By Matt Diano
Last season, the Chaminade juniors had to endure the pains of a humbling 42-14 loss at the hands of Kellenberg…As seniors, that loss served as the ultimate motivation, as the Flyers earned the sweep (won 28-26 on Oct. 13th) and snapped the rival Firebirds’ two-year reign of double-A supremacy behind a 29-12 victory in the AA-1 title contest on Saturday night.
Spearheaded by the remarkable performances of 12th graders, Ryan Walsh, Donovan Wood, and Paolo Maggio on offense, and both Robert Booth and Dylan Lomelo on “D”, a NYCHSFL crown will be making its way to Mineola for the first time since 2014.
Breaking the ice in the clash of Marianist order schools was Wood, who on Chaminade’s first possession of the evening, caught a short pass, spun, and then turned up field for the 91-yard touchdown to give the top-seeds the quick 6-0 lead.
On their next possession, the Crimson & Gold threatened again, but emerged with no points as the drive was interrupted by a huge interception from KMHS senior defensive back, Eamonn Flynn on the Firebird 20-yard line…The turnover-creating sequence ignited a spark for Kellenberg who used a pair of 20-yard plus runs from Jordan Delucia to move into Flyer territory and then converted an impropable 35-yard TD pass on 4th & 20 from Dan Settino to Kyle Sharkey, to tie the score at 6 with 6:42 remaining in the opening half.
Chaminade regained the lead in the last 13 seconds of the 2nd quarter when Wood kicked a 25-yard field goal to make the score 9-6 at the break.
Kellenberg would move in front for the first and only time all night when after recovering a fumble on the 2nd-half kickoff on the opposing 34, Settino called his own number on a 15-yard scamper up the middle to advance the ball to the 3-yard line. Once in close, it was Delucia putting a cap on the drive by plunging across the line for a go-ahead touchdown to turn the three-point deficit into a three-point edge (12-9) with 8:40 to play in the third quarter.
Next it was be Chaminade’s turn to answer back, which they did with 5:37 remaining in the 3rd when Walsh and Wood hooked up again from a distance of 16 yards to make the score 16-12…Earlier in the drive, it was a Wood 12-yard reception on 3rd & 7 that kept the series intact…Maggio’s 40-yard kick-off return to put the pigskin on the opposing 41 also proved pivotal.
The pattern of alternating scores was finally broken with 2:21 remaining in the third stanza, when after inducing a Kellenberg punt, the Flyers increased their lead to 23-12 on a 51-yard touchdown run courtesy of junior tailback, Mario Fischetti Jr.
Sensing the urgency of the moment, the two-time defending champs from Uniondale gambled early in the 4th quarter and paid the price, when Settino’s pass was picked off by Lomelo 15 seconds into the 4th quarter.
The clock now their biggest ally, Chaminade all by cemented their title victory by marching 89 yards over a span of more than six minutes, culminated by Fischetti’s second TD rush of the game, a 7-yarder, with only 5:33 left in regulation that accounted for the final tally…While #24 in red may be the one who gets the credit in the box score, much of the grunt work was performed by Maggio, who posted a pair of 20+ yard grabs on third down scenarios to preserve possession.
The Firebirds, who deserve all the praise in the world for their great tenure as kings of double-A in 2017 and 2018, had one last opportunity to draw closer, but turned the ball over on downs in the last 2:37 when Booth tackled Settino short of the marker on 4th & 6th…The Flyers kept the ball on the ground, killing off the last two minutes of the 2019 season.
No shortage of worthy candidates from which to choose, Wood (6 catches for 140 yards), whose two TD receptions, one field goal, and two PATs was responsible for more than half of his school’s point output, was named the Offensive Most Valuable Player
Walsh, who saved the best game of his career for the perfect occasion, threw for a career-high 250 yards and the previously cited two TDs on 16-for-20 passing.
Maggio was yet another Flyer student-athlete that went out on the perfect note, establishing new personal bests in grabs (5) and receiving yardage (85).
