Oct 182017
 

By Matt Diano:

Liam McHale (Sr.); WR – Fordham Prep Rams

Playing on a Ram offense that features two returning All-State players, it is often easy to get overlooked.   This is precisely what has happened in the case of the 6’6 Fordham Prep receiver, McHale…Without question, the #1 target on just about every other NYCHSFL team, while he may not get the respect he deserves in the publications, the Buchanan resident is having a monster senior campaign and may be very well be on his own All-State path following yet another steady and outstanding effort in his team’s 42-30 victory over Moore Catholic.

The team leader last weekend with his seven grabs, McHale’s combination of size and athleticism continues to make him a match-up nightmare for most secondaries….Countless times on third down, his number would be called and he’d respond with a leaping catch over the middle to preserve the respective drive.   Twice (both in the second quarter), he not only was the one to extend the drive, he also was the man to put the exclamation mark on it, as he accounted for back-to-back FP TD snatches to turn what was once a 14 all tie into two score lead for the host school…Making a diving catch on a 16-yard missile from his QB, Matt Valecce, for the first of his two touchdowns, for most, it would be hard to top that play, but McHale would manage to upstage even himself when he took a modest screen pass and proceeded to bring it all the way to the promised land for a 43-yard TD.   The 59 total yards accumulated between these two scoring catches represented only a shade more than half of his output for the day, as he finished the game with 107 total yards receiving.

Per the Fordham Prep coaching staff, even on the balls that he did not directly catch, the mere presence of McHale was a difference maker as it forced the Maverick defensive backs to adjust their game plan, thus opening up new lanes and laying the foundation for Valecce to throw for 377yards and six touchdowns.   The massive yardage total moved Valecce into third place All-time in the NYS record book.

Trailing only his aforementioned returning All-State teammate, Will Loffredo, for total catches and receiving yards, McHale will head into a week #7 showdown against the 2016 AA runners-up, Holy Trinity, with a stat line that reads as follows: 36 catches for 520 yards.  His five TD snatches (four of which have come during the past three weeks) puts him #3 among Rams, with Loffredo and Thomas Walsh, sharing the top spot with eight each.

 

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

Legend has it that the hardest feat in sports is hitting a baseball traveling 100 MPH.   We at the NYCHSFL subscribe to a different philosophy. To us, because we are allways attempting to share the spotlight among as many deserving student-athletes as possible, it is much more difficult to get named a Player of the Week honoree twice in the same season…Thus, if becoming a multiple recipient is difficult, what Palermo has just pulled off is bordering on historic and unprecedented, as he has successfully received the POTW tag for a second consecutive week following a 20-7 victory over Holy Trinity that put the Cougars right back in hunt for a solid postseason seed.

A week removed from being an absolute terror on the defensive side of the line of scrimmage (16 tackles, 3 TFL, 2 Sacks, 1 INT) in John the Baptist’s first win of the season over St. Joe’s by the Sea, the heart and soul of Ralph Carusillo’s program found a way to be even more outstanding during week #6….His total tackle quantity dropped slightly to 14, but otherwise, he was a one-man, stat compiling wrecking crew in leading his school to a must-have “w” on the road….Palermo’s body of work would come in a much balanced manner as he notched seven solo tackles and assisted on seven additional stops…From these 14 tackles, the majority resulted in a loss of field position for the Titans as the Smithtown resident was credited with seven TFL, and added four sacks of the quarterback…When the dust had finally settled, the SJB defense, anchored by Palermo’s individual accolades, had not only limited the Trinity offense, it overwhelmed it, forcing the host Titans to finish the double-A contest in the red with -25 yards combined and zero points (Holy Trinity TD came on special teams).

Established in last week’s feature as being one of the best two-way players in the Catholic League, Palermo would surpass the 80-yard mark on the ground for the second straight week, running for 83 yards on 17 carries to average just under five yards per touch.  He added a successful 2pt conversion following teammate, Daniel Parker’s, second TD run of the game to make the score 14-7.

Truly one of those guys who really does make the intangibles look spectacular, the 5’11 180-pound senior tacked another bullet point to his October 14th resume when he opened the second half by recovering an onside kick to prevent Holy Trinity from gaining momentum on an afternoon where they paid tribute to a new batch of Ring of Honor inductees.

Remiss if he did not acknowledge it, Carusillo wanted it to be known that the blocking of Palermo also proved invaluable in helping Parker to reach the end zone twice and in making it possible for Nigel Jarvis to shatter his previous season high of 32 yards by crossing over the century mark with 107 yards and his first TD of the season.

Admittedly, no matter what happens next week, Palermo will not be a POTW selection.  However, even if we cannot enable permit a three-peat, we fully expect another major effort out of him when SJB attempts to stretch the streak to three in a row versus Moore Catholic…With both programs entering the game with identical 2-4 records this season, the game will have significant seeding implications.

 

Sofian Massoud (So.); QB – Cardinal Hayes Cardinals

At the onset of the season, we made the claim that no one could possibly replace the impact that Christian Anderson had on the Hayes offense in leading the Cardinals to the crown in 2016….Six weeks into his sophomore campaign and the 6-food signal caller, Massoud, has not just made us eat our words, he shoved them down our thoughts and left no doubt that the quarterback position is and will remain in the best possible hands for the next 2.5 seasons in the Bronx.

Fresh off of their first blemish of the 2017 season in a week #5 loss to St. Anthony’s where statistically Massoud played his poorest game (17-for-38, 215 yards, 2 INTs), the 10th grader showed more than just talent last week; he demonstrated courage, perseverance, and a knack for the big moment in propelling Hayes to a mind-blowing 47-21 victory to knock #1 in NYS Stepinac from the ranks of the unbeaten.

Coming out of the gate with something to prove, it did not take the super sophomore any time at all to assert his refuse to lose mentality.  On just the second snap of the game, he found a hole and trekked 26 yards into Crusader territory to set up an eventual Lucas Nunez TD run to give the Cardinals the immediate 7-0 advantage.  That run would be a precursor/shadowing of the kind of afternoon it would be for both Massoud individually and Hayes as a collective unit.   No matter what Stepinac attempted on defensive, it seemed destined that nothing would stand in the way of the “Bronx Bombers” from lighting up the scoreboard drive after drive.

Still leading by the 7-0 score, Massoud would post his biggest gainer as a passer on the next drive when he hit Nunez in stride and let the senior “athletic freak” do the rest, as the returning All-Stater complemented the surefire future member of the club by running 95 yards to put the Cardinals on the doorstep.  Three plays later, Massoud doubled the lead when he denied Stepinac a much needed goal line stand by sneaking the ball the last few inches across the line to make the score 14-0.

Just as they did in last year’s AAA title game, the O’Donnell led Crusaders would not go down without a fight, as Stepinac scored two of the next three touchdowns (the second coming following an interception of Massoud) to cut the deficit to 21-14….However, as the stakes got higher, Massoud seemed to only grow stronger and better, as again he came through in the clutch, hitting Nunez on an 11-yard TD pass on 4th down to again create that two TD cushion….This touchdown pass, the second of four hurled by Massoud, served as something of a knockout blow as it ignited a 26-point unanswered surge that put Hayes in front 47-14….During this rally, Massoud also found Elijah Jones from 70 (the second time they hooked up on a huge gainer) and Nunez from 55.

Overall, Massoud concluded the day with his highest completion percentage of the season, connecting on 14 of his 23 attempts for 377 yards and the previously cited four scores….Currently, he is the NYS leader in average passing yard per game with a remarkable 325.6/outing.   His 1,628 total yards and 16 TD passes place him 6th and 5th respectively in the state rankings per Max Preps.  Considering he has played at least one fewer game than the names above him, you can expect that he will continue to climb as soon as he has the chance to make up those 48 minute of action.

With Hayes, Stepinac, and St. Anthony’s only entering the seventh week of the regular season with one loss apiece, the top spot in the AAA playoffs remains very much up for grabs.  Hence, as they get prepared to host 4th place Monsignor Farrell this weekend, Coach O’Neill and staff know they will need to receive another magnificent showing from their now verified bona fide stud under center.

 

John Kelly (Sr.); LB – Monsignor Farrell Lions

A mainstay and Admiral of the Lion defense for the past 2.5 years, no yearly POTW list would be complete unless it included the future United State Naval Academy Midshipman at least once….

Consistent as the day is long, Kelly makes plays so naturally and effortlessly that at times, it can be difficult to appreciate just how special a talent he truly is…He is the type of player that you blink and before you know it, he already has double digit stops and has had a hand in a turnover.

Before heading to Annapolis, the 6’3, 215-pound linebacker has his eyes entirely focused on delivering the AAA crown to Amboy Road for the first time since the Lions went back-to-back in 1999 and 2000….With this goal in mind, Farrell knew that it needed a big win over one of the preseason favorites so as to carry that all-important confidence with them into the postseason…They would pick up that key “w” last weekend, outlasting Iona Prep 29-28 on the road.

Opposed by a Gael offense that three times this season (including in their previous game against Chaminade) has reached and/or surpassed the 40-point plateau, the Lion defense knew that holding their hosts from New Rochelle to a low number would be difficult.   But, with Kelly as the trend setter, the belief was there that they could do enough to limit the 2016 AA champs to a lower enough score that would put the offense in a spot where they could win the game….MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!!!

Leading his team in tackles, as he seems to do in every game, Kelly would just miss hitting double digits for third time in 2017, finishing with nine stops…No stranger to blowing up plays by flying into opposing backfields, in addition to his collection of stops, the Farrell captain continued to add on to his already team leading totals in tackles for loss and sacks, adding one apiece to each category…For the season, he is averaging 8.8 tackles (53 total), 1.2 TFL (7), just under one sack (4) per game.   Two of the five QB hurries he has been credited for came in a week #6 effort that witnessed IP quarterback, Derek Robertson, throw for his lowest yardage total of the season (210).  It goes without saying that having Kelly and other Lions constantly in his face was an enormous factor in Robertson being limited to only 1 TD pass a week removed from a 5 TD, 400+ yard performance in the air.

As noted in the previous feature on Massoud, this weekend’s clash of perennial top programs will be a battle of wills as Farrell will attempt to once again keep the highly flammable Hayes offense under control.  For this to happen, Kelly will need to make a habit of harassing his fellow week #6 POTW brethren [Massoud].

 

Conrad Perry (Jr.); RB/LB – Mount St. Michael Academy Mountaineers

The most outstanding player in what was by far the best game of the 2017 Catholic season, when the Perry nomination was submitted, it was an instant no-brainer to include him on this list.

A back-and-forth affair that took six overtimes to decide, finally the Mountaineers would prevail 38-32 over St. Francis to jump them in the standings into the #4 position in AA.

The junior tailback, Perry, who entered the sixth week of the season riding a three-game 100+ yard running streak that yielded a pair of wins over Moore Catholic and Holy Trinity in weeks 3 and 5, would render those amazing showings quasi forgettable by rewriting his personal record book last Sunday….Having only carried the ball 20 times once prior this season, the 5’9, 185-pound resident of the Bronx embraced the role of the proverbial workhorse, taking the handoff 30 times and running for 253 yards and a pair of touchdowns in spearheading the Mountaineers best win thus far this season…No other MSMA student-athlete carried the ball more than 10 times or gained more than 45 yards.  Only quarterback, Marquis Jimenez, matched his multiple TDs.

Perry’s first touchdown would come in the 4th quarter when he broke for 75-yards to put the Mount in front…His second score though would be even more valuable as it served as a game-saver, taking a 32-26 deficit in the fifth OT and pulling his school even to extend the game to one final extra frame.

As if he did not already have sufficient reason to be exhausted, Perry would step up in another way when his team needed him.  Called upon late in regulation and all throughout the endless overtime periods to play both ways, he was an asset as a member of the linebacking corps, making two solo tackles and assisting on two others.

Perry heads into the homestretch of the regular season leading MSMA in all rushing categories.  His seasonal stat sheet reads as such: 109 carries for 819 yards (7.5/touch) and eight total touchdowns.

With Mount St. Michael currently sitting in 4th place and the Terriers just below them in 5th, what transpired last weekend might just be round #1 of what will no doubt be another great slugfest in the opening round of the AA playoffs…Should a rematch occur in the postseason, you know full well that Coach Mario Valentini is going to dance with the man who brought him there and dare SFP to step his junior stallion.

 

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

Every season we try to get a specialist into the mix and while it may have taken us six weeks to do so, we are proud to continue that tradition through the person of the Flyers’ junior kicker/punter, Pecorella.

The individual who has the distinction of both opening and closing the scoring for Chaminade, Pecorella would convert on 2 of his 3 field goal attempts, commencing the scoring with a 36-yard make in the 1st quarter to give the Flyers the early 3-0 lead…But alas, it would be his final kick of Sunday afternoon that acted as the catalyst in the Mineola based school’s 41-38 victory at home over St. Peter’s….With his team leading 38-31 at the time, the 6’3 190-pounder with the titanium leg made a prophet of Head Coach, Kevin Dolan, when he nailed a career-long 52-yarder with just over 5:00 remaining in the 4th quarter to give Chaminade a 10-point cushion….During the pregame, the second-year headman [Dolan] praised the abilities of his kicker, saying that he trusted his 11th grade weapon from anywhere inside the 35.

