Dec 012022
 

Article by Matt Diano

More important than what a scoreboard read on a dreary Wednesday night at Mitchel Field, the memory that will last a lifetime is that for one final occasion, the best and brightest of the NYCHSFL’s class of 2023 got to strap on some pads and play the game they love…It is this sense of camaraderie, of passion, and of sportsmanship that defined us on November 30th, as former rivals were transformed into teammates and brothers!!!  

That having been said, a score was kept and when the final horn sounded after 60 minutes (running time) of fierce action that witnessed both sidelines pour their entire being into the pursuit of victory, it was Team Long Island owning the gridiron, as they piggybacked off of the St. Anthony’s Catholic State title win (27-20 over St. Francis) by emerging with a 38-21 triumph over the contingent from New York City!!! 

A proper send-off that was much closer than the final box score will suggest (was 24-21 at the end of the 3rd quarter), those in attendance that willingly weathered the storm were treated to non-stop action as the two all-star rosters took turns trading explosive “home run” plays from start to finish… 

Jumping out to a 14-0 lead less than 5:00 into the opening quarter were the representatives from “Strong Island” as it was 2x Metro Catholic championship team member, Andre Kirton (Holy Trinity) turning on the rockets to returning the opening kickoff 95 yards to the house to give LI the 7-0 edge just 17 ticks into the contest…

The cushion doubled approximately 4:30 minutes later when Holy Cross running back, Nakai Maupin, plunged into the end zone from 1-yard out…This score was set up when the St. John the Baptist duo of Sean Dennehy (knocked it loose) and Elijah Alvarez (pounded on the football) created a turnover on the first play of scrimmage by NYC to give possession immediately back to LI on the opponent’s 28…Chaminade WR, Gavin Creo, hauled in a 12-yard pass over the middle from UPenn bound QB, Devin Page (Kellenberg) to move the ball to the 16…Maupin then had a 15-yard run to put himself on the doorstep!

The score unchanged for the remainder of the 1st and the majority of the 2nd, Long Island successfully tacked on a late FG (beat the buzzer) when HT’s Evan Glusic, booted a 31-yarder between the uprights to send his squad into the locker room up 17-0….As he did on the earlier march, Creo was again instrumental, helping his unit cash in on optimal starting field position (short punt gave them the “rock” on the NYC 35) by catching a pair of passes for 10 + 5 yards from Isaiah Decruz (St. Francis Prep) to propel the ball inside the red zone (City 17)!

Down three scores after 30 minutes, the four borough (Queens with loaned to LI) flock wasted no time in putting themselves back in the ballgame, as turnabout was fair play on special teams…

After watching Kirton take the kickoff to the promised land to commence the 1st half, it was Serge Lagardere (Stepinac) giving the Island a dose of their own medicine when he returned the favor to begin the 2nd half, bolting down his own sideline and not stopping until he reached paydirt to cut the deficit to 17-7 a mere 12 seconds into 3Q…

After forcing a punt on “D”, the comeback effort continued on “Gotham’s” first official offensive series of the 2nd half, as Lagardere would take the pitch on 2nd & 9, spin out of a tackle, and toggle “ludicrous speed” mode on his way to a 55-yard cruise that moved the ball from his own 41 to the LI 4-yard line…Mauricio Cetina (Monsignor Farrell) fought his way in from a 1-yard out three snaps later to bring his brigade to within 17-14 (6:01 to go in the 3rd quarter)….

Both offenses clearly clicking on all cylinders, the short touchdown run by the Lion tailback [Cetina] was the first of FOUR consecutive marches up and down the field from the two opposing armies during the next seven minutes as points started flying on the board in droves…

In response to the NYC touchdown, Maupin struck for his second TD trek of the night, as he took the HB draw to the outside, made one cut back to the middle and then was gone in a flash, motoring 62 yards undeterred to make the score 24-14 (4:58 left in 3Q)…

The 10pt difference lasted all of 1:11, as Staten Island played pitch-and-catch with Westchester when Moore Catholic All-State field general, John Michalski, threw a 75-yard bomb to Stepinac’s Gjok Dedvukaj (mid-stride adjustment to grab the ball over the other shoulder) to again trim LI’s edge to 24-21 (3:47 remaining in the third stanza)…

Preserving the trend of back-and-forth jabs, it was soon-to-be Fordham Ram (baseball), Matthew Dieguez (Chaminade) converting a 4th & short on the last snap of the third quarter (road paved by fellow Flyer, Mason Dietrich) and then going big when on the second play of the 4th quarter, he dropped back and unleashed a 40-yard missile into the waiting arms of Jayson Zeva (SJB) to supply some insurance (31-21; 13:54 still to go in regulation)….

