Nov 302017
 

Joseph Petti (Sr.); OT/DT – Fordham Prep Rams

Donning the Ram colors for the final time in his scholastic football career, Petti closed out this chapter of his gridiron saga in much the same way all of the previous pages were written—by being a dominant force on both sides of the line of scrimmage in sending Fordham Prep to their second straight “W” in the Annual Turkey Bowl (celebrating its 94th anniversary last week), 28-0, over the rival Knights of Xavier.

Known more for his work as the hole-plugging centerpiece (DT) of the FP defensive line, when it comes to protecting his quarterback, we find that Petti is pretty darn good on the offensive side of the ball as well….With the gentle giant watching his blind side, the Rams’ record-setting signal caller, Matt Valecce, would give those who have had the privilege of watching him under center the past four years, a proper finale, completing 16 of his 23 yards for 220 pounds and four more touchdowns……Having the luxury of ample time in which to survey the field thanks to the likes of Petti, the future Boston College Eagle concluded 2017 having completed 64.2 percent of his passes for 3,338 yards and 41 touchdowns.

Turning our attention to his more renowned side of the ball, Petti and his fellow D-linemen would have reason to celebrate in a big way, as they held their nemesis Knights scoreless in the historic Thanksgiving showdown for the first time since 2003 when they coincidentally were victorious by an identical 28-0 score….While it is next to impossible to completely shut down the potent Xavier ground game, let it be known that the 214 yards rushing by the young men from West 16th Street was their lowest output since week #6 of the regular season when they totaled just 156 in a loss to Holy Cross.    Last Thursday was also the only time this season that Xavier failed to record at least one rushing touchdown.

The 6’6, 295-pound lineman will now trade one tradition for another, as Turkey Bowl heroics will be replaced by the thrill, honor, and distinction of playing in the most cherished contest in the history of the sport, the Army/Navy game….Petti will continue his career next fall as a Midshipman at the United States Naval Academy.

 

Claude Watford (Sr.); DB – Cardinal Hayes Cardinals

Another student-athlete taking one final bow in his scholastic career, when he looks back upon this day in 20 years, the Hayes’ senior defensive back will have nothing but found memories, as it was his huge individual performance that was a difference maker in enabling the Cardinals to extend their Thanksgiving day winning streak to five in a row following a 44-16 triumph over Mount St. Michael Academy.

Already the leading tackler on the team entering the game with 58 stops, the 5’8, 165-pounder from the Bronx decimated his previous career-high of 11 (set against Monsignor Farrell during a week #7 win), recording nine solo tackles and assisting on seven more to conclude the game with a total of 16 (an average of one every three minutes!!!).

In addition to his prowess as a sure-tackler, Watford would also be a turnover creating machine, forcing two fumbles and doubling his interception totals in 2017 to four by stepping in front of a pair of Mountaineer pass attempts….Speaking of his shutdown pass coverage skills, he also tacked on one successful break-up to round out the remarkable effort in his culminating appearance in the Cardinal & Gold.

Trailing 16-15 at the end of the 1st quarter, it was the play of Watford that played a huge factor in Coach O’Neill’s squad’s ability to throw three consecutive goose-eggs on the board during the 2nd through 4th quarters.

One of those special human beings that puts the “student” in the term “student-athlete”, the proud owner of a perfect 4.0 grade point average and 1220 on the SATs is destined to do wondrous things in the future, both on and off of the gridiron….And while his next stop remains unknown, there is no shortage of life-charging options as his 24/7 Sports profile lists his top college/university choices as Columbia, UPenn, Princeton, and Yale from the Ivy League ranks, as well as Stony Brook (a top-100 university) and Stonehill (ranked #111 among National Liberal Arts schools)…He is bound for greatness in all endeavors!!!

Nov 152017
 

Before we turn our attention to Championship Saturday let’s look back at some of the players who shined in getting their teams there. By Matt Diano:

Ian Devine (Sr.); DE/DT – Fordham Prep Rams

Described as “the anchor on the defensive side of the ball” in Fordham Prep’s 41-14 AA semifinal victory over St. Francis Prep, the 6’2, 260-pounder impacted the game in every way possible, serving as the Ram’s primary run-stopper (4 tackles), as well a relentless pass rusher on Terrier toss attempts…With the Pelham resident applying constant pressure from the edge, the FP defense limited St. Francis Prep to a 20 percent (3-for-15) completion percentage and a modest 54 yards while forcing them into a trio of interceptions….

Among these three interceptions, the most outstanding of the bunch would be posted by Devine himself when, with the #2 seeded Rams already leading 27-0 in the second quarter, he would get his paw on a throw attempt, knocking it into the air and allowing himself to make one-handed grab…Seeing nothing but open field in the horizon, the senior lineman completed the highlight reel play by cruising 37 yards into the end zone for the touchdown…The INT return to the house was one of two pick-6s on the evening for Fordham Prep.  Earlier in the game, fellow 12th grader, Ryan Gilchrist, had a 50-yard journey to the “promised land” off of an interception.

Demonstrating his immense athleticism, Devine also managed to make the most a rather unusual situation when he fielded a kickoff and returned it 50 yards to give the Rams ideal field position to start one of their drives.

Next up for Devine and the Rams will be a chance at avenging their only blemish (34-24) of the 2017 season against Kellenberg Memorial, in the CHSFL Double-A Title game.  In the first meeting between the #1 and #2 seeded program in the division, Devine had a solid performance in the losing effort, making six total stops….Champions in 2014 while playing “A” ball, Fordham Prep last reached the AA championship game in 2011 when coincidentally, they claimed the hardware with a 22-21 victory over this same Firebird program.

 

Shawn Harris (Jr.); RB/WR – Archbishop Stepinac Crusaders

We don’t know what it is, but playing against Cardinal Hayes in the postseason really brings out the best in the 11th grader from Mount Vernon….A little less than a year removed from catching a 43-yard TD pass (one of six total grabs for 109 yards) in the final minute of last year’s AAA title game to keep the dream of a three-peat alive (before ultimately dropping a 41-39 on a missed 2pt conversion), Harris would finally get the “w” that escaped him in 2016, as the Mike O’Connell guided #3 Crusaders are bound for championship weekend for the fourth straight season following a 13-12 victory over their second-seeded hosts from the Bronx.

Deadlocked at 6-6 in the triple-A semifinals, Harris would take over on what ended up being the game-winning drive, running for back-to-back first downs in Stepinac’s initial drive of the second half to move the ball to the opposing 38.   After a few untimely late hit calls moved the ball just outside of the red zone, Harris struck for the difference maker, as he took the pitch to the outside and out-ran the Hayes’ defense, chugging 23 yards to the house for the TD to regain the lead for the boys from Westchester, 13-12.