“Super Mario” Fischetti got off to a slow start, but elevated his effort in the 2nd half, ending his junior campaign with an 18-carry, 135-yard, 2TD showing.
Booth, who set the tone on the defensive line with 8 total stops, 4 TFLs, one sack, and pass break-up, was the unanimous selection for top defensive recognition…He, along with peers—Brandan Coward and Aidan Cappellino—were essential in limiting KMHS’s All-Stater, Delucia, to just 92 yards on the ground (only the second time this season he did not reach the century mark).
By Matt Diano
For every coach that has ever preached to their team that seed is just a number, Cardinal Hayes is the program for you…Entering the postseason 4th (the lowest seed among today’s finalists) out of six teams in the triple-A division, Head Coach CJ O’Neil’s Cardinals shocked the Empire State football world the past two weekends, knocking off previously unbeaten/top-seeded Iona Prep, 45-34, in the semifinals and then following it up with a statement-making 25-7 victory this afternoon over #2 Archbishop Stepinac…The win ended the Crusaders’ bid for a three-straight league crown.
Getting off to a rather dubious start, the boys from the Bronx fell into an initial 7-0 hole when they fumbled inside enemy territory on their first series of the game and then allowed a 66-yard TD run a few snaps later to Stepinac junior tailback, Kyle Benjamin…This would be the only blemish on an otherwise outstanding effort on both sides of the ball for Hayes.
Issuing a response to the Stepinac touchdown on their third possession of the 1st quarter, Hayes found success on both the ground and in the air, chewing up 55 yards on three runs and a pass before sophomore fullback, Zachary Mitchell, punched in his sixth rushing touchdown of 2019 from a distance of eight yards out to square the score at 7 apiece halfway through the opening quarter.
Still deadlocked at 7, our “Cinderellas” in Cardinal & Gold really seized the momentum late in the first half, scoring a pair of touchdowns in the last 3:20 of the 2nd quarter to carry the 19-7 edge into the break…The first of the two touchdowns came on a 2nd & 13 pass attempt, as sophomore field general, Henry Belin, teamed up with his favorite target, Kuno Mendez (top-3 in New York State for receiving yardage and TD grabs), on a 34-yard connection to make the score 13-7 with 2:33 to play in the quarter…Less then 1:00 later, after inducing a punt, it was senior RB, Jalen Smith’s turn to shine, as he took the first snap of the drive to the outside and then cut back up field, out-running all would-be defenders to the tune of a 70-yard sprint to the house.
Stepinac appeared well on their way towards cutting into the deficit in the last 45 seconds of the half, as they had 1st & goal inside the Hayes’ 10…However, the combination of penalties and clutch defensive plays would cease the drive…On 4th down, it was Na’Sir Douglas, emerging with the biggest contribution to the stand, breaking up a pass attempt to create the turnover on downs.
The Cardinals’ “D”, which consistently was in the face of Stepinac signal caller, Joey Carino (7-for-22, 108 yards, proved to be just impenetrable in the final 24 minutes of regulation…Led by Defensive MVP, Nicholas Burgess (7 tackles, 4 TFL, 4 sacks), Charles Miracle Oguamanam (5 tackles, 3 TFL, 3 sacks), and Douglas (4 pass break-ups), Hayes never allowed the usually immensely potent Crusaders’ attack to gain any semblance of comfort or rhythm.
Junior DL, Shawn Ward, also got in the suffocating mix, racking up back-to-back sacks to force a punt in the last half minute of the 3rd quarter…The excellent starting field position his stellar performance yielded would be rewarded four minutes later, when Hayes put the nail in the coffin on a 12-yard TD run by Tafari Blackstock to make the score 25-7 with 8:50 still to be contested…Blackstock also had a 23-yard gain early in the series to advance the ball into the red zone.
Stepinac would have one last chance to try to reverse their fortunes, but a sack by Burgess (his 4th of the day) ended the drive, allowing the Cardinals to exhaust the remainder of the clock on the ground.
