Nov 142019
 

By Matt Diano:

Damon Barnes (Sr.); WR/DB – Cardinal Hayes Cardinals

If you want to know what makes the postseason extra special, it is those moments when a senior, staring the end of his scholastic career dead in the eyes, goes out and puts forth a career-day so as to earn the right to wear his school colors a few more additional times.

Described by Cardinals’ legendary Head Coach, CJ O’Neil, as a “Tremendous human being,” the 5’10, 185-pounder from the Bronx [Barnes] was nothing if not tremendous in propelling fourth-seeded Hayes to their second straight [third in the past four years] championship weekend berth behind an avenging 45-34 victory over previously unbeaten/top-seeded Iona Prep in the AAA semifinals on November 9th.

Flying to the ball with passion and determination, the overall performance of Barnes proved to be the ultimate catalyst as to why the Cardinals were successful in turning around a previous 58-41 loss to the Gaels in the regular season finale.

Living his life with the mentality of, “Humble enough to know that I’m not better than anybody, but wise enough to know I’m different from the rest,”, as expressed on his twitter page, from an individual standpoint, Barnes certainly was a difference-maker this past Saturday, collecting personal-bests on defense in the following categories: tackles (14), sacks (2), knockdowns (4), and pass break-ups (2).

The remarkable efforts of the one also translated into the universal prosperity of the many, as together, the Cardinal Hayes “D” did an outstanding job in forcing IP junior signal caller, Darius Wilson, into a very modest afternoon in the air.  Held below a 50% completion percentage for the first-time in his varsity career, Wilson connected on just 9 of 21 attempts for a season-low 129 yards.

Entering the semifinal contest having caught only six balls in 2019, #9 had his finest showing on offense as well, making three grabs for 30 yards, including a key reception in the first half that moved the chains.

Barnes and his Hayes teammates will continue to have revenge fresh on their minds as they look to dethrone two-time defending league and state champions, Archbishop Stepinac, in a rematch of the 2018 triple-A finals…When the two programs battled in week #7 of the 2019 season, Barnes had a pair of catches for 15 yards offensively, and was credited with eight stops (2 solo, six assisted) on “D” in a 28-26 down-to-the-wire loss that was settled via last second field goal by the Crusaders.

 

Cory Richards (Sr.); WR/DB – Archbishop Stepinac Crusaders

Yet another 12th grader who has been asked to do a little more as the stakes get higher, like the young gentleman [Barnes] who preceded him on this week’s POTW list, in the Crusader’s 43-6 victory over the Christ the King in the other AAA semifinal, Richards transformed his role from primarily defensive to that of a complete showstopper out wide on both sides of the line of scrimmage.

Stepping onto his home field this past Saturday, the 5’9, 163-pounder had not caught a touchdown pass all season; he changed that stat when he broke over the middle and made a 36-yard TD reception with 8:55 remaining in the first half to give Stepinac a 14-0 edge over the visiting Royals…The touchdown grab was one of two on the afternoon for the Yonkers resident, who finished the day with two grabs for 60 yards and the aforementioned pair of scores.

Stepinac now leading 21-6, Richards’s second touchdown of the grab of the game came with 8:22 remaining in the fourth quarter when penalties on consecutive snaps in the red zone negated a Jayden Jenkins TD run and pushed the White Plains based school into a 1st & 24 scenario…Cutting to the outside on his route, #2 made the catch and found a carpet of green down the host sideline for the “6” to increase the advantage to 28-6….This touchdown was the first of three recorded by second-seeded Crusaders in the last 12 minutes as quarterback, Joey Carino, had a short-distance TD run, and Jaylin Montgomery returned a fumble to the house…Edna Kirby converted a 22-yard field goal try as part of the 22-0 tally that blew the game open in the 4th.

Complementing his offensive explosion by doing banner work in the defensive backfield, Richards made three tackles (2 solo, 1 assisted), had two successful pass break-ups, and added a 1st quarter interception (his second of the season per MaxPreps) to round out his resume.

Stepinac now turns their attention towards a potential three-peat when they clash with Hayes in the triple-A finals…Richards was key in Stepinac’s triumph in the 2018 title contest, posting three pass defenses and both causing and recovering a fumble late in the 4th quarter to allow the offense to transition into victory formation…When the Crusaders and Cardinals met on October 19th, Richards had his best receiving day (prior to last weekend), accumulating 44 yards on a career-high four catches.

