Oct 092019
 

By Matt Diano:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

(Photo Courtesy of Geoff Walter)

Brandan Coward (Sr.); LB – Chaminade Flyers

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oct 022019
 

By Matt Diano:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Sep 252019
 

By Matt Diano:

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sep 182019
 

By Matt Diano:

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Joey Carino (Sr.); QB – Archbishop Stepinac

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sep 122019
 

By Matt Diano:

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Photo Courtesy of Geoffrey Walter

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best of luck to all teams this week!

Nov 152018
 

By Matt Diano:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.