By Matt Diano:
This weekend will feature the A Division Championship as well as the AA & AAA Semifinals.
“A” Finals: #1 Kennedy Catholic vs. #2 Cardinal Spellman (Nov. 10th, 5pm @ Kennedy Catholic)—New York Yankee icon, Yogi Berra, said it best, “It’s déjà vu all over again” in the NYCHSFL “A” finals this Sunday afternoon as for the second year in a row, it will be the Gaels of Kennedy Catholic being opposed by the two-defending champion Pilots of Cardinal Spellman…Identical to the 2018 title contest, KC enters as heavy favorites on paper following an undefeated season in league games which included a sweep of the home and home series by scores of 24-6 (September 7th) and 28-12 (October 4th)…At the core of the two wins this season over Spellman was Kennedy junior signal caller, Clayton Procter. Taking turns showing the full array of his skill set, in the first meeting, the 5’10, 170-pounder utilized his legs, rushing for 128 yards and one touchdown on 10 carries. In the rematch, he still proved effective on the ground (50 yards + 2 TD on 13 carries), but it was his arm that did the most talking, as he completed 7 of 9 passes for 114 yards and one additional touchdown. All in all, the Yorktown Heights resident has produced 350 yards of total offense in two appearances versus the Pilots, completing 13 of 25 throws for 172 yards (1 TD) in the air, and running for 178 yards and three TDs on 23 keepers…Providing complementary contributions on offense on the ground for Kennedy were freshman, Nick Duryea, who gained 61 yards on eight attempts in game #1, and sophomore, Gary Kellogg, who racked up 91 yards of production as a rusher (38 on 7 carries w/1 TD) and receiver (4 catches for 53 yards) in game #2..Ayden Sanchez (11 tackles, 2 TFL), Duryea (9 tackles, 3 pass break-ups), Thomas Nunziato (9 stops, 2 TFL, 2 caused fumbles), Will Brann (6 tackles, 2 stops for a loss), Dan Duryea (6 stops, 1 TFL), Ikenna Ononaji (5 assisted tackles, 2 TFL), and Scott Dalrymple (2 tackles, 3 PDs) were among the stars on “D” in week #1…Spellman will be led on both sides of the ball by Mr. Postseason, senior Ethan Ortiz…Twice named a Player of the Week selection during 2018 and 2019 semifinal rounds, the RB/LB also happened to have been the Defensive MVP of last year’s title game, amassing 18 tackles (also ran for 55 yards and one score on 10 touches) in CS’s 19-12 upset triumph. In the two meetings this season against KC, Ortiz has accumulated 194 yards (161 on Oct. 4th) and three touchdowns on 29 hand-offs. He also recorded 25 tackles and one sack between the two appearances…For Spellman to pull off the three-peat, it will be imperative that they also get a solid effort out of sophomore QB, Aidan Hanley-Piri…An individual who possesses dual-threat capabilities, AHP played very well in the week #1 loss, connecting on 7 of 18 pass attempts for 118 yards, while tacking on 50 more yards as a runner (10 carries)….Senior, Dylan Williams-Molitor, might also emerge as an X-factor on either side of the line of scrimmage. A standout on defense a season ago during championships weekend (10 stops, 2 INTs), Willams-Molitor is plenty capable of making his presence known on offense as well, as evident by three catch, 75-yard receiving game he posted during the opening weekend of the 2019 season. As a ball-carrier, he has averaged 4.4 yards on limited handles (8 carries, 35 yards) versus KC.