Belin, who concluded the day with a stat iine that read 12-for-18 for 209 yards, was named the Offensive MVP…Smith topped all rushers with 125 yards + the one TD on 13 carries.
Cardinal Hayes now advances to the AAA State title game where they will play the Monsignor Martin champion on November 23rd.
By Matt Diano
Three years ago, Justin Lacks stood at midfield at Mitchel Field and collected the Offensive Outstanding Player award in the “A” title time…Today, playing in the finale of his decorated career as a Maverick student-athlete, he had the privilege of recreating the honor, as he rushed for 225 yards and 2 scores on 35 carries to lead Moore Catholic to their first ever Double-AA-II crown, 28-6 over St. Joe’s by the Sea in a battle for Staten Island bragging rights.
Trailing 6-0 after Joe’s by the Sea scored on their first series of the game on a 2-yard QB keeper, Jackson Tucker, The 6’1, 215-pound stud [Lacks] wasted little time getting his school even when on 3rd & 6th, he exploded out of the wildcat formation and cruised 64-yards for the touchdown.
The Mavericks made it two drives in a row that ended in the end zone when 15 seconds into the 2ndquarter it was senior quarterback, Nick Heineman, connecting with fellow 12th grader, Cameron Holmes, on a 15-yard TD strike on 4th down to put the Mavs ahead, 12-6…The series was aided greatly by a shortened field that was created on defense by a Perlongo blocked punt that gave MC possession on the opposing 42.
After the initial fireworks that witnessed 18 combined points go up on the board in a span of a little over 12 minutes, the defensive units on both sidelines would settle in and the next two quarters went scoreless, setting the stage for an exciting conclusion.
Finally, less than one minute into the 4th quarter, the drought came to an end, when Holmes made it a TD on each side of the ball, when he stepped in first of a Viking pass attempt and raced 29 yards down his own sideline for the pick-6…Moore completed a pass attempt for the two-pointer conversion to make the score 20-6 with 11:07 remaining.
Approximately two minutes later (8:48 on the clock), the Maverick “D” again rose to the occasion, as it was junior, Matt Heineman, forcing a turnover on downs when he stuffed the Joe’s ground attack to give his team the ball back right around the 50…A few snaps later, it was Lacks again finding the promising land for the 22nd time this season and the 67th time of his storied four-year scholastic career, when he took a toss and bolted 48 yards to pay dirt for the proverbial backbreaker…In addition to providing the Mavericks with some insurance, this trek held an even greater significance as it gave Lacks the all-time record for career grounds yards in the five boroughs…For good measure, #6 tacked on a 2pt conversion run to round out the scoring for Moore.
Never ones to quit on themselves, St. Joe’s by the Sea did try to rally, moving the ball inside the red zone in the last 6:15 of regulation. However, their last-ditch effort to get back into the game would be prematurely spoiled when Moore senior LB, Anthony Curran Jr. Intercepted a pass on the 6-yard line.
Holding the Viking offense to their lowest output of the season (averaged 35.8 points per game), Moore Catholic’s shutdown efforts were led by Defensive Most Valuable player recipient, Artie Padilla, who recorded five of his seven total tackles for a loss of yardage, earned two sacks, and had a forced fumble…Holmes (2 stops, 1 PD, and the aforementioned INT turned TD) and Anthony Perlongo (5 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 sack, and the blocked point) were exceptional in their own right.