While his kick, which ultimately ended up being the game-winner following an Eagle score to cut the final margin of victory to just those three points, will likely be the moment that gets remembered, to us, it played second-fiddle to something he did earlier in the quarter…..A quarterback by trade, Pecorella, would make the most of one of the rare occasions he has had the opportunity to showcase his other appendage, converting a fake punt on 4th and short on his own side of the field by throwing a perfect strike to fellow junior, Tyler McCormick (career high nine catches for 146 yards) for 28 yards to put the ball inside the Peter’s 30.  This conversation to keep the drive alive got the crowd back into the game and swung momentum back in favor of the Flyers.   Aidan Ryder would take it to the house a few plays later to break the 31-31 tie.

Not the “sexiest” of topics, but with field position always being a factor in CHSFL football, it is worth noting that Pecorella would have a 42-yard punt and averaged over 60 yards in posting five touchbacks in eight kickoff attempts.

Score one for the unsung heroes of the football world!!!

 

Oct 122017
 

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

This time last year, the junior two-way player was focused on a different kind of football, as he was a sophomore starter on the soccer team during his sophomore campaign….Thankfully for Head Coach, Chris Stevens, and his staff, the 5’11, 170-pound Brooklynite elected to ditch the pitch and take his amazing athletic skills to the gridiron in 2017.   That decision is already proving to be worth its weight in gold for the Knights as Demetriades has factored prominently into each of his school’s two wins thus far this season.

During the opening week of the season, it was his 20-yard TD run (on just his second touch of the game) in double-overtime that was the difference maker in a 19-13 victory over St. John the Baptist…This past week, his contributions may have lacked that same level of drama that accompanies a game-winning score, but from start to finish may have been equally, if not more significant in propelling Xavier to a 24-14 “upset” over Moore Catholic in hostile territory.

A triple-threat that can beat you in so many ways, Demetriades is such a pure speeder that every time the ball finds its way into his hands, he is a risk to find a hole and break away for a game-altering play…Such was the case twice last Saturday, as it was his 80-yard kickoff return in response to a Maverick touchdown that cut the early Moore Catholic lead to 8-7 and prevented the host school from gaining a tremendous momentum advantage. 

Fast-forward to the closing minutes of the contest with his team now leading 17-14, and again it would be the 11th grader dynamo picking his moments to perfection, as he all but salted away the “w” for the Knights when on their final drive of the game, he showed immense toughness and heart, fighting off an initial hit and turning would could have been a turnover on downs (4th-on-6) into a 22-yard gainer to preserve the possession and set up an insurance touchdown to account for the double-digit margin of victory.

A true iron-man as noted above, Demetriades had the distinction of being the only member of the Maroon & Blue army to play both ways…While his offensive and special teams prowess tend to get remembered most, he is nothing if not consistent on the defensive side of the ball as well.  Last week, his four solo tackles and three assists (7 total was third on the team), along with one successful pass defense was key in holding a usually very potent and explosive Moore Catholic squad to their first sub-20-point performance in the past three weeks.

With so many teams in the 2-3/3-2 range this season, this victory may have well end up being the difference between advancing to the postseason with a respectable seed or missing it altogether.  Hence, as the regular season grows closer to its conclusion, we expect this remarkable effort by Demetriades to only grow in terms of magnitude.  

 

Michael DeGasperis (Sr.); WR – Iona Prep Gaels

WELCOME BACK, MICHAEL DEGASPERIS!!!! 

Playing just the second game of his senior season after being sidelined during the first three weeks of 2017, the returning 2nd-Team All-State receiver showed why many consider him one of the best overall pass catchers in the Northeast region in leading the Gaels to a 45-21 home victory on Sunday over Chaminade. 

A week removed from posting a very solid 6-grab, 43 yard, 1 touchdown effort in a win over Christ the King in his official comeback game, the 6’2, 185-pounder from Briarcliff Manor did not just turn up the heat last Sunday, he went all-out five-alarm blazer, torching the visiting Flyers to the tune of a 16 catch, 240 yard, two TD showing.   His reception total ties him with Fordham Prep’s Will Loffredo (week #1) for the overall top mark this season by a CHSFL receiver.  His receiving yards is a 2017 best among his Catholic peers.

A game of streaks, the Gaels jumped out to a 21-0 lead before seeing that edge cut to just a single score (21-14)…However, just when it looked as if their Marianist opponents might be on the verge of taking all of the momentum into the locker room at the break, DeGasperis would seize back all of the mojo late in the second quarter, burning two defenders and catching Derek Robertson’s pass in perfect stride before running the final 25-30 yard down the sideline for a 58-yard TD strike to make the score 28-14.  The homerun ball was the second touchdown snatch of the game for the seasoned IP play-maker.  In the first quarter, it was his 7-yard leaping catch right at the pylon that doubled the Gael lead to 14-0. 

While he unquestionably was a huge catalyst in enabling it, DeGasperis was not the only IP student-athlete to have a career day last weekend.  In addition, Robertson put forth yet another flawless effort, completing 33 of his 45 attempts for 433 yards and five touchdowns.

With Iona Prep now sitting at 2-2 in league play (3-2 overall), one could make the argument that even though they are currently in 4th in the standings, the return of one of their key weapons restores the Gaels to top-2 in championship picture.  

 

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

With Halloween just weeks away, it is fitting that the Friar senior defensive end picked October to turn in his best single-day effort of 2017 in leading St. Anthony’s to a big 31-12 victory over previously unbeaten/defending AAA League Champion, Cardinal Hayes….While we’re not sure what he will goes as on the 31st, one thing is definite; when it comes to harassing opposing quarterbacks, you might as well call the future Bucknell University student-athlete “The Sandman” because he haunts the dreams of those that have to play against him. 

One of the central figures for a defensive unit that has surrendered just 7, 13, and now 12 points in their last three outings, Cherubino’s big day came at an ideal time for his school as the victory not only avenged their semifinal playoff loss from a season ago, it also put the Huntington based perennial powerhouse in firm control of at least a #2 seed in the postseason…Having already navigated their way to a very strong 3-1 record despite facing all of their fellow consensus contenders early-on, the Rich Reichert mentored squad has every reason to believe that they will enter the playoffs riding a six-game win streak. 

Last Saturday, facing a Cardinal offense that was averaging 41 points/game in their three wins and who had not been limited to less than 20 points in a game since October 1st of last season, the Friar coaching staff pointed the finger at and showered the praise onto the man who dons the #90 jersey [Cherubino] as the reason they were able to tame such a lethal and explosive Hayes attack.

Described as “being all over the field” by his coaches, Cherubino, was so consistently in the face of opposing signal caller, Sofian Massoud, that he forced the sophomore field general into his worst effort of the season thus far, completing under 50 percent of his attempts for 215 yards and a pair of interceptions.   Last weekend marked the first time all season that the Cardinal quarterback failed to reach 300 yards in the air and tossed less than three touchdown passes (2).  His 58.6 rating was over 85 points less than his week #4 showing in his team’s win over St. Peter’s…..While he could not log a sack on every snap, Cherubino did manage to record 3.5 of them to go along with his plethora of hurries. 

Equally effective as a run-stopper, the 6’3, 225-pounder had one of the best plays of the game when he busted 40 yards down field to make a touchdown-saving tackle on Hayes’s starting tailback…He concluded the game having notched seven solo tackles, including a pair of tackles for a loss.

And while week #5 was the first time we had the privilege of featuring him, the truth is that Cherubino is THIS good every week!!!

 

Matthew Sluka (Jr.); QB – Kellenberg Memorial Firebirds

If Cherubino is the “Sandman”, then Sluka must be “The Flash”, or at least he did one heck of a great imitation of Barry Allen last Friday night, averaging 13.6 yard per carry en route to a 244 yard, three touchdown performance against Fordham Prep that gave the Firebirds sole possession of 1st place in the AA division.

Billed as a showdown between the top-2 quarterbacks in Double-A, it has been not very often in the past 3.5 years that the Rams’ Matt Valecce (who owns every CHSFL passing record) is second best under center.  However, this was precisely the case in KMHS’s week #5 34-24 victory, as the 11th grader from Roselyn Heights was invincible during the final 24 minutes of the game, not only scoring all of his TDs in the second half, but doing so at the ideal moments where his team needed him most.

Trailing 15-14 at the break in what was a back-and-forth affair, the KMHS field general would pull the Uniondale based program back into the lead when he broke from 11-yards out for the TD to make the score 21-15….A third quarter safety, followed by a touchdown pass put FP back in front, 24-21.  But alas, this advantage would be extremely short-lived thanks to Sluka, who exploded for his biggest gainer of the season, cruising 80 yards to the house on the first play of the ensuing drive to instantly flip the scoreboard back in favor of the host Firebirds….Still leading 27-24, the now two-time CHSFL POTW (also honored in week #3) would put final stamp on the “w” when he complemented teammate, Jake Deakin’s, interception with 6:00 remaining in regulation by finding a hole up the middle two-and-half minutes later for a game-clinching 42-yard TD run. 

What has become very apparent about a player like Sluka is that even on a day where the pass game may not be firing on all cylinders (was only 1-for-6 in the air), he is so immensely talented with his legs, that his breakaway speed and agility are all he needs to dominate week after week…His aforementioned 244 yards and three scores last week marked the third straight game where he ran for 150+ yards and found the end zone multiple times….For the season, he has racked up 648 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground behind a 12.5 yard average….And while the aerial attack may not have been effective in the victory over FP, it has been potent for much of the season, as he has also thrown for 500 yards and five additional touchdowns, giving him combined totals of 1,148 yards and 13 TDs.

 

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

The rags to potential riches story of the Terriers published its best chapter of the season so far last weekend when it fought back from a 24-8 deficit at the end of three quarters to shock the Catholic football world by scoring three touchdowns in the final 12 minutes to upend Holy Cross, 26-24…The victory resulted in St. Francis Prep leaping over the Knights in the standings into third place, thus putting them in an ideal possession to make to the semifinal round one year removed from a winless 2016.

Serving as a catalyst for this remarkable come-from-behind triumph would be the super sophomore, Jones, who picked a great time to establish season highs in all offensive categories in leading the Queens based school to their biggest win in quite some time. 

Entering last Sunday having not thrown for more than 76 yards in his team’s first four games, the 5’9 signal caller reached double digit completions for the first time all year, connecting on 50 percent of his 20 attempts for 143 yards and a pair of touchdown tosses (both to senior WR, Marc Anthony Dalce)…In addition, he would also have a banner day on the ground, running for 62 yards on just seven carries (8.9 average) to lead all Terriers in ground yardage.   Among these seven touches, two would stand above the rest as twice during the game-winning drive, Jones would utilize his legs to march SFP down the field and set up the eventual winning touchdown. 

If just about leading his school in every possible way on offense was not enough to make a fan out of you, let it be known that Jones also posted the biggest play on the defensive side of the ball too, as he personally put the kibosh on HC’s last ditch effort by intercepting Michael Henglein late in the game…

A dual-threat QB like the man [Sluka] who preceded him on this week’s honorees’ list, Jones will take the field next week against Mount St. Michael Academy as the owner of a 52.7 completion percent (29-for-55) that has yielded him 368 yards and four touchdown passes…Not to punch him one in with his legs, Jones’s 238 yards on 35 carries is also tops this season for St. Francis Prep….Against an Mountaineer opponent who is known for their ability to strike hard and quick, the 10th grader is going to need to be at his best for a second straight week if Francis Prep is to extend their winning streak to three games.  

 

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

An individual who more than most understands, cherishes, and promotes the ideals of “service”, the aspiring United States Air Force Academy cadet would continue to go above and beyond the call to duty in leading the Cougars to their first win of 2017 in a 33-30 four overtime instant classic over visiting St. Joe’s by the Sea this past Sunday.  

An essential component on both sides of the pigskin, the 5’11, 180-pound resident of Smithtown was especially outstanding on defense during the fifth week of the regular season…The star and example-setter among the linebacker corps, Palermo would crack the 10-tackle mark for the fourth time this season, establishing a new 2017 high with 16 total stops (12 solo).   In addition, he would be credited with a trio of tackles for a loss, added a pair of sacks to his already team leading total (has a sack in every game this season), and even found an opportunity to notch SJB’s only interception of the contest…So spectacular has been the young man in the #42 jersey that when you look at the seasonal stat totals, no one is even close to him in most categories.   At present, his 64 stops are 17 more than the runner-up; his 14 TFL’s nearly double the next man up; his six sacks are triple anyone else on the Cougar roster, and his one INT places him tied for 2nd on the squad. 

When Ralph Carusillo’s offense had the ball, Palermo shined in his role as 1/3 of a three-headed monster rushing attack that racked up close to 450 yards and scored three touchdowns.   And while teammates, Daniel Parker (188 yards) and Nick Delcore (110 yards) may be the ones hogging the headlines due to crossing over the century mark, it is important that Palermo’s 91 yards on less carries be given the credit it deserves.  Equally necessary is to acknowledge that some of Palermo’s best efforts came in a capacity that is not formally recognized on the stat sheet.  Following Cougar touchdowns, he would on three separate occasions successfully convert 2pt conversion runs.  Hence, it this selflessness and ability to do all of the little things on behalf of his school that epitomize just how much he means to the SJB program. 

