Nov 152018
 

By Matt Diano:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nov 082018
 

By Matt Diano:

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Valery Gwardyak  (Sr.); LB – Xavier Knights

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nov 012018
 

By Matt Diano:

Joe Randazzo (Sr.); RB/LB/PK/Athlete – Moore Catholic Mavericks

In his hit song, “I do Everything”, Jamaican R&B recording artist, Masego, talks about all of the things he can do…Well, with all respect due to this gentleman, kindly “hold Joe Randazzo’s ‘Root” Beer’.”…Because when you look at all that the 6’1, 230-pound senior out of Staten Island did this past Sunday in helping the Mavericks snap a two-game losing streak (63-22 over St. Joe’s by the Sea), you see that in comparison, you did not really do much after all.

Already a rather busy guy while tending to the defensive (LB) and specials teams (serves as both the place-kicker and punter) duties, Ranzazzo has seen his activity level increased even further during the past three weeks of the regular season, as injuries in the offensive backfield have forced him to embrace a new role…And whereas in weeks 6 and 7, the need was for him to serve as a ball carrier (15 carries for 70 yards, 1 TD between the two games), the 2018 finale would call for him to be more of a battering ram…And, like you would expect to see out of any senior at this time of the year, Randazzo did not disappoint in this selfless role, as it was his repeated “crushing blocks” to quote Head Coach, Nick Giannatasio, from the H-Back position that paved the way for the Mav’s three thoroughbreds—Justin Lacks (13 carries, 155-yards, 3 TDS), Mausari Miller (9 carries, 121 yards, 3 touchdowns), and Dashawn Lawton (2 hand-offs for 23 yards + 1 score) to combine for a total of 299 rushing yards and seven touchdowns in just 24 minutes to give MC the 50-16 lead at the intermission.

Not satisfied with allowing his teammates to have all of the fun and hog the box score, Randazzo himself would account for seven points of his own, as he ran in a pair of two-point conversions, completed a pass for another 2-pointer, and then connected on 1 of his 2 PAT attempts.

The defensive side of the ball would also treat the 12th grader well, as one week after establishing it, he would equal his career-high for tackles with 10 (5 solo, 5 assisted), including one stop for negative yardage.  He would also be credited with creating his second turnover of the season when one of his double-digit pops resulted in a caused fumble…Again, these feats were accomplished in just one half of playing time.

Randazzo rounded out his week 8 smorgasbord of assignments by averaging 33.3 yards on his seven kick-off attempts.

Finishing 3rd in the Western Conference, the Mavericks will be on the road for the Double-A quarterfinals when they face #2 seed in the East, Holy Trinity….With both programs emphasizing a smash mouth brand of football, it would be logical that between blocking on “O” and chasing down Titan ball carriers on “D”, this weekend will not be any more relaxing for the Moore Catholic captain/Honor Student.

 

Nick Guglielmo (Sr.); PK – St. Peter’s Eagles

In the legal profession, there is a saying that “possession is 90 percent of the law.”..For the Eagles football team, that statement could be amended to say that 90 percent possession is their law…And given the rare talents of their senior kicker out of Staten Island, you can best belief that St. Peter’s has and will continue to manipulate times of possession as they see fit.

A master of what Eagles’ head coach, George Mahoney, calls “nasty kick-offs”, on more than a few occasions this season, the 5’11, 160-pound specialist has made it possible to play the football equivalent of “make it, then take it”, by producing some of the most un-fieldable kicks in the history of the sport…And, when you are playing an opponent that has lightning speed and big-play potential on every snap, as was the case last Friday night when STP faced-off with Mount St. Michael Academy, then the best defense is to not needing any defense at all!!!

Securing a playoff berth (4th in the AA Western Conference) by virtue of the 42-18 road victory in the regular season finale, the Eagles successfully stole two possessions thanks to Guglielmo’s wicked onside kicks….And, this additional opportunity would yield an offensive explosion as St. Peter’s posted their second highest point total of the season (topped only by a 49-14 win over St. Joe’s by the Sea during week #2).

Adding to Guglielmo’s growing reputation is that even in situations where he did not specifically seek out an onside attempt, he still enjoyed a 100 percent efficiency rate in negating the potent Mountaineer return game.  On his four remaining kickoffs, one was a boomer through the back of the end zone that led to a touchback.  The other three had so much spin and pace on them that MSMA were unable to handle them smoothly and were instead forced to pounce on the pigskin rather than attempt a run back.

Not just a one-trick pony, it bears mentioning that when utilized in traditional fashion, Guglielmo would also excel, as he converted on all six of his point after touchdown attempts, dissecting the goalpost with each try.

As St. Peter’s prepares themselves for their quarterfinal showdown with defending league champs/owners of the #2 overall offense in the entire NYCHSFL, Kellenberg Memorial, you know that Guglielmo’s wizardry will be a factor.