By Matt Diano:
“AAA” Finals: #2 Archbishop Stepinac vs. #4 Cardinal Hayes (Nov. 16h, 2pm @ Mitchel Athletic Complex)—Something of a rite of passage in the NYCHSFL, no triple-A postseason would be complete without the annual showdown between the Crusaders and the Cardinals…Meeting in the playoffs for the sixth straight season (4-1 in favor of Stepinac; 2-1 in the championship games), including a rematch of the 2018 finals (won 29-18 by STEP), whenever these two storied programs lock horns, the game never fails to live up to the hype…Such was the case on October 19th, when the two teams were so evenly matched that the outcome was not decided until the final moments of regulation when Enda Kirby drilled a 30-yard field goal to propel AS to the 28-26 triumph…In that game, the two-time defending league and state titlists from White Plains would earn the “w” despite getting a modest, by his high standards, performance out of two-year starting quarterback/University of Albany bound Joey Carino. A 60% completion passer who tossed for 172.4 yards per game this season, the Somers resident went just 11-for-25 for 108 yards + 1 TD last month (added 55 yards and one additional score on 18 carries). While these numbers are quite respectable for the typical high school quarterback, because he has spoiled us all in the past and set a precedent, It goes without saying that we have become accustomed to the kind of displays that he showed a season ago in last year’s title game, completing 10 of 16 for 254 yards and three touchdowns…In the “absence” of their usual domination in the sky, Stepinac was outstanding in their work on the ground, averaging just under 6 yards per carry on 40 attempts (240 yards) and scoring twice. At the forefront of the rushing attack was junior, Kyle Benjamin, who posted a season-best 117 yards and scored once on 11 hand-offs… Jayden Jenkins (38 yards on 10 tries) and Kevin McKenna (30 yards on two carries) were also effective as ball-carriers…Benjamin (66), Jenkins (48) and McKenna (22) accounted for 136 of Stepinac’s 220 yards running in their 43-6 semifinal win over Christ the King last Saturday…Known more for his defensive prowess, reigning POTW selection, Cory Richards, tallied a season-best four catches for 44 yards in the win over Hayes during the regular season; the 5’9, 163-pound senior was even more electric in last week’s semifinal round, taking both of his catches to the house to end the game with 60 yards receiving…McKenna (2 catches for 18 yards) had the lone TD grab during week #7…Quiet (1 catch for 20 yards) against the Cardinals a few weeks ago, you can never overlook Stepinac’s top target, Quentin McCauley (23 catches for 487 yards and 8 TDs as a senior). In the 2018 State title win over St. Francis (Buffalo), McCauley had a three-grab, 55-yard, two-TD outing, so we know that he is at his best when the stakes are highest…Blessed with a very experienced defense led by the top-3 tacklers in the 2018 league finals—McKenna (15 stops), Mekhi Green (10 tackles), and Zach Barnes (10 tackles, 2 pass break-ups), not to mention Richards (2 stops, 3 PDs, forced and recovered a fumble in the 2018 finals), the #1 rated (14.9 points allowed) unit will also rely on the likes of Brendan Wilkins (12), Da’vaine Cushnie (9), Rafael Fasolino (8), and Nick Tuliapano (2) among others who combined for 31 tackles and 2 sacks during week #7…For the Cardinals, who seem to be making a habit out of reaching the title game as a low seed (made it as the #5 last year), confidence has to be at an all-time high following their 45-34 conquest over previously unbeaten/#1 ranked team in NYS, Iona Prep, in last Saturday’s semifinal round…With each subsequent week taking the snaps, sophomore QB, Henry Belin, is emerging more and more as a clear-cut star for Hayes…Connecting on 16-of 26 throws for 272 yards and two touchdowns versus Stepinac during the regular season, Belin has taken his game to the next level in the postseason, completing 73.7% (28-for-38) of his passes for an average of 226 yards and six touchdowns in two playoff games in 2019…If the coming of age of Belin is the #1 reason why the Cardinals step onto the field on November 16th believing that they can do anything on offense, then the secondary rationale has to be the return of consummate playmaker, senior RB, Jalen Smith…Announcing his presence as a difference maker in last year’s AAA playoffs, the gentleman in the #23 jersey has rushed for 100+ yards in three of his four career postseason appearances, including a 17 carry, 105-yard night (added 40 yards + 1TD receiving on 3 grabs) during last year’s championship contest. Smith did not play on October 19th, so there is no telling whether or not having him would have reversed the outcome…But, if there has been one positive that has resulted from him being on the shelf for a few weeks, it is that several teammates did and continue to elevate their efforts in the backfield…Sidiki Kone and Tafari Blackstock combined to rush for 125 yards and two scores in the loss to Stepinac and have