Proving that he is a stellar young man who elevates his game when the stakes are at their highest, the performance that Harris put on last Saturday was a vast improvement over the numbers he compiled in a 47-21 week #6 loss to these same Cardinals…Combining for just 19 yards of total offense (4 carries for 14 cards; 1 catch for 5 yards), it was like he was an entirely different person this past weekend, posting his first 100+ yard rushing game of the year by averaging 7.3 yard per touch on 16 carries to end the contest with 116 yards of ground production.   He added 27 yards as a pass catcher via a pair of snatches to tally 143 overall between his dual skillsets.

When they step football on Mitchel Field this Saturday evening for the AAA title game against the Friars of St. Anthony’s, his teammates owe Harris more than a few thank you’s.   After all, in their two playoffs victories to reach the “ship, Harris has a mind-blowing total of 425 yards and five touchdowns….In the Crusader’s 48-38 quarterfinal triumph over Chaminade, he darn-near had a triple-century effort, rushing for 99 yards (2 TDs), catching two passes for 84 yards (1 TD), and bringing a kick all the way back 99 yards to end the opening round with four scores.

As attention turns to the aforementioned title game this weekend, it goes without saying that Harris will enter with extreme confidence.   When the two programs went to battle on September 15th (38-19 Stepinac win), the three-sport student-athlete (also runs track in the Winter and Spring) who has drawn the admiration of Central Connecticut State among other suitors, had one of his finest showings of his junior campaign, making a pair of TD grabs to rack up 75 yards receiving, while simultaneously averaging 35 yards on his three kickoff returns (105 yards total) to constantly be giving his school excellent field position….If the top-seeded Friars do not do a better job containing his explosive tendencies, it could be a long day for the Friar faithful.

 

Brendan Whitehead (Sr.); DL/OG – Kellenberg Memorial Firebirds

One of the toughest and most respected two-way linemen in the Catholic Football League, as well as the backbone and/or foundation of a Firebird program that boasts the distinctions of possessing both the #1 offense (all divisions) and the top-rated defense in the Double-A division (#2 among all division), Whitehead has dominated the line of scrimmage in every game in every imaginable way in leading Kellenberg to a perfect 10-0 season and their first championship weekend berth since advancing and losing in the finals in consecutive season in 2010 and 2011…

Emerging with a season-high nine tackles (3 for a loss) against the famed Xavier Single-Wing formation, the 6’1, 225-pound resident of Glen Gove, played a monumental role in containing the Knights’ star tailback, Jonathan Geruso…Entering the game having run for 341 yards and seven touchdowns between the final week of the regular season and the quarterfinal playoff round, Geruso was held just a single score last Saturday night (28-0 at the time) as Kellenberg picked up the 28-7 win to sweep the 2017 series over a foe who had traditionally given them problems in big games.

Whitehead proved to be quite adept as a pass rusher too, notching a pair QB bags to double his total on the season to four.

When he was not busy plugging every hole in sight, Whitehead found the time and energy (played 99.9 percent of all snaps in the game) to create more than few craters of his own from his OG spot…Trekking behind him and the other beasts along the KMHS offensive line, quarterback Matt Sluka (102 yards, 2 touchdowns) and the running back duo of Frankie Roder (83 yards, 2 TDs) and Jordan DeLucia (27 yards) posted a collective sum of 212 yards and the aforementioned four touchdowns….For the season, Kellenberg has run behind Brendan and the O-Line for 2,933 yards and 42 touchdowns.   They have reached 200+ yards in all 10 games this season and have even surpassed 300+ in six of 10 appearances.  The Firebirds have also scored three or more times on the ground every time out this year.

Finding themselves on the cusp of an immaculate season, the Firebirds will ride Whitehead and his fellow trench warriors one final time when they square off with Fordham Prep….When the two schools faced off on October 6th, the ‘Berg had a monster night with their legs, running for 337 yards and five touchdowns in handing the Rams their only loss of the year to date….Whitehead also contributed four tackles on defense.  Expect for this number to increase as FP has embraced a more balanced attack recently.

 

Robert DiGregorio (Sr.); PK – St. Anthony’s Friars

Easily the most unique selection that I have had the pleasure of featuring in my four years writing this piece, usually when spotlight a special teamer, it is because of a game-winning field goal or a huge kick return….However, never have we had a case like that of the senior kicker, DiGregorio.

All week, the plan was simple; keep the ball out of the hands off the often dynamic Iona Prep offense….While in most cases, this might mean running a ball control offense and chewing clock….But alas, you don’t need to change anything on offense when every time you score, your kicker does something to get you the ball immediately back.

In one of the most bizarre, but equally amazing feats, on three separate occasions in the second quarter, DiGregorio would execute perfect onside kicks, thus allowing the top-seeded Friars to turn their original 7-0 lead into a runaway 21-0 advantage at the break en route to an eventual 35-7 win in the AAA semifinals.

Using a variety of different techniques,  DiGregorio’s first attempt (the only one that was planned per Coach Rich Reichert) came with 8:36 remaining in the half following a Sean Bryan TD run to give STA the previously cited 7-0 lead.  A slow nubber with a lot of spin up the middle, the ball could not be fielded cleanly by the Gaels and ended up bouncing back into the arms of the young man himself.

Kick #2, which was more of a pinball shot, came following a Kyle Angus 45-yard touchdown rush.  Again aimed directly up the middle, when impact was made with the IP player, the ball ricocheted off to the side with such force that the Friars were able to jump on it at approximately midfield.

Finally, with just over 1:00 remaining in the opening half and again right after a Bryan score, DiGregorio would incorporate yet another tactic, lofting the ball into “no man’s land” and enabling his charging teammate to out race Iona Prep and recover right around the Gael 43.

When all the magic was pulled out of the hat, what was yielded was a time of possession advantage of 17:59 to 6:01 at the intermission….More importantly, Iona Prep never was permitted to establish rhythm and because of that, struggled all night to find their usually lethal attack.

Overshadowed by his trick kick heroics was the fact that DiGregorio did connect on both on his PAT attempts and had several booming kickoffs that buried IP deep in their own zone.

Now looking to win the crown for the first time since 2013, #1 St. Anthony’s may be the higher seed, but they know that after losing by a considerable margin in the regular season match-up, they are going to need to bring something special to the field with them this Saturday in the rematch against Stepinac….And by special, we are not ruling out some more incredible SPECIAL TEAMS antics.

