensive attack.  One of the names that we tossed out at that time as a potential breakout star was the 5’11, 170-pound junior who had previously been utilized more consistently as a defensive back…Now five weeks into the future and we could not be any happier or prouder to announce that the New Rochelle resident is well on his way towards reinventing the offensive scheme as more of a traditional 50/50 system where opposing defenses are left guessing on every snap.

Boosting a 100-yard rusher just seven times in the 44 games (16%) during the four-year reign of Matt Valecce as king/leader of the offense, since assuming the starting tailback role, Wallace has already posted three century mark performances, including a 12-carry, 145-yard effort last weekend in propelling Fordham Prep to their fourth consecutive victory, 31-13, over St. Francis Prep.

An honor roll student while enrolled in Advanced placement courses, Wallace extended his streak of consecutive multi-TD games to three in a row on October 6th, but did so without recording a single rushing score…On the contrary, he would showcase the other facets of his game, acting as both a kick returner and a receiver out of the backfield in securing the “w” over the visiting Terriers.

Seeing his team fall behind 7-0 in the first quarter, Wallace wasted no time in issuing a response, taking the ensuing kickoff 82 yards to the house to tie the game at 7 apiece.

With the Rams now leading 17-13 in what had been a very back-and-forth contest for the first 36 minutes of play, Wallace would make the most of his lone reception, catching the Derek Bufano pass and then racing 55-yards for the first of Fordham’s two 4th quarter touchdowns to create that much cherished cushion…Of his six catches this season (totaling 170 yards), half have put “6” on the board.

Ranked 3rd in Double-A and 5th overall in the NYCHSFL with 544 rushing yards (59 carries; w/4 TDs), Wallace will again need to be at his best during week #6, as October 13th will feature a confrontation of titans when Lacks-led Moore Catholic travels to the Bronx to square off with Fordham Prep in a pivotal AA Western Conference donnybrook.

 

Jeremye Brown (Sr.); RB – Cardinal Hayes Cardinals

As the saying goes, you cannot keep a bunch of good men down…In the case of the 2018 Cardinals, despite starting the season 0-2 in league play, there was always an unspoken confidence that It was a matter of when, not if, they would find their true selves….And that moment would come during the fifth week of the regular season when they posted a 24-18 victory over Christ the King.

A program that over the course of the past three seasons had become notorious for its unmatched aerial attack because of the presence of All-State signal callers Christian Anderson and current field general, Sofian Massoud, October 6th would be uncharacteristically be all about the ground attack for Head Coach, C.J. O’Neil’s flock of Cardinals.

Feeding their 5’11, 170-pound senior tailback [Brown] 27 times last weekend, the Bronx resident would run for 183 yards and score twice in single-handedly recording half of Hayes’s point total on the evening…The quantity of running opportunities, coupled with the yardage accumulated on the ground would signify something of a turn back the clock night for Cardinal Hayes.   Not since they boosted the likes of All-State running back, Justin Covington (presently a part of the backfield rotation at Villanova) have the Cardinals put their trust in a tailback the way they did with Brown a week ago.  In fact, speaking of Covington, Brown’s huge evening during week #5 represented the statistically greatest performance by Cardinal Hayes player since the latter [Covington] had a 34-carry, 309-yard outing in a 2015 semifinal win over St. Anthony’s.

Brown and company will look to make it two wins in a row this Friday when they face off with returning “AAA” runners-up, St. Anthony’s…After surrendering less than 100 rushing yards in any of their first three games of 2018, the Friar defense has 571 yards and six touchdowns the past two weeks.  Thus, if Hayes continues to stay committed to the run, Brown could be in store for another monster showing.

Note: The last time Cardinal Hayes started a season winless after two games, they went on to claim the 2016 AAA League crown.  Thus, they are a team that grower stronger the deeper the season progresses.

 

Franklin McFadden III (So.); RB – Iona Prep Gaels

We are not sure why, but there is something about competing against Monsignor Farrell that seems to bring the best out of this 5’8, 195-pound sophomore from Yonkers.

Such a natural, God-given stud, McFadden was so dominant as a freshman on the junior varsity level that the Gael coaches could not resist the temptation to promote him to the varsity for the postseason…When given this opportunity, McFadden proved to be every bit as good as advertised, running for 71 yards and a touchdown in a quarterfinal victory over this same Lion opposition.