maintained their tenacity, gaining 53 and 65 yards (1 touchdown apiece) respectively last week in the takedown of the top-seeded Gaels…Zachary Mitchell is only two weeks removed from a 13-carry, 106-yard, two-touchdown showing in the quarterfinals against St. Anthony’s…Out wide, there has been no bigger story than junior Kuno Mendez…Recording at least one TD in six straight games (including four in the postseason), the 5’9, 170-pound 11th grader has shot to the top of the NYCHSFL leaderboard in yards (1,041) and TD receptions (10). His 53 receptions is 2nd in the Catholic League (behind Monsignor Farrell’s Christian Tait) and ranks 3rd in NYS. In the first match-up versus the Crusaders, he registered 8 grabs for 143 yards and one score…Yahya Kone and Damon Barnes have both asserted themselves as solid options at WR…Kone had a 3-catch, 70-yard, 1TD display in week #7 and quite active last week, making four catches for 34 yards and another touchdown against Iona Prep…Barnes, like his counterpart Richards, was a Player of the Week selection after catching a season-high 3 balls for 15 yards in the semis…Anticipate many of these same names and faces doing double-duty, as [Sidiki] Kone (9 stops, 3 TFL, 2 sacks), Blackstock (8 tackles, 1 stop for negative yardage), and Barnes (8 tackles) all stood out on ”D” when the schools met during the regular season…Nicholas Burgess (15 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 sack) and Na’Sir Douglas (7 stops, 1 TFL) factored prominently in the October 19th box score too.
“AA-1” Finals: #1 Chaminade vs. #2 Kellenberg Memorial (Nov. 16th, 5:30pm @ Mitchel Athletic Complex)—The rematch of the October 12th Marianist Bowl that all Long Islanders wanted to see, when the Crimson & Gold [Chaminade] faced off with the Blue & Gold [Kellenberg] during the regular season, the two programs were so evenly matched that the contest was ultimately decided by the Flyers’ ability to break up a 2pt conversion pass attempt in the last 70 seconds of regulation to hold on for the 28-26 victory…Junior tailback, ”Super” Mario Fischetti Jr. was the catalyst on offense for Chaminade in week #6, rushing for a career-best 262 yards and tying his personal-high of four touchdowns on 22 carries. He has shown no signs of slowing down either, as he has run for over 100+ yards and scored at least one touchdown in all subsequent appearances, including last week’s AA-1 semifinal against Fordham Prep, when he collected 157 yards and 3TDs despite only playing in the first half…So as to prevent the Firebirds from stacking the box, Coach Dolan will be counting on senior QB, Ryan Walsh, to be a tad more effective in the air this Saturday. In the first meeting, Walsh connected on just 1 of 8 attempts (to one of the NYCHSFL’s leading receivers, Donovan Wood) for 7 yards. However, his semifinal performance (7 for 12, 70 yards in the air) was more reminiscent of the Rockville Centre resident’s talents…Boosting the top defense in AA-1, when competing against a once in a generational talent like KMHS senior running back, Jordan DeLucia, it is imperative you win the battle of the trenches. In the initial match-up, Aidan Cappellino (14 tackles), Brandon Coward (13 stops), Robert Booth (13 tackles), Liam McCormick (10 stops), Vincent Fowler (8 tackles), and Brendan McCabe (8 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 sack) all did layman’s work in “containing” DeLucia to just 150 yards on the ground (also had 75 yards receiving on 3 grabs; and threw a TD pass)…Dylan Lomelo (10 tackles, 1 PD) had a blocked PAT early in the game that forced Kellenberg to have to go for 2 at the end… Kevin Cudahy (6 tackles, 1 pass break-up) was the one to knock away the aforementioned two-point try to seal the “w” for the Flyers…On the opposite sideline, the two-time defending League champs, Kellenberg, which fought back from a 19-0 deficit in their 36-32 semifinal win over St. Peter’s, possesses the more diverse offensive attack. Because he is a returning All-Stater and ranks in the top-4 in NYS for rushing yards, total yards, and total touchdowns scored, it is easy to paint #7 [Delucia] as a one-man show. However, when you do that, you risk sleeping on some very impressive personnel…In his first season taking the snaps, Dan Settino, has been outstanding, hurling for close to 1,500 yards and tossing 15 touchdown passes, including a solid outing versus Chaminade that saw him complete 13-of-21 attempts for 215 yards and two TDs….Maximus Mongelli, who is fresh off of a 5-catch, 126-yard, 3TD game in the semifinals, Kyle Sharkey (4 grabs for 20 yards last week), and Joe Foley (2 catches for 9 yards in the semifinals) hauled in TD receptions versus the Flyers in week #6…Sharkey (6 tackles), Bo Jules (6 stops, 1 sack), Tim McGrath (3 tackles, 1 sack), William Ligarzewski (1 sack), and James Risso (1 INT) all performed well on defense during the first get together between the two sister schools…Suiting up for the last time as a KMHS student-athlete, expect to see DeLucia adding toughness and speed to the “D”.