Maximus Mongelli (Jr.); WR – Kellenberg Memorial Firebirds

It has been said that at the heart of every family tradition is a meaningful experience…For the Mongelli clan, that tradition, which extends to four brothers, has been etched in the Firebird football record books…Commencing with Michael (Class of 2015) continuing to Marco (‘16), continuing again to Matthew (‘18), and now welcoming in Maximus (2020), the fraternity of receiving excellence in Uniondale has produced 40 total victories and back-to-back NYCHSFL Double-A titles for the Kevin Hanifan guided program…And, based on statistical comparisons among the group at identical stages of their respective high school careers, the best is still to come.

Finding themselves in a rare hole (19-0 early in the 2nd quarter) in their AA semifinal match-up against St. Peter’s this past Saturday night, if KMHS hoped to keep their bid for a three-peat intact, they desperately were in need of spark/momentum changer….CUE MONGELLI!

Facing an Eagle defense that in the words of the Firebird staff were “committed to selling out in order to prevent senior All-Stater, Jordan DeLucia (289 yards + the TD trifecta), from taking over the game for a second time this season” it was the 5’11, 154-pound, 11th grader from Roslyn being the one to put the team on his back and ignite the comeback effort.

Making the first of his three touchdown catches on a 32-yard route over the middle, Mongelli got Kellenberg on the board, cutting the deficit to 19-7…

While not the one to garner the official credit, he also played a major role in the Berg’s second TD of the half, securing the initial reception on a slant pattern, dodging a defender, and then spin- pitching it to DeLucia on the old hook & ladder, for a 45-yard touchdown to send the two schools into the break at 19-14…The stud in the #12 jersey (like his brothers donned in year’s past) was only getting warned up.  His biggest contributions were saved for the dramatic back-and-forth 4th quarter.

The ‘Birds still trailing, 26-21, in the final quarter, it was time for a reversal of duties between honor students, as the two-time defending champs jumped out in front for the first time all night when DeLucia elected to throw out of the wildcat formation, hitting Mongelli for the 62-yard TD strike.  The two stars immediately teamed up again on the two-point conversion pass to make the score 29-26.

Not ones to go down easy, the Cinderella sixth-seed out of Staten Island, responded with a touchdown of their own with 5:08 remaining to regain the lead, 32-29…But alas, that upper-hand was short lived as Mongelli capped off his greatest game (thus far) as a Firebird by being on the back end of a perfect 25-yard toss from Dan Settino (14-for-16, 237 yards, 3 TD passes) for the game-winner!

Wrapping up his night with five grabs and career-highs in yardage (126) and TD receptions (3), Mongelli helped the brotherhood to reach some milestones in 2019 as they have now combined for over 100 catches (120), more than 2,000 yards (2,305), and exactly 30 touchdown grabs.

The quest to hoist the hardware for the third November in a row will go down this Saturday evening in a rematch of the October 12th Marianist Bowl won by Chaminade, 28-26.  In that game, Mongelli’s only reception resulted in a 25-yard touchdown.

Nov 062019
 

By Matt Diano

Ethan Ortiz (Sr.); RB/LB – Cardinal Spellman Pilots

When it comes to the 6’0, 177-pound, ironman out of Mount Vernon, the Pilots’ coaching staff must wish that every game could be a playoff contest, because that is when #7 in Scarlet & White truly is at his best.

A Player of the Week selection for the second straight year following a semifinal victory (40 yards + 1 TD rushing; 20 tackles + a safety in a 23-0 win over St. Dominick’s in 2018), Ortiz also earned Defensive Most Valuable Player honors in last season’s Single-A title contest (18 stops in a 19-12 win over Kennedy Catholic).

This past Saturday, in Spellman’s hard fought 22-20 win over Nazareth Regional, he authored yet another chapter in his chronicles of postseason excellence, rushing for 152 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries, while also tallying five total tackles (3 solo, 2 helpers) and a sack in punching the Bronx-based school’s ticket to the “A” finals for the fifth year in a row.

The catalyst in the Pilots three-game sweep of the Kingsmen in 2019, Ortiz exceeded the century mark on the ground in each and every contest, running for 143 yards and one touchdown on September 21st and then adding an additional 137 yards and another touchdown during week #7 (October 12th)…Defensively, he averaged 8.3 tackles, had the previously referenced sack, and forced multiple fumbles this year against Nazareth.

Enjoying the rare privilege of experiencing nothing but trips to championship weekend during his four-year varsity career, Ortiz will be a man on a mission as he looks to close out his tenure as a Pilot this Sunday by delivering a third straight crown in a rematch of the 2018 finals…In the two meetings during the regular season versus the top-seeded Gaels, Ortiz accumulated 194 yards and scored three touchdowns on 27 carries (7.2/run), including personal-bests of 161 yards and two scores on October 4th…He also registered 14 and 11 tackles respectively on “D”..