This past Saturday night, in a rumble of unbeaten programs, McFadden would again give his hosts on Amboy Road a dose of the power and acceleration that makes him one of the most heralded underclassmen in the Empire state…Taking the hand-off 17 times, the Gael 10th grader would rush for a personal best average of 8.5 per carry to finish the game with 145 yards…On top of his big yardage day, McFadden would also emerge with the first three touchdown game of his short varsity career, getting IP on the board in the first quarter (to make the score 7-6 Farrell) before later blasting his way to 15 and 23-yard TD runs (per MaxPreps) on back-to-back third quarter possessions to turn a 21-7 lead into insurmountable 35-7 advantage.

McFadden, who has now rushed for over 100 yards in three of Iona Prep’s four games this season (including a career-best 152 yards in week #1 against Bishop Hendricken) presently ranks 2nd in “AAA” with 518 yards on 79 rushing attempts.  His eight touchdowns on the ground tops all Triple-A players and makes him a part of that same quartet as DeLucia for the #2 spot overall among Catholic ball carriers.

Iona Prep, who at 4-0 is the last immaculate team in the 3A division, will host Christ the King during week #6 before engaging in what will likely be a battle for the top seed in the postseason on October 19th against St. Anthony’s….When he faced the Friars in the 2017 semifinals, he was held to only 25 yards on eight carries.  Hence, you know he will be playing with a chip on his shoulder in two weeks.

Oct 032018
 

By Matt Diano:

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

And then there was one!!!!  Following a 21-7 victory last Saturday over defending “A” champion, Cardinal Spellman, the Gaels of Kennedy Catholic are now the last remaining unblemished team in their division.

Led by their 5’10, 180-pound “Jack of All Trades” [Surrett] as he was described by Head Coach, Dom Tassone, the Gaels would break a 7-7 deadlock at the half by exploding for a pair of 4th quarter touchdowns en route to posting their first ever NYCHSFL victory over the rival Pilots….The 21 scored by the Somers based program were the first points surrendered this season by Spellman against a Catholic school opponent.

The first POTW repeat selection of 2018, it was just three weeks ago that the Newburgh resident made his debut on this list following a 185-yard rushing, four TD affair in a victory over St. Dominic’s….

He would continue to pad his touchdown total during week #4, as he made the journey to the promised land twice on September 29th, including punching in what would prove to be the game-winner early in the final quarter…The eventual clinching score would not be Surrett’s only contribution during this game-defining drive.  Earlier in the series, with the offense “stalled” as it was expressed by Tassone, Surrett would maximize his lone pass attempt of the game, connecting with senior tight end, Eric Volpi, on a 20-yard hook-up for a huge 3rd down conversion to keep the Gaels in control of the pigskin.

Gaining 90 yards on his 12 carries (team-best 7.5 average) to increase his season total to 350 (33 touches), Surrett’s first TD of the contest gave Kennedy Catholic the 7-0 lead when he took it in from 1-yard out.

Playing a role in all three of the KC TDs, a one-handed grab by Surrett (one of two catches he made for 22 yards) during a later series would be a catalyst for teammate, Myles Proctor’s (reigning Player of the Week), short yardage insurance touchdown with 4:20 remaining on the clock.

Never one to feel as if his day has been a true success until he makes his presence known on both sides of the gridiron, Surrett would anchor a secondary that held Spellman quarterback, Aidan Hanley-Piri to a sub-.500 completion percentage (6-for-13) and just 100 yards in the air…He would be credited with three solo tackles and log a pass defense to round out his stellar two-way performance.      

Masauri Miller (Sr.); RB/LB – Moore Catholic Mavericks

An established gem at the heart of the Maverick linebacking corps the past three seasons, Miller has never been a stranger when it comes to turning heads as on the defensive side of the ball…The Defensive MVP of the 2016 Single-A title game, as well as an All-State player as a sophomore, it no longer comes as a surprise to see him racking up double digit stops week after week.  Rather, hearing his #15 jersey number called regularly by the public address announcer has become more rule than exception.

This past Saturday night, the 5’9, 185-pounder further added to his legacy as one of the most feared stoppers in all of the Evil Empire, recording 15 tackles (10 solo; 1 TFL) as part of a collective effort by the MC defense that yielded a modest 146 yards of total offense in a 38-14 triumph over Xavier….With this victory, the still unblemished Mavs (4-0), have doubled their win total from all of 2017 and remain among front-runners to win the “AA West”.