“AA-2” Finals: #1 Moore Catholic vs. #2 St. Joe’s by the Sea (Nov. 16th, 10:30 am @ Mitchel Athletic Complex )—Another battle for community bragging rights, whereas the AA-1 title game will be a clash of Long Island, AA-2 will feature the top-2 teams on another island, STATEN ISLAND!!! The clear #1 and #1A teams this season in their division, the top-seeded Mavericks are the owners of the top-rated offense (36.3 ppg) and were 2nd on defense (16.6 points allowed per contest), while the #2 Vikings were right on their heels on both sides of the ball, scoring 35.1 and permitting 17.8…Those making the trip across the bridge to be there in person are in for a treat, as both rosters are stacked with dynamic playmakers on each side of the line of scrimmage…No matter the victor, you are guaranteed to get your money’s worth as both schools are vying for their first titles in the Double-A Division…Moore Catholic, who last reached championship weekend three years ago when they seized the “A” crown, have the distinction of being the only team to beat Joe’s by the Sea this season, which they did by a score of 36-26 on October 20th…In that game, All-Everything senior running back, Justin Lacks (who was the Offensive MVP of the 2016 finals) went off in a big way, rushing for 251 yards and three touchdowns on 36 carries…Approaching the final act of a scholastic career that has produced over 5,200 yards and 60+ touchdowns on the ground, the 6’1, 215-pounder, who just picked up a scholarship offer from Long Island University, will be determined to go out with a bang…Fellow senior, signal caller, Nick Heineman, has every reason to feel encouraged following what may have been his finest showing of the season in the semifinal win over St. John the Baptist. Connecting on 8 of 14 attempts in the air, Heineman tossed for season-bests in yardage (244) and touchdowns (4; all in the 1st quarter). Against the Vikings in week #7, he struggled a bit with accuracy (4-for-11), but did throw two TD passes and averaged 22 yards per completion…Adding to what seems like an endless list of weapons on offense for MC Is their two-headed monster at the WR position—Cameron Holmes and Anthony Perlongo…Both fresh off of great performances last week in the win over SJB, the former caught four passes for 156 yards and two touchdowns, and the latter complemented with four grabs of his own for 88 yards and a pair of scores. In the first meeting against SJS, Holmes was on the back end of both of Heineman’s TD strikes (distances of 63 and 18 yards), ending the day with three grabs for 78…Artie Padilla (14 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 1 PD), Justin Francis (9 stops, 1 sack, 1 PD), Ashton Padilla (8 tackles, 1 fumble recovery), Matt Heineman (8 stops), and Stephen Gerwer (5 tackles, 2 pass break-ups) joined Perlongo (16 tackles, 1 sack) and Holmes (8 tackles, 1 sack, 2 PDs) in wreaking havoc on defense last month…On the opposing sideline, Joe’s by the Sea will counter with an Offensive Player of the Year candidate in junior field general, Jackson Tucker…Responsible for 2,551 yards (1669 throwing, 882 rushing) and 29 touchdowns (19 via air, 10 on land) in 2019, the 5’10, 175-pound 11th grader is the NYCHSFL’s equivalent to Lamar Jackson in terms of his ability to take over and influence a game. In the loss to Moore a few weeks ago, Tucker was still quite remarkable, hitting on 12 of 16 