Having broken into the win column, the Cougars will take the next step in attempting to keep their postseason streak alive when they go head-to-head against Holy Trinity in a battle for Long Island bragging rights….Having posted his season high in rushing yards last week, don’t be surprised if Palermo challenges, if not breaks it this week against a Titan run defense that has still struggled with inconsistencies. 

Oct 042017
 

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

A student-athlete who has been so dominant during the early part of his senior campaign that based on merit, he could easily be a four-time POTW selection already, Valecce makes his debut on the 2017 list following his second straight five touchdown pass game in a 35-28 victory over Mount St. Michael that kept the Rams atop the AA standings…In the four games that Fordham Prep has played this season, the Boston College bound signal caller has had a hand in no less than three scores each time he has stepped onto the field…His march up the record books is as ferocious as ever as he has now  tossed for 1,226 yards and 16 TDs whole completing a remarkable 74 percent of his throws (84-for-114) in keeping his school unblemished thus far.

While the gaudy numbers are no doubt mind-blowing, as we have stressed time and time again, if there is one thing that we value more than just stats, it is clutch playmaking….For Valecce, this ability to captain game-winning drives is beginning to become second nature….In each of the past two weeks, FP either trailed or was tied in the second half; and in both situations, it was the golden arm of the 6’5 field general that proved to be a saving grace, as he found Liam McHale on a 22-yard strike in the final three minutes of a 34-30 victory over Holy Cross during week #3 and followed it up a week later by hitting the same target from 11-yards out early (with the game tied at 28 apiece) in the 4th quarter for what ended up being the winning score in the triumph over the Mountaineers last weekend.

Making Valecce’s week #4 performance all the more special is the fact that he managed to accomplish it despite being without the services of his favorite receiver/fellow returning All-State player, Will Loffredo, who missed the game….Forced to utilize new weapons, the future Eagle demonstrated that rare ability to elevate everyone around him, spreading his 17 (out of 23 attempts) completions for 282 yards among five different receivers.   His five touchdowns passes would go to three unique targets, as he connected with Thomas Walsh on a 50-yard pass to put the Rams up 7-0 in the first quarter and then continued to answer every MSM TD with a big play of his own, teaming up with Jack Goodkin on a 19-yard TD pass to tie the score at 14, before giving the Rams the lead for good late in the 2nd quarter when he and Walsh hooked up again from short distance to make the score 21-20….Valecce’s last two TD chucks of the evening both found the waiting hands of McHale, as in addition to the aforementioned 11-yarder in the fourth quarter, he also drilled his fellow senior on a 19-yarder in the 3rd that made the score 28-20.

Valecce’s knack for being the hero will need to be in full effect yet again during week #5 as Fordham Prep will square off with Kellenberg Memorial High School in a clash of undefeated teams, with the victor taking a massive step in the race for the #1 overall seed in the double-A playoffs.

 

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

Speaking of games with major playoff seeding implications, nothing better defines the description than the annual meeting between Xaverian and fellow “A” title contenders, Cardinal Spellman…A clash of the 2015 titlists versus the two-time returning runners-up, when these two programs meet on the field, it is always perceived as a potential preview of championship weekend….And thanks to Auguste, it was the visiting Clippers who prevailed, 14-13, thus giving them the inside track on earning the top-seed for the postseason.

Our first repeat selection of the 2017 season, the bigger the stakes, the more the 11th grader from Brooklyn makes his presence known….In many ways, he was a one-man show on offense during the fourth week of the season, running for a season-high with 205 yards and notching his third straight multi-touchdown game to account for both of his school’s two TDs on the day to darn near match Spellman single-handedly.

Averaging just short of nine yards per carry, knowing the importance of the “w”, Auguste acted in the proverbial workhorse role last Saturday afternoon, handling 23 of the team’s 29 total handoffs to be the lone player in Blue & Gold to earn more than eight yards total (his four teammates combined to run for negative output).

A leader in the defensive backfield as well, Auguste once again showed himself to be a jack of all trades, logging six solo tackles, assisting on one additional stop, and notching one of Xaverian’s two interceptions to round out his busy matinee performance.

In the three league games played this season by the Clippers, Auguste is averaging just under 141 yards per appearance and has scored two touchdowns all three times.   His seasonal total (including the team’s lone blemish in a non-league game against Hackley) read as follows: 59 carries for 527 yards and seven touchdowns….He is also the current program leader in interceptions with a pair and is tied for second in tackles with 27.

Auguste will be in search for his fourth 100+ yard effort of the season when Xaverian bangs heads with Nazareth Regional on Sunday October 8th.

 

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

Another “can do it all” player, the senior FB/LB has the Terriers firmly in playoff position (currently sitting in sixth place with a .500 record of 2-2), following a two touchdown effort on the ground that yielded a big 14-7 road victory over the Cougars of St. John the Baptist.

A bruiser who is not afraid to use his 199-pound frame to muscle his way into the end zone, Auricchio is a throwback to the classic Big-10 style of power football.   More times than not, he will not beat you with his speed; instead, it is the consistent 3-5 yard runs over the course of a 48 minute game that breaks opposing defenses…Such was true last Sunday when he rushed for a team-high 61 yards on 19 carries (3.2 average).

Bookending his two touchdowns, the 12th grader from Queens would post the only score of the first three quarters when he plunged in from 3 yards away in the first quarter to give St. Francis Prep the 6-0 advantage….In the fourth quarter, he provided some necessary insurance, breaking the plane from just 2 yards out to make the score 12-0 (a successful two-point conversation by teammate, Omarion Jones, tacked on the final two points of the game).   This second TD would be the difference maker as the host Cougars had a 27-yard TD pass in the 4th that if not for the Auricchio score, could have stolen the “w’ for SJB.

On the other side of the ball, Auricchio would also post one of his finest games of the season, finishing tied for second on the team in total tackles with six (four solo); he complemented his strong run-stopping game by adding one of the Terriers’ four sacks on the day in holding St. John the Baptist quarterback, Nick Delcore to only 2-for-6 passing for 27 yards.

As his team gets ready to face the respective explosive offenses of Holy Cross and Mount St. Michael in back-to-back weeks, ball control will be a huge factor for SFP.  For this reason, we fully expect to see heavy doses of Auricchio, who leads the team in carries and touchdowns with 48 and 2.  His 167 yards of ground production ranks him second on the roster in the category.

 

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

Anointed as the next great Gael field general by us in the AAA preview, it has been a bit of a Jekyll & Hyde start to Robertson’s tenure under center for Iona Prep….While his numbers (has thrown for 240+ yards in all four games) very much back up the hype that we bestowed upon him, turnovers (six INTs through three games) have at times detracted from what otherwise would be a very impressive junior campaign…However, last weekend, in IP’s 42-0 win over Christ the King, the 6’2, 175-pounder from Yonkers seemed to turn a corner and showcase just how amazing he can be when he plays an error-free brand of football.

Armed with his full arsenal of blue chip receivers available to him for the first time all season, the first-year varsity starter was nothing short of spectacular in the role of gunslinger, connecting on 74 percent of his passes (26-for-35) for 249 yards and a trio of touchdowns (all to different targets).

The first of Robertson’s trips TD hurls would come with approximately two minutes remaining in the opening quarter when he found Johnryan Freeman on a 14-yard exchange to make the score 14-0….Before the end of the 1st half, that Gael lead would double to 28-0 as Robertson fired a pair of second quarter bullets for scores, playing pitch/catch with Sean Fleming on a 20-yarder with eight minutes remaining and then concluding the first 24 minutes of play with a 5-yarder to Michael DeGasperis.

On the year, Robertson is the owner of a 58.5 percent completion percentage (83-for-142) and has thrown for 995 yards and nine touchdowns, giving him averages of 249 and 2.25…If he remains consistent with these displays and continues to be mistake-free, we fully expect that before the end of the season, he will more than prove to be among the crème de la crème of Catholic signal callers as he was advertised.

Having gotten several of their toughest challenges out of the way during the first four weeks of play, Robertson and the Gaels (1-2) will have every opportunity possible to get back into the hunt for a top-4 seed when they oppose Chaminade, Monsignor Farrell, and St. Peter’s during the next three weeks.

 

Cole Esposito (Jr.); LB – Kennedy Catholic Gaels

“Defense” was the key word last Friday night, as the Gaels and host Bayhawks combined to score just 19 points (12 of which came in the final quarter) in a week #4 match-up that could very well determine who earns the all-important #4 seed into the “A’ playoffs .

Sitting at the head of the table in this defensive war was the junior from Cortlandt Manor, Esposito, who had a career night that most players can only dream of, compiling 17 total tackles (7 solo), two TFL and created one of the few turnovers of the contest when he stepped in front of a Jack Rooney pass for the INT.

Surrendering just six points on the night, the Gaels held St. Dom’s to their second lowest total of the 2017 season…In fact, only a Bayhawk 4th quarter TD while trailing 13-0 stood in the way of KC’s bid for a shutout.

Entering the fifth week of the season with a 2-1 record, Kennedy Catholic will have a chance to make a significant statement when they play Spellman on Saturday October 7th.

 

Justin Hairston (Sr.); LB – Archbishop Stepinac Crusaders

Two weeks removed from honoring one Crusader linebacker [Kevin Gray] for his outstanding play, we now get a chance to shine that proverbial spotlight on yet another member of the corps, as Hairston checked off just about every box last Saturday in helping Stepinac to improve to 4-0 behind a 34-7 win over Chaminade.

The team-leader on the afternoon with 10 tackles (8 solo), the two-year senior starter has now reached double digits stops in all three of the league games that Stepinac has played this season.   His 40 total tackles in his swan song campaign ranks second on the team (behind only Gray’s 43).

In helping to limit the Flyer offense (which entered the game averaging over 26 points per game) to just 106 yards of total offense, Hairston was not only a standout as a run-stopper, he also excelled in disrupting the Chaminade pass game, notching a pair of sacks and being credited with one official successful pass defense in keeping the Mineola based school scoreless for the first 47 minutes of the contest.

When his team steps on the field on October 7th to square off with Monsignor Farrell, Hairston will be closing in on multiple career milestones as he needs just 10 total tackles (his seasonal average) to reach 150 for his career and just seven solo stops to join the century club.   Considering the Lions offense has been known to emphasize the power-run game, there is every reason to believe that both of these feats can and/or will be attained.

Sep 202017
 

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

After being dormant during the opening weekend of the 2017 season, the Cardinals’ AAA title defense got off on the perfect note last Saturday afternoon, as the boys from the Bronx made a very emphatic statement in posting a 35-22 victory over Iona Prep in a clash of 2016 titlists…Considered on paper to be a toss-up, if you are looking for a reason as to why the margin was as great as it was, you need investigate no further than look at the human highlight reel assembled by the senior WR/CB, Jones.

Out-scoring the opposing Gaels single-handedly, there simply was nothing that the Boston College bound stud could not/did not do in leading his school to a very pivotal early season triumph over their fellow title contenders from New Rochelle.

Accounting for the first four of Hayes’s five touchdowns on the day, the 6’3 two-way standout was easily the best player on both sides of the ball.  This is no easy feat when you consider the quality and quantity of play-makers that existed on each sideline.

Recruited by the Golden Eagles mostly as a defensive back, it was the receiving abilities of Jones that got the Cardinals off to a hot start when he caught the first of his three TD receptions to give the host school the initial 7-0 lead….In the second half, with the outcome still very much in doubt, he would elevate his performance even further, catching a pair of touchdown passes from first-year starter, Sofian Massoud…With the score sitting at 13-9, Jones found himself on the backend of a 26-yard strike to make the score 19-9…Following an Iona Prep kick return for a TD to cut the edge to 19-15, it was #1 again who shifted momentum back in the favor of the Cardinals, taking a screen pass 65 yards to the house expand the lead…..Overall, on the offensive side of the ball, Jones concluded the game having caught six of Massoud’s 10 completions for 211 receiving yards and the trio of touchdowns.

Jones’s work on offensive alone would have made him a sure-fire POTW selection…Remarkably through, he was darn-near just as impactful from the defensive secondary, making six tackles and successfully defending five passes.   His biggest contribution on “D” though came in the second quarter with the game deadlocked at 7-7, when he intercepted a pass and charged 78 yards down field for the pick-6….With Jones and company creating a quasi no fly zone in defensive backfield, highly touted IP quarterback, Derek Robertson, was held to sub. 50% completion percentage, ending the game 19-for-39 and tossing a pair of INTs.

 

Justin Felder (Sr.); RB – Holy Cross Knights

An individual who obviously has a flair for the dramatic, the 5’8, 170-pound senior captain, Felder, proved that when the game is on the line, he is without question, the man to whom you want to feed the ball….With their back-and-forth affair against Mount St. Michael Academy all knotted at 20 all in the final 1:00 of regulation, the Knights wisely put the game in the hands of Felder and were rewarded for their decision when he found the end zone in the final 27 ticks to propel Holy Cross to the 27-20 victory.   The win last Saturday improved the Flushing based program to 2-0 this season.