 

Jaden Sinclair (Jr.); WR/RB/DB – Holy Trinity Titans

In what was an absolutely insane weekend in the Double-A classification, of the four quarterfinal playoff games, the lower seed prevailed in all of them, including the sixth-seeded Titans going on the road to emerge with a 21-7 victory over #3 Xaverian in AA-2…The victory, which avenged a previous 42-23 loss on September 21st, was highlighted by the breakout performance of the 5’9, 150-pound junior [Sinclair].

An individual who has really peaked at the ideal time of the 2019 season, in each of his past two appearances on the gridiron, the Westbury resident has set and then re-set his personal best for rushing production…Two weeks ago [October 20th], the Titan student-athlete would gain 95 yards on four carries in a win over Kennedy Catholic in his school’s final game of the regular season…This past Saturday, he kicked his effort into an even higher gear, establishing new career-highs across the board by accumulating 139 yards and a pair of touchdowns on just seven attempts (19.9/carry) to propel the Green & White to their third semifinal berth in the past four years.

Breaking the ice in a scoreless game in the first quarter, Sinclair recorded the first of his aforementioned two touchdowns when on 2nd & 10, he took the hand-off and found a hole, cruising eight yards to give HT the 7-0 lead.

Now tied at 7 apiece in the 3rd quarter, Sinclair exploded for what would be the game-winning touchdown when he transformed a jet sweep into an 87-yard sprint to glory to put Holy Trinity back in front, 14-7…Teammate, Kameron Robbins (19 carries for 70 yards), who scored twice during the first meeting between the two programs in week #3, tacked on some insurance when he scored on a 14-yard run late in the 3rd for the final TD of the evening.

On the field for every second of the 48-minute affair, Sinclair and his defensive peers in the HT secondary were outstanding, forcing Xaverian QB, James Resker, into a 6-for-18 passing night (after previously going 8-for-13 during the regular season showdown)…#8 was credited with four tackles and successfully broke up two passes.

Looking to return to championship weekend for the first time since being the AA runners-up in 2016, Holy Trinity will take the bus trip to Staten Island this Friday to square off with #2 St. Joseph’s by the Sea…When the two teams met in the fourth week of the season (October 28th), Sinclair accounted for 70 yards of total offense, running for 51 on three carries and catching one pass for 19 yards in the 40-20 loss.

 

Henry Belin (So.); QB – Cardinal Hayes Cardinals

To quote Cardinals’ long-time Head Coach, CJ O’Neil, “The number one question regarding the Cardinal Hayes Football team entering this season was, how were they going to handle the quarterback position?  The answer is Henry Belin.”

Demonstrating a poise and skill set that is well beyond his youthfulness, the 6’3, 200-pound sophomore has flourished in his first season running the show in the Bronx…No longer is he a “game manager”; he has ascended to full-fledged “gun slinger and field general” status per the praising words of the Hayes’ staff.

Throwing at least one touchdown pass in eight of his nine starts this season, the 10th grade sensation has the Cardinal & Gold in familiar territory, as they advanced to the triple-A semifinals for a fifth consecutive year behind a statement-making 61-14 triumph over the St. Anthony’s on Saturday November 2nd.

Asserting himself as a “Friar slayer” in 2019, of the 17 total touchdowns that Belin has posted in his rookie campaign on varsity, five (nearly 30%) have come in just two outings versus their rivals from South Huntington…When the two storied programs banged heads on September 21st, the CH signal caller completed 8 of 12 aerial attempts for 82 yards and two touchdowns…The extent to which he has grown/developed in the six weeks since were evident last Saturday, as he maintained his immense accuracy (connected on 8-of-13), but increased his yardage to 155, hurled two more TD passes, and even displayed a dual-threat component by rushing for a touchdown for the second straight week.

Getting Hayes off to a fast start, Belin would set the tone for the kind of afternoon it was destined to be for the hosts, when on their opening drive of the contest, he preserved a drive by throwing a 30-yard strike on 3rd & long to Damon Barnes, and then put the finishing touches on the successful series by hitting his favorite target, Kuno Mendez (5 catches for 92 yards) from six yards away for the first of their two TD hook-ups of the day to give the 2018 AAA runners-up the immediate 7-0 advantage.

Their edge having grown to 13-0 (Tafari Blackstock TD run in the 2nd quarter), Belin sent the Cardinals into the intermission with a commanding 21-0 when he notched his second touchdown of the half on a 7-yard QB keeper…This TD run was the second of six ground scores for the #4 seed, as they amassed 258 yards on 41 carries, including 28 on six from #3 [Belin].