 

Matt Geruso (Jr.); RB – Xavier Knights

While this week may all be about Halloween, the plight that any younger brother faces when strapping on the pads is whether or not he will live up to the family name and earn the right to sit at the “adult table” during Thanksgiving….Further complicating the situation for the 5’10, 185-pound junior is that he entered the 2018 season with the misfortune of playing the same position as a sibling who garnered All-City Honorable Mention distinction in 2017.

However, if the past three weeks have been any indication of what the rest of his scholastic career will resemble, then there is absolutely no doubt that Matt Geruso is well on his way to filling the cleats of older, brother Jonathon (1,460 yards + 14 touchdowns last season the ground), in the Knights’ offensive backfield. 

A key component to Xavier’s title-winning season last year on the junior varsity level, what stands out about Geruso 2.0 is that the bigger the game, the more he seems to show up.  This ability to rise when circumstance warrants is one that cannot be taught; it is a gift with which you are blessed and for Head Coach, Chris Stevens, the church of #8 is one that he will worship at for the next year and a half.

Undeniably an individual who is talented enough to be the primary running option for most teams in New York State, Geruso is to be commended at how well he has accepted a lesser role as a ball carrier behind senior/two-time POTW honoree, Dan Vittiburga (2nd in AA in both rushing yards and touchdowns with 991 and 16 respec

tively)….But, despite having to split carries, he has still managed to have an incredible 11th grade campaign, as his 586 yards on the ground ranks in the top-10 of the double-A division….And, at the level he has been playing at down the stretch, should Xavier make a deep run in the playoffs, there is every reason to believe that he could reach the 1,000 yard milestone.

Establishing a new personal-best of 157 yards (on only eight carries), including a 45-yard trek (that made the score 28-0) to the house in the Knights’ 40-0 win over St. Francis Prep, Geruso has now hit the century mark in three consecutive game, as he previously tallied 125 against Holy Trinity on October 13th and followed it up with a 104-yard, career-high two TD affair the following weekend versus Mount St. Michael Academy….With an average of just under 129 yards on running during this three-week period, it goes without saying that at present, Geruso, is operating on par with any and all of the top performers in the NYCHSFL.

When not the one to carry the ball, Geruso is still making invaluable contributions, as Coach Stevens was quick to credit his strong acts as a lead-blocker as another reason that Xavier’s point production is skyrocketing at the ideal time.

The Knights will kick off the postseason with a date on the road against Western Conference regular season champions, Xaverian…Since week #6, the host Clippers are allowing just 11.3 points per game.  Hence, if upset-minded Xavier intends to make it three years in a row that they knocked off a higher seed in the opening round, they will need Geruso to continue his trend of being that proverbial dominant 1-2 punch alongside Vittaburga.  If both play up to their abilities, Xavier has to like their chances.

 

Jayden Lambert (Sr.); RB/DB – Iona Prep Gaels

Competing in a preview of what will be this weekend’s #2 vs. #7 quarterfinal match-up in the Triple-A playoffs, the 5’9, 175-pounder out of Mount Vernon showed that the Flyers of Chaminade High School will have another in an already long line of Gael threats with which they will have to contend.

A member of an offensive rotation that is so deep and strong that he perhaps has not had the quantity of looks that he would have received at another program, Lambert would demonstrate this past Saturday that it does not matter if you get four or 40 touches as long as you make each one count to the fullest.

Carrying the ball a season-high four times in Iona Prep’s 47-14 road win over their Marianist foes this past Sunday, Lambert came within six yards (71) of tying his career-best, which he established late in the 2017 season by running for 77 yards and four TDs in a win over Monsignor Farrell…The senior classman would also add a pair of touchdowns on his limited carries to notch his first multi-score game since the aforementioned coming out party last season against the Lions.

The two-year team member/2018 captain would also turn in a remarkable game on the other side of the ball, as his interception, one of two on the day for IP collectively, would give possession back to the Gaels, ultimately serving as a catalyst to another score…He would add seven tackles, and was personally responsible for keeping a point off the board when he blocked the PAT attempt following one of the Flyers’ two touchdowns.

Having already proven that he enjoys a speed mismatch against the Flyer defense, do not be surprised if this Saturday has feelings of déjà vu and the two-season track star continues to be a threat to rip off big runs.

The POTW selection is the second accolade of the week earned by Lambert.  Yesterday, he was named as his school’s student-athlete of the week in acknowledgement of his full-service afternoon.

 

Doug Simmons (Sr.); DE/OLB – Archbishop Stepinac

Like a volcano sitting dormant, it was never a question or if, but rather when the 6’0, 211-pound senior would erupt.  And when it happened, those of us who have been watching him the past three seasons knew that it would be explosive and it would leave a “trail of lava and ash” in its wake.

Entering the final week of the 2018 regular season with just six sacks following a junior campaign that witnessed him lead all of New York State with 18 QB bags, the fuse would go off for Simmons.  And when it sparked, it ignited what was perhaps the best overall showing by Head Coach, Mike O’Donnell’s defense this season, as they emerged, 23-20 over Cardinal Hayes….As a result of the victory, the once given up for dead Crusaders (started the year 0-3 in league competition) have now worked their way back to a top-3 seed and will host Christ the King in a AAA quarterfinal round contest.