Nov 092017
 

By Matt Diano:

Jayden Lambert (Jr.); RB/CB – Iona Prep Gaels

There is no sweeter time to get revenge than in the postseason….Only a few weeks ago, the Gaels of Iona Prep were left with that bitter feeling in their stomachs when Monsignor Farrell rallied late in the game to steal the week #6 match-up by a mere point, 29-28…This past weekend, the two storied programs squared off again in the opening round of the triple-A playoffs and unlike the first meeting, there would be no back-and-forth drama, as the visitors from New Rochelle scored at the halfway point of the first quarter to take the 7-0 advantage and never looked back, exploding for 52 points in their 52-20 victory over the Lions.

While the firepower and quick striking ability of the Gaels as a unit came as no surprise (they average nearly 40 points per game), the individual who ended up doing the bulk of the damage was a bit of a surprise…Until last Saturday, Lambert, the 11th grader out of Mount Vernon, had been utilized more consistently on the other side of the ball as a defensive back…However, when starting tailback/reigning NYCHSFL Player of the Week honoree, Ki’Shyne Shipmon, sidelines with an injury, a call to duty was put out to all available hands on deck and Lambert answered that call with an emphatic career night that witnessed him reach the end zone on every single carry he took.

Entering the game having touched the ball just 19 times combined as a runner/receiver during the regular season, the 5’10, 170-pounder proved that quality will always trump quantity, as he needed just four handoffs to accumulate a season-best 77 yards (previous high was 30 yards in a 42-0 win over Christ the King).  As noted above, he also managed to shatter his touchdown count, increasing his total of two TDs through eight weeks to four in a single 48 minute span, as he personally outscored the opponent, 24-20.

With the Gaels already leading by that 7-0 margin, Lambert scored the first of his quartet late in the opening quarter, running five-yards to the house to double the IP lead to 14-0….Following a Farrell TD and an Iona Prep field goal that put the score at 17-7, it was Lambert again creating additional separation on the scoreboard, as he dashed nine yards with 2:25 remaining in the half to pad the lead to 24-7.

Having already equaled his 2017 scoring total during the first 24 minutes of play, Lambert came out of the break and was even stronger during the back half of the contest, as his third touchdown of the night came via his longest run of the game, as he broke for 36 yards at the midway point of the third quarter to balloon the score to 45-7….His 26-yard scamper in the final minute of the 3rd rounded out the scoring for Iona Prep.

Apparently not satisfied with being a one-man point-scoring juggernaut, it is worth noting that Lambert also played every down on defense and per Head Coach, Joe Spagnolo, “Made a handful of tackles and was solid all evening in his coverages.”

Having avenged one of their three 2017 losses in the quarterfinals, the Gaels will not set their sights on making it two vengeances triumphs in a row as they remain on the road to face top-seeded St. Anthony’s in the semifinals on Friday, November 10th….When the two teams went toe-to-toe back in week #3, it was the Friars withstanding a late charge by an injury depleted IP squad to hold on for a 14-7 win….Whether Shipmon is back or not, the emergence of Lambert, coupled with the decision to promote freshman, Frankie McFadden (13 carries, 71 yards, 1 TD in the quarterfinals), from the junior varsity up to the big club, means that the fifth-seeded Gaels will have no shortage of capable options out of the backfield.

 

Valery Gwardyak (Sr.); LB – Xavier Knights

You can’t call it an upset when they seem to do it every year!!!!  For the second straight season, the Knights entered the first round of the AA playoffs as sizeable underdogs to a higher seeded opponent.  In 2016, they shocked top-seeded Christ the King, forcing four turnovers and blocking a field goal attempt in prevailing 28-27….This past Saturday they had a déjà vu experience as again it was a stout, turnover producing defensive effort that led them to a 26-22 victory over third-seeded Holy Cross.  The semifinal berth securing win came just three weeks removed from a 14-7 loss to this same HC squad.

Serving as the backbone of the D-Unit last weekend, as he has done during all of the 2017 season, was the junior linebacker, Gwardyak, who added to his team-leading tackle total by making seven solo stops and assisting on five others to conclude the day with a cumulative tally of 12…On the year, he has now made 77 tackles (8.6/game), 17 more than his next highest teammate….His three tackles for a loss in the quarterfinal victory over HC was also a team-high and tied him [w/Derek Orbe] for the seasonal top spot with eight overall.

While he himself may not have been credited with one, the example and tenacity that Gwardyak brought with him to the gridiron on November 4th set the course for a collective defensive showcase that yielded four total turnovers (3 INTS, 1 fumble recovery), including a key pick in their own end zone….In addition, after holding this lightning fast Holy Cross offense to their lowest point total of the season during the previously cited week #6 loss, the 22 points surrendered on November 4th was the second lowest output for the Queens based program….

Speaking of shutting down opposing offenses better than most, it needs to be pointed out that this Knight defensive corps, which has given up the third least amount of points in the Double-A division this year (17.8), has the distinction of being tied with St. Joe’s by the Sea in keeping their semifinal opponent, top-seeded Kellenberg Memorial to their lowest score of the year, as the undefeated Firebirds put up 27 points in the 27-7 “w” on September 30th.  The 27 points is more than 12 fewer than the KMHS 2017 average of 39.3 against all other schools….In this first meeting, Gwardyak (11) and fellow junior LB, Kevin Connelly, teamed up to make 28 stops in limiting the Firebirds to 215 ground yards, which is 87 yards less than their yearly average.

 

Justin Ancheta (Sr.); RB/LB – Fordham Prep Rams

Playing for a team that has become legendary for their vaunted passing attack, the senior tailback picked the perfect time to have a coming out party, as his career day was a big part of why the second-seeded Rams are AA semifinals bound following a 35-6 victory at home over the Cougars of St. John the Baptist.

A complementary piece and/or supporting cast member for much of his swan song campiagn, the 210-pounder seems to have a strong sense for the finish line.   And, as he nears the conclusion of his scholastic career at FP, he seems fully intent on leaving a legacy behind….Gaining no more than 58 yards in a single game through week #5, the past three weeks have been something of a transformation for Ancheta as he is quickly developing into a major weapon on the ground for Head Coach, Pete Gorynski, and the Ram staff….Since the team’s lone blemish of the 2017 season [34-24 to Kellenberg], the Hartsdale resident has been an entirely different breed of animal, establishing, breaking, and then smashing his career high for rushing yards in three straight games…..Commencing with a 19 carry, 86 yard effort in a 42-30 victory over Moore Catholic during week #7, Ancheta was even better the following weekend, just missing the century mark when he needed just 11 touches to reach 99 yards in the 38-6 conquest of Holy Trinity….