passing for 123 yards and adding 110 yards and two TDs on 17 chances. JT was every bit as good in his school’s semifinal win over Holy Trinity, totaling 284 yards (152 passing, 132 rushing) and three touchdowns…Held to just 55 yards (excluding Tucker’s contribution) on the ground in week #7, if the Vikings hope to avenge their only blemish, they will need to the likes of Kyle Gaor (51 yards and 1 TD on 14 carries), Jacob Stewart (1 hand-off for –5), Cristian Clavell (did not carry the ball in the first meeting), and Corey Tehe (no carries in week #7) to provide a second wave of attack on the ground. Gaor ran for a season-best 90 yards on six carries last weekend…Joe’s by the Sea is by no means at a disadvantage out-wide either, as they see MC’s duo and raise them a quintet—Vincent Vazquez, Justin Alexander, James Speciale, David Maj, and John Sciulla….Speciale (42 yards), Maj (25), and Sciulla (35) all made three catches against the Mavericks during the regular season, while Alexander was credited with one catch for 7 yards. Vasquez led the team with 22 receptions this season…Gaor (2 catches for 35 yards, 1 touchdown in the semis) is dangerous as a target out of the backfield…Devin Malvasio (9 tackles), Aidan Ryan (8 stops), Chris Gulemmo (8 tackles), Nick Nebel (7 stops), and Jesse Addesso (2 tackles, 4 pass break-ups) were all bright spot defensively on October 20th.
It may have come a season later than expected (lost 19-12 in the 2018 championship game after posting a perfect regular season league record), but the seven-year wait is over in Somers as the 2019 NYCHSFL Single-A crown is en route to top-seeded Kennedy Catholic following an absolutely crazy 39-33 overtime victory against two-time defending titlists, #2 Cardinal Spellman.
An epic contest with a finale that even the greatest storyteller could not have invented, in the last 3:10 of regulation, the outcome shifted from all signs suggesting at an inevitable Gael victory to all signs pointing at a KC demise, to all square at the end of 48 wild minutes.
Trailing for much of the game and plagued by two costly mishaps that saw them come away with no points despite being inside the opposing 2-yard-line , Kennedy Catholic did not take their first lead until there was 6:12 remaining in the 4th quarter when junior quarterback, Clayton Proctor, called his own number on a 7-yard keeper to give his school a 23-20 advantage.
Approximately three minutes later (3:10 on the clock), it was the 5’10, 170-pounder out of Yorktown Heights seemingly putting the champagne on ice when he capitalized off of a forced turnover on downs by punching in his third TD run from a distance of 5-yards, to increase the lead to 30-20….Then CHAOS ensured!!!
Desperately in need of a quick response, Spellman answered back 40 seconds later when sophomore field general, Aidan Hanley-Piri, fired his second touchdown pass of the game to Ethan Ortiz to cut the deficit to 30-26 with two and a half minutes still to be played…The TD was the second of the day for the 2018 Championship Defensive MVP [Ortiz]…On the first series of the game, he culminated a penalty-aided (KC was flagged for a pair of facemask grabs) drive by powering his way in for a 3-yard TD run that gave CS the initial 7-0 lead. [EDITOR’S NOTE: Since publication, we were informed that it was #17, Nathaniel Cooke, and not #7, Ortiz, that caught the 20-yard TD pass in the 4th quarter].