Relentless all night in their pursuit of Cardinals’ All-State signal caller, Sofian Massoud, Stepinac D-Unit would log double-digit sacks, as four different members of the front-7 would each post two or more bags during the course of the 48-minute clash…Headlining this quartet would be Simmons, whose four-sack effort tied his previous career-head which he set during the first weekend of the 2017 season.   He would add three additional QB hurries last Sunday night to ensure that the only ghosts that haunt the Hayes’ field general this week were the memories of his [Simmons] #56 jersey inflicting hit upon hit. 

Two weeks removed from establishing a personal-high for total tackles in a single-game (12) in the 35-17 win over Monsignor Farrell, Simmons would break that record by recording 13 stops in the season finale.

The 20 put on the board by Cardinal Hayes was their lowest amount of the season.  In fact, dating back to the semifinal round of the 2017 season (13-12 Stepinac triumph), Stepinac has now limited the always dynamic Cardinal offense to their two fewest point totals in the past calendar year.

Simmons, who now leads the entire NYCHSFL in both sacks (10) and hurries(8), as well ranks in the top-4 on the Crusaders with 58 stops, will look to stay hungry as he and AS go in search of his second triple-A team title….When he played against Christ the King during Week #7, he mustered only a single quarterback hurry.  Hence, it is inevitable that he will have a chip on his shoulder in his quest to “bring the pain.”

Oct 252018
 

By Matt Diano:

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

Batman and Robin; Abbot and Costello; Peanut butter & Jelly; and for you “Maneaters” out there, Hall and Oates….Throughout time and in every walk of life, we have been blessed by the greatness of many dynamic duos…And in 2018, the NYCHSFL gave birth to another terrific tandem in the persons of Kennedy Catholic running backs, Myles Proctor and Seth Surrett.

The #1 and #2 ranked men in every rushing category this season in the “A” division, Proctor (823 yards, 5 TDs) and Surrett (573 yards and 8 touchdowns) have taken a Kennedy Catholic program that had never advanced to championship weekend and turned them into a program that is now not only a heavy favorite to hoist hardware next month, but also a team that is so good it can now challenge and defeat opponents from the higher divisions….Last Friday, history would be achieved when the Gaels upended St. Joseph’s by the Sea in overtime, 37-34.  It marked the first time in school history that KC had bested a double-A foe.  And, as they have been every step of the way during this remarkable 6-1 season in Somers, NY, this unstoppable tag team would again be the difference makers, combining to trek for 220 yards and score three touchdowns.

Proctor (previously selected during week #3) joins Surrett (weeks 1 and 4) as one of the rare multiple-time honorees thus far in 2018.  However, in a year where he was been incredibly consistent and electrifying, to say that week #7 was his finest showing of the season is to say that he reached the peak of Mount St. Elias after already touching upon Mount Whitney, Mount Herard, and the Rio Grande Pyramid….And the only reason we did not say Denali is that we think he might have it in him to reach even higher heights before he hangs up the pads.

Running for 100+ yards for the fifth time this season (his lowest total came during the first week of the season when he “settled” for 96), Proctor would carry the ball 27 times, gaining 165 yards and setting a new career-high with two rushing touchdowns in the “w” over the Vikings…His first TD came on the Gaels’ initial possession of the game, when after his team recovered an onside kick, he punched the ball in from short distance to give them the early lead.

Finishing the night with a personal best 225 yards of total offensive output, the 6’1, 205-pounder also showcased his potential as a receiver out of the backfield.  Not utilized much in the past in this regard, the Yorktown Heights resident caught a pair of balls for 60 yards, including a 20-yarder off of a screen pass that gave him three TDs overall and tied the game with 1:50 remaining…His second reception, a 40-yarder, would not result in a TD, but was the key play in a subsequent drive that would again even the score with 50 ticks still on the clock.

Making the Energizer bunny look lazy, Proctor would also contribute mightily on the defensive side of the ball.  Rotating between linebacker and cornerback, he was credited with his second straight double-digit tackle effort, making a career-high 12 stops (3 solo; 2 TFL) and also having a successful pass break-up.

Note: At the time of publication, Proctor was also vying for LoHud Player of the Week honors.

 

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

Speaking of special individuals who are no longer strangers to this list, the Xavier senior running back is now 2-for-2 in being named as Xavier’s representative this season.

First recognized during the second week of the regular season when he had a 24 carry, 160-yard, two touchdown game in a victory over St. John the Baptist, the 5’8, 165-pound 12th grader makes his return to the POTW scrolls this week after shattering all of the records he set in that aforementioned triumph over the Cougars.

Needing only a matter of seconds before getting the Knights on the board, Vittiburga would field the opening kickoff and run it back 91 yards to the house to quickly put Xavier ahead 7-0 over Mount St. Michael Academy.

A definite sign/foreshadow of what the rest of the evening would deliver, special teams was not the only element of the game in which the Brooklyn boy would look invincible.  To put it bluntly, every time he touched the ball, something amazing seemed to happen.   Three of his 21 total carries would yield touchdowns and a fourth big gainer (that went for 61 yards) would be the catalyst for an additional Xavier score en route to the 48-27 win on the road.