No doubt outstanding and clutch down the stretch, Felder’s efforts extend well beyond just the game-winning score.  While his late-game heroics may have been the most compelling closing argument for his inclusion to this list, the truth is that as a whole, he put forth quite an overwhelming case during the first 47 minutes of play as well….Finishing with a total of 200 all-purpose yards, on the whole, Felder averaged exactly eight yards per carry, gaining 144 on 18 touches.   Having scored earlier in the contest, he notched two touchdowns to comprise approximately 44 percent of his team’s point total.

Holy Cross will be relying on and expecting another huge performance from their senior running back during week #3 when they square off against Fordham Prep in a battle of unbeatens….Given how potent the Ram passing game can be, one would expect heavy doses of Felder runs in order to control clock and keep the ball out of the hands of Fordham Prep.

 

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

For the second time in as many weeks this season, the NYCHSFL and SILive.com are in agreement as to whom the best of the week was coming out of the borough of Staten Island….Sharing dual honors between the two organizations this week is none other than the Vikings first-year starter, Vigilante.

Making just the second start of his varsity career, the senior field general displayed tremendous resiliency, shaking off a disappointing 15-for-37 debut in a week 1 loss to Fordham Prep, by rebounding with a 15-for-22, 208 yard, three touchdown afternoon in a 25-14 win against an always gritty and prepared Xavier.

Despite acting in the role of back-up QB last season, when 2017 rolled around, Vigilante was voted a team captain by his peers.    This honor had to have been in recognition of all the hard work that the 5’11 signal caller put in during the off-season….That effort and rapport building was clearly evident during the second week of the season, as he was a human sprinkler from behind center, spreading the ball around all day and making everyone around him better the way a true captain and general is asked to do.   All three of his TD passes would go to different targets as he hooked up for scores with fellow seniors, Matthew Mitchell and Christopher Simermeyer (led all Vikings receivers with 6 catches for 87 yards), as well as 11th grader,  Francesco Arlia….Between him and his back-up [Christopher Beck], 11 different players caught one or more balls.   That’s what we call consummate teamwork!!!

Through two games, Vigilante is very much doing his part in filling the shoes of his predecessor, Francis Perry, completing 54 percent of his tosses (32-for-59, for 332 yards and five touchdowns (versus only one interception).

If last weekend was any indication of the level of progress he is going to make with each subsequent start, then the rest of the league should consider themselves forewarned; Vigilante is a gunslinger and if you let him, he will blow you away with each and every drop back.

 

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

On a night where the Clippers officially christened their new home (Aviator Sports Complex) turf, it was only fitting that the man who is going to set the standard for future generations playing on it, to have a banner night in leading Xaverian to a 48-0 victory over Kennedy Catholic in a war of perennial league semifinalists.

Called the most naturally talented and dangerous player in the “A’ division in our 2017 preview, the 5’11, 180-pound junior from Brooklyn exceeded the praise bestowed upon him, running for a team-high 127 yards on just 11 carries (over 11.5 yards per touch) and scoring two of his team’s five rushing touchdowns along the way….He also caught a 7-yard pass, added a successful two-point conversion, and accumulated 50 yards as a kick/punt returner to conclude the night with all-purpose yardage of 184.

Auguste has now surpassed 100+ yards rushing in both games played thus far in 2017…. Competing in a non-league contest against Hackley during the opening week of the season, he ran for 105 yards and scored a TD in a hard fought 20-14 loss.

Like his fellow week #2 honoree, Jones, Auguste would also made his presence known and felt on the defensive side of the ball, recording four solo tackles and assisting on an additional three others to end the night with seven total stops….If that was not sufficient, let it be noted that he also notched the only interception of the evening in helping to keep Kennedy Catholic off the scoreboard for the first time since the 2015 season.

 

Will Ford (So.); WR – St. Dominics Bayhawks

Donning the Bayhawk varsity jersey for just the second time in his promising scholastic career, Ford has already cemented his status as a player to keep an eye on during the course of the next 2.5 seasons in Oyster Bay.

Making his home field debut one to remember, the 10th grader from Amityville, was a “horror” for the Nazareth Regional defense, making three catches for 71 yards, including a 38-yard strike for the final TD of the game for St. Dom’s in their 23-0 conquest…Catching 60 percent of Jack Rooney’s five completions for over 80 percent of the yardage (71 of 87), Head Coach, Robert Ploth, was right on the money when he described his sophomore sensation as “simply uncoverable” under the Friday night lights of  CIBF Field….It may not count in the official stats, but Ford caught a fourth ball as part of a successful two-point conversion.

Complementing his strong effort as a pass catcher was Ford’s unselfishness as a run blocker.  Multiple times, he sacrificed his 5’8, 145-pound frame in order to spring one of his teammates for a big run.  On one such occasion, it was Ford’s block that paved the way for a first quarter rushing touchdown.

Needing only two games to carve his niche as the team’s top receiving option, it should come as no surprise that he currently sits atop all major categories with four catches for 75 yards and the only TD grab of the season thus far…With a date on the road against Xaverian slated for next week, Ford is going to need to continue to blow past receivers if the Bayhawks hope to improve to 2-1 in league contests.

 

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

It’s rare that in a game where the winning team scored 38 points, that the most outstanding player was without hesitation a member of the defensive unit….Such an abnormality occurred last Friday in Stepinac’s 38-19 victory over visiting St. Anthony’s in what many felt could be a preview of the 2017 AAA finals match-up.

All week (myself as guilty as anyone) the talk heading into the game was about the vaunted Friar offensive line and how behind their protection, St. Anthony’s was able to pile up nearly 400 yards on the ground (including 250+ by reigning Catholic Player of the Week selection, Sean Bryan) and four touchdowns in a week #1 victory over Delbarton….Gushing over this collective domination in the trenches there was an aura that formed suggesting that STA would be able to run over any opponent they played this season….Thankfully, the Stepinac defense as a whole and junior linebacker, Gray, specifically, did not bother to read the press clippings.   Instead, they took the field trusting in their abilities and served all doubters a big bowl of crow by the time the clock hit zero in White Plains.

Led by Gray’s 19 tackles (9 solo), the Crusader defense was locked in all night, limiting St. Anthony’s a mind-blowing low of only 82 yards on 34 carries (2.4 average)…Bryan, who gained 79 yards on four touches when these two teams squared off last season, was held to a mere 39 yards on 14 handoffs last Friday….Dual-threat quarterback, Greg Campisi, who had never lost a varsity start in his still young career, went from gaining 121 yards in the first week of the season to mustering just 26 on twice the carries seven days later….The 19 point total was the lowest recorded by the Friars in a AAA league game since a 28-10 semifinal loss in the 2014 playoffs.

Averaging 13 tackles/game for the now 2-0 Crusaders, the multi-sport playing, honor role student-athlete currently ranks 6th in NYS in the category.  Despite playing one fewer game than everyone else in the polls, Gray still ranks in the top 60 for overall stops.

Fresh off of beating one of the perennial dynasties in their own state, Stepinac will continue to challenge themselves in week 3 when they travel to Westwood, Massachusetts to take on powerhouse Xaverian Brothers on Saturday the 23rd….If Gray and the “D” show up again like they did last week, expect for AS to slay another giant..

Sep 142017
 

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

For many an athlete at any level of competition, you can wait your entire career and never have the kind of show-stopping, page-turning, game-changing type of performance that Firebird junior, Frankie Roder, posted last Saturday afternoon in KMHS’s season-opening 47-26 road victory over Mount St. Michael Academy…And, it all happened in his VARSITY DEBUT!!! 

If what happened on September 9th becomes the norm for the 5’11, 170-pounder from Franklin Square, then we just saw the birth of a future legend in the Blue & Gold.

Carrying the pigskin just eight times on the afternoon, Roder would certainly maximize the quality of all of his touches, as he found the end zone 50 percent of the time, scoring his four touchdowns from distances o 2, 14, 14, and 18 yards away…The timing of his success could not have been more perfect as his initial score came with the visiting Marianist school trailing 8-0 and it ignited a 19-0 first half rally from which the Firebirds never looked back….Scoring twice in each of the two halves, when Roder exploded, it seemed to come in pairs, as he scored back-to-back TDs to account for 12 of Kellenberg’s 26 points during the first 24 minutes of play, and then really salted away the “w’ for the team by again logging consecutive TDs to expand a 26-21 lead into a 40-21 advantage.

Overshadowed by the monster game he had on the offensive side of the ball was the fact that Roder would prove to be quite an essential ingredient on defense as well, making two of his five overall tackles for a loss and doing his part to slow down a very athletic and quick-hitting Mountaineer triple-option attack.   After surrendering 20 first half points, Kellenberg adjusted and allowed just six points during the final two quarters.   

 

Mike Nicosia (Sr.); QB – Archbishop Stepinac Crusaders

Fresh off of one of, if not the best single season ever (set several school records with 2,314 yards and 25 TD throws) posted by a Crusader signal caller, Nicosia picked up right where he left off, completing 70 percent of his attempts (14-for-20) for 187 yards and four touchdowns in Stepinac’s 55-26 victory over St. Peter’s.  

Reminiscent of the 2016 AAA finals loss to Cardinal Hayes, Nicosia wasted little time in confirming that he and junior wide-out, Shawn Harris Jr. are well on their way to being one of the most prolific pass-catch tandems in all of New York State…10 months removed from playing pitch and catch to the tune of six receptions for 109 yards and a TD, Nicosia found Harris on a 39-yard strike to give Stepinac the early 7-0 lead.  This “on the money” exchange would be the first of two that occurred during the first half, as Nicosia’s third TD pass of the day would come via a 33-yard screen to Harris late in the 2nd quarter to make the score 26-14.

Nicosia’s keen field vision was exceptional all game, as in addition to his three connections for 74 yards to Harris, he did an excellent job of sharing the wealth, completing 11 of his 14 passes to four additional receivers, including TD throws to Jalen Barger and Sergio Pinto (both also occurring in the first half) to go into break leading 35-14. 

While his stat line on the day was astonishing, it must be noted that Nicosia likely would have put up even gaudier numbers had he not sat out the entire 4th quarter with his team well in control of the contest.

With a potential preview of the AAA finals going down during week #2 when St. Anthony’s travels to Stepinac, Nicosia is going to need to be every bit as locked in underneath the Friday night lights on the 15th.

 

Vin Wagner (Jr.); RB – Monsignor Farrell Lions

Roder is not the only 11th grader that will never forget the opening weekend of the 2017 season.  Joining him will be Wagner, who did not so much as make a statement as he did give a declaration to all future foes in leading the Staten Island based Lions to a 20-7 victory last Friday night over defending Rhode Island State Champs, La Salle (entered the season ranked #2 in the state.  

Making his varsity debut in the backfield after securing the starting spot late in training camp, the 6’1, 205-pounder was a beast that could not be tamed, carrying the load both literally and figuratively for large chunks of the non-league showdown….In fact, it did not take very long at all for Wagner to set the tone for the kind of day it would be, as per his coach, “he carried the ball 90 percent of the time on an eight minute, touchdown yielding opening drive.”

While it could be said that pretty much every time he touched the ball he made something happen, if you had to pick a single moment to pinpoint as his coming out party, that specific highlight came in the form of a third-quarter, 50-yard touchdown run that turned a then 13-7 lead into a two score game.    

On the night, Wagner carried the ball 27 times for 283 yards (10.5/touch), including doing the bulk of the work in the fourth quarter to kill the clock.

In recognition of his unbelievable rookie debut, the NYCHSFL was not the lone organization to honor Wagner.   Complementing his Player of the Week distinction from us, he also earned identical accolades from the Staten Island Advance, as well as SILive.com.

 

Sean Bryan (Sr.); RB – St. Anthony’s Friars

As a junior, Bryan ran for 467 yards in total; last Saturday, he rushed for more than half of that in a single afternoon, racking up 254 yards and a touchdown in propelling the visiting Friars to a big 35-21, opening season victory over NJ’s Delbarton.  

A lightning bolt in pads, Bryan is so out-of-this world fast that anytime the Green Wave left an inch available to him, he exploited it and exploded for a massive gain….Never was this more true than when after seeing a 14-0 lead at the half get squandered, the 5’8, 180-pound senior took it upon himself to make sure there would be no second comeback effort by their opponents, as he followed up a Delbarton turnover on downs by breaking away on an 81-yard dash with 5:36 remaining in regulation to make the score 35-14 and give his school a nice cushion. 

While it goes without saying that the aforementioned TD blast is probably what hogged much of the headlines the next morning, it was Bryan’s clutch effort all day that should be celebrated.   He as an individual may have only accounted for six of his team’s points.  However, it was his ability to consistently move the chains that served as a catalyst and preserver of many a Friar drive….For instance, even though it was teammates, Greg Campisi and Julian Chung hooking up on a 9-yard TD pass for the first score of the contest, that touchdown would not have been possible if Bryan had not put them on the doorstep with a 65-yard scamper on the second play from scrimmage. 

Perhaps premature and gutsy to put it in official writing, but it is our contention that with the way he can so effortlessly cruise untouched down the field, coupled with a very solid offensive line doing the paving for him, week #1 will be just the first of multiple 200+ yard games for the Gold & Black dynamo.

 

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

Completing the 2-0 sweep for the Catholic League over reigning Rhode Island State champions was Iona Prep, who dominated the second half to emerge with a 40-22 triumph over the seven-time defending titlists, Bishop Hendricken…The win at home by the Gaels snapped BH’s 27-game winning streak.