“AA-1” Semifinal: #1 Chaminade vs. #5 Fordham Prep (Nov. 9th, 1:30pm @ Gold Star Stadium/Chaminade HS)—A rematch of a match-up that we saw in the last week of the regular season (won by the Flyers, 42-23), Chaminade will look to return to championship weekend for the first time since winning it all in 2014. The visiting Rams, who got off to a slow start, have caught fire of late, winning three of their past four (lone loss being in the aforementioned week #8 game versus Chaminade), including knocking of fourth-seeded St. Francis Prep by a score of 22-14, in last weekend’s quarterfinals…When these two programs collided on October 26th, the game was considerably closer than the final score might indicate. Trailing 28-2 in the second quarter, FP showed quite a bit of grit, fighting back to draw within 28-17 early in the 3rd before Chaminade managed to re-establish some cushion with back-to-back TD passes…For the Crimson & Gold [Chaminade], the offense was spearheaded by outstanding performances from three individuals—RB-Mario Fischetti Jr., QB-Ryan Walsh, and WR-Donovan Wood…Fischetti rushed for 251 and scored three times on 12 carries to notch his seventh 100+ yard game of the year…Walsh posted his first three TD passing game of the year, hitting on 5 of 8 attempts for 115 yards…On the back end of two of Walsh’s touchdown tosses was fellow senior, Wood, whose two grabs for 57 yards kept him atop the AA-1 leaderboard for catches (27) and touchdown receptions (7)…Thomas Petrucci also had a 34-yard TD grab for the Marianists… Defensively, Brandon Coward (19 tackles), Aidan Cappellino (14 stops, 4 TFL, 2 sacks), Robert Booth (13 tackles, 2 stops for negative yards, 2 sacks), Brendan McCabe (11 tackles), Patrick Gardner (11 stops), Dylan Lomelo (7 tackles, 1 INT), Patrick Noonan (5 stops, 1 INT, 2 pass defenses), and Matthew Vassallo (4 tackles, 1 pick) all closed out the regular season in impressive fashion in the “w” against Fordham Prep…As acknowledged in last week’s quarterfinal notes, the Rams’ late-season success has come courtesy of the commendable play on both ends of the gridiron from 11th grader, Matthew McKillop…Forcing a safety on defense and then adding a TD run on offense against Chaminade, the Edgemont resident has become a game-changer for FP…Another very gifted young gentleman that you need to keep an eye on this coming Saturday is sophomore field general, Jack Annicelli…Originally expected to compete on the junior varsity this season, the 6‘1, 150-pounder has transformed himself into quite the trusted asset under center. Against the Flyers, he had a 10-yard TD pass to Jayden Wiggins. This past weekend, he kept that momentum going, throwing a pair of touchdowns to Owen Loffredo…Junior linebacker, Mike Rice, had an interception in the quarterfinal win over St. Francis Prep.
“AA-1” Semifinals: #2 Kellenberg Memorial vs. #6 St. Peter’s (Nov. 9th, 7pm @ Mitchel Field)—–Winners of 27 of their last 28 games against double-A foes and fresh off of a first round bye, the Firebirds will be holding nothing back as they take their next step towards the often mentioned, but rarely achieved three-peat this Saturday night versus an Eagles squad that has been rejuvenated following a big time upset over returning AA runners-up, Xavier…A 49-17 KMHS win when the two schools hooked up on October 19th, it was the usual suspects doing the damage for the Blue & Gold…Senior tailback, Jordan Delucia, who darn well better be among the top choices for both the Thorpe Award (Outstanding Player in Nassau County) and the NYS Player of the Year, had yet another mind-blowing showing during week #7, garnering his fifth (added a sixth in the regular season finale versus CTK) 200-yard rushing performance of the season (251), while also running for three or more touchdowns (4) for the fifth time. To boot, the future Harvard student-athlete added a pair of receptions for 85 yards and one additional score to wrap up the day having racked up 336 yards and five TDs…On the few occasions when it was not #7 carrying the load, Kellenberg was lethal in the air, as 12th grader signal caller, Dan Settino (leader in AA-1 in passing yards and TDs in 2019) had a banner day in the air, connecting on 5 of 6 throws for 145 yards and three touchdowns…Maximus Mongelli posted the first multi-TD game of his career, taking two of his three receptions (55 yards) to the house…11th grade stud, Griffin Chernoff, put up a very balanced game on both sides of the ball, spelling Delucia in the backfield by rushing for a season-high 59 yards on 12 carries, while concurrently tallying a team-best six stops on “D”…Anthony Bradshaw (5 tackles), William Ligarzewski (3 stops), Bossuet Jules (3 tackles) all made players on defense that resulted in losses of yardage for St. Peter’s…Sean Foley earned a sack…RJ Tocco intercepted a pass…On the other sideline, even in defeat, the QB-WR combination of Vincent Mazzone and Brendan McKeon, shined, as they teamed up on both of the Eagles touchdowns…Caesar Cali solidified himself as one of the best kickers in the NYCHSFL by striking and connecting from 47-yards out…Still riding the adrenaline rush of their quarterfinal win (the team’s first since Mark DeCristoforo returned to assume the reins), anticipate a potentially difference-making night from the backfield duo of Michael Politi and Kaiwan Taylor. The former had TD runs of 60 and 80 yards in the first half last week, while the latter caused and returned a fumble 99 yards (2nd quarter) on defense and then punched in a 2-yarder (4th quarter) on offense to account for all of the Staten Island based program’s points…While full statistics were not available, in speaking to SiLive, DeCristoforo praised the likes of Derek Rosenow, Luke Jakubauskas, McKeon, and John Martello (1 INT) for their stellar play on defense…Two-way lineman, Anthony Casillo, set the example in the trenches in the “w” over the Knights.