Finding himself in the midst of a touchdown tear the past three weeks, with all respect to former Yankee icon, Reggie Jackson, it is the young Mr. Vittiburga who is the new “Mr. October.”…Since the start of the month, he has posted no fewer than two TDs in any game, and has combined for seven total touchdowns in the past two weeks alone.  His eight rushing TDs during this stretch gives him 12 on the year, which ranks ties him for 2nd in both “AA” and the NYCHFL as a whole…The career-high 230 yards he racked up during week #7 gives him 444 during the month and 832 for the year (3rd best in Double-A; 4th best among all Catholic ball carriers).

His team already leading 7-0 thanks to his KO heroics, Vittiburga would double their lead in the 1st quarter when he exploded for 48 yards on the first of his three cited TD dashes…He later added touchdown runs of 10 and 38 yards in the 2nd and 3rd quarters to account for the final 12 of his 24-point showing.

Owners of a 2-2 league record (4-3 overall), the Knights will look to lock down the #3 spot in the Eastern Conference when they face St. Francis Prep in what will be last regular season game that Vittiburga will play in front of the home crowd…The Terriers are fresh off of a game where they allowed 347 yards and four touchdowns on the ground.  Hence, Vittiburga and the Knights could be licking their chops at the prospects of what could materialize on October 27th.

 

Christian Maisel (So.); WR/DB – St. John the Baptist Cougars

If friendship truly consists of a million little things, then the art of winning on the gridiron must be comprised of one million and one…And, if we had to take a guess of where that one extra entity can be found, the answer would likely be in the mind and/or heart of Cougar Head Coach, Ralph Carusillo….A mentor who preaches the mentality that every role has value and that no assignment is too small, when you don the SJB red and black, you quickly learn that you can and will be asked to be a wearer of many hats.

For the 6’1, 185-pound 10th grader [Maisel], those one million little things that differentiate victory from defeat would assume a variety of different identities in his team’s 17-14 win over Holy Cross during week #7.

Actively involved in one way or another in all 17 of the team’s points last Saturday, the Amityville resident’s name may only briefly appear in the box score, but that does not mean he was not a major factor in helping the Cougars improve their record to 3-4 this season (2-3 in league competition).

Making his initial contribution in the most understated of manners, Maisel became something of a pioneer in terms of how much emphasis should get placed on the subtleties and nuances of the sport…The first student-athlete in the history of the POTW list to be commended for his cool and steady hands as a holder on PAT and FG attempts, Maisel would be called into duty to fill-in for the usual starter and to his credit, the kicking game did not skip a beat, as Anthony Bossone went 2-for-2 on extra point attempts and drilled a 31-yard field goal (despite a high snap) that gave SJB the early 3-0 advantage.

Utilized as a primary blocker (while lined up at TE) during the run game, it would be his willingness to throw his body in the way or would-be tacklers that ultimately sprung teammates, Sebastian Lebron and David Amelemah on their respective 10-yard TD runs in the 2nd and 4th quarters…The Amelemah score occurred in the last 2:00 of regulation and proved to be the eventual game-winner for St. John the Baptist….And while the touchdown will get all the press, what needs to be mentioned and treated with equal reverence is the notion that had it not been for a 25-yard reception on an earlier possession, followed by a fumble recovery after an untimely SJB turnover, both of which came courtesy of Maisel, the ball never would have been buried that deep in Holy Cross territory.

Conjuring up that last adrenaline rush on the final defensive series of the contest, Maisel would again have a nose for the ball, as it was his interception with 58 seconds left in the game that put the “w” on ice…He was also credited with a season-high six stops (1 TFL) as a member of the defensive backfield.

Not short on praise for his budding superstar, Coach Carusillo was adamant in expressing that he has all the confidence in the world that Maisel “can and will develop into one of the top players in the entire NYCHSFL.”

 

Elijah Tobin (So.); OL/DL – Holy Trinity Titans

A testament to the depth and strength possessed by the Hicksville based school along the line of scrimmage, the 6’2, 240-pounder out of Amityville is the second two-way lineman from the Titans to be featured this season in the POTW article.   He joins week #2 selection, John Stroughn in being honored for his selfless and consistent toughness in the trenches.

Only a sophomore, it goes without saying that during the next two years, Tobin is sure to inherit the leadership role on both sides of the line.  An individual who has already had repeated flashes of brilliance throughout the 2018 season, if he is this good as a 10th grader, just imagine the carnage he will lay out as he continues to add size and perfect his technique.

Enjoying a breakout performance in Holy Trinity’s week #7 35-14 conquest of St. Francis Prep, Tobin would rewrite his personal record book, tying for top honors on the team [alongside Stroughn] with nine total stops (5 solo), while also adding career-highs in sacks (3 for a cumulative loss of 12 yards) and tackles for a loss (3)…Checking off even more boxes, he would both force and recover a fumble.