But alas, as much as he excelled down the home stretch of the regular season, no one could have/would have predicted how incredible he would be in Fordham Prep’s opening round playoff contest this past weekend….Reaching the 100-yard milestone for the first time in his varsity career (160 yards on a season-high 21 carries; 7.6 average/rush), Ancheta also recorded his first multiple touchdown game as a Ram, running for a pair of scores to give him four TDs total this season.

The rebirth of Ancheta as a monster rusher is the best thing that could happen to the Rams and their title ambitions….Because of their reputation this as a “throw heavy” offense, Fordham Prep has often had to deal with opposing defenses neglecting run responsibilities and focusing exclusively on dropping extra men into coverage in the hopes of disrupting All-Everything field general, Matt Valecce’s crusade towards affirming himself as one of the best to ever play the Quarterback position on the high school level in the Empire State….Now that the offense is enjoying much greater balance, foes will no longer have the luxury of putting all of their eggs into one defensive basket.   As a result, an already lethal FP offense (33.1 points per game) might be darn-near unstoppable now!

All that stands in the way of the Rams returning to Championship Weekend for the first time since winning the “A” Division in 2014, is a rematch from the regular season finale against St. Francis Prep in the Double-A semifinals….Winning the first meeting 20-13, FP was without the services of Ancheta.  Now that he has returned to the line-up and is reaching new heights week after week, it will be interesting to see if his presence yields a much more comfortable margin of victory in front of the home crowd.

 

Wyatt Rumpf (Jr.); OL/LB – Kennedy Catholic Gaels

After going years without pitching a shutout, all of a sudden the Gaels defense has become impenetrable, as they have now gone eight straight quarters without allowing a single point to put on the board following a 20-0 goose-egging of St. Dominic’s last Friday night….The “w”, which improved Kennedy Catholic’s Single-A League record to 2-2, had major seeding ramifications, as it secured the Somers based school the #3 spot in the bracket, meaning that it will be able to avoid seeing undefeated/top-seeded Xaverian until a possible finals match-up…

Identical to last week, the catalyst for Head Coach, Dom Tassone and staff was a two-way student-athlete who more than got the job done on both sides of the ball….Eight days it was Ed Longest being named to the POTW list in recognition of his dominance along the line.   This week, it is his fellow OL, Wyatt Rumpf, who proved to be so outstanding that he forced us to make him one of weekly selections.

An anchor in every aspect of the game for the Gael program, there is little doubt that next season, after Longest has moved on to the next level, that Rumpf will be one of, if not the most featured and feared players on the KC roster as a senior….

Tying his career high of 15 tackles (both times came this season against the Bayhawks), Rumpf has now been credited with 65 stop on the season, ranking him third on the team in the category….His sack, one of two earned by the KC defense [the other by Cole Esposito], gave him three on the season, placing him atop the Gaels’ stat sheet.

Not enough to keep the opponent completely stifled when on “D”, Rumpf also proved to be quite essential when Kennedy Catholic had the ball, as he, along with his gronks in the trenches, opened up so many holes and laid down tracks for so many running lanes that for the first time all season, the team had multiple 100-yard rushers, with Greg Brann (100 on 12 carries) and Myles Proctor (100 yards on 15 handoffs) combined for 200 of KC’s season-best 270 yards of production on the ground…The 270 total, which surpassed their previous high of 264 yards set one week earlier, is nearly 190 yards more than their ground attack average entering the game.

Looking to advance to the “A” finals for the first time in program history, Kennedy Catholic will need to continue to have both sides of the ball locked in when they face second-seeded Cardinal Spellman on the road on November 11th….In the previous meeting between the two squads, Spellman emerged with a 19-7 victory.

 

Chris Beyers (Sr.); LB – Kellenberg Memorial Firebirds

For a matter of seconds, the #1 defense in the Double-A division actually looked mortal….Surrendering a touchdown on just the second play of the game to fall behind 6-0 in their quarterfinal contest against St. Joe’s by the Sea, the top-seeded Kellenberg Memorial Firebirds, would neither bend, nor break during the final 47.5 minutes of play, finishing the game on a 27-0 run to cruise into this weekend’s AA semifinal round.

One of the primary reasons that the Uniondale based, Marianist institution was able to adjust so quickly and shake off the disappointing opening ticks was the standout performance of their senior linebacker, Beyers….An individual who may have entered the week a bit under the radar on a roster where the 11th graders have hogged much of the headlines and spotlights, the 5’10, 205-pound Bellmore resident went out of his way to make sure that his name would be on the tongues of all NYCHSFL enthusiasts this week, as he put forth by far his best overall effort of 2017 in keeping KMHS undefeated (9-0) and moving them one step closer to a dream season that will hopefully culminate in two weeks with them hoisting a championship plaque for the first time since 1999 when they prevailed in a 43-40, 3OT classic to win the
“A” crown.

Referred to as a “dual-threat LB” by the Firebird coaching staff, Beyers lived up to the billing last Saturday night, as he played an exceptionally well-balanced game that witnessed him be both the top run stopper as well as their most substantial playmaker in pass coverage…..

Leading the team with nine total tackles (including 3 TFL), Beyers made a habit of being in the backfield all evening, as he complemented his run-stuffing skills by also tacking on a sack….However, nothing was more defining of his impact and thrilling for those in attendance than the highlight reel play he made in the 3rd quarter with the ‘Berg leading 20-6…Sensing that his team’s offense was not in their usual rhythm and knowing that a determined Vikings cohort had no intention of going quietly, Beyers took it upon himself to put the proverbial final nail in the coffin when he halted a promising SJS drive by stepping in front of a pass and trekking 80 yards to the house for the pick-6….One series later, he came up huge again, knocking away a key third down pass attempt to stymie yet another Joe’s attempt to get back into the ballgame.

Beyers and his Firebird football brethren now turn their attention to a semifinal match-up against upset-minded Xavier….If you look at the history of their head-to-head match-ups at all three levels of competition, you see why KMHS is not taking the Knights lightly…Xavier is a program that over the years has just seemed at times to have the Blue & Gold’s number….For this reason, despite Kellenberg’s 27-7 win in week #4, Coach Kevin Hanifan, knows that his team will be in a battle and will need to match the always sky-high intensity of the young men on the opposing sideline….Expecting a heavy dose of power-run football, Beyers will be counted on to repeat his quarterfinal showing as a reliable tackler with an uncanny ability to blow up plays before they even get started.