The “w” far removed from any doubt (40-14 in the 3rd quarter), Belin’s second touchdown hurl of the game (15th of the season) occurred in a most dazzling of manners, when in the last 3:00 of the third quarter, he scrambled out of the pocket, evaded a defender and while on the run, launched a 20-yard missile into the hands of a leaping Mendez who landed across the pylon for what was described as a “SportsCenter top-10 worthy play”.

Next up for the gentlemen from Hayes is a semifinal date with the undefeated top seed from New Rochelle, Iona Prep, on November 9th…Finding himself on the wrong end of a 58-41 contest when the Cardinals and Gaels faced off on October 28th, aside from the obvious disappointment of the “L”, not much more could have been asked of Belin, who posted a 71% completion rate (22-of-31), surpassed the 300-yard mark (335), and accounted for three scores (2 in the air, 1 on the ground).

Oct 302019
 

By Matt Diano:

Justin McDuffie (Sr.); RB/S – Nazareth Regional Kingsmen

The first and only student-athlete from a losing team to be named to the POTW list in 2019, even if the Kingsmen fell slightly short (33-20) against Kennedy Catholic last Friday night, it in no way negates or detracts from the absolutely staggering, career night for the 5’9, 181-pound 12th grader.

Suiting up for the last time in front of the home crowd, neither McDuffie nor any of the Naz faithful will soon forget the magic they witnessed on Senior Night at Tilden HS.

The self-proclaimed “Just a kid from Brooklyn trying to make it,” certainly MADE quite a few dazzling plays and turned more than a few heads in the last regular season game of his two-year scholastic career.

Taking the hand-off a season-high 15 times, the three-sport athlete (baseball and track) completely shattered his previous personal best (120 yards in week #2 versus St. Joe’s by Sea), finishing the evening with exactly 200 yards on the ground.  In addition, his two TD runs marked the first time in his swan song campaign and the third time overall that he registered a multiple score performance…For good measure, he complemented his offensive output by catching a nine-yard pass, as well as running in a 2pt conversion to account for 14 of the team’s 20 total points.

Despite having never earned a win over the Gaels in five tries (hopefully will get another opportunity if his team is able to advance to the “A” final on November 10th), McDuffie has been at his best when opposed by Kennedy Catholic….Factoring in the 21-carry, 100-yard, 2-touchdown effort he put up in the 2018 Single-A semifinals, he has averaged 120.3 yards and scored five times in the last three meetings between the two schools.

Finding the energy to also serve as Nazareth’s top defender, McDuffie set a new career-high by making 12 total stops (8 solo, 4 assisted) to notch his first-ever double-digit tackle game…He rounded out his incredible night by intercepting his second pass of the season (third of his career; all three vs. KC).

McDuffie will no doubt leave it all out on the field this coming Saturday as he seeks to extend his story as a Kingsmen football player by going on the road to face second-seeded/2x defending champion Cardinal Spellman in the 2019 “A” semifinal…In two contests this season against the Pilots, he has accumulated 92 yards rushing on 14 carries.  His lone touchdown in this two-game series came via a kickoff return on October 12th in a 26-20 loss.

 

Liam Mullholland (Jr.); PK/Punter – Kennedy Catholic Gaels

Putting the “special” in special teamer during this same KC/Naz game was the junior place-kicker/punter from Mahopac, Mullholland.

The first full-time kicker to secure a spot on the list this season, the 6’0, 170-pounder should probably do some jail time after all of the thievery he is enacted in terms of stealing additional possessions for the Gaels.

In a typical football game at any level of the sport, we consider it fascinating” to see one successful onside kick pulled off…So just imagine how undeniably thrilling it must have been for everyone in attendance when not ONCE, not TWICE, but THREE times, the KC kicker dared to roll the dice, recovering the pigskin on two of these occasions….Given how well the Kingsmen offense was executing last Friday night, any tool utilized to limit their control of the ball could be classified as priceless.

When not “tricking” Naz and “treating” the audience to a feat they may never see again, Mullholland showed himself to be quite exceptional in a conventional sense as well, going a perfect 4-for-4 on PAT tries, and adding a 30-yard field goal to personally account for over 1/5 of the KC’s point production.

The golden leg of the Gael was equally impressive in the punting aspect of the game, as he averaged 32 yards per boot, highlighted by a 4th quarter attempt that buried Nazareth inside their own 5-yard line.

Winners of the regular season crown for the second straight year, Mullholland and the boys of Somers will enjoy a nice rest this weekend as they wait to find out whom they will be pitted against in the Single-A title contest.