Not necessarily the prettiest or cleanest performance by the New Rochelle based program, what separated the defending CHSFL AA Champions (newly restored to AAA status) from their opponents from the Ocean State was an ability to make things happen on special teams….And in this aspect of the game, no one excelled more than the senior defensive back, Morrison.

With his team already leading 7-3, the 5’11, 180-pounder who technically calls New England (Stamford, CT) home, would respond to a Hendricken field goal by receiving the ensuing kickoff and taking it 85-yards undeterred to the house to give host IP an early 14-3 edge….Albeit none of the others landed in the end zone, the TD was just one of many great returns for Morrison, who finished Saturday afternoon with 150 yards gained in this capacity.

Demonstrating that not only is he quite proficient in putting points on the board as a special teamer, but is equally skilled in erasing them, Morrison would put the finishing touches on a great goal line stand in the third quarter, blocking BH’s field goal attempt to maintain momentum and keep IP in the lead,  27-22.

And while his two most pronounced moments may have both fallen under the umbrella of special teams, Morrison would have a rather solid day from the defensive secondary too.    Playing as part of an ensemble that held their highly renowned opponents to a goose-egg in the second half, the Iona Prep 12th grader contributed six total tackles (3 solo, 3 assists) and made two pass break-ups to round out his overall strong body of work during the first weekend of the season.

 

Will Loffredo (Sr.); WR – Fordham Prep Rams

The back-end of one of the top-15 most productive quarterback/Wide Receiver duos in NYS history, Loffredo’s 73 grabs in 2016 is a career-defining year for most; but, based on what he did in the first game of his senior season last week, 73 is looking more and more like the tip of the iceberg in terms of his capabilities….Partnering with fellow 12th grader/2x All-State QB, Matt Valecce (also nominated for POTW honors), the 6’4, 215-pound wide-out torched St. Joe’s by the Sea with a 16-catch, 171-yard, two touchdown performance en route to leading the Rams to the 28-12 victory….These 16 catches are tied for the 5th most ever posted in a single game in the chronicles of Empire State football.

Responsible for 61.5 percent of Valecce’s 26 total completions and 58 percent of his 298 throwing yards, as mind-boggling as the quantity was, it was the quality and importance of some of his grabs late in the AA contest that solidified his position on this list…..

With his team clinging to a 14-6 advantage at the end of three quarters, Loffredo notched both of his TD snatches in the final 10 minutes of the game to turn what had previously been a nail biter into a rather comfortable win for the visiting Rams….On the first of these scores, he cemented his reputation as the ideal, “never quit on a play” type of kid that coaches adore when he lost his footing in the end, but quickly recovered and worked his way back to his feet to reel in a 19-yard dart to make the score 21-6…He then safeguarded the Fordham Prep road conquest when he answered a Vikings TD (to cut the deficit to 21-12) with a 38-yard touchdown reception in the last 4:00 for the final points of the night.

He may don #3 on the roster, but with performances like the one last Friday, Loffredo seems destined to be #1 in a lot of future record books.

 

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

There will be no winless season in 2017 for the St. Francis Prep Terriers, as they made a statement in their week #1 contest, shutting down the returning double-A runners-up, Holy Trinity, to win 15-7 on Sunday afternoon.

Emphasizing in the AA preview that the strength of SFP this year would be their core group of potential defensive standouts, the team in general, and Dalce especially, made us look wise when they limited the usually potent Titan running attack to just 13 yards rushing on 27 attempts….The unit’s pass “D” was exceptional as well, forcing HT’s quarterback into a 5-for-13 afternoon that produced just 67 yards in the air.

Dalce is well on his way to a second All-Catholic distinction following his amazing individual feats on the Lord’s day…Leading the team in tackles with 11, the 5’11, 205-pounder “do it all” student-athlete also tacked on 1.5 sacks, ran more than five yards per carry (27 yards on five touches), and was a master of controlling field position.  Serving as the team’s punter, he averaged 43.5 yards on his four kicks and twice buried Holy Trinity inside their own 20-yard line.

Having passed one test with flying colors, the cohort from Fresh Meadows will need to be at the top of their proverbial games again in week #2 when they go toe-to-toe with last year’s Single-A champs, Moore Catholic…If Dalce or one of his teammates is able to do to returning All-League running back, Justin Lacks, what they just did a week ago to HT, it quite surely will be two straight weeks with a POTW nomination after going all of 2016 without the opportunity to spotlight one of their student-athletes.

Nov 302016
 

By Matt Diano:

Justin Felder (Jr.); RB – Holy Cross Knights

When the 2016 season started, the junior from Jamaica was not even slotted to be Coach Tim Smith’s #1 option out of the backfield….However, when injuries demanded that the 5’8, 180-pounder assume a larger role, Felder was ready for the promotion, gaining 600 of his season total 905 yards in the weeks since taking over as the Knights’ primary ball carrier. 

Entering the final contest of his 11th grade season riding a streak of four consecutive games with a rushing touchdown and 100+ yard performances in two of his last three outings, the recently named All-Catholic honoree truly did have a heck of a finale, accumulating 208 yards on only 13 carries (an average of 13.0/carry), including a 49-yard “burst” (to quote Coach Smith) up the gut that put the “w’ on ice for Holy Cross in their 54-16 victory over Campus Magnet….His pair of TD runs tied his previous career high, while his total yardage established a new benchmark in what his coach hailed as his best performance to date.   Previously (October 22nd), Felder’s two highs (201 yards, 2 TDs) came in a heartbreaking 36-33 last second loss to AAA titlists, Cardinal Hayes….Hence, to be able to dominate the game while also picking up the third win of the season for the team had to make the experience all the more sweet. 

One of only two juniors from Holy Cross named to the aforementioned All-League squad (the other being DE Michael Taylor), in addition to his 905 rushing yards, Felder concluded the year having scored nine touchdowns…Despite a very heavy workload down the stretch (had 84 more touches than the next highest ball carrier), Felder averaged 6.6 ypc on his 138 handoffs. 

As we prepare to put 2016 in the rear-view mirror and begin our focus on what gifts 2017 will bestow upon us, Felder’s effort on Thanksgiving solidifies his position as “one to watch” next season…If he remains healthy, all signs point to him well exceeding the 1,000 yard milestone as a senior. 

 

Matthew Valecce (Jr.); QB – Fordham Prep Rams

Named to the Players of the Week list for the second time this season (also honored in week #3), the returning All-State signal caller will never forget Thanksgiving 2016 for as long as he lives because it was on that day that he officially became the TD passing King of Catholic Football….

Throwing 17 touchdowns as a freshman, 27 in 2015, and 24 coming into Turkey Day, per the New York Sportswriter’s Association record book, the 6’4 resident of the Bronx needed only one TD toss to surpass legendary St.Dominic’s field general, Tony Capozzoli’s (’72-’75) mark of 68…Instead of just breaking the record, Valecce would put some separation between himself and the ex-Bayhawk icon, throwing for three touchdowns to move himself into a tie for 11th all-time in New York State with 71. 

Completing 21 of his 31 attempts to finish the game with 319 yards in the 93rd edition of this historic rivalry, there may not have been a bigger connection during his three-year varsity career than when Valecce hit fellow junior, Liam McHale, on a 30-yard strike for the game-winning score with 2:18 remaining in the fourth quarter….Trailing 18-13 at the time, Valecce’s flair for the big moment held major significance for the Ram program as a whole, as their 21-18 come-from-behind victory last Thursday means that for the first time since 2011, the Maddow Trophy will call Fordham Road home. 

Earlier in the game, the two-sport student-athlete (also does quality work on the baseball diamond) who holds a remarkable 4.25 grade point average, hooked up for his favorite target, Will Loffredo, on 60 and 36-yard passes to give FP a 13-0 first quarter lead….The respective 12th and 13th times that these two teamed up to put “6” on the board moved the junior wide-out [Loffredo] into a tie for 2nd in NYS this season for touchdown receptions…His 1,239 yards (had 10 catches for 158 to close out 2016) ranks 3rd in the Evil Empire. 

With Valecce and just about all of his weaponry back in 2017, it might not be premature to label Coach Pete Gorynsky’s program as one of the early title favorites next season. 

 

Carlos Fernandez (Jr.); RB – Cardinal Hayes Cardinals

While it would be an understatement to say that C.J. O’Neil and company have been focused on a much grander goal since winning the AAA League Title on November 19th, even the prospects of winning the first Catholic State title in program history could not interfere with tradition….Playing in the 74th edition of the Turkey Bowl, the Cardinals went on the road and emerged with a 43-24 victory over a very determined Mount St. Michael Academy squad…The win marked the first time in the over seven decades of battling for Bronx bragging rights that Hayes was able to win four consecutive years…However, despite their seemingly polar opposed records this season, the game was much closer than the final score suggests, with the Mountaineers trailing only 22-16 at the onset of the third quarter. 

A big reason why the heavily favored Cardinals were able to withstand the advances of their motivated hosts was the performance of the junior tailback, Fernandez, who scored one touchdown in each half to be the lone Hayes’ student-athlete to notch multiple scores. 

One of three running backs to receive eight or more touches as a apart of a balanced rushing attack intended to keep everyone fresh and healthy for the BIG ONE later this week, Fernandez’s 45 yards (5.6 average/carry) may not come across as game-changing, but in his case, the quality far out-weighted the quantity, as it was his 1-yard run that turned an 8-7 deficit into a 15-8 advantage at the end of the 1st quarter.

Later in the game (Hayes leading 30-16), it was Fernandez again being the one to inflict major damage when he trekked six yards in the fourth quarter to put the dagger in the MSM upset hopes.

A first-time All-Catholic selection in 2016, Fernandez’s versatility was second to none….Leading the triple-A champions in rushing yards with 603 and finishing 2nd (behind only QB Christian Anderson) with eight ground touchdowns, the 5’6, 170-pounder also tallied 23 catches for 334 yards, to finish 4th on the team in both categories.  His three receiving scores ranked 3rd among Cardinals. 

As they ready themselves to face off against a Canisius program that is giving up less than 13 points per game this season, it goes without saying that Fernandez will need to channel Liam Neeson and use his set of skills in the hunt for the crown.    

Tahshawn Brinson (So.); RB Cardinal Hayes Cardinals

A rare second selection from the same team, the more we thought about it, the more apparent it became that if were going to feature Fernandez, we also needed to shine a light on the team’s leading rusher, Tahshawn Brinson.  

Less than one week removed from being named the Outstanding Defensive Player of the NYCHSFL AAA title victory over Stepinac, the 5’10, 190-pound super sophomore who calls the Bronx home, showcased the full array of his diverse skill set, averaging 9.3 yards per carry on eight touches to accumulate 74 yards…With his team already leading 15-8 at the time, Brinson exploded from 10-yards out to double the Cardinals’ edge at the break.
He now will head into the State title game on December 4th with an offensive stat sheet that reads as follows: 82 carries for 448 yards and five running touchdowns…His more than five yards (5.46) per rushing attempt is almost a full yard more any other member of C.J. O’Neil’s prized squad.  
Also a master of finding and getting to the ball on the other side of the line of scrimmage, Brinson would record six stops on defense, further confirming the belief that he will be among the top two-way players in 2017.  

Louis Blackwell (Sr.); LB – Archbishop Stepinac Crusaders

Unlike the three gentlemen who preceded him this week, there will be no “sure to dominate again next season” tag for Blackwell who played his final game in the Crusader colors last week…For an individual and a class that had known nothing but triumph for much of their scholastic careers, it was fitting that the All-Catholic linebacker and his class of 2017 peers had the opportunity to go out on top, as they used a big second half to pull away from White Plains, 49-32, in a battle for town bragging rights. 

Leading by a modest score of 35-26 at the half, whatever Head Coach, Mike O’Donnell, told his defense during the break more than did the trick, as the unit, led by Blackwell (ended the game with a team-high 14 stops) darn-near pitched a shutout over the course of the final 24 minutes, surrendering only a meaningless touchdown at the sub-1:00 mark.  

An anchor and example-setter in his final season donning the Red, White, and Blue, Blackwell’s 124 tackles in 2016 ranked him in the top-10 (6th) in New York State….Reaching double digits in eight of the Crusader’s 12 games, only twice (September 9th against Cornwall, 15; September 17th against Iona Prep, 14) did the 6’2, 220-pounder equal or surpass his output from last week. 

Blackwell is the fifth player from the defensive side of the ball to receive POTW recognition this season….He joins an elite company of teammates that included: Trill Williams (week #2), Tyger Winston (Week #7), Devonte Myles (Week #8), and Gene Brown (semifinal round)…Myles and Brown accompanied Blackwell on the All-League squad, while Williams (who missed much of the year with an injury) recently committed to play collegiately at Rutgers University.      

Nov 162016
 

By Matt Diano:

stepinac-crestGene Brown (Sr.); DL – Archbishop Stepinac Crusaders

In the lead-up to last weekend’s semifinal game, we said that “if there was one outstanding unit to keep an eye on”, that it would be the Monsignor Farrell defense….Now, while we do not know if this comment was responsible for lighting a fire in the belly of the Crusader’s senior defensive lineman [Brown]; what we can attest to  with complete certainty though is that he played like man with a statement to make a point to prove, as it was the “D” from the two-time defending AAA champions that won the day, as they avenged an earlier 23-20 regular season loss by doubling up the host Lions, 20-10, in a CHSFL semifinal contest. 