Miller’s 15 tackles under the lights this past Saturday made it two weekends in a row that he set personal best on the Double-A level.  During week #3, he tallied 13 tackles…Respectively, these back-to-back standout showings are conjuring up memories of the aforementioned 2016 campaign that saw him post games of 23, 20, and 17 stops while competing in the “A” division…At present, his overall total of 45 tackles and his per game average of 11.3 rank in the top-10 of both categories among all NYCHSFL student-athletes regardless of division.

Speaking of a blast from the past, weeks 3 and 4 have also witnessed a resurgence of sorts for him as a valuable #2 option out of the offensive backfield for Coach Nick Giannatasio and his staff…Rushing for a total of only 77 yards as a junior last year, Miller surpassed that with an 80-yard (on 5 carries)/1TD display two weeks ago against St. Francis Prep.  This past Saturday, his output continued on a northbound trajectory, as he rushed for 101 yards on six carries, highlighted by a 52-yard TD trek.  This was just the third 100+ yard game of his career and the first time cracking the 100-yard barrier since October 14th, 2016 (career-high 126 yards versus Xaverian).

So spectacular was Miller’s full body of work during the fourth week of the regular season that he not only caught our attention, he also put himself on the national radar.   He was recently nominated by the New York Giants and USA Football for the “Heart of a Giant” Award, which recognizes players from the Tri-State area who “demonstrate unparalleled work ethic on and off the field” as an indicator of a deep passion for the sport. 

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

Like every homecoming weekend on the campus of any school across the nation, this past Friday night in Brooklyn was about honoring and welcoming back the generations of alumni that once proudly walked the hallways at Xaverian. Nostalgia consumed the fall air and even before a single point was earned, there were already celebrations and ear-to-ear smiles as friends reunited.   For most, it was an evening of reminiscing about yesteryear…But for one 5’11, 190-pounder 11th grader, the past ceased to exist and all that mattered was giving those in the crowd a preview and/or foreshadowing of what the present and the future will look like on Flatbush Avenue during the next year and a half.

A gentleman who has been forced to learn the hard way whether or not patience is indeed a virtue, what transpired in the Clippers’ 44-28 victory over Mount St. Michael Academy during week #4 was a moment that Shane Greene has waited a year to see come to fruition…Missing the entire 2017 season after transferring into Xaverian and then sustaining an injury that kept him on the shelf, the hometown kid finally got his opportunity to be a star, and no one would upstage or shine brighter than he.

Gradually shaking off the rust and getting back to top form during the first three weeks of the Catholic football season, Greene stepped onto the field on Friday night having run 14 times for 44 yards and one touchdown….And while others would ohhh and awe about the beauties/studs of the “court”, he would be busy staging a coronation of his own, as the King of the land attack.

Acting as the proverbial workhorse, Greene would take 36 of the team’s 59 hand-offs, rush for 155 of Xaverian’s 234 yards, and score both of their touchdowns on the ground…And, in case that was not enough to impress the home crowd, he would add a third overall touchdown on a 24-yard reception (only his second catch of 2018).

Remarkably, these 18 points would only tell half the story.   Because, as the old saying (actually I just made it up) goes, “why score six when you can score eight.”  And on four separate occasions, that is precisely what he did, successfully converting 2pt conversions to boost his total point output to 26.

Ok, so surely contributing nearly 60 percent of the points was enough to make him call it a night?…Well, first off, he was not done yet; and second, don’t call him Shirley….Instead of resting on his offensive laurels, Greene would go right back to work on the defense side of the ball, making six tackles (2nd most on the team) from his outside linebacker position.

As a follow-up to his monster demonstration during week #4, look for Greene to have another solid performance on October 5th when Xaverian squares off with a St. Joe’s by the Sea squad that has struggled to defend the run thus far (have allowed over 1,000 yards in four games).

Ryan Razzano (Sr.); QB – Holy Trinity Titans

Remaining on the topic of fresh faces in the NYCHSFL that used the fourth week of the regular season to send out their calling card, like Greene, the senior transfer from McGann-Mercy could not have picked a more perfect time to put forth his finest effort of 2018…Trailing 20-6 at the end of the 1st quarter and 26-18 at intermission, it would be the individual labor of the 5’10, 180-pounder from Manorville during the final 24 minutes of competition that enabled the Green & White to claw their way back to the 40-38 win over Holy Cross last Saturday afternoon.