 

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

When he committed to Boston College on June 16th, the feeling was that Jones’s future on the collegiate level may lie as a defensive back for the Eagles….With this in mind, if we are bearing witness to his final games as a rampaging, indefensible, man-among-men on the offensive side of the ball, the 6’3 senior who hangs his hat in the Bronx is certainly giving us a plethora of memories to treasure in his final scholastic games as a Cardinal student-athlete.

Without question a sure-fire/no-brainer, All-Catholic, All-City, All-State, heck maybe even All-Galaxy selection in his swan song, the future Eagle showered some present day Eagles (St. Peter’s) that he is not big on resting on laurels, exploding for a career-high five total touchdowns to catapult Cardinal Hayes to a 50-14 quarterfinal win at home.

Surprisingly finding themselves in an early 14-0 hole, the defending AAA titlists knew exactly who they needed to feed in order to turn around their fortune….Buried on their 1-yard line, sophomore QB, Sofian Massoud would team up with Jones on the longest play (either regular season or postseason) in Hayes history when he hit his senior target on a 99-yard strike to cut the deficit in half.

This same tandem hooked up again in the final 10 seconds of the opening quarter when Massoud found Jones on a 50-yarder.  A two-point conversion by Hayes put them ahead for good, 15-14.

Already the owner of a multiple touchdown effort after just 12 minutes, Jones was far from done inflicting damage in the first half as he followed up his two TD opening quarter by scoring another pair in the 2nd, running for a 2-yard score with 9:52 remaining before making his third touchdown grab of the day from 55-yards away with 2:36 still on the clock to increase the Cardinals’ advantage to 29-14.

The outcome no longer in doubt, Jones found the end zone for the fifth and final time in the third quarter when he took a handoff on a jet sweep and then kicked it into “ludicrous”, using the 11.1 100-meter speed he possesses to turn the corner and disappear to make the score 44-14.

Setting season highs in almost every possible offensive category, Jones concluded his day with 75 rushing yards (scored on both of his carries) and 244 receiving yards (on six grabs) to end the day with a whopping 319 yards of total offensive output….The 30 points he record by himself was more than the amount earned by 13 of the 20 Catholic football teams in action last weekend.

Aiming for a berth in the Triple-A finals for a third streak year, Hayes’s path goes through the team they have faced in the title game the past two seasons, Archbishop Stepinac in the #2 vs. #3 match-up….A shockingly one-sided result (47-21 in favor of CH) when they played in week #6, Jones had a typical banner day by his standards, rushing for 78 yards and a TD on three carries, as well as catching a pair of bombs for touchdowns to finish with 131 yards receiving.  He also had an interception and recovered a fumble on defense….Considering that we are fully anticipating a MUCH closer rematch, one should expect that Jones will again be a featured weapon in some capacity every second he is on the field.

Nov 012017
 

By Matt Diano:

Jonathon Geruso (Sr.); RB – Xavier Knights

Unlike Iona Prep, Xavier took the field during the last week of the regular season not knowing their exact fate.   Entwined in a four-team battle for only three postseason berths, the Knights took the field on October 28th knowing that if they did not win, it might mean a premature conclusion to their 2017 season….Making an already fairly dire situation worse was the fact that not only did they need a win to feel safe, they needed to earn that win over one of the top teams in the AA division, the Mountaineers of Mount St. Michael Academy (the 3rd place team heading into the contest).

Well aware of the explosiveness of the MSMA ground attack, Coach Stevens and his staff would “dance with the lady who has brought them so much success over the years.”….Rather than try to engage in a slug fest/fire fight, the Knights would rely on their ball-control, clocking eating, tough-nosed brand of power football.   And, as it has done so many times in the past, this test of wills and determination would ultimately win the day for Xavier, as they emerged the victors by a score of 21-16 over their highly regarded opponent.

At the forefront leading the charge for Xavier was their senior workhorse, Geruso….No stranger to a heavy load in his final season as a Knight, the 5’10, 170-pound Garden State native had carried the ball 20 or more times in six consecutive games, crossing over the 100-yard plateau in four of them, and scoring a touchdown in five out of six….All of these previous preparation would come up in handy, as Geruso, on a day when his school needed the very best of him, would find that next level of grit, establishing a season-high for carries with 35 and just missing another personal best when he finished with 155 yards (one less than his performance in a week #5 win over Moore Catholic).  Week #8 also had the distinction of witnessing his first multiple TD game of the season, as he plunged into the promised land three different occasions (adding a 2pt conversation on one of his trio of touchdowns) to single-handedly account for 20 of his team’s 21 points.

With his team trailing 8-0 at the time, Geruso would even the contest with approximately five minutes remaining in the opening quarter when he followed the first of his three TD runs by successfully completing the 2pt conversion….The score remained unchanged until it was Geruso again scoring with just around 7:00 remaining in the second quarter to send the Knights into the break leading 15-8….His third and final TD, which proved to be the game-winner, came early in the 4th quarter, turning a 16-15 deficit into our final tally.

A most telling statistic is such….For the game, the Mount ran 40 plays; as noted above, Geruso ran 35 by himself.   This translated into MSMA being limited to their lowest ground total of the season, as they gained just 158.  A team that had become accustomed to reaching the 300 and 400s range with their running attack, week #8 was the first time all season that Mt. St. Michael failed to reach at least 200 in any game this season.

In the end, not only is Xavier safely into the playoffs; they have actually improved their lie immensely, moving all the way up to the #6 seed.  They will face off with third-seeded Holy Cross….In the first meeting between these two teams (a 14-7 win for HC in week #6), Geruso ran for 91 yards and one TD….With the way he has been pounding the ball down the throats of opposing defenses, it is a formality that he will easily pick up the 29 yards he need to reach the 1,000 milestone for the year.  Should he land in the end zone just once, that will also give him double-digit (10) scores in 2017.

 

Ki’Shyne Shipmon (Sr.); RB/WR – Iona Prep Gaels

A player that came within seconds of being honored a few weeks ago following a season-high 170 yard, two touchdown effort, had it not been for a dramatic Monsignor Farrell comeback in the closing seconds of their week #6 game, the Gael senior [Shipmon] would have been joining the exclusive club of 2017 multiple-time honorees….Fortunately, as he prepares to embark on those final few moments as an Iona Prep football player, we were honored to get another opportunity to shine the light on him in the regular season finale….

Knowing that win or lose, the New Rochelle based program was already locked into the #5 seed in the postseason, last weekend held a bigger purpose for the team captain from Yonkers; it was about unfinished business and bragging rights, as Iona Prep’s 38-34 victory [ended the five-game head-to-head losing streak] over their Westchester rivals marked the first time in his varsity career that Shipmon could say he bested the Crusaders.