An immovable beast in the center of the DL, with Tobin plugging all potential holes, the HT defense would limit the Terriers to a tie for their lowest quantity of rushing yards this season with 132 (38 below their 2018 average)…His body of work as a pass rusher would not go unnoticed either, as the pressure he applied to St. Francis signal callers was so fierce that it yielded a sub-50% completion percentage (6-for-13) and helped to create an interception.  The registered 36.1 QB rating was a -15.6 from the SFP’s 2018 average.

Offensively, he, along with the rest of his line mates, did so much “road grading” that the town of Oyster Bay’s Highway Department might as well have sent them the cones and vests to complete the look…Executing the often under-appreciated grunt work, the Holy Trinity offensive line made it possible for their rotation of running backs to combine for a season-high 347 yards (led by Spencer Nixon’s 155 yards on 24 carries) on the ground and four (two by Jason Brown) rushing TDs….On the year, the Titans are now averaging 259.6 yards running and are scoring 3.7 TDs on the ground per outing.

Winners of six games in a row after dropping their season-opener to defending AA titlists, Kellenberg Memorial, Tony Mascia’s Titans have locked up 2nd place in the Double-A Eastern Conference and have their eyes on raising some hardware.

 

Brian Langan (Sr.); QB/LB – Xaverian Clippers

One of the most cliched phrases in the English language is, “It’s like riding a bike.” Time and time again, this expression has been used to hint that certain skill sets remain with you no matter how much time has passed…And on October 20th, the 6’1, 170-pound Brooklynite [Langan] more than provided enough evidence to confirm that playing the quarterback position is a talent that never deserts you.

Starting under center for the first time since his sophomore campaign in 2016, Langan may have only successfully completed two of his seven attempts.  But, when he did connect, he made sure that those strikes did maximum damage, throwing for a pair of touchdowns in the Clippers’ 12-9 win on the road over Moore Catholic.

Entering last weekend having thrown just two touchdown passes (both last season as a reserve) in his three-year varsity career at Xaverian, Langan would rally the troops from a 9-0 deficit at the break by tossing one touchdown apiece in each of the two remaining quarters.

The Clippers would get on the board on the opening drive of the third quarter when Langan found junior, Shane Greene, from six yards out to make the score 9-6 in favor of Moore Catholic….The scoreboard would remain unchanged until the last two minutes of regulation when Langan would make the Mavericks pay for a turnover deep in their own zone by playing pitch-and-catch with Justin Wolf on a 9-yard dart for the game-winner.

Langan, whose career-best 38 yards rushing joined his 17 yards passing to give him 55 yards of total offensive production, earned the praise of Head Coach, Mike Jioia, as much for what he did not do as he did for what he was able to accomplish during the seventh week of the NYCHSFL season…Running the offense in an intelligent, flawless, turnover-free manner, he was everything his mentor could have asked of him.

Langan’s five tackles from the linebacker position aided the Clipper D-unit in holding Moore Catholic to their lowest point total of the season (averaged 35 points per game thru week #6), as well as completely smothered a running attack that was averaging 245 yards to the tune of allowing just 79.

Competing in their first season as a Double-A school, the win over Moore Catholic, which raised their league record to 4-1 (4-3 overall), officially clinched the Western Conference title for Xaverian.

 

CJ Wise (Sr.); RB – Archbishop Stepinac Crusaders

Don’t look now but all of a sudden, this Crusader squad is starting to look like the title contenders that we predicted they would be at the onset of the season…Victorious in their last two triple-A division contests, the Mike O’Donnell mentored program has gone from #7 seed in the postseason status all the way into the conversation for a potential top-3 bid…Acting as a constant during this mini, late-season surge has been the 5’8, 175-pound senior tailback [Wise].

A week removed from posting the first 100-yard rushing game (16 carries, 120 yards) of his scholastic career in Stepinac’s 35-17 win over Monsignor Farrell, the Harlem resident would find an even higher gear this past Saturday, setting new personal bests in both yardage and touchdowns scored in the last regular season home game of his high school journey.  The end result for the Crusaders would be a dominant 52-26 triumph over Christ the King to improve Stepinac’s league record to 2-3 and their overall record to 3-4.

Called upon to accept a much greater role in the ground attack while starting running back, Malik Grant attempts to get fully healthy for the playoffs, Wise would be the only Stepinac student-athlete during week #7 to log double digit carries, as he took the hand-off on 15 different occasions…A 200-meter specialist during the Outdoor Track & Field season, #3 in your media guide would certainly have the pistons firing on all cylinders last weekend, as he averaged 11 yards per touch to finish the afternoon with 165 yards on the ground.  In addition, he would notch the first multiple rushing TD effort of his time in the red, white, and blue, scoring on a 2-yard run in the last minute of the 1st quarter to give Stepinac a 14-0 lead, before breaking off a 67-yarder approximately six minutes later to make the score 21-7.

Equally as effective a playmaker out of the backfield as a pass catcher, Wise would also establish a new high for receiving yards, gaining 55 on two grabs.

Rounding out his 280-yard all-purpose showing, Wise added a 60-yard kickoff return.