“AA-2” Semifinal: #1 Moore Catholic vs. #5 St. John the Baptist (Nov. 9th, 12:30 pm @ Moore Catholic HS)—Boosting what might be the most talented roster in school history, the top-seeded Mavericks will be determined to make a return to the ‘ship for the first time since winning the “A” crown in 2016…The Cougars, as was true of all of our lower seeded double-A quarterfinalists, advanced to the semifinals by turning a 16-6 loss during the regular season into a 22-15 victory over Holy Cross. Having avenged one previous loss, SJB will try to make it two in a row when they head on the road this Saturday to face a Moore squad that hung 38 points (38-16) on them when the two programs clashed in the regular season finale…About as dynamic and explosive a team in all phases of the game as you will find in the Empire State, when MC bested John the Baptist on October 26th, they did so by scoring points in all possible ways, including a kickoff return and a pick-6…At the forefront of the Moore attack, as he has been the last four years, was senior running back, Justin Lacks…No stranger to postseason accolades, the Adonis in the #6 jersey was the Offensive Most Valuable Player of the 2016 “A” title game as a freshman and is prepared to do everything in his power to ensure that he adds to the bookend hardware to his legacy…Carrying the pigskin 29 times in week #8, Lacks went over the 1,500-yard mark for the season and reached 20 touchdowns behind a 126-yard, two-score effort…Senior QB, Nick Heineman, who is plenty capable of engaging the enemy in an arms race, threw the ball only twice in the first meeting with SJB, but completed both passes (for a total of 51 yards), including a 42-yard TD strike to Anthony Perlongo…Speaking of the 6’2, 190-pound two-way performer [Perlongo], the touchdown grab was one of two on the afternoon for the senior, as Perlongo demonstrated his defensive prowess as well, posting a 65-yard pick-6 to go along with his five tackles (1 TFL)…Cameron Holmes, who ranked 1st among Mav receivers this season with 27 catches, had a nine-yard reception, but especially energized the crowd when he took a kickoff 75 yards to pay dirt…On “D”, 11th grader, Artie Padilla, lived in the opposing backfield, recording six of his 15 total tackles for a loss, including a pair of sacks…Sixx Johnson (10 tackles, 1 INT), Jordan Clanton (4 stops, 2 TFL, 1 Sack), Tashawn Stevens (7 tackles, 1 pass break-up), and Matt Heineman (6 stops) among others also were extremely active and instrumental on defense….For St. John the Baptist, despite getting the proverbial short end of the stick, there was still plenty of positive from which they can derive confidence…The defensive unit, anchored by Jeremy DeJesus (12 tackles, 2 stops for a loss), Christopher Annitto (11 tackles, 1 TFL), Anthony Ermelino (7 tackles), and Liam Clifford (5 stops) held Moore, who averaged over 230 yards on the ground in 2019, to just 156…Offensively, sophomore signal caller, Kyle Chase, will need to avoid the interception (picked off twice in the game) but otherwise looked the part of a polished field general, connecting on 9 of his 12 attempts for 122 yards and one TD hurl…Jayden Louis topped all Cougar ball-carriers with 51 yards on 15 tries…Christian Maisel, the most pronounced member of the SJB arsenal, put forth another tremendous effort, making six grabs for 92 yards and a pair of TDs (Nick Mazziotti had a 1-yard TD pass on his only throw of the contest)…Several of the names listed above were paramount in Baptist’s quarterfinal victory, as Maisel had a 72-yard punt return and caught a 13-yard TD reception; Louis rushed for 75 yards on 12 carries; Mazziotti completed 5 of 9 for 94 yards and two touchdowns, and Annitto registered 12 tackles (2 for negative yardage)…Mark Anthony Scott (15-yard TD grab) and Vincent DiMaria (2 interceptions) were two more prominent contributors in landing Baptist in the semifinals.