One of, if not the most complete offensive weapons in all of Catholic Football, the truth is that Shipmon is so universally gifted that whether it is as a ball carrier or a pass catcher, he finds a way to make his #7 jersey stand out in a crowd week after week.  The ways in which he can and will beat you are infinite.   This is a lesson that the Stepinac defense had to learn the hard way as they had a much undesired front-row seat for the 5’9, 180-pounders best effort of the season, as he ran for 98 yards on 16 carries, as well as caught 10 balls for an astounding 145 yards to end the evening with a remarkable 243 yards of total production…Included in this variety act of sensational play-making were a pair of scores (one running, one receiving) which kept him as the leading touchdown earner for the Gaels with nine overall (1.3/game).

An instant classic that went back-and-forth right up until the final whistle, there would be eight total lead changes in the contest.   Two of these shifts in momentum came courtesy of Shipmon as his 62-yard dash to the end zone late in the 3rd quarter put IP up 24-21….A touchdown by Stepinac before the end of the third stanza briefly gave the Crusaders the advantage back, but again it would be the Shipmon making his presence known, catching a 16-yard bee bee from junior signal caller, Derek Robertson, less than two minutes into the final quarter to regain the edge for the Maroon & Gold, 31-27.

Shipmon heads into the postseason having rushed for 600 yards and six touchdowns on just 90 carries.  He leads the Gaels in every major running category….As a pass-catching target, his 30 snatches for 349 yards rank him fourth and third on the team.

Knowing that it is win or hang up for the pads from this second forward, Shipmon’s path to a second straight 50-yard line celebration commences when Iona Prep square off with Monsignor Farrell in a AAA quarterfinal game on Saturday November 4th….As noted above, the last time these teams met, Shipmon went crazy in the losing effort.  You best believe that he will be looking to maintain his individual dominance in an attempt to flip the team outcome.     

 

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

On a day where the rain poured on most of us, for the senior QB from Fordham Prep, the proverbial sun shined bright, as he bared the harsh elements to throw a trio of TD passes that not only delivered a 20-14 come-from-behind victory to the Rams over St. Franc Prep, but also gained him membership into an exclusive club that before him only three men had earned entry.

Trailing 13-0 in the 2nd quarter, if we have learned nothing from watching this stud over the course of his varsity career, it is that no deficit is out of reach when he is the guy hurling the pigskin on the other sideline….The Boston College bound field general would cut the deficit in half when he connected with his favorite target, fellow senior, Will Loffredo on a 16-yard TD strike to make the score 13-7…..In addition to putting the Rams firmly back into the game, this single toss would be accompanied by much greater prestige and significance as it was 100th of its kind thrown in the career of Valecce…By reaching the career century mark, the 6’5, 210-pounder joined the likes of Greg Paulus (152), current Wisconsin QB Jack Coan (128), and Joe Capobianco (100) as the only scholastic signal callers in Empire State history to achieve the feat.

Having tied Capobianco for third all-time just prior to the intermission, Valecce would blow past him on the first play of the 4th quarter when he hooked up on a short-yardage toss with Tommy Walsh to even the score at 13 apiece…..This one-yard completion was the first of a pair that the teammates would combine in during the final 12 minutes of play….And the latter would be considerably more grand, as it came from 29 yards out in the final half minute of regulation to act as the game-winner.

With the victory, the Rams improved their record to 7-1.   They enter the AA playoffs as the #2 seed, making them one of the favorites to advance to championship weekend…Should a title game appearance materialize, it could have major ramifications individually for Valecce who needs just 662 yards to pass Coan and move into second-place All-time in the NYS record books…The owner of an already amazing 304/game average, there is not much more the Rams can ask of Valecce.  For this reason, that third postseason game could be make it or break it for his record book ambitions.

Valecce and the Rams open up their title hunt this Saturday when they play a surging St. John the Baptist team that has won three of their past four games…When these two schools met all the way back in Mid-September, Valecce completed 14 of his 23 attempts for 304 yards and four scores.        

 

Ed Longest (Sr.); OL/DL – Kennedy Catholic Gaels

While many pundits are guilty of pointing at the skill positions as the difference makers in the game of football, I have always been a believer that the game (especially on the scholastic level) is won and lost in the trenches…If you look at every Catholic Championship football squad over the years, you see that across the board, each had that one beast that constantly was blowing plays in the backfield on defense or that stellar offensive line-up that had so many pancakes to his name that he might as well been nicknamed IHOP….For the Gaels, that person, both this season and for the better part of his entire stay in Somers, NY has been the 6’1, 265-pound two-way monster, Longest.

A returning All-Catholic selection from a season ago, there has been no senioritis for this 12th grader from Katonh….Making 68 stop on defense all of last season, the former CHSAA State wrestling champion has already surpassed his 2016 total following a 15 tackle (4 solo, 11 assisted, 3 TFL) performance in the Gaels’ 38-0 egging of Nazareth Regional….His fifth straight double-digit tackle game, Longest barely missed tying the 2017 high he set the previous weekend when he accounted for 16 stops in  a loss to Xaverian….While updates stats were not available at the time of publishing, we believe his season total to be just south of 80, which would make him the most prolific stopper in the “A” division.

In captaining what is believed to be KC’s first defensive shutout since the 2010 season, Longest complemented his 15 tackles by adding his third sack of the year.

On the other side of the ball, he was his usual wrecking ball self, knocking down walls and giving his running backs massive lanes through which to trek….Behind Longest, the Gaels rushed for 235 yards and four touchdowns in posting their highest point total of the year.

Unlike the “AA” and “AAA” divisions, A-Ball does not jump immediately in to the postseason next week.  But alas, just because it is not considered a playoff game does not mean the stakes are any less….With semifinal position still to be decided, the Gaels will be seeking the sweep when they play host to St. Dominic’s this Friday….When the two teams clashed on September 29th, KC was a 13-6 winner….In that game, Longest had 12 tackles and 1 sack…He and his fellow O-linemen helped Kennedy to a strong 4.7 average on the ground.

 

Justin Medina (Sr.); RB/DB – Cardinal Spellman Pilots

Medina would prove to be all the offense the Pilots would need under the Friday night lights last week, as he accounted for every last point in the team’s 14-7 victory on the road over the Bayhawks of St. Dominic’s…The victory, which improved Spellman’s league record to .500 (2-2) has the boys from the Bronx looking good to earn no worse than the #2 seed in the upcoming “A” playoffs.