 

Anthony Badagliacca (Sr.); Two-way Lineman/PK – Cardinal Spellman Pilots

15 times this season we had crossover games between schools belonging to different leagues (A vs. AA; AA vs. AAA); only ONCE did the lower division prevail…And those victors were the Pilots of Cardinal Spellman, who head into the postseason with a new found confidence following an 11-8 win on October 26th against Mount St. Michael Academy.

Starring in his role as utility man/Jack of all trades was the 6’0, 280-pound senior from the Bronx [Badagliacca)…A dominant force on both sides of the line of scrimmage, there wasn’t much that went on last Saturday that #77 did not have a hand in orchestrating.

The leader and/or heartbeat of the OL, under his leadership, the road graders paved the way for the Pilot backfield to generate nearly 150 yards rushing.

Defensively, Badagliacca especially turned in a remarkable effort, as he collected 10 total tackles (3 solo, 7 assisted) as part of a unit that successfully limited the Mountaineers to 125 yards rushing (20 below their 2019 season average).

Deadlocked on the scoreboard at 8 apiece at the end of 36 minutes, it was the big man “wearing the hero’s cape” as he posted the two biggest plays of the 4th quarter when he set the table for himself by blocking a punt as a precursor to kicking the eventual game-winning field goal from a distance of 29 yards.

An often overlooked element of the game, the three-year varsity starter’s ability to drive the ball into the end zone repeatedly on kickoffs (two touchbacks) was a key component in Spellman’s ability to win the battle of field position.

As noted above, Spellman’s pursuit of a “A” three-peat commences on November 2nd when they square off with Nazareth…2-0 this season against the Kingsmen (38-12, 26-20), Badagliacca had a banner game during the first meeting on September 21st, helping the offense rush for season-bests of 253 yards and three touchdowns…On “D” he had three tackles and a sack…The 38 points in Week #3 was the most scored by Spellman since the 2016 season when they put up 49 in a “w” over Kennedy Catholic.

 

Andrew Scariano (Jr.); RB – Xavier Knights

An inspirational adage read as follows: “We don’t grow when things are easy; we grow when we face challenges.”  For the 5’11, 190-pound, Knight junior, he embraced adversity to such a degree last Saturday that today he stands as a proverbial giant!

His team trailing 13-0 at the end of the 1st quarter against St. Peter’s, Scariano emerged as the centerpiece of a comeback effort that witnessed Xavier run off 36 consecutive points en route to an eventual 36-13 triumph that locked up the #3 seed in the AA-1 playoffs.

Capturing the breadth of impact that his Two-back had in pulling victory from the teeth of defeat, Head Coach, Chris Stevens, said, “More than just the yards he gained and the touchdowns he recorded personally, Andrew was deeply instrumental in four of our five scoring drives.  During each, he exploded for at least one play of 15 or more yards, including making his longest reception of the season (35 yards).

As modest a gentleman as you will find roaming a sideline in New York State, while Stevens did not feel it necessary to hark on the stat line, we will be happy to do it on his behalf…Carrying the pigskin 21 times in week #8, Scariano bid adieu to the regular season by establishing a new personal best on the ground with 176 yards (8.4/attempt), including 29 and 16-yarders in the second half to post his second multi-score game in the past three weeks (also accomplished in week #6 in a win over St. John the Baptist).   He added a successful 2pt conversion conclude the afternoon with a season-high 14-point outing.

The Maroon & Blue leading 14-13 at the break, #6 added some insurance in the 3rd quarter when he took the first (the 29-yarder) of his two trips to the end zone to make the score 21-13….One quarter later, his 16-yarder represented the fifth and final score of the game for the Knights.

The correlation between individual glory and team achievement is nothing new for the Westchester resident and his peers on West 16th Street…In all three of Xavier’s wins in 2019, Scariano has surpassed the 100-yard plateau, racking up previous games of 127 yards (1 TD) and 142 yards (aforementioned two touchdowns) versus St. Francis Prep and St. John the Baptist in back-to-back appearances.

Tops among all Xavier rushing options in carries (109) and yardage (553), as well as second in TDs (5) in his rookie year on varsity, Scariano will look to torment the Eagles’ defense for a second weekend in a row when these same two programs go to battle in the quarterfinal match-up on November 2nd.

 

Kyle Gaor (Sr.); RB – St. Joe’s by the Sea Vikings

As the Vikings set their sights on winning the first ever NYCHSFL AA-2 title in school history, they do so with the knowledge that they will be heading into the postseason with a senior tailback who is fresh off of the best game of his career.