Pulling away in the last 12:00 of the 2022 season, Long Island finally broke the streak of TD exchanges, when Kellenberg defensive back, Sean Cannon, capitalized off of a 2nd & 23 heave from Michalski by leaping up for an interception on the NYC 37 with 11:54 showing on the clock…The Firebird was more than pleased to reap the benefits, but equal credit must be bestowed onto the persons of Titans—Christopher Bacon & Irv Briggs IV…Routinely in opposing backfield harassing rival QBs, it Bacon earning the sack that created the 2nd & forever, while Briggs (committed to UConn) applied the pressure on the desperation hurl…The B&B boys had previously produced a turnover on downs at the onset of the 2nd quarter (10:54 before the intermission) when they united for a combo sack on 4th & short! 

With blood in the water, Kirton’s 20-yard run on a reverse put the pigskin inside the City 20, and then it was the Ethan Cummings show the rest of the way, with four carries in a row from the KMHS RB culminated on a 1-yard power-run where he fearlessly bulldozed his way at and through two defenders who met him at the goal line to close out the scoring, 38-21 (8:05 to go in the 4th)…

 

During the postgame festivities, the four individuals recognized were as follows:

*Long Island Defensive Player of the Game: Christopher Bacon (Holy Trinity)

*Long Island Offensive Player of the Game: Nakai Maupin (Holy Cross)

*New York City Defensive Player of the Game: Shawn Keegan (Monsignor Farrell)

*New York Offensive Player of the Game: Serge Lagardere (Stepinac)

 

Nov 242022
 

Article by Matt Diano

Fordham Prep-41; Xavier-25

A traditional showdown that was much closer than the final score indicated (was as tight as 28-25 with 8:06 remaining in the 4th), a few costly turnovers and/or mental mistakes down the stretch allowed the Rams to pull away en route to the 41-25 victory in the 99th Annual Turkey Bowl over the 2022 NYCHSFL AA-2 champs from Xavier

The Maroon & White having now prevailed in four of the past five on-field meetings (including the virtual game played in 2020 due to Covid; also won by FP), they raised their overall lead in the saga to 53-41-4!!!

Propelled by a career-day from junior signal caller, Matthew Moorehead, who tossed a personal-best 5 touchdown passes (after entering with just 10 during the season) on Thursday morning, the 41-points generated by the boys from the Bronx was the most they have accumulated during the rivalry since 2008 when they won 41-28!!

The offenses on both sidelines coming out of the gate firing on all cylinders, the first five possessions of the day all resulted in touchdowns, as the Rams carried a 28-12 advantage into the break…

Commencing with his statement-making display and drawing first blood was Moorehead, who after having an 11-yard TD completion to Edward Lewis Moore, negated on a penalty, responded on 3rd & 16 when he hit Tommy Gies on a 25-yard dime over the middle to give FP a 7-0 lead approximately 3:30 into the 1st quarter….

This exchange between the two gentlemen in the #18 and #15 jerseys respectively would be the first of a pair of pitch-and-catch scenarios that yielded “6” for Fordham Prep during the opening stanza….Following a 32-yard TD keeper from Knights’ senior QB, Shane Zaletofsky (his 16th of the year) that cut the deficit to 7-6 (PAT blocked by Will Wood), Moorehead lofted a ball into the corner for a 25-yard strike to Gies to close out the scoring (14-6) during the first 12 minutes of action…Prior to the TD passes, , a 41-yard run by Charlie English, and a long kickoff return from Jericho Ancheta served as catalysts to each series…

On Xavier’s second march of the morning, Mehdi Merah converted on 4th & goal, when he punched the ball across the line from 3-yards out to trim the hole to 14-12 (2pt conversion run was stuffed)…The short trek gave Merah 14 for his junior campaign!

Sandwiched around an induced turnover on downs (incomplete halfback pass try from Merah on 4th & long), Fordham Prep executed their third and fourth straight successful drives, as Moorehead hooked up with Ancheta on an 11-yarder to increase the cushion to 21-12 before a 4-yard play-action pass to Keegan Doody in the final :07 of the half accounted for the aforementioned midway margin…An English 43-yard reception was a precursor to Doody’s 1st TD grab of 2022!!!

Getting his school back into the conversion was the Knights’ senior running back, Gavin Gallagher, who punctuated the first two series of the 2nd half by banging his way in from 5-yards out (after making a 28-yard catch) to make the score 28-18 (2pt try snuffed out), and then exploding on a 34-yard jet around the edge that brought Xavier to within 3pts (28-25)!

Another key stop by the XR defense on the ensuing Ram drive seemingly swung all momentum into the corner of the Manhattan-based cohort….but then “tragedy” struck, as a mishandled punt return resulted in a turnover, where Fordham Prep immediately regained control of the pigskin on the opposing 19…A few snaps later, Moorehead and Ancheta teamed up for their second TD of the game, as the 11th grader tossed on the run and hit his senior WR on a 10-yarder that provided breathing room (34-25) with 6:50 to go in regulation…

Late in the 4th, English did it on both ends, as earned his second interception of the season, and then cemented his MVP effort (was named the award recipient) when he picked off Zaletofsky on the Ram 29…As a last impression on his varsity tenure, #22 then took a pitch to outside and cruised 66 yards to paydirt for his 13th ground TD of the fall!