With the game still scoreless, Medina busted out the first of his two touchdowns runs on the run when he found a hole on the right side of the line and dashed through It, fighting off would-be tacklers and evading multiple attempts by Dom’s to trip him up by diving at his ankles….When all was said and done, he had taken the ball 56 yards to the house to put his school up 6-0 in the 1st quarter.

Medina’s second scoring play of the night may not have possessed the same highlight reel style, but it was every bit as important as it turned a 7-6 deficit into a 12-7 lead….For good measure, he also personally tacked on the 2pt conversation.

Of the 253 yards compiled by CS, 188 of them could be credited to Medina, as he averaged 9.4 yards on his 20 touches in setting a new 2017 personal best.

Defensively, Medina was equally valuable from his position in the secondary….Securing the lone interception of the game for his school, he, along with the rest of the Spellman D-back corps, held the Bayhawks to just 30 yards in the air per Max Preps….He added six tackles.

Up next for Spellman is the always classic rivalry game between them and fellow perennial title contender, Xaverian.   When the two storied programs last played on September 30th, the visiting Clippers squeaked out a hard-fought 14-13 victory….The Pilots will be fully intent on returning the favor when they take the road trip to Brooklyn this Friday night…Xaverian, led by the “A” rushing king, Roberto Auguste, is sure to do a lot of damage on the ground.  Hence, it is imperative that even if he does not match his nemesis step for step, Medina will need to have another strong showing.

Oct 252017
 

 

 

By Matt Diano:

Jack Rooney (Jr.); QB – St. Dominic’s Bayhawks

If we have said it once, we had uttered it 100s of times, “the test of the true leader is when the chips are stacked against you, you still find a way to prevail”….For the Bayhawks and their junior signal caller, the situation was not looking particularly good last Saturday, as they trailed Nazareth Regional 6-0 late in the 4th quarter….In desperate need of a spark, the Oyster Bay based program would put their fate in the proverbial hands and the literal arm of the Syosset resident.  Coach Robert Ploth and his staff would be rewarded for the confidence they showed in their “Jack of All Trades” quarterback as Rooney would orchestrate the game-tying drive when he dropped back and hit senior, Robby Rossiter, on an 82-yard strike in the final 6:00 of regulation to even the score at six apiece.  This touchdown throw snapped a streak of three consecutive 3-and-outs and provided precisely the spark and momentum shift needed when the game was extended into overtime.

Following a clutch effort by the St. Dominic’s defense, holding the Kingmen scoreless on their only possession of the extra frame, the “w” was now up for the seizing and Rooney was not about to allow that opportunity to slip away…Demonstrating his dual-threat capabilities, the 5’11, 165-pounder put his running prowess on display, as he capped off the come-from-behind triumph when he took the keeper from the four-yard line and dashed into the end zone to account for the final 12-6 tally.

A day of personal bests for Rooney across the board, the Dom’s field general tied his 2017 high for completions on 9-for-15 passing en route to accumulating a new top mark of 180 yards in the air.   In addition, after not rushing for more than 45 yards in any previous game this season, Rooney nearly doubled it, racking up 80 yards 13 touches (6.2).   He also posted just his second multiple score game of the year (both against Nazareth).

Not only responsible for single-handedly putting all 12 points on the board himself, Rooney was so in control of everything that the Bayhawks were doing during week #7 that when the total numbers were crunched, it was discovered that his 260 yards of total output represented just under 89 percent of the 293 yards earned collectively by the entire Dom’s squad.

For the season, Rooney is completing 52.3 percent of his passes (34-for-65) in hurling for 522 yards and three TDs.   On the ground, he has equaled his touchdown production, running for 224 yards and a trio of scores on 54 carries.

With the #2 seed in the Single-A playoffs remaining on the table, Rooney will have the chance to add to his growing legacy when St. Dominic’s squares off with Cardinal Spellman on October 27th.  When the teams last met, it was Spellman emerging with the 7-0 victory

 

Thomas Force (Sr.); TE/SS – St. John the Baptist Cougars

The sleeping giant has officially awoken and Carusillo’s Cougars will head into the last week of the regular season on fire, as their 19-12 victory at home over Moore Catholic was the third in a row for St. John the Baptist….What once was shaping up to be a forgettable, rebuilding season is now more closely resembling what we have come to expect from the Red and White in West Islip, a serious postseason contender.

Following back-to-back weeks of honoring one two-way senior superstar [Michael Palermo], it is another SJB 12th grader making the cut this week in the person of the 6’1, 180-pounder, Force.

A leader and exceptional performer on both the gridiron and the baseball diamond, Force is committed to pulling off the rare feat of competing in both sports at the next level.

One of those unsung heroes that we love to chronicle, while Force’s contributions may have slipped the eye of the occasional/moderate fan, his efforts have been fully recognized by his coaches and teammates…That is why, on a day where he did get to assume the role of the star, it was fitting and completely deserved that he receive the respect and press reserved for those game-changing caliber of student-athletes.

A one-man show during the first quarter, Baptist’s first score of the game had Force’s imprint all over it, as it was his 35-yard interception return that gave the Cougars prime real estate on the Maverick side of the field…There could be no better conclusion to the drive than for the young man who dealt the hand to also be the one afforded the luxury of cashing in the chips, as Force made his only catch of the game on the lone pass attempt from quarterback, Nick Delcore, for a 17-yard TD to give SJB the early 6-0 advantage…Only the second grab of the season for Suffolk County resident, both have resulted in touchdowns as Force previously had a 25-yard scoring snatch in a hard fought loss to St. Francis Prep on October 1st.

Living up to his name, Force proved himself to be quite “the force” as a blocker too, consistently getting out in front of his backs and paving the way for a unified effort that produced 220 yards and two touchdowns on the ground for SJB.

Reflecting on his impact on offense alone, Force was a strong candidate for selection to the POTW list.  However, his catching and road grading skills are only half the story of his tremendous afternoon…. Complementing his 1st quarter interception would be a full 48 minutes of consistent play as both a run-stopper and an excellent coverage man…Opposed by one of the most imposing tailbacks in the league [Justin Lacks], Force finished the game with 13 total tackles (2 TFL) and was a part of a defensive secondary to held Mavs’ QB, Vincenzo Scarola, to a modest 39 yards in the air on 2-for-9.   Scarola’s 22.2 percent completion rate was his lowest of 2017 and his yardage was the second fewest tossed by him this season.

 

Isaiah Amazon (JR.); WR/DE – Xaverian Clippers

An individual who unquestionably was born to play the game of football, when you look at the build, athleticism, and dynamic play-making ability of the 11th grader from Brooklyn, the last thought that would enter your mind is that this young man is a rookie!!!