A team captain who Coach Mike O’Donnell described as “playing the game with high energy and never stopping until the sound of the whistle,” the 6’2 245 pounder was a standout in last year’s title game victory over Cardinal Hayes, recording six tackles and a sack to help lead the Crusader’s to a their second championship in as many years….Expect a money player like him to come up just as big this coming Saturday as he looks to extend his scholastic career all the way to November 26th for the 3rd Annual State Title game.

Currently being actively recruited by Delaware State, the Bridgeport resident was so outstanding in the Catholic semis that if you were a college recruiter in the area to watch, he commanded your attention and demanded that you write his name down….Making six solo tackles and assisting on five more, Brown’s 11 total stops was tops on the Crusaders as he was a big reason why the third-seed from Westchester was successful in holding Farrell star tailback, Gavin Monreale, under 100 yards for the first time in five weeks and only the third time overall in 2016.   The Lion senior ended his high school career having been limited to 90 yards while simultaneously being kept out of the end zone…In fact, the 112 yards of ground production marked a season low for Farrell as a team. 

A true all-service lineman, Brown’s ability to beat his man off the snap also wreaked havoc on the Farrell passing game as he tied a season-high with two sacks (now has five on the season and 11 in his two-year career) and was credited with a hurry on two additional plays….The result of this constant pressure was that MF QB, Frank Patalano, was not able to get comfortable under center and thus was forced into his statistical worst game of 2016, tossing for only 32 yards and completing just five of his 14 pass attempts…This performance was a polar opposite of his level of play in the first meeting between these two teams, where he boasted a 55% completion percentage, chucked for a season-high 267 yards and hurled a pair of TD passes. 

 

ht-crestJared Williams (Sr.); RB/DB – Holy Trinity Titans

The third senior member of the Titan backfield honored this season as a player of the week, the 5’10, 185-pounder who calls Massapequa home proved to be a stud on both sides of the ball last Saturday, as his steady effort was paramount in enabling the Tony Mascia coached program from Hicksville to advance to Championship Weekend for the first time since being the AAA runners-up in 2009 (last won a title in 2008 in the double-A division) behind a 28-7 win at home over Long Island rivals, St. John the Baptist.

A team-first player who has handled the uncomfortable predicament being at the same position as a likely All-State candidate [Umari Taylor] about as well as you could ask of a 17/18-year old, Williams’s modus operandi seems to be “it’s not about the number of touches I get; it’s what I do with them that counts.”….All season long, he has made a routine out of capitalizing to the fullest on the 5-15 carries he is afforded…The owner of a 7.6/carry average, Williams has rushed this season for 523 yards (third on the team) and is tied for 2nd in TDs scored with eight. 

Absent when the Titans and Cougars kicked off 2016 with an opening week showdown [won by HT 32-25], Williams was sure to make his presence felt this time around as it was his 18-yard TD dash that really solidified Trinity’s victory, as it tacked an additional six points onto what was already a two-score (21-7) lead…This TD scamper (as well as the ensuing PAT) was the only points scored during the final 24 minutes….He concluded his afternoon having gained 67 yards on 13 carries. 

Defensively, Williams was a part of a secondary that prevented SJB junior QB, Will Shaw, from completing a single pass, as he went 0-for-4 in attempts….  Not only did the Trinity 12th grader not allow a yard in the air, he actually helped subtract yards from the Baptist total, recording one of his team’s four sacks for a nine yard loss. 

 

hayescrestEmmanuel Oliver (Jr.); WR – Cardinal Hayes Cardinals

Much like the person who preceded him on this list [Williams], the 5’4 junior wide out who hails from Yonkers is used to getting overlooked or being underappreciated….And this unfortunate fact has nothing to do with his stature….Instead, because he happens to share a sideline with who may be the hottest receiver in NYS at the moment, Lucas Nunez (17 TD receptions, nine of which came in the three game leading up to the Catholic semifinal round), it has become too often a common occurrence for his fellow 11th grader to not receive the respect, adulation, and credit he deserves during the Cardinals streak of six wins in their last seven contests. 

The leader in passes caught this season with 47 grabs for 551 yards and two touchdowns, nothing that the Cardinal offense has been doing of late (averaging 47.5 per game in the postseason) would be possible if not for Oliver forcing opposing defenses to divert resources away from his teammates to keep him under control….Last Friday, it seemed that the top-seeded St. Anthony’s Friars made the mistake of not checking him and in doing so, the path was laid for him to have his finest game of 2016, as he looked up at the night sky having just finished off a 12-catch, 112-yard evening that culminated in the visitors from the Bronx knocking off the Friars, 49-35, to return to set up a rematch of the 2015 triple-A game against Stepinac. 

At a time when too much credit (we are as guilty as anyone of this offense) is given solely to those who score touchdowns, Oliver is a classic facilitator.  He does not need to be the one to hog the headlines; he is so good at making the timely catch at the right moment that he knows that his value far outweighs the stat sheet…That having been said, after feeling as if we may have slighted him in the AAA preview, we could not be happier to see him breakout and give the Catholic Football watching world a sampling of the weapon he is capable of being when he makes the decision to assert himself as a primary target. 

Single-handedly responsible for being on the backend of 43 percent of quarterback, Christian Anderson’s completions (28-for-42), Oliver was one of two Cardinal juniors who went over 100 yards receiving, as he was joined by Elijah Jones (6 catches for 115 yards).

Catching only two balls for 38 yards when the Friars and Cardinals closed out the regular season with a 41-40 barnburner (the only game that CS has lost down the stretch), the increase in his output certainly has to be considered a major reason why the outcome flipped in favor of Coach C.J. O’Neil and company. 

Looking forward to Championship Weekend, it should be noted that prior to his career high in receptions last weekend, Oliver’s best effort during the regular season did come against Stepinac, where his seven snatch, 115-yard, 1 TD performance were all part of a banner individual day in an otherwise melancholy team moment (lost 45-24)….However, this is not the same Hayes’ squad and after what he did on November 12th, we might be seeing a new, super-powered version of Oliver to match.  

 

spellmanNoah Stewart (Jr.); RB/OLB – Cardinal Spellman Pilots

Stewart only ran for 36 yards on seven carries last weekend….While modest in quantity, there was not a bigger catalyst than the 5’9, 160-pounder from the Bronx as two of those touches resulted in scores, helping the visiting Pilots to a 28-20 win over Xaverian….The “w” on November 12th erases what must have been nearly two years of frustration as the second-seeded Clippers entered the A-Division semifinal having defeated visiting Spellman three times (including the 2015 title game) last season and in both previous meetings in 2016….But alas, if the Pilots go on to win the brass win this coming Saturday, the only one of the three match-ups that are going to get remembered is the one where they ended on top.  

Entering the game with only one TD this season, Stewart picked an ideal time to notch the first multiple-TD game of his career as his 12 points were the missing ingredient after losses of 29-14 and 17-14 to the defending Single-A titlists. 

With All-League running back, Rodney N’guessan reading to play the final game of his varsity career, might last weekend have been a proverbial passing of the torch to Stewart ranks second on the team behind RN in just about every running category….For the year, Stewart has rushed for 353 yards and three TDs on 54 carries…No matter what happens this weekend at Mitchel Field, we feel safe in saying that he has cemented himself as a player to watch in 2017. 

Identical to Oliver, Stewart is probably very happy to be seeing the Moore Catholic Mavericks lining up against him and the Pilots for all the marbles….The reason for this is simple; it was against this same MC defense that he posted his high in yardage gained, running for 81 yards on nine touches in narrow 18-16 loss….However, if there is a pattern that seems to be emerging with this student-athlete, it is that the more times he plays against you, the better he becomes.  

Congratulations and good luck to all teams playing this Saturday at Mitchel Athletic Complex on Championship Saturday!

Nov 092016
 

By Matt Diano:

legagneurChristian Legagneur (Sr.); RB/CB – St. John the Baptist Cougars

In the CHSFL Double-A Quarterfinal preview, we said that when they get on a roll, the Cougar running attack was very capable of taking a game over….That is precisely what the story was last Sunday, as their trio of tailbacks combined to run for an astounding 604 yards and six touchdowns in a 45-31 road victory over St. Joe’s by the Sea in the classic #4 vs. #5 seeded match-up….The two score margin of win over the weekend represents a four TD turnaround as it was the Ralph Carusillo coached Baptist squad that dropped a 36-20 game early in the 2016 regular season. 

While it was junior, Daniel Parker, who led all Cougars in total yards accumulated on the ground, rushing for 257 yards on 19 carries, the most important production of the game was complements of the 5’8, 170-pound resident of Bay Shore [Legagneur]….A selfless player who even when the ball was not in his hands, he demonstrated his commitment to the team by acting as a blocker, Legagneur finished the Lord’s day having gained 182 yards o n only 10 carries, scoring three first half touchdowns, including back-to-back TD runs (40 and 20 yards respectively) in the opening 12 minutes that propelled the underdog Cougars to a quick 21-0 lead. 

Following a SJS KOR for a TD that could have easily swung momentum into the corner of the fourth-seeded Vikings, Legagneur posted his longest scoring dash of the evening, breaking to daylight from 62-yards away to once again give the West Islip based school a three-TD advantage

Legagneur did not even take a single handoff in the second half of the game; otherwise, as Carusillo said, “his already gaudy numbers would have been even higher.” 

Like all of the great Baptist players that have walked the halls before him, Legagneur is far from a one dimensional student-athlete….Not only has he proven adept at scoring TDs of his own, he has also demonstrated a knack for helping the “D” from surrendering them…Regarded by his coaches as a shutdown defensive back, Legagneur’s lived up to his reputation, successfully defensing three pass attempts while concurrently holding Joe’s by the Sea’s top receiving threat [Dom Anderson] to only three catches for minimal yards….He also logged three tackles. 

St. John the Baptist has now advanced to the AA semifinals for a third straight season, highlighted by a runner-up finish in 2014.  They last won a Catholic crown the previous year (2013), while playing in the A-Division. 

 

giannicoAntonio Giannico (Sr.); RB – Archbishop Stepinac

After battling an ankle injury for much of his swan song campaign, the Catholic Football enthusiasts are finally getting an opportunity to see what the 5’11, 205-pound team captain from Mahopac can do….Regarded as one of the best pound-for-pound players in the Lower Hudson region, Giannico is and has always has been a difference maker during his two-years as a starter on the Crusader varsity. 

A thorn in Chaminade’s side in each of the past two weeks, Giannico burned the Flyers for 120 yards and a touchdown in the regular season finale…This past weekend, in the AAA quarterfinals, he elevated his game even further, posting the second highest single-game total of his scholastic career (had a 200 yard game in 2015), as he gained 167 yards and scored on two of his 20 touches to lead the two-time defending Triple-A titlists to a 44-21 victory….Sunday marked the first time in 2016 that Giannico posted a multiple TD game on the ground.  He now has six scores on the season and is driving towards a 1,000 yard season as a bullet point on his decorated high school resume.   His 287 yards the past two weekends puts him at 795 for the season, meaning he will need to average a just a little over 100ypg to reach the milestone if the Westchester based program is able to make a third straight appearance in the league finals. 

Already enjoying a 3-0 lead at the time, Giannico increased the Stepinac lead to 10-0 with a little over 3:00 remaining in the opening quarter when he broke for an 18-yard gain on 4th down…His second score of the half and the game came not too long after as he displayed his short yardage capabilities, punching the ball in from the 4 with 8:00 left in the first half to make the score 17-0.

Entering the semifinals on a hot streak, having run for consecutive 100-yard contests (as noted above), Giannico is probably not too sad to see the Farrell Lions as the opponents.  In two career games against the Staten Island rivals, he has averaged 151.5 yard/game and has scored four total touchdowns…When the two schools met on October 15th, Giannico ran for 103 yards and 1 TD in a 23-20 loss…If the trek for three in a row is to push on, Giannico will need to be even better November 12th

No matter what happens in the coming weeks, Giannico is all but guaranteed that he will continue in the recent tradition of being a Stepinac player who goes on to compete at the next level…While Stetson and Bryant are currently leading the race for his services, the two service academies (West Point and the U.S. Naval Academy) have also shown interest.   

 

Ki’shyne Shipmon (Jr.); WR/DB – Iona Prep Gaels

img_0053What Giannico is to Chaminade, the 11th grader from Yonkers has been to Fordham Prep….In both of the meetings between the Gaels and the Rams, Shipmon has been a man on a mission as a member of the IP receiving corps. 

Just three weeks removed from a five-catch, 134 yard, two touchdown performance in Iona Prep’s 70-20 regular season victory over FP, the 5’10, 175-pounder was at it again last Saturday, posting a career high with three TD receptions (on seven total grabs amassing 107 yards) as the #3 seed from New Rochelle made a statement in the quarterfinal round, winning by shutout, 41-0….By virtue of his devilish trio of 6’s that he put on the board, Shipmon increased his seasonal totals to 40 catches for 564 yards and eight TDs….He ranks in the top-2 in all three categories, trailing likely All-State teammate, Michael Degasparis (66 for 971) in receptions and yards, and Johnryan Freeman (9) in touchdowns snatches….All three are juniors, so the Iona Prep passing game should be just as devastating in 2017 as it has been this season. 