The win caps off a 5-6 season for Fordham Prep (very ambitious schedule that featured multiple triple-A foes), while the loss drops Xavier to 7-3, but does not erase the memories of a less than a week ago when they hoisted hardware for the first time since 2015 behind a 29-22 triumph over Mount St. Michael Academy

——————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————

Cardinal Hayes-38; Mount St. Michael Academy-18

Victors for the NINTH straight occasion in the 79th installment of this All-Bronx tradition, the Cardinals of Cardinal Hayes High School jumped out to a 20-3 advantage early in the 2nd quarter and never looked back, as they went on to conquer the Mountaineers of Mount St. Michael Academy, 38-18, in “hostile (MSMA field) territory!!

Despite the now nearly decade-long streak of prosperity enjoyed on Grand Concourse, The Mount still holds a commanding 47-27-5 advantage overall in the historical and epic narrative of this Thanksgiving clash of for local bragging rights!!

Spurred by the outstanding exploits of junior tailback, Kenneth Antoine, who recorded the first three-day touchdown rushing performance of his varsity career to personally account for 18 of the team’s total output, the Cardinals got on the board when the #22 shirt [Antoine] followed up his own 43-yard dash that moved the ball the opposing 5 by later finishing off the march with a 1-yard TD that gave his school the 7-0 lead with exactly 7:00 remaining in the 1st quarter …

Aided by a long completion from Marc Pearson Jr., to Kameron Wheeler, as well as a pass interference call, Daithi O’Connor, booted a 34-yarder on MSMA’s ensuing possession to cut the hole to 7-3…

But just as quickly as they were back into the game, the Mount witnessed the margin increase, as Joshua Hicks fielded the ball around his own 11, cut to the Hayes’ sideline, and then cut back to the middle of the middle where he polished off the 89-yard lightning kickoff return that made the score 13-3 with 4:23 to go in the opening stanza…

The cushion grew to 20-3 after sophomore QB, Rich Belin, converted on a 3rd down keeper from 2-yards out for his 5th rushing TD of the year with 11:53 before the intermission…In advance of the scoring play, Belin also had a 17-yard connection to Taifah Mason, that moved the ball just short of midfield (48)…Antoine then broke for 21 on land to put the ball on the opponent’s 31…

Mount St. Michael Academy appeared primed to answer the Cardinals’ TD with a score of their own, as they drove to inside the Hayes’ 11 thanks to a great KO return from Travis Agonaya (+ personal foul for a hit out of bounds), followed by a 13-yard run by Jabril Carter, and an 11-yarder reception by Wheeler….But alas, the promising march was prematurely interrupted when junior DB, Deion Gonzalez lived up to his first name, reading play-action perfectly and picking off Pearson throw on the 1-yard line!!!

After squandering their previous opportunity, MSMA would capitalize in the last 6:00 of the 1st half, as a turnover on down that gave them possession on the Hayes’ 14 was cashed in with 5:14 to go by a Jonathan Otoo 7-yard run (his 7th of 2022) to bring the Mountaineers to within 20-10…

The visiting Cardinals had multiple touchdowns called back because of penalties in the last 2:40 of the 2Q, as Antoine’s 26-yard run up the gut was erased, and so too was a 36-yard connection from Belin to Mason to keep the scoreboard unchanged…

The beginning of the 3rd quarter was marked by a trade-off of touchdowns in the first 2:30 from the respective teams, as Hayes benefitted from a Mount fumble on the kick-off by taking over possession on the 41.  On his first snap of the 2nd half, Belin put the ball perfectly  over the shoulder of senior wide-out, Alfredo Perez, for the 41-yard bomb that made the score (26-10 just 18 ticks into 3Q)…

Coincidentally, the Special Teams’ gods than paid back the favor as Hayes fumbled a punt return, giving the pigskin back to MSMA…A 41-yard strike to Wheeler was then complemented by Pearson calling his own number on the 1-yard keeper (he then converted the 2pt conversion on a pass to Otoo) to make it an 8pt difference (26-18)!

The Cardinals pulled away in the last 16 minutes as Antoine built off of a 15-yard catch by Perez (put the ball on the Mountaineer 10) by taking it the rest of the way on back-to-back carries, including the 2-yard TD dive to give C.H. a 32-18 edge with 3:12 to go in the 3rd

Antoine wrapped up the hat trick with 4:44 remaining in the 4th on a 13-yard pilgrimage to the promised land to account for the final tally!…His trifecta gives him 10 in total this fall!