Suiting up for just the seventh time in his 1st-year playing the sport, the 6’2, 2010 pound two-way player is wasting little time in showing that as nice as beginner’s luck may be, nothing replaces God-given talent…The more that Amazon plays, the easier it becomes to see that this is a special talent who is going to be a household name, both during the remainder of 2017 and all throughout his senior campaign next season.   You simply cannot teach the explosiveness that this stud possesses on both sides of the ball…His meteoric rise from newcomer to “can’t take your eyes off of him” status is just another reason why Coach Jioia and his staff should feel encouraged as we rapidly approach the postseason….Unblemished in their “A” league games, if opponents did not already have enough to worry about trying to game plan against star running back, Roberto Auguste, the expedient coming of age of Amazon is sure to cause them some sleepless nights.

Last Friday, in a game that was perhaps closer than many would have anticipated (Xaverian won the first meeting 48-0), Amazon would monopolize the field on sides of the line, compiling eight total tackles, 1 sack, and a huge fumble recovery on “D”….On offense, his ability to go up and get the ball proved essential as it was a leaping 40-yard catch that saw him shed multiple tacklers on his way to the end zone that put the Clippers in front on the scoreboard in the third quarter and provided them with the jolt they needed to finish off the 25-19 victory over the Gaels of Kennedy Catholic…The TD grab was one of three made by Amazon under the lights, as he concluded the game with 71 yards as receiving to either tie for or hold the outright team lead in all major categories in the win.

Xaverian will have a bye turning week #7, meaning that the NYCHSFL aficionados will need to wait till the calendar changes to November before we see the next of what is sure to be an endless highlight reel put forth by this budding phenom.

 

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

Honored as a player of the week for the second time in the Terriers’ last three games, the sophomore sensation under center was literally the definition of perfection in St. Francis Prep’s 14-7 victory over Xavier last Saturday.

The owner of an often talked about but rarely achieved immaculate quarterback rating (by National Football League standards) of 158.3, Jones would complete all eight of his attempts in the air, averaging just under 22 yards per connection to toss for 174 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

With the game scoreless after the opening quarter, the 5’9 10th grader took it upon himself to break the ice, as he launched a 58-yard bomb to senior Patrick Mcardle, to send Francis Prep into the locker room with a 6-0 advantage.

Following the break, Jones again would show off his “on the money” passing precision, giving the Terriers some additional breathing room when, as described by the school’s football twitter page, he “threw a 57 yard dart to Marc Anthony Dalce” to more than double the lead to 14-0….This was all the cushion that the school from Queens would need as they surrendered a touchdown in the final quarter but still emerged with the win to improve their 2017 record to 4-3.

Having already guaranteed that his school will do no worse than finish at .500 during the regular season, motivation will not be an issue during week #8 for Jones and company as the team goes in pursuit of a winning record when they play host to Fordham Prep on Sunday afternoon….With the Rams featuring record book passing king, Matt Valecce, and Jones taking to the field fresh off of the best game of his scholastic career, expect for an epic battle of signal callers…..While the 6-1 Rams do represent a mighty challenge, Jones and his dual-threat skillset (626 yards passing, 7 TDs in the air; 357 yards rushing, 1 ground TD) might be the most multi-faceted quarterback FP has faced since losing to a Matt Sluka-led Kellenberg team in week #5.

 

Makhai Murphy (Jr.); CB – St. Anthony’s Friars

Never one to back down from a challenge, the Friar junior cornerback has routinely drawn the responsibility of covering the opposing team’s best receiving option….Such was the case again last weekend in the Friar’s 29-3 victory at home over rival (in everything) Chaminade.

We will have to wait until after the New Year to find out if Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow; however, we know that Flyer senior WR, Chris Nicholas, definitely saw quite a bit of his during week #7, as the 5’10, 170-pounder [Murphy] was everywhere his elder opponent seemed to go…..Incorporating a strategy that allowed for the short yardage gain, but completely negated the big play potential, Murphy limited Nicholas to only 78 yards on nine catches.  The 8.7 yards per grab is the only time this season that the touted Flyer wide-out has not at least averaged at least 16.5/catch.  He was also held without a receiving touchdown for just the second time in 2017.

As encumbering as the task of shutting a receiver of Nicholas’s caliber is by itself, Murphy’s overall performance was not just about stopping the opposition; he also found ample opportunities to make plays of his own, recording three tackles and a trio of pass breakouts….He would save his most thrilling contribution for the 4th quarter though, when, with STA already leading 22-3, he stepped in front of a Thomas Rogan pass attempt and took the pigskin to the promised land for a 35-yard pick-6 to account for the final score….This was his second defensive score of the year, as he previously returned a fumble for a TD in St. Anthony’s week #5 win over Cardinal Hayes.

In the regular season finale, when the Friars go on the road to face the Eagles of St. Peter’s, look for Murphy to again be thrown into the deep end as he likely will be lined up opposite another of the NYCHSFL’s most coveted WRs, Chris Ledlum…In the five games he has played this season, Ledlum has surpassed 100-yards receiving in four of them.  In addition, he has caught an average of two TD passes in each of the past two weeks.  Hence, if Murphy can put a lid on him, it will solidify the Friar as an emerging shutdown defensive back.

 

Ryan Scelzi (Sr.); RB – St. Joe’s by the Sea Vikings

It is not very often that a player on a losing team is bestowed POTW honors.   However, in the case of Scelzi, he was so unbelievably great last week, that regardless of outcome, we could not deny him his moment in the spotlight.

Back in the line-up after losing his entire junior campaign to injury, the 5’8, 165-pound tailback was a key reason why Mount St. Michael had to sweat out every second of their 36-28 victory over the Vikings of St. Joseph’s by the Sea.

Playing like a man on a mission, Scelzi did not just surpass his previous career highs, he completely shattered them….Entering the game without a 100-yard performance on his resume this year, the Viking RB responded but cracking the 200-yard milestone and scoring two touchdowns (his first multiple score game of the season) on 24 carries…From the 272 yards earned on the ground by SJS, 221 of them belonged to Scelzi.

A person who is willing to do anything asked of him, when he was not busy chewing up large chunks of yards out of the backfield, the 12th grader from Staten Island had enough in the tank to average nearly 13 yards on six kickoff returns.

As the Viking approach the final week of the regular season locked in a three-way tie for the #7 spot in the standings, it needs not be said that a victory this weekend over Holy Trinity could very well determin whether or not they will be postseason bound…For this reason, with the stakes so high, we are predicting that for the second time in as many weeks, the senior leader will put on a show and give his school every possible chance in the world to obtain the much needed and desired “w”.

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.