Doing his most damaging work in the first 15 minutes of regulation, Shipmon and senior QB, Michael Apostolopoulos were perfectly in synch at the onset of the game, as the former (who finished the day 17-for-21, with four TD passes) connected with the latter once in the first quarter (25-yard catch) and two more times in the first four minutes of quarter #2 (27-yarder followed by an 18-yard strike) to give the host Gaels a 27-0 advantage at the half.

Shipmon also deserves of a round of applause for his ironman play in the defensive backfield….In addition to a fumble recovery, he anchored a unit that held returning All-State field general, Matt Valecce, to one of the lowest yardage games of his career, as he tallied just 99 yards on his 13 completions….Last weekend’s loss also marked the first time with Valecce under center that the usually high octane Rams failed to score a single point. 

With full focus now shifted to the semifinal round, it is worth noting that when IP met defending titlists, Xavier, Shipmon had his second highest reception total of 2016, making eight grabs for 64 yards.  

 

Jalen Johnson (Sr.); RB/FS – Xavier Knights

For almost the entire season, when compiling this list, a deliberate attempt has always been made to chronicle unique players….Therefore, the fact that the 5’9, 180-pound two-way player from Brooklyn is the first repeat selection of 2016 speaks volumes of the impact he must have made in order to put himself in a company all his ojalenwn. 

Faced with the prospects of seeing his scholastic career ended last weekend when the defending champs faced off against archrival, #2 seed, Christ the King, in a loser goes home quarterfinal, Johnson was nothing short of miraculous in carrying (in all senses of the word) Chris Stevens’ squad to one of the biggest upsets in CHSFL history (perhaps bigger than the recent presidential election outcome), as the Knights shocked the Royals 28-27 on the road to keep their quest for a repeat alive. 

Contained to the tune of a very modest and un-Johnson-like 12 yards on 11 carries when the two decorated Double-A programs squared off during the opening weekend of the 2016 season (won 24-12 by Christ the King), last Saturday was anything but humbling, as he exceeded the 100-yark mark for the fourth straight week, as he racked up 145 yards and two TDs on a workhorse-esque 29 carries. 

Recording both of his scores in the first half on runs from distances of nine and five yards respectively, Johnson was the main reason that the Knights trotted off into the locker room with a 20-0 edge after 24 minutes….This cushion would prove to be more valuable than anyone could have realized at the time as CTK fought back in the third quarter, scoring three unanswered TDs to lead 21-0 at the end of 3. 

Fully aware that the game might be slipping away and that his career was only 12 minutes from its demise, Johnson channeled his inner-Dylan Thomas, “refusing to go gentle into that good night” as he did something that he had not been asked to do all year long; he throw a pass !!!  And what a toss it turned out to be, as he hit fellow senior, Rory Kinsella, on a 46-yard strike for what proved to be the game-winner!!!

Johnson, who despite his offensive struggles during round #1, thrived on defense, notching a pick-6 for one of his two INTS on September 10th, was without question the defensive MVP in the rematch as well, as he once again emerged with a two pick day, including the victory-clincher with 90 seconds remaining in the 4th quarter….His first interception was important too as it set up Xavier’s third TD of the 1st half….With four INTS in two games, when CTK junior QB, Demetrius Wilson, lays his head to sleep, Johnson is his personal sandman. 

To fully appreciate all that Johnson has meant to Xavier this season, consider that at present time, he is the team leader in the following categories—-rushing yards (711), running touchdowns (13), All Purpose production (1,055), tackles (50; had 12 tackles apiece in each game against CTK), and INTS (4; all against King). 

Having toppled one AA giant, the path to a second straight brass ring does not get any easier, as Xavier must now face Iona Prep, who defeated them 28-22 on October 22nd…On the bright side, Johnson had a great game in the losing effort, running for 145 yards and two scores…If he just matches this level of playmaking, there is every reason to think that the Cinderella story can be extended to a grand final chapter. 

 

marcoMarco Mongelli (Sr.); QB – Kellenberg Memorial Firebirds

The lone player selected in a week in which his team was defeated, our decision to include Mongelli had as much to do with his willingness to do whatever the team asked as much as it did on the stats he compiled in the Firebirds; 36-29 quarterfinal loss to AA top-seed, Holy Trinity. 

A wide receiver by trade, the Port Washington resident was the team leader in yards and touchdowns with 592 and seven respectively…He also ranked third and fifth among all AA players in these categories through the first 7 games…Therefore, when he was asked to go under center for the first time since 6th grade during the regular season finale (a 12-0 loss to Xavier), it could and should be said that he was sacrificing a lot in the name of putting team ahead of self.   However, this altruistic nature is one that comes without effort for the 5’11, 170-pound honor roll student and PREP Teacher (cut into his work time to teach Religion once a week instead of practicing).  Thus, when a call had to be made as to who would step in to fill the cleats of injured starter, Joe Grimm, Mongelli’s name was always atop the list of options. 

Even though the “experiment” may go down as an “L”, when this young man reflects upon his high school football career, we are hopeful that he remembers to place the character he demonstrated in front of any box score…In the days since that final whistle blew, the actual result of the game has faded in the minds and hearts of his coaches and the Firebird Faithful.  What has survived is the respect, love, and deep gratitude they collectively share for their student-athlete for his efforts.  His performance over the last two weeks with his and his fellow Seniors HS Football career on the line was nothing short of remarkable…Most 8th seeded 1-7, teams without their QB would have all but packed it in at the thought of playing a 7-1, #1 seeded opponent ….Mongelli embracing his new role and being a great leader sparked the entire teams performance.

Well aware of the predicament plaguing Kellenberg, Holy Trinity did what you would expect of any well-coached football program, they stacked the box….However, despite having to contend with unfavorable obstacles , Mongelli willed his way to a very fine game, rushing for 79 yards and two TDs on 11 touches….His only completion of the game, an 18-yard strike on 3rd down was also the key play in setting up the score that put the Berg up 29-22 in the 4th quarter…They previously enjoyed leads of 19-7 (1st quarter) and 22-14.

Leading 12-7 at the time, Mongelli’s first touchdown rush closed out the opening quarter, as he dashed from 18-yards out to increase the advantage to 19-7…His second “6” broke a 22-22 4th quarter deadlock, as moments after that aforementioned 20-yard completion, he took off and sped 13 yards to the end zone. 

The 29 points scored by Kellenberg with Mongelli captaining the offense is the second highest total they posted in a game in 2016….So I guess the golden lesson is that gifts truly do come from the most unexpected of places.

 

Nov 022016
 

By Matt Diano:

Devonta MylesDeVonte Myles (Sr.); CB/OLB – Archbishop Stepinac Crusaders

In a preview of an upcoming AAA quarterfinal match-up, the 6’0, 185-pound senior from Yonkers was, as his coach phrased it, “all over the field” last Saturday, recording a team-leading total of nine tackles in ensuring that the two-time defending League Champion Crusaders earned a top-3 seed behind a 41-17 victory on the road over Chaminade. 

One of the centerpieces on a defensive unit that held the host Flyers to their lowest point total since week #3 and their second lowest production of the 2016 season, Myles not only did a banner job in controlling the opposing offense, he also provided a few points of his own when he picked up a fumble and raced 25-yards untouched for the second defensive touchdown of the season for the Crusaders (Trill Williams had a pick-6 against Iona Prep during week #2). 

A student-athlete whose athleticism allows him to successfully transition between the linebacking corps and the defensive backfield, Myles is the next in an ever growing line of Mike O’Donnell mentored players who will without question take his skills to the next level…Presently, he holds scholarship offers from both Wagner College and the Central Connecticut State University. 

 

DomsTommy Rooney (Jr.); RB/SS – St. Dominic’s HS Bayhawks

The first Dom’s student-athlete honored this season, Rooney made himself a “must include” this past weekend when he was involved in just about every significant play in the Bayhawks 12-6 double overtime victory over Nazareth Regional…The “w” upped St. Dominic’s season record to 2-6 overall and completed the sweep over their Single-A rivals from the Brooklyn. 

Trailing 6-0 with a single second remaining on the clock, it would be an All-Rooney transaction that extended the contest when the elder [Tommy] found sophomore WR, Jack, on a 15-yard strike off of a halfback option for the equalizing touchdown…This was the first and only pass play called by Head Coach Robert Ploth, and it certainly delivered the desired result. 

After exchanging scoreless overtime drives, the visiting Kingsmen were driving and appeared well positioned to regain the lead at the onset of the second OT period, as a 10-yard run would set up 1st & Goal from the Dom’s 10…Hunting for the go-ahead score, NR made the mistake of challenging the 5’9, 180-pound junior, as he read the play perfectly from his safety spot, stepping in front for a potentially game-saving interception on the goal line. 

 Having now put his school in the driver’s seat, Rooney would be rewarded for his remarkable clutchness, as Ploth and staff called his number on all four plays during the drive, which culminated with him breaking away and finding the end zone from nine yards out for the winning TD…As depicted by his coach, “Rooney was met at the 1-yard line by four defenders but lowered his shoulders and barreled over them; he refused to be denied.”

On the afternoon, Rooney compiled 45 yards on 15 touches on offense and finished fourth on the team in tackles with seven stops…Two of his four touchdowns this season have been scored against Nazareth as he was equally outstanding and instrumental in the Bayhawks’ 20-18 win during week #3, posting highs in yards (108) and YPC (12.0/touch)…For the season, he is averaging 4+ yards per carry, rushing 66 times for 285 yards…On defense, both of his INTS in 2016 came against the Kingsmen. 

 

fattell-lionNoah Lancia (Sr.); C/NG – Monsignor Farrell Lions

For the third week in a row, a two-way lineman commanded our attention and earned the privilege of being held in the company of his more popular skill position brethren….An anchor on both sides of the ball who played every snap in his school’s 7-0 victory last Friday night over crosstown nemesis, St. Peter’s, Lancia ability and willingness to go above and beyond and always do what the Lion coaching staff asks of him is what makes him that diamond in the rough intangible type student-athlete of which you must always take into account. 

A two-year starter in the pivot for the Farrell offensive, the 6’1, 265-pound 12th-grader is accustomed to being the consummate road grader/track layer…With him captaining the O-line, 100+ yard games on the ground have been second nature for the Staten Island school.  In fact, between Stephen Viegas in 2015 and Gavin Monreale this season, 13 times in the past two years, the primary ball carrier for the Lions have surpassed the century mark, combing to rush for 2,547 yards and 23 touchdowns….With Lancia leading the way, 151 (100 in the second half) of this yardage come on October 28th, as Monreale averaged 4.3/carry on his 35 touches. 

Lancia’s toughness and durability was especially valuable on defense as an injury to superstar/week #1 POTW honoree, Adley Raboy, left Farrell short on depth, forcing the him to assume a much larger role on “D”….As stated above, when called upon to do more, the senior playing in the final regular season game of his scholastic career had no trouble responding with conviction, as he tallied five tackles as a nose guard and was a part of a collective defensive effort that held St. Peter’s renowned tailback, Bobby Wing, to only 40 yards in the second half (106 yards total)….Last Friday was also the first time since the 2014 season that the Eagles were goose-egged. 

On a night where the 1991 NYC Championship squad was honored at halftime, it was Lancia who received the spoils during the postgame celebration as he awarded a game ball by Coach Tony Garofalo in recognition of ALL he did to help the Lions lock up the #2 seed in the AAA playoffs. 

 

mooreJustin Lacks (Fr.); RB – Moore Catholic Mavericks

The last time the Mavericks played against Cardinal Spellman, the contested ended in heartbreak for the freshly reinstated program from Staten Island, as they dropped a 30-24 double overtime war to the returning Class-A runners-up….The rematch this past Saturday afternoon was every bit as epic, nerve-wracking, and memorable as Moore Catholic would clinch the top-seed in the Single-A playoff by avenging their week #3 loss by a score of 20-18…The victory to close out the regular season raised the Nick Giannatasio guided Mavs’ record to 6-2 overall and 5-1 in league competition (note: the previous loss to CS was considered a non-league game). 

In a game highlighted by a 75-yard third quarter punt return [by freshman, Ian Brown] for the winning TD and a goal line stand in the closing seconds of the 4th quarter [lead by junior, John Ford], our selection of the diaper dandy tailback, Lacks, was one of the many directions in which we could have gone to commemorate the biggest win in five years for MC. 

The provider of the team’s only two offensive touchdowns of the afternoon, the fab frosh from South Plainsfield, NJ had a coronation of sorts in only his eighth career varsity game, establishing a new career high in ground gains with 170 (his third 100+ yard game; went over 100 in both games versus Spellman) on 23 carries and matching his previous best with the aforementioned pair of TD runs (which he has now accomplished three times this season, including both games against the rival Pilots). 

A Staten Island Superman for Moore Catholic in their two games against Spellman (as referenced above), should these two teams meet in a few weeks for the “A” crown, the Pilots are going to need to find some way to contain the  6’0, 185-pound rookie, as his two-game totals were 307 yards and four TDs on 58 carries. 