A consistent presence in the rushing attack during his first three games under center for the Titans, Razzano came in averaging just under 60 yards and 1 TD rushing per game.  Hence, the possibility of him exploding for a massive afternoon was never out of the question.  However, to say that we could have predicted the magnitude to which he would erupt would be a case of 20/20 hindsight.

Calling his own number a season-high 23 times in the win over the visiting Knights, Razzano cracked the 100-yard plateau for the first time as a Titan, accumulating 113 yards and scoring a quartet of touchdowns in delivering HT’s third straight victory of the season (3-1).

Perhaps even more impressive than the stat line itself was the timing of his biggest moments.  Recording three of his four touchdowns in the second half, of the 22 points tallied by Holy Trinity after halftime, 18 of them came courtesy of #2.

Complementing his 25-yard, 1st quarter TD run that got the Titans on the board (to make the score 7-6 in favor of Holy Cross), Razzano added journeys of 39 (26-24 HC) and 4 (32-30 HC) yards respectively in the third quarter to put his school in a situation where the comeback hopes remained alive and well…..Following a late 3rd quarter, 32-yard FG by Timothy Kiggins that gave the Titans their first lead of the day, the 12th grade field general would provide some cushion down the stretch when he punched his 4th TD in from the 1-yard line to make the score 40-32.

With his four rushing touchdowns during week #4, Razzano has now tied reigning POTW selection, CJ Riccobono (who himself scored twice), for the team lead with seven TDs on the ground.

Overshadowed by the strength of his running success was the fact that Razzano also enjoyed his best day as a passer last weekend, as he posted season-highs in completions (6 of 8) and aerial yardage (68).

To put one final cherry on top, Razzano was called upon to play key minutes in the defensive backfield and was credited with 1 tackle.    

Picture from SI Live

Vincent Wagner (Sr.); RB – Monsignor Farrell Lions

“The journey is never ending. There’s always going be growth, improvement, adversity; you just got to take it all in and do what’s right, continue to grow, continue to live in the moment.”—Antonio Brown

Never was there a more fitting quote to summarize the senior season of the 6’1, 220-pounder out of Staten Island…Still hampered by an ankle injury (adversity) suffered at the onsets of the 2018 season, when you look at what Wagner has been able to accomplish at less than 100%, it spells doom for the rest of the AAA division.

Making his return to the POTW list for the first time since the opening weekend of the 2017 season, the Honorable Mention All-State selection from a year ago was nothing short of superb in a 26-24 come-from-behind victory over Cardinal Hayes last Friday that raised the Lions record to 4-0.

A fierce runner who never balks when asked to assume a heavy workload and does not dance when he can bulldoze, the fact that Wagner posted his fourth career 200-yard game (26 carries for 201 yards) of his career and has now surpassed the century mark in eight of his last nine appearances (exception being week #2 when the injury limited him to just one carry) Is hardly news anymore.  He is such an undeniable force when serving as a ball carrier than no matter what he does, the extraordinary begins to look commonplace…

So, rather than hark on the part of his game that he has already shown to be exceptional, we choose instead to stay true to Mr. Brown’s words and focus on the level of growth/improvement we witnessed in Wagner as a pass receiver during week #4.

A year removed from catching just nine balls for 89 yards and one touchdown as a junior, Wagner would demonstrate that next component required of any full-service tailback last weekend, tying his career-best of three grabs and setting new career-highs for receiving yards and touchdowns with 56 and two respectively in propelling the Lions to their biggest “w” thus far in 2018.

Coming out of the tunnel on fire, Wagner would give the Lions the initial 7-0 lead four minutes into the game when he broke off for three big runs and then completed the drive by catching a 5-yard TD pass from Mike Regan….But, it would be his second touchdown snatch of the night that proved even more pivotal.

Seeing his team trailing 24-13 at the time late in the third quarter (approximately 4:30 remaining), Wagner provided that much needed spark and/or adrenaline boost when he took a simple screen pass 47 yards to the house to bring Farrell within striking distance, 24-19….Farrell would later go on to block a punt and return it for a TD in the last five minutes of the 4th quarter to steal the “w“.

Wagner (564 yards rushing this season) will look to make it three straight 200-yard running outings (also had 211 yards during week #3 against Chaminade) when Farrell plays host to Iona Prep in a war of the immaculate (combined record of 7-0) on October 6th.

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.