The very definition of a renaissance man, wise heads into the regular season finale ranked 2nd on the team in rushing yards (376), receptions (20), receiving yardage (229), and total touchdowns scored (4).

“Back-up”? We don’t think so.  The way he is playing down the stretch, he is more accurately labeled as the “backbone” of Stepinac’s rebirth on the gridiron.

Oct 182018
 

By Matt Diano:

Kyle Angus (Sr.); RB – St. Anthony’s Friars

For any senior classman, when you reach week #6 of the regular season, it begins to dawn on you that the finish line is inching closer by the second.  For some, the realization that the journey is close to reaching its destination is a cause of for added pressure and tightening up.  For others, it is a reason to reflect on all you have accomplished while simultaneously acknowledging that there is still business to be completed.   Like a diamond, for this second group, the pressure does not hinder them, it brings out the best in them…Kyle Angus belongs to the latter!

Putting forth what was without debate the finest overall performance of his two-year career, the 6’1, 190-pound running back needed just eight total touches to record a mind-blowing five TDs in the Friars’ 56-32 Homecoming triumph over their visitors from the Bronx, Cardinal Hayes….In doing so, he became the first St. Anthony’s player (excluding TD passes) to score five touchdowns in a single game since Rob McCann accomplished the feat in November of 2014…Unlike McCann, who caught all five of his TDs, the all-purpose tailback would showcase all of his tools, running for three touchdowns and making a pair of TD grabs to demonstrate the balance of his repertoire.

Scoring the first 6 of his 30 overall points on a 62-yard 3rd&19 swing pass on the Friars’ opening possession, Angus caught the ball near the sideline but then cut back towards the middle of the field where he ran undisturbed the rest of the way to give STA the early 7-0 lead…His second touchdown of the 1st quarter came two minutes and 40 seconds later, when following a Cardinals kickoff return to even the score at 7 apiece, Angus would put the finishing touches on a 5-play, 84-yard drive by plunging the ball in on a 7-yard run to make the score 14-7.

With his team now enjoying a comfortable 35-14 lead at the break, Angus would pick up where he left off, running a carbon copy route of his first TD on the second play of the 2nd half and taking it 47 yards to the house for his second touchdown reception of the evening…He later tacked on two additional third quarter TDs on runs from distances of 51 and 1 yard to account for his full array of tallies.

All in all, Angus carried the ball five times for 68 yards and added another 119 yards on three grabs to conclude the game with a season-high187 all-purpose yards….On the season, he has now rushed for 239 yards on 47 carries (tied with QB, Greg Campisi for team-lead with 7 TDs) and made 22 catches totaling 392 yards (4 touchdowns).  His 11 combined touchdowns leads the “AAA” division and ranks him 3rd overall among all NYCHSFL competitors.

Up next for Angus and the Friars is the game that all LI/Westchester football fans have been waiting weeks to see go down…A clash that will determine the top seed in the triple-A playoffs, St. Anthony’s will have the luxury of playing on the friendly confines of Cy Donnelly field when they bang heads with Iona Prep…The top-2 highest scoring teams in the NYCHSFL, Iona Prep comes to South Huntington averaging 43.8 points per game; the host Friars counter with a 41.2 PPG average…DON’T BLINK, because points will be quick and plentiful on October 19th.

 

Shawn Harris (Sr.); WR/KR/PR – Archbishop Stepinac Crusaders

If you wanted to know the last time that the Crusaders entered a weekend stuck in a four-game drought, you would have to turn back your calendar all the way to the 2006 season.  However, this was precisely the circumstance that the Westchester based program faced when they hosted Monsignor Farrell last Saturday night…But thanks to the 5’11, 175-pounder Mount Vernon resident, that slide would not reach five, as Harris would come up big in the second half to aid Stepinac in their 35-17 win over their guests, Monsignor Farrell.

One of the most naturally blessed athletes anywhere in New York State, Harris is capable of beating you in so many diverse ways and during week #6, he would put this versatility on full display.

Trailing 20-17 at the time, the 2018 Super-11 selection (signifying him as one of the top student-athletes in the Hudson Valley region) would be a definitive momentum shifter late in the 3rd quarter when he made a jumping catch 40 yards down field in tight coverage and then turned on the burners to trek the final 20 for what would be the game-winning score as the O’Donnell mentored school took a 21-17 lead…The Harris touchdown catch (one of three grabs he made for 82 yards) would ignite a streak of 21 unanswered points, enabling the Crusaders to pull away during the last 16 minutes of regulation.

Respected and feared as much for his special team prowess as he is for his pass-catching talents, Harris (with his school’s advantage having been increased to 28-17) emerged with what could best be considered the final nail in the Lions’ coffin half way through the 4th quarter when he fielded a punt on his own 30 and raced from sideline to sideline before cutting back to the center en route to going all the way for the 70-yard TD return for his second score of the half…Earlier in the game, he also returned a kickoff 60 yards to raise his cumulative output to 130 in this facet of the game…Factoring in his production as a receiver, his grand total was 212 yards.