A clutch defensive stand by the Pilots yielded a Gael punt, giving possession to the Bronx based program at around their own 43 with 44 ticks on the board…Moving the ball to midfield via a nice scramble by Hanley-Piri, Spellman still found themselves in dire circumstances as the time dipped to 25 seconds…With nothing to lose, the two-year starter under center went for broke, throwing up a Hail Mary to the team’s #1 receiving option, Dylan Molitor-Williams…And, to the amazement of everyone in attendance, that prayer was granted, as the 6’0, 200-pound wide-out came down with the ball, shed a defender and cruised into the end zone for the 49-yard TD catch to put CS back in front, 33-30, with just :16 separating them from a three-peat…The miracle grab marked the third “6” of the evening for Molitor-Williams, who also had a 30-yard catch on 4th & 6 in late in the 1st quarter (made the score 14-7 in favor of Spellman), as well as broke a 14-14 tie in the last 2:00 of the 1st half when he took a hand-off up the middle and raced 67 yards to pay dirt to send the Pilots into the break with a 20-14 edge.
The shocking comeback “w” so close that Head Coach, William Cawley and the Pilots could smell its sweet aroma, what transpired next was nothing, if not utterly heartbreaking…Hit with two 15-yard penalties after the go ahead score, Spellman was forced to kick off from their own 10-yard line…Intending to angle their kickoff to not give up a big return the Pilots made the mistake of booting the ball out of bounds at their 25, giving the Gaels excellent starting field position.
Already in the comfort range of 11th grade place-kicker, Liam Mullholland (who was looking to atone for a previous 42-yard miss in the 3rd quarter), Proctor took one shot at the end zone, but his pass attempt was knocked away…On the next snap, rather than panic and gamble, #1 in the home blue did a remarkable job surveying the field before completing a pass inside the 10 with :01 on the clock…The stage set, Mullholland converted the biggest kick of his life, drilling the pigskin through the uprights with zeros on the scoreboard to send the game to extra frames!
Spellman took the ball first in the alternating overtime sessions, but was unable to generate any points, turning the ball over on down after a 4th & long pass into the back of the end zone could not be pulled in.
Now needing a score of any kind to seize the title, Proctor, as he has all season long, was the man to deliver, turning what might have been a broken play into a sequence that will forever be remembered…Dropping back to throw, he rolled left but could not find any opening; instead of giving up on the down, he instead cut back in the other direction, accelerated into a new gear and dove at the pylon for the history-making 12-yard touchdown!!!
By virtue of his five-TD night (also had a 17-yard TD pass to Bobby Piesco in the 1st quarter to even the game at 7 apiece, and squared the score at 14-14 in the 2nd with a 3-yarder), Proctor concludes his junior campaign with 18 (7 in the air, 11 on the ground) in full.
A relatively young team that returns several starters at the skill positions, including their QB [Procter], top-4 tailbacks [Piesco, Nick Duryea, Gary Kellogg, and Mulang Musso], two reliable pass-catchers [James Brown and Anthony Castaldi), and the likes of Ikenna Ononaji, Thomas Nunziato, and William Brann on “D”, the question becomes, having ended Spellman’s bid for a third straight title, might a three-peat be in the cards for Kennedy?
Varsity Championships at Mitchel Athletic Complex, Uniondale
Saturday, November 16, 2019
AA – 2 Championship – Joe Lamas Memorial Trophy (10:30 am)
#2 St. Joseph by the Sea v. #1 Moore Catholic
AAA League Championship – Michael Cunnion Memorial Trophy (2:00 pm)
#4 Cardinal Hayes v. #2 Archbishop Stepinac
AA – 1 Championship – Joe Lamas Memorial Trophy (5:30 pm)
#2 Kellenberg v. #1 Chaminade
Tickets $7 in advance, $10 at the gate.
Tickets go on sale Wednesday at participating schools
Junior Varsity at Higher Seed
AAA Championship – John Marchassalla Memorial Award
#2 St. Anthony’s @ #1 Archbishop Stepinac (Saturday, November 16 – TBA)
#3 St. Francis Prep @ #1 Chaminade (Saturday, November 16 – TBA)
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.