“AA-2” Semifinal: #2 St. Joe’s by the Sea vs. #6 Holy Trinity (Nov. 8th, 7:30pm @ St. Joe’s By the Sea HS)—Now just one victory away from earning a spot in the AA finals for the first time in school history, the 7-1 Vikings have already captured the hearts of the Staten Island faithful (after going 1-7 in 2018), but have every intention of also laying claim to the trophy. The next stop on what they hope will be the expressway to Title Boulevard comes this Friday when they are pitted against sixth-seeded Holy Trinity. The Titans, who won just one game over double-A opponents during the 2019 regular season, resembled the furthest thing from an underdog when they completely controlled #3 Xaverian to the tune of a 21-7 triumph in the quarterfinals…When Sea and Trinity locked horns during week #4 (September 28th), it was the former doubling up the latter by a score of 40-20…Turning in a superstar effort for the Vikings would be surefire Offensive Player of the Year candidate, Jackson Tucker…Considered by pundits to be the top dual-threat QB in “AA” and possibly the entire NYCHSFL, the 5’10, 175-pound 11th grader, ranks 1st in AA-2 in passing yardage and touchdowns thrown with 1,517 and 18 respectively and is 3rd in rushing with 750 yards (+ eight more TDs). Against HT, he combined for a total of 306 yards, completing 9 of 16 passes for 187 yards with a pair of TD hurls, while calling his own number on eight separate occasions for another 119 yards and a third overall score…On a day when six different Joe’s by the Sea student-athletes were credited with touchdowns, Tucker was far from the only impact performer, as Jacob Stewart (3 carries for 38 yards), Alfonso Velasquez (3 hand-offs for 19 yards), and Kyle Gaor (8 carries for 35 yards) all scored on the ground…James Speciale (3 catches for 112 yards) and Vincent Vazquez (2 grabs for 40 yards) each had a touchdown reception…Nick Gagliardi (7 tackles, 2 TFL), Nick Ruvolo (6 stops, 2 tackles for a loss, 1 sack), Dylan Bille (4 tackles, 2 stops for negative yardage), and Corey Tehe (3 tackles, 1 sack) played key roles on the defensive side of the ball…With regard to Holy Trinity, the name of the game for the second week in a row will be “stout defense”. Surrendering 446 yards and the previously cited six TDs in the first meeting with the Vikings, HT will need to do a better job containing Tucker and company. In the quarterfinal victory over Xaverian, HT allowed just 214 yards (99 on the ground)…Elijah Tobin (4 tackles, 2 TFL), Stephen Collica (3 tackles, 1 stop for a loss), Andre Wilkes (1 sack), and Otega Uwode (1 sack) all did the job among the front-7, while Dylan Lewis and Jaden Sinclair were both commendable in the secondary with one credited pass break-up apiece…Sinclair, who ran for 51 yards and one TD on three carries versus SJBS in September, was also a hero on offense in the quarterfinals, running for 139 yards and two touchdowns on 7 chances…Kameron Robbins (19 carries, 70 yards, 1 TD in the quarters) posted a team-high 116 yards rushing against the Vikings during week #4…Junior signal caller, Emilio Ramirez, may not have the stat line of his counterpart [Tucker], but can move the football in a variety of ways, as demonstrated when he passed for 31 yards (3-for-8) and ran for 63 (14 carries) last week. Ramirez, who will need to showcase better accuracy the second time around, did toss a TD pass (31-yarder to Bryce Ettrick) versus St. Joe’s as part of a 3-for-11, 54-yard effort.