Lacks first touchdown run over the weekend came on a 55-yard dash that gave the visiting Mavs a 6-0 lead….However, while much shorter in distance, it would be his 1-yard plunge in the third quarter (trailing 16-6) that might have been more important as it got the school back in the game by cutting the deficit to four points (16-12). 

As he enters the home stretch on what has been a brilliant inaugural campaign, Lacks finds himself on the cusp of a 1,000 yard, double digit touchdown season as he will need to average 121 yards and one TD per game (if they advance to the finals) to hit the two main milestones….Currently he sits at 757 yards and eight running TDs to lead MC in both categories.

 

Siddiq Muhammad (Sr.); RB – Christ the King Royals

As the immensely gifted halfback [Lacks] preceding him is just beginning his legendary scholastic career, Royals senior, Siddiq Muhammad, is beginning to take sight of the finish line and he is sprinting towards it as fast as he can….And in his case, we emphasize FAST !!!!

Exceeding 100-yards only once as a junior, the 5’10, 215-pound Adonis has accomplished the feat five times in seven games in his swan song….Included in this scrapbook of dynamic senior performances was his effort last Saturday night when he ran for 143 yards (second best single game total in his career) and two first half touchdowns to lead the returning AA silver medalists to a 41-7 win over Fordham Prep. 

Like Lacks, if Muhammad (673 yards and seven rushing TDs) and the Royals are able to go the distance (which as the #2 seed, they are expected to do), he should have little trouble reaching 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns for an offensive unit that when things are clicking, can be borderline invincible. 

Even though the final tally suggests a one-sided game, it is worth noting that at the time that Muhammad did the majority of his damage, the outcome was still very much in question…In fact, it could be argued that his two scores in the final 2:00 of the half were the proverbial straws that broke the camel (or in this case, the Rams’) back…..Seeing the Royal leading 13-7 at the time, Muhammad found a hole and ran 60-yards undeterred to increase the advantage to 20-7…Then, on the last play of the opening 24 minutes, Muhammad punched the ball in from the 2-yard-line to open up a three score game, 27-7. 

Muhammad and the Royals commence with their quest for the program’s first Catholic Football title since 2003 when they square off with Xavier in a rematch of the 2015 AA game…When the two team met in the first week of the 2016 season, Muhammad was out of the line-up; thus, he will be looking to get his own personal revenge on November 6th

Good luck to all teams competing in the playoffs this weekend and check back next week for the top performers in the Quarterfinals of the AAA & AA Playoffs. 

Oct 272016
 

By Matt Diano: If you ever find yourself doubting the old saying that “it’s not over till it’s over,” consider the 7th week of the Catholic Football season where overcoming multiple touchdown deficits were the norm. 

All five of our selected student-athletes this week found their respective teams trailing at one point, two of whom were really walking a fine line as they trailed in the final 2:00 of regulation. 

Another of our POTW picks was the man responsible for helping his team post the biggest upset of 2016 as the CHSFL’s last unbeaten program fell.

mount-crestBryson Welch (Sr.); RB – Mount St. Michael Academy Mountaineers

The second member of the MSMA backfield honored in the past three weeks, Welch joins fellow senior, Justin Montoyo (week #5 selection) among the many student-athletes recognized this season for going above and beyond in leading their respective school’s to triumph…The “Thunder” to Montoyo’s “Lighting”, at 6’1 and 220-pounds, the Mount Vernon resident possesses the best of both worlds, having the size of a fullback but the explosiveness of a player much smaller…All of his physical gifts were on full display last Saturday when the Mount overcame an early 8-0 deficit to score 22 consecutive points in a 22-16 victory over the present day #1 team in the single-A division, Moore Catholic in a non-league clash of A vs. AA squads.

Referring to his team’s ability to control clock by maintaining drives, Mountaineer Head Coach,   Mario Valentini, pointed especially to Welch in this regard as the “big back” repeatedly delivered first down runs on 3rd and 4th downs to enable the offense to remain on the attack.

A true workhorse, Welch’s 25 carries were 19 more than the next closest ball carrier, as he amassed 138 yards (5.5/touch) and scored one of the Mount’s two ground TDs…In doing so, he further increased his team’s leading total to 510 yards (96 carries; 5.3 average)…Welch added a two-point conversation to end the day having accounted for more than a third of MSMA’s total points.

One of the attributes that won us over the most was that the 12th grader seems to have a sense and appreciation for the fact that with each passing week, he comes closer and closer to writing that final chapter in his scholastic career…With these sentiments in minds, as he draws nearer to the end, he seems fully committed to going out with a bang…..A 100+ yard rusher in each of the past two games, since a modest 23 yard effort on September 18th in a narrow loss to Kellenberg, Welch has turned up the juice, dashing for 84, 54, and 91 yards prior to weeks 6 and 7.  He has recorded touchdowns in four of his last five games, a pattern Valentini will need for him to extend as the Mountaineers fight for one of the last spots in the AA playoffs.

 

sjb-pawFrank Guidice (Sr.); OL/DL – St. John the Baptist Cougars

At just about every stage of the 2016 season, we have been firm in our contention that Christ the King was one of, if not the best team in all of New York State…Winners of 14 straight regular season games, when the returning AA runners-up made the journey to West Islip this past Saturday, we’d be withholding the truth if we did not own up to the fact that we thought they’d be leaving with their perfect record very much in tact…..Fortunately for Coach Ralph Carusillo, unlike us, his players did not fall prey to playing the paper game.  Instead, they went out and battled for 48 minutes and when the final whistle blew, it was the host Cougars that ruled the day, pulling the upset, 26-13, over CTK. 

Holding the previously unbeaten Royals to their lowest point total in over two years (10/4/14 vs. Xavier), when originally submitting his player of the week nomination, Carusillo made the unusual request of asking if his entire defense could be honored…While we were unable to accommodate that request, we are happy to acknowledge that this victory was without a shadow of doubt a total team effort as the Cougars created eight turnovers (4 INTS, 4 fumble recoveries) and held their Middle Village foes scoreless for the final three quarters…The win on October 22nd , the third in a row for SJB after beginning the season 0-4, has the added benefit of serving as a major confidence booster.    Currently sitting in the #6 spot in the Double-A standings, if all goes as expected during the regular season finale next week, Baptist will find themselves on the same side of the bracket as Christ the King, as the two teams could square off in a potential semifinal.

Starring for Baptist in this monumental “w” over the previously 5th ranked team in the state was two-way lineman, Frank Guidice…A towering figure at 6’2 and just under 260 pounds, if it is possible, the 12th grader from Wantagh’s level of play was far larger than his physical measurements, as he emphatically checked out boxes in several statistical defensive categories, recording six tackles (3TFL), a sack and a half, three QB hurries, and forcing a pair of fumbles. 

Guidice’s knack for not only knocking the ball loose but also having the field awareness to quickly locate and grab hold of the pigskin proved to be a game-changer for the Cougars as it was his three-yard fumble recovery return for a TD in the second quarter that served as the game-winner, as it snapped a 13-13 tie and sent Baptist into the locker room on a high. 

Showered by praise by his mentor/head coach as “One of the top lineman in the league on both sides of the ball,” when Guidice was not busy blowing up opposing O-linemen, he was dominating as usual in the role of pulling guard extraordinaire….An invaluable part to an often uncontainable John the Baptist ground attack, it is not by accident or coincidence that over the course of the last two seasons, a backfield by committee consisting of double digit options has accumulated 5,724 yards and scored 57 touchdowns.  While the runners change, the constant in the equation is the big fella opening up craters along the line of scrimmage….Last Saturday, the damage done added up to 257 yards and three TDs among five different ball carriers. 

As beastly above the shoulders as he is below, the Honor Role student-athlete is a complete package.  His overall body of work in all endeavors have not gone unnoticed by college scouts as he has commanded the attention of the likes of Stony Brook University, Bryant, Marist, and Colgate University….It is with ultimate confidence that we proclaim that his best days on and off of the field await him.        

 

saHeron Maurisseau-O’Neal (Jr.); WR – St. Anthony’s Friars

Trailing 23-0 midway through the third quarter on the road against a very motivated Monsignor Farrell squad, all evidence pointed to the fact that last Friday night simply was not meant to go the way of the perennial powerhouse from South Huntington…All of this misfortune and frustration would turn around in an instance though when sophomore QB Greg Campisi, hooked up with 11th grader Heron Maurisseau-O’Neal on a 26-yard strike to get the visiting Friars on the board…While at the time, still trailing by multiple scores, this TD may have seemed minor in the larger scope of the situation, in truth, this first sign of daylight represented the initial spark that ignited a streak of 29 unanswered points over a span of six minutes 15 seconds to catapult STA to a 29-23 victory….Now 5-2 on the year (5-0 in AAA), this win guaranteed that no matter what transpires in week #8, the Friars will be your top-seed in the Triple-A playoffs. 

In addition to being one half of the duo that broke the ice, the 6-foot, 175-pound junior wide out also notched the eventual game winner, when he was again on the back end of a Campisi pass, this time from 49-yards out, with 8:23 remaining to put St. Anthony’s in the lead for the first and final time…The nearly 50-yard TD reception marked the first time in his scholastic career that Maurisseau-O’Neal recorded two TDs in the same game.

Fourth on a depth chart that features a trio of talented senior receivers, what stands out the most about the “HMO” is his talent for making something out of every opportunity he gets…Next year after Tyler Palminteri, Andrew Hancock, and Terrence Mooney have all moved on to the collegiate level, it goes without saying that he will naturally ascend into that top target role.  When that happens, expect for every game to resemble the 4th of July as this young man has already proven himself worthy of the “All-Firework” team, scoring touchdowns on 33 percent (12 catches, 4 TDs) of his catches in his rookie season on the STA varsity….if he is already this dangerous, imagine how combustible he will be after he and Campisi have developed a deeper rapport. 

 

stepTyger Winston (Sr.); WR/DB – Archbishop Stepinac Crusaders

Locked in a back-and-forth game that saw each team take turns holding a slight edge, when St. Peter’s capitalized off of an ill-timed Interception and then scored on a 17-yard TD run a little later to claim a 20-13 lead with just over 2:00 remaining in regulation, momentum was firmly in their corner…But, as they seem to do whenever the occasion calls for it, the defending state champion Crusaders refused to roll over and perish, answering back with a TD of their own to send the game into OT. 

The O’Donnell mentored school from White Plains would score on the first possession of overtime, putting all of the pressure on the visiting Eagles….Needing to find the end zone in order to prolong the game, St. Peter’s bid to move up the AAA standing was halted when the 6’3 senior from New Rochelle [Winston] intercepted his second pass of the game to prevent the equalizer.

A part of a Stepinac secondary that has been decimated by the much hated injury bug (lost team captain, Trill Williams), Winston’s senior leadership was invaluable last Saturday as the D-back unit kept opposing quarterback, John Martinos, to under 100 yards passing (94), as he completed only seven of his 16 attempts, getting picked twice as noted above by Winston…Martinos was fresh off of a perfect 19-for-19, 320-yard game that earned him POTW honors in week #6.  Thus, to keep him that far in check says a lot about the level that Winston and company were performing at on October 22nd

Winston complemented his excellent effort on “D” by making a pair of catches for 10 yards. 

The 27-20 (OT) home victory snapped a rare two-game losing streak for Stepinac, improving their 2016 record to 3-2 in league play and 5-2 overall…Should the two-time defending AAA titlists win again next week in the regular season finale against Chaminade, they will secure the #2 seed in the postseason. 

 

hayesLucas Nunez (Jr.); WR/DB – Cardinal Hayes Cardinals

Seeing his team trailing by as many as three scores in the third quarter (27-8) to Holy Cross, it was the Bronx resident, Nunez, that put Hayes on his back, catching all three of his TD receptions in the second half (including the game-winner on a 46-yard Hail Mary on the final play from scrimmage) to turn what looked like a once insurmountable hole into a 36-33 victory…The “w” extended the winning streak for CJ O’Neil’s program to four games, putting them in the hunt for a top-3 seed as we head into the last week of the regular season.

Unlike his counterpart on this week’s list, Welch, when you look at the 5’5, 143-pound junior [Nunez], he does not immediately strike fear in you…But alas, inside that compact frame is the talent of a giant, as he is averaging 29.5 yards per catch this season and half of his 20 receptions have resulted in touchdowns.  His 10 TD snatches ranks him first in the AAA division (2nd overall regardless of league) of the CHSFL. 

The 11th grader from the Bronx erupted for his first TD of the game when quarterback Christian Anderson, lofted a perfect pass over his shoulder for a 48-yard strike to make the score 28-16….After a 33-yard scoring throw to teammate Carlos Fernandez made the score 27-22 in the third quarter, Nunez gave the Cardinals the edge (30-27) for the first time all evening when he beat his man over the middle from 38-yards out for the first of his two fourth quarter touchdowns….He proved just as elusive on the previously cited game-clincher, shedding his man and giving a distressed Anderson (was on the run) a much easier throw for his 5th and most important TD of the weekend. 

Nunez’s stat line last Saturday read as follows: 4 catches, 153 yards, and three TDs….Defensively, he also recorded four tackles and forced a fumble.