With there still being plenty of time to earn a top-4 seed in the postseason, Stepinac would look to build off of their first league win of the season when they host Christ the King on October 20th. 

 

Frank Cullen (Sr.); RB/LB – St.  Peter’s Eagles

Famous author, Napolean Hill once wrote, “It is literally true that you can succeed best and quickest by helping others to succeed.  And in the case of the 6’1, 215-pound Staten Island resident, no words could be more genuine.

A gentleman who proved that gaudy statistics are not a prerequisite in order to be considered for POTW honors, in the words of his Head Coach, George Mahoney, Cullen “did a bit of everything” in leading the Eagles to the 15-0 victory over Xaverian this past Friday night.

On the offensive side of the gridiron, the STP senior would be utilized as a spot ball carrier, taking the hand-off only six times in total, but maximizing each opportunity to finish the game with 41 yards on the ground (6.83 average per touch)…While he himself may not have been afforded the euphoria that accompanies punching “one in for the six”, Cullen’s contributions were undeniably valuable as his efforts came during two extended drives in the 1st and 4th quarters that eventually translated into all of the Eagles’ points on TD runs by teammates from Eric Torres and Kaiwan Taylor.

Defensively, Cullen has emerged as a game-changer during the past three weeks.  Starting the season as more of a pass coverage OLB, since making the conversion to the Mike linebacker, both the individual and the team have enjoyed an elevation in overall performance…Free now to “wreak havoc all over the field” as it was expressed by Mahoney, Cullen would be credited with five tackles, 1 TFL, four QB hurries, and even managed to recover a fumble in helping his school even their record to 3-3 on the year…With him at the center of the D-Unit, St. Peter’s not only pitched their first shutout since the 2014 season, they also limited a very capable Clipper offense (entered averaging 248 yards of total offense and 21.2 points per contest) to a meager 163 yards of cumulative output (their second lowest of 2018).

As a whole, the reassigning of Cullen has transformed the Eagles defense from a group that was surrendering nearly 30 points per game through three weeks into a dominant, shutdown brood that has allowed just 20 points total in weeks 4 through 6 (6.7/average).

Cullen and the new look STP “D” will face a huge test this coming weekend when they go on the road to face a Kellenberg juggernaut that is putting up 40 points and 400+ yards per outing.

 

Nazareth McFarlan (Sr.); RB/S – St. Francis Prep Terriers

If there was ever a student-athlete born to be a future NYCHSFL player of the week honoree, it is a young man with the name Nazareth…And, much like Christians travel far and wide in order to visit the birthplace of the savior, the two-way player who hails from Queens Village would go on a journey of his own during week #6, propelling St. Francis Prep to their first win of the season, 28-21, over rival Holy Cross, on October 14th.

Eight days removed from rushing for a career-high 143 yards (on 21 carries) in a loss to Fordham Prep, the 5’9, 188-pound senior would again be at the top of his game last Sunday, surpassing the century mark for a second consecutive weekend and the third time in his career (ran for 114 yards against Mount St. Michael almost exactly one year prior; Oct. 15th versus Mount St. Michael Academy,)…Darn-near mirroring his personal bests from week #5, McFarlan was a workhorse for the Terriers, handling the prolate spheroid 24 times (more than double his closest teammate) for a gain of 142 yards, with one TD…The crux of an offensive scheme that strives to break their opponents’ will with long, sustained drives, McFarlan would immediately take some of the wind out of Crusader sails when he orchestrated a 9:00 1st quarter drive.

Running for 401 yards and four touchdowns as a junior, McFarlan has already exceeded his production in one category (currently has 420 yards rushing in 2018) and needs just two more scores to establish a new landmark in the other…Not surprisingly, he is the #1 person across the board for SFP in all run-related matters.

Rounding out his afternoon, McFarlan also made his presence known on defense, recording five stops to equal his tackle total from all of 2017, with 32.

 

Photo Courtesy of SI Live

Jackson Tucker (So.); QB – St. Joseph’s by the Sea Vikings

Don’t look now but it appears that Mike Corona’s Vikings have their own mini Peyton Manning clone in the person of 5’9, sophomore field general [Tucker]…Trailing the majority of the game (with the exception of an early 6-0 edge), SJS would join St. Francis Prep in breaking into the win column (1-5) during week #6 when a 30-yard Hail Mary by Tucker landed in the leaping arms of senior WR, Ryan Simermeyer, to catapult the Staten Island school to a dramatic 40-35 victory.

Needing “only 42” more 4th quarter rallies to tie the future NFL Hall-of-Famer’s record for career comebacks, the parallels between Tucker and Manning extends beyond a mutual clutch gene…Rather, just like the legendary Colts/Broncos field general [note: now 2nd in career passing yards to Drew Brees], the SJS 10th grader is proving himself to be a master at chewing up opposing secondaries with laser precision…Following a 17-for-29 (58.6%) passing game on October 12th that saw him throw for 263 yards and hurl three TDs, Tucker presently tops all AA quarterbacks in both total aerial yardage (1,354) and completion percentage (59.6%; 102-for-171).  His 10 TD tosses puts him in a four-way tie for runner-up honors among the double-A elite.