Competing against the top-ranked defense in AA-2 [Holy Cross], the 5’10, 205-pounder put the final punctuation on the regular season chapter of his tenure as a Viking by establishing new career-highs in both rushing and receiving yards in SJS’s 33-22 victory last Friday.

Carrying the ball 16 times, Gaor was a quintessential drive saver, moving the sticks on six different occasions en route to gaining an aforementioned personal-best of 81 yards rushing.

As a receiver, he was even more of a difference-maker, as two of his three catches (for 112 yards) resulted in touchdowns for the Staten Island based program.

The Vikings trailing 8-6 in the third quarter, Gaor would be on the back end of a 44-yard TD connection on 4th & 3 to give Joe’s by the Sea their first lead of the night.

Now holding a 26-16 edge in the 4th, Gaor again managed to capitalize off of undesirable circumstances when on a 2nd & 23, he caught a screen pass and made several cuts upfield on his way to a 45-yard trek to pay dirt for the insurance score!  He then added the PAT to wrap up a 13-point evening.

Earning the #2 seed in the AA-2 playoffs, St. Joe’s by the Sea will enjoy the luxury of a bye week as they await the winner of #3 Xaverian and #6 Holy Trinity…Gaor ran for 75 yards and two touchdowns (as well as caught a 33-yard pass) against the Clippers during the opening week of the season; versus the Titans, he gained 35 yards and scored once in week #4.

 

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

There is a classic Bible passage that reads, “As it was in the beginning, so shall it be in the end.”…And while we know the Good Book wasn’t talking about football, the words certainly are a perfect summation of how the regular season went for the Royals’ junior field general.

Earning the distinction of being just the second student-athlete to repeat as a POTW selection (Week #1) in 2019, the 6’4, 225-pound, three-star prospect closes out the regular season in the same fashion in which he started, as a bookend recipient.

The Royals’ already locked into the #3 seed in the AAA playoffs when they took the field in a non-league crossover game versus 2x defending double-A champion, Kellenberg, no one would have blamed either team if they came out a little flat as focus shifted toward the postseason…However, on the contrary, Bodden was nothing short of sensational in CTK’s 67-34 road win over the Firebirds.

Notching his fourth 300+-yard passing game of the year, Bodden’s accuracy was the best it had ever been in his three seasons taking the snaps…Spreading the ball around to five different receivers, he connected on 21 of 31 throws (67.7%), accumulating 440 yards in the air (2nd highest of his career) and hurling a new personal-best of five touchdowns (all in the 1st half).

Showing no hesitation in asserting himself, Bodden hit Dante Goodwyn (5 grabs for 83 yards) on a 40-yard TD strike to give Christ the King the initial 6-0 lead.

On King’s next possession (now trailing 7-6), Bodden played pitch-and-catch with Tahliq Battle (3 snatches for 66 yards), finding his fellow senior on a 36-yard completion to put the Royals back in front, 13-7.

Now leading 26-21 in the 2nd quarter, the Bodden/Battle combo touched base again, this time from 20 yards out to make the score 33-21.

Teaming up with yet another unique target on his fourth TD pass of the half, it was an all-11th grade affair when Bodden lofted a beautiful 14-yard ball over the shoulder of a leaping Khalil Harris (3 grabs for 63 yards) to increase the lead to 40-21.

Bodden closed out the opening 24 minutes by hooking up with Stanley Oxford (7 catches for 193 yards) on his longest TD hurl of the afternoon, a 53-yarder in front of the host sideline to send the Middle Village based program into the locker room with a 47-28 advantage.

The CTK signal caller concludes the regular season ranked 1st both in the NYCHSFL and all of New York State with 2,322 yards throwing.  His 19 TD passes ties him with Stepinac’s Joey Carino for 2nd in the NYCHFL (6th in NYS).

Next up for the Royals will be a Triple-A quarterfinal showdown against sixth-seeded Monsignor Farrell…When the two school butted heads in week #3, Bodden completed 23 of 35 passes for 359 yards and three TDs in a 20-3 triumph.

Oct 172019
 

Nicholas DeStefano (Jr.); RB – St. Francis Prep Terriers

Having rushed for 109 yards through the first five weeks of the season, it is doubtful that those in attendance this past Saturday were expecting the 5’8, 161-pound, 11th grader [DeStefano] to have the kind of breakout performance that he did in the Terriers’ 35-14 road victory over St. Peter’s…

Treating the SFP faithful to a demonstration of offensive explosion, the Middle Village resident was the first student-athlete this season for Head Coach, Rich Carroll, to surpass the 100+ milestone, gaining 155 and scoring three touchdowns on 10 carries to single-handedly account for more than half of the school’s point total.

