Nov 262017
 

By Matt Diano: For the second weekend in a row, it would be a huge streak of unanswered points that proved to make the difference for Head Coach Mike O’Donnell, and his Archbishop Stepinac squad in propelling them to championship glory…Last Saturday, the Crusaders fought back from an initial 14-0 1st quarter deficit by putting the next 34 straight points on the board en route to claiming their third NYCHSFL AAA crown in a span of four years, 47-22 over St. Anthony’s….This afternoon, it would be a 26-0 third quarter rally  that not only gave them the lead but also plenty of breathing room as they avenged their 2014 loss (23-10) in the inaugural Catholic State title game by completely overwhelming the defending titlists, Canisius, 49-28.   The triumph on the road (the visiting team remained undefeated, 4-0, in the short history of the contest) closed out the 2017 season for the boys from White Plains with a mark of 10-2.  It also secured them the CHSAA State brass ring for the second time in the past three years (previously won in 2015, beating St. Francis, 42-28), tying them with their nicknamesakes [Canisius] with two apiece.

Trailing 14-9 at the break with their only points in the first 24 minutes coming on a safety on the final play of the first quarter (gang tackle in the end zone by Joey Cappiello, Douglas Simmons, and De’Andre Smith) and then a 75-yard TD dart over the middle on 3rd-and-5th from Michael Nicosia to Shawn Harris Jr. less than one minute later (11:09 remaining in the 2nd quarter), things looked out of sync offensively at the onset of the game for Stepinac.   On multiple series throughout the first two quarters, they demonstrated an ability to move the ball deep into opponent territory, but seemed unable to cap off those drives.   They started off the game by having three of their first four 1st half possessions end as such: turnover on downs (incomplete pass on 4th-and-20; holding penalty pushed them out of the red zone), interception by Canisius’ senior CB, Keenan Ollison in the end zone on a throw from inside the 10-yard line), and turnover on downs (incomplete pass intended on 4th-and-14th at around opposing 16-yard line).  The only offensive points were recorded on the aforementioned home run hurl to Harris on AS’s third drive.

The second half would be an entirely different story though as points would come in bunches for the Red, White, and Blue army, commencing less than 90 seconds into the third quarter when Nicosia scrambled to buy time and then found a wide open Trill Williams at the Canisius 30-yard line.  With nothing but open space in front of him