And while the deep ball into the corner of end zone with 1.8 seconds showing on the clock will be the moment that gets remembered forever, let it be known that as great of a play as it was, it represented only one of the four total touchdowns in which Tucker played a role in.  In addition to the game-winning score, Tucker had previously connected with Simermeyer earlier in the game, and also hit junior, Kyle Gaor, for the latter’s first TD of 2018….As an added bonus, Tucker was the Vikings’ leading rusher as well, accumulating 54 yards on seven carries while punching in his second running TD of the year.

When Tucker and Joe’s by the Sea returns to the field this Friday, they will do so against the current first-place team in the “A” division, Kennedy Catholic….A clash of styles, the host Gaels will attempt to slow down SJS’s bomb squad by relying heavily on their two-headed monster [Surrett and Proctor] of a ground attack…Allowing an average of just 61 yards in the air against Catholic school opponents, KC has yet to face a QB as polished as Tucker, so it will be interesting to see how their defensive backfield responds to the pressure.

 

Jamar Simmons (Sr.); RB/DB – Mount St. Michael’s Academy Mountaineers

We don’t know if the 5’9, 163-pound senior from the Bronx is a fan of the Karate Kid, but one thing is for certain, he certainly subscribes to that same, “strike first, strike hard, no mercy” philosophy made popular by fictitious sensei, John Kreese.

Zoned in from the opening whistle, it would take Simmons no time at all to set the tone for the kind of memorable day it would be for both himself and MSMA in their 35-0 goose-egging of Cardinal Spellman in a battle for Bronx bravado.

Recording the first rushing touchdown of his scholastic career when he broke for a 65-yard gainer on the Mountaineers first possession of the game, Simmons would only carry the ball on four separate occasions, but inflicted maximum damage to the Pilots’ defense, concluding the game with exactly 100 ground yards.   Used almost exclusively as a defensive player last season and having never run for more than 79 yards in a contest this year, the triple digit effort last Saturday was the first of its kind for the Mount student-athlete.  He was one of two Mountaineers on October 13th to reach the century mark, as teammate/Week #1 POTW honoree, Conrad Perry, led all RBs with 189 yards.

And like all of the charges under the command of Head Coach, Mario Valentini, the job is only half done when you put points up on the board.  Instead of resting on one’s offensive laurels, the focus immediately shifts to “D”, where Simmons would also show himself to be spectacular.

A major factor in MSMA’s ability to earn the program’s first shutdown since the 2013 season (34-0 over now defunct Bishop Ford), one of Simmon’s pair of interceptions would come in the end zone, keeping the shutout in tact…A physical presence as well as a ball hawk, his six solo tackles last Saturday were tops on the team.

 

Daniel Wilson (Sr.); LB – Kellenberg Memorial Firebirds

The reigning “AA” Defensive Player of the Year commenced last Sunday afternoon by leading the Firebirds onto the field in his traditional manner, sprinting with Old Glory waving proudly in his arms.  The pregame ritual, which the Levittown native has doing since the second week of the 2017 season, would hardly be the last time he would be at the forefront of a charging Blue & Gold platoon during Kellenberg’s 42-14 shellacking of host Chaminade during the 2018 Marianist Bowl…The victory, which snapped a five-game losing streak in the series (KMHS last won in 2010) marked just the third time ever that the Firebirds bested the Flyers on the gridiron.

Energized and/or inspired by the large contingent of family members in attendance, the future United States’ Naval Academy Midshipman would play one of, if not the most complete games of his varsity career, tying his personal-highs for tackles (11) and tackles for loss (3)…In truth, while those numbers certainly stand out in their own regard, they almost fail to do justice to the 6’3, 195-pound, three-sport athlete (2018 Varsity basketball Most Valuable Player; 2017 CHSAA Lacrosse State Champion)…For those watching the game in person, the three tackles for a loss (plus a sack) with which Wilson was credited seemed on the low end…#88 spent so much time in the Chaminade backfield that he might as well have asked his parents to hire a moving truck so he could set up permanent residency there.

The heartbeat and backbone of the #1 ranked defense in the double-A division (#2 in the entire NYCHSFL), with Wilson setting the example, the Firebirds are allowing just 10.3 points per outing.  And remarkably, this statistic skewed by the fact in all six of their victories in 2018, the starting 11 often did not play the full 48 minutes.  For instance, before subbing in their second and third strings in the 4th quarter, KMHS had held Chaminade scoreless while only giving up 102 yards of total offense through three quarters.

Having passed their biggest test of the season thus far, Kellenberg will put their 17-game immaculate streak on the line this coming Saturday when they return home to play St. Peter’s under the lights.

Oct 112018
 

By Matt Diano:

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

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

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

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

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

 

Photo Courtesy of SI Live

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oct 032018
 

By Matt Diano:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Picture from SI Live

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sep 262018
 

By Matt Diano:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo from SI Live

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sep 192018
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sep 142018
 

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

By Matt Diano:

 

 

“A”

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

“AA”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

       

“AAA”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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