The aforementioned three scores, all of which occurred during the second half, were highlighted by a remarkable 43-yard dart to the house.   In crossing the goal line on three separate occasions, DeStefano is believed to be the first St. Francis player to record three rushing TDs in a single-game since Jeffrey Aime achieving the feat during the 2005 AA Championship game win over this same Eagles’ program…Since MaxPreps started keeping track of statistical data, the five accumulated touchdowns on the ground (Elohking Beasley and Joseph Pasqua scored one each) tied a school-high set back in 2015 versus Kennedy Catholic.

The quantity (155) is the most posted by a SFP ball-carrier in nearly eight years, as John Mendez ran for 270 on October 21st of the 2011 season versus Christ the King….Complemented by Beasley (73 on 10 carries) and Pasqua (81 on nine attempts), DeStefano helped St. Francis Prep rush for 365 yards, which is the third highest amount amassed by the school during the MaxPreps era.

Having already outdone their 2018 season (1-7) by picking up their second win of the year in week #6, the Terriers will look to string together a winning streak down the stretch when they host Fordham Prep this Sunday….The Rams have allowed opponents to gain an average of 233.3 yards running in their four losses in 2019.  On the flip side, they surrendered just 48 on the ground in a week #6 triumph over Xaverian…Hence, if DeStefano is able to get into a groove early, it should translate into success for the squad as a whole.

 

Anthony Perlongo (Sr.); WR/SS – Moore Catholic Mavericks

A season ago, the 6’2, 190-pounder was known mostly for his defensive prowess in the secondary…But today, he finds himself sitting in the company of the top two-way players in the Empire State… From one year to the next, he has emerged as the utmost “complete” player in terms of his value to a Mavericks team that is seriously in the hunt for their first team title since winning the “A” crown in 2016.

Enjoying the very definition of a “career-day” in the Mavs’ 50-30 triumph over Holy Trinity on October 12th, Perlongo established new personal bests on both sides of the ball en route to raising the Staten Island school’s record to 4-0 in AA-2 and 5-1 overall.

Undeniably unstoppable as the main target in the MC passing game, the 12th grader was on the back end of six of the team’s nine completions, including three catches (from distances of 43, 40, and 20) that resulted in touchdowns.  His afternoon concluded with 202 yards receiving, making him the only student-athlete since the varsity program was reinstated in 2016 to notch a 200-yard game with his hands…For the season, he has caught 17 balls for 525 yards and six touchdowns.  These numbers place him near the top of the NYCHSFL leaderboard in all categories, as he presently ranks 4th in AA in catches and 2nd in the entire Catholic league in both yardage (9th in NYS) and TD receptions (15th in NYS).

Defensively, the multiple-sport standout (is a sprinter and javelin thrower for the Track & Field team) registered the first double-digit tackle game of his scholastic career, making two solo stops and assisting on nine others to end with 11…He added his second full sack of the year (3.5 of his three-year varsity tenure).

In extraordinary fashion, Perlongo even managed to make a significant impact on special teams, adding a fourth overall touchdown when he returned a “squib kick” 59-yards to the promised land for the final six points of a remarkable 24-point afternoon…He even tacked on a 36-yard punt to round out his collection of bullet points.

At stake in week #7 will be the top spot in the AA-2 standings as Moore Catholic will welcome in St. Joe’s by the Sea (6-0)…The visiting Vikings are putting up over 38 points per game and giving up a mere 14.7…Therefore, Perlongo and his peers should come ready for a fight, since nothing will be gifted on the sabbath.

 

Justin Alexander (Jr.); WR – St. Joe’s by the Sea Vikings

Speaking of the Vikings, the Mike Corona guided program had a superstar of their own occupying the WR position during the sixth week of the regular season in their 56-0 victory against Mount St. Michael Academy.

Named as one of SILive’s top-10 performers of the week yesterday, the admiration and recognition continues to roll in for the 6’0, 175-pound junior receiver with his first-career selection to the NYCHSFL POTW list.

Tying his personal-best of four catches (also set in the team’s opening weekend victory over Xaverian), Alexander would establish new highs in yardage (100) and touchdown receptions (3)…Coincidentally, this stellar showing came approximately one year removed from the last SJS receiver to post a multi-TD catch game [Ryan Simermeyer; 2 TD grabs on October 12th, 2018 versus St. John the Baptist).

Having now caught at least one touchdown pass in three of his last four appearances, Alexander has surged into a three-way tie for 3rd place among all Catholic targets with five TD receptions in 2019…He sits 2nd on the Vikings in total grabs (13) and receiving yardage (236) behind only Vincent Vazquez (21 for 278) in both categories.