“AAA” Semifinal: #1 Iona Prep vs. #4 Cardinal Hayes (Nov. 9th, 1:30pm @ Iona Prep HS)—While we don’t encourage betting on scholastic sports events, if you can find a “underground bookie” willing to take the action, be sure to bet the OVER!!! Scoring a combined 99 points (58-41 in favor of the Gaels) and racking up nearly 1,000 yards of total offense between them, when Iona Prep and Cardinal Hayes waged war on October 26th, the fans in attendance were the biggest winners of the day…Stockpiled with talent from top to bottom on both sidelines, we will be shocked if the rematch does live up to the hype by equaling or surpassing the original…A contest that was considerably more competitive (23-21 at the break) than the 17-point margin of victory might suggest, if not for the Hayes turning the ball over five times, it is quite feasible that the Cardinals could have ended IP’s perfect 2019 season…However, you must give credit where it is due, and to be quite frank, we are not sure anything or anybody short of God himself would have been capable of slowing down Iona Prep’s offensive juggernaut…Incorporating an extremely balanced game plan that witnessed them both pass and rush for 200+ yards, the conductor of this train was none other than junior quarterback, Darius Wilson…The Bronx resident completed 15 of 29 pass attempts for 219 yards and two touchdowns. If there was not sufficient enough, he also established a career-high on the ground, carrying the pigskin eight times for 115 yards and one TD to conclude the day having personally contributed 334 yards of ball movement…Wilson was not the only Gael to have a monster day running, as he was joined by fellow 11th grader, Frankie McFadden, who posted a game-high 131 yards and scored twice on 21 attempts…Senior, Kevin Franceschini, was not to be overlooked, as he too ran for a pair of touchdowns, finishing with 21 yards on five hand-offs…Equipped with the deepest receiving corps in the Catholic League and perhaps the entire state, seven unique targets caught at least one pass, with the likes of Justin Joly (5 catches for 76 yards), Jarel Washington (3 grabs for 34 yards), and Alex Williams (2 receptions for 59 yards, 1 TD) being at the top of the totem pole…Danny Riccio’s only catch of the day resulted in a TD… Defensively, Marquis Dukes and Jack Anderson each had one interception apiece; William D’Ambrosio turned defense into offense when he recovered a fumble and raced 50 yards for the touchdown…Turning our attention to the Cardinals, Coach O’Neil’s squad should be comforted by the fact that even if the contest went into the book as an “L” and there was a little too much sloppiness at times, still, they were remarkable in their own right on offense…Sophomore quarterback, Henry Belin, sported a season-best 71% completion percentage, hitting on 22 of 31 attempts for 335 yards and two touchdowns…Belin (5 carries for 38 yards) was also one of three members of the Hayes’ backfield to score a rushing touchdowns, as he was joined by Sidiki Kone (12 hand-offs for 46 yards) and Zachary Mitchell (7 carries for 36 yards)…Not too shabby themselves, Hayes answered IP’s wide-out trifecta with a threesome of their own, as Kuno Mendez (career-best 11 catches for 178 yards, 2 TDs), Jerald Munoz (5 grabs for 61 yards), and Yahya Kone (5 receptions for 78 yards) were superb…Belin (POTW selection; 8-for-13 passing for 155 yards passing; 28 yards rushing + 1 TD on six carries), Mitchell (106 yards and two touchdowns on 13 attempts), and Mendez (5 catches for 92 yards, 2 TD receptions) all remained on fire during the Cardinals’ 61-12 quarterfinal victory over St. Anthony’s…More good news from last week was the return of the team’s leading rusher, Jalen Smith (6 carries for 39 yards) to the backfield…A POTW selection following the 2018 semifinal round, the 5’9, 165-pound senior is dangerous every time the ball is in his hands. Despite missing three games (including round #1 against Iona Prep), he still managed to top all AAA backs with 864 yards rushing and was 2nd in TDs scored with 10.