6-0 for the first time since the 2009 season, as noted above, if Joe’s by the Sea hopes to reach unchartered territory, they will need to contend with a mighty tough Moore Catholic cohort in a clash for Staten Island glory.

 

Avery Turton (Sr.); WR – Iona Prep Gaels

And then there was ONE!!!  Following a loss by Christ the King to Stepinac, the Gaels are officially the only immaculate team remaining in the AAA division (6-0 and a big reason for their unblemished status has been the development and exceptional performance from their senior wide-out, Turton.

The second Iona Prep receiver to earn POTW accolades in 2019 [Alex Williams in Week #2], the 5’11, 185-pounder from White Plains has cemented himself as one of the most improved and priceless assets in the entire Metropolitan Catholic League…Catching just two passes for a modest 28 yards as a junior last year, the IP Honors Program (91 GPA, 1250 SATs) student-athlete has taken his game to the next level in his final season in Maroon & Gold…After six weeks, he currently ranks 1st among all NYCHSFL targets with 28 grabs and his yardage total of 451 places him 3rd regardless of division.

Last Sunday, in Iona Prep’s 21-0 win against St. Anthony’s, Turton put forth his finest statistical effort, leading the Gaels in every major receiving category on the day with nine grabs for 149 yards and one of the school’s two TD receptions [the other by Jarel Washington)…The catch count broke his previous career-best of six (set twice in weeks 2 and 3 against Chaminade and Stepinac) the 149 made it two weeks in a row and the third time this season that Turton contributed over 100 yards as a weapon in the aerial attack.

IP leading 7-0 at the time [Washington 1yrd run in the 2nd quarter), Turton created a cushion for the New Rochelle based program when in the last 2:00 of the third quarter, he snatched back-to-back pass attempts for a combined 81 yards, including a 37-yarder for the second TD grab of the season/his career.

Head Coach, Joe Spagnolo and company will look to secure the top seed in the triple-A playoffs when they square off on the road against Christ the King…The usually very solid Royals’ secondary has surrendered 606 yards and five touchdowns in the air the past two weeks.  So, it will be quite the intriguing match-up when they face the most potent receiver in the league on October 20th.

 

Michael Tartaglia (Sr.); Two-Way Lineman – Archbishop Stepinac Crusaders

A consummate winner on the field and in the classroom, the two-year starter who boasts a grade point average of 95 and scored 1300+ on the scholastic aptitude test, truly earned high marks across the board this past Sunday in captaining the Crusaders to a statement-making 45-7 victory against previously unbeaten Christ the King.  The win, which improved Stepinac to 5-1 in 2019, likely puts the White Plains located school in the driver’s seat to earn the #2 seed in AAA for the postseason.

Standing 6’2 and tipping the scales at 275, #68 in Red, White, and Blue has a presence on the offensive line that exceeds his physical stature…No matter the assignment, Tartaglia routinely wins his battle in the trenches.  Never was this more evident than week #4 when his universal blocking skillset enabled the two-time defending league and state titlists to rack up 449 yards (236 passing, 213 rushing) and score six touchdowns (four via the air, two on the ground)…In both cases, their output represented an increase from their averages (211/206 split) heading into the contest.

Defensively, Tartaglia was a member of an ensemble cast that did a marvelous job containing a King offense comprised of major NCAA DI prospects…Allowing just 195 yards of total offense to an opponent that came in putting up 455.4, the AS defensive line pressured CTK signal caller, Noah Bodden, into a sub-.500 completion percentage (14-for-29), limiting him to 169 yards tossing and inducing two interceptions…The run defense was even better, holding King (155/game thru week #5) to just 26 yards…The Mohegan Lake resident [Tartaglia] registered a pair of assisted stops as a part of this collective beatdown.

There will be no resting on laurels for Mike O’Donnell’s crew, as next up for Stepinac will be a rematch of the 2018 title game versus Cardinal Hayes…Up to this point, Hayes has been scoring 36.3 points per game and accumulating 483.5 yards of production.  Thus, AS will need to remain stout up front as they look to win their fourth straight game in this rivalry.

Oct 092019
 

By Matt Diano:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

(Photo Courtesy of Geoff Walter)

Brandan Coward (Sr.); LB – Chaminade Flyers

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oct 022019
 

By Matt Diano:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Sep 252019
 

By Matt Diano:

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sep 182019
 

By Matt Diano:

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Joey Carino (Sr.); QB – Archbishop Stepinac

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sep 122019
 

By Matt Diano:

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Photo Courtesy of Geoffrey Walter

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best of luck to all teams this week!

Nov 152018
 

By Matt Diano:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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