“AAA” Semifinals: #2 Archbishop Stepinac vs. #3 Christ the King (Nov. 9th, 1pm @ Archbishop Stepinac HS)—Our third and final team actively in pursuit of a three-peat this season, O’Connell’s Crusaders take the field on Saturday winners of four games in a row, including a 45-7 victory over this same Royals opponent during week #6 (October 13th)…Similar to Iona Prep in their balanced offensive scheme, the studs from White Plains passed for 1.529 yards and 20 touchdowns this season, while gaining 1,692 yards and scoring 16 TDs rushing…Because of this equal devotion to both schools of attack, there is no better ringleader to have at the heart of the beast than senior signal caller, Joey Carino…Connecting on 10 of 16 in the air for 236 yards and four touchdowns, the University of Albany bound two-year starter also torched Christ the King for 90 yards rushing on 15 carries…Never short on depth in the backfield, Carino was one of four primary options for Stepinac that chewed up significant yardage, as Jayden Jenkins, Kyle Benjamin, and Kevin McKenna, tallied 48, 38, and 37 yards respectively; Jenkins and McKenna each had TD runs…On the back end of four of Carino’s 10 completions was fellow 12th grader, Quentin McCauley, who averaged 31.5 yards per catch (126 in total) and made a pair of touchdown grabs to solidify an outstanding day…Benjamin (2 catches for 26 yards) and McKenna (1 grab for 47 yards) both added touchdown catches as signs of their well-roundedness…Da’vaine Cushnie (9 tackles, 1 QB hurry), Brendan Wilkins (8 stops, 3 TFL, 2 sacks, 1 hurry), McKenna (7 tackles, one stop for a loss, 1 hurry), Cory Richards (4 tackles, 3 pass breaks-ups, 1 forced fumble), Jaylin Montgomery (4 stops, 1 TFL, 1 sack), and Peter Thompson (2 tackles, 2 interceptions were the essential personnel for a defensive unit that kept the lid on the jar all afternoon, holding the Royals to under 200 yards (195) of total offense, including just 26 yards on the ground…Armed with a who’s who of gifted artillery on either side of the line of scrimmage, despite the drubbing they encountered last month, we have every reason to believe that King will come back stronger from the experience and offer a fierce challenge as they seek their first finals appearance since being AA runners-up in 2015…Should the Jason Brown mentored cohort hope to turn these wishes into realities, the mission will start with the quality of play put forth by junior field general, Noah Bodden…Averaging 327.7 yards and 3.1 touchdowns In CTK’s seven wins this season, the three-year incumbent struggled to find his rhythm versus the Crusaders, completing less than 50% of his aerial attempts (14 for 29) for 169 yards and had a TD to INT ratio of 1:2. The 6’4, 225-pound three-star prospect has elevated his performance the last two weekends, throwing for 440 yards and five touchdowns in the regular season finale against Kellenberg and following it up with a 353 yards/3TD effort in the 28-20 quarterfinal win over Monsignor Farrell…Like the man throwing him the ‘skin, WR Stanley Oxford (3 catches for 35 yards, 1 TD versus Stepinac), has certainly peaked down the home stretch, making 13 catches for 310 yards and two touchdowns between week 8 and the first round of the triple-A playoffs…Dante Goodwyn, Tahliq Battle, Jahrell Billups, who generated only five combined grabs for 40 yards during week #6, all had their mojo going last week, with the former making 5 catches for 56, the middle 2 grabs for 110 + 1 TD, and the latter 2 snatches for 72 yards and one score…Keep an eye on freshman, Tayvon Nelson; Not usually a big part of the receiving corps, the 9th grader out of Staten Island did exhibit some natural talent in the loss to the Crusaders, making two catches for 51 yards…Four-star recruit/Purdue commit, Tirek Murphy, who was absent from the first meeting, has returned to the line-up with a chip on his shoulder, reeling off games of 117 (3 touchdowns) and 83 yards in the victories over Kellenberg and Farrell…Michael Palmaccio, who currently ranks as the top-rated tackler (151) in New York State, Christopher Eaton, Elijah Muhammad, Bak Harris were all very good in October, but will need to be even better on November 9th…All four were ruthless in the quarterfinals, making 41 collective tackles (16 by Palmaccio), including six (4 by Muhammad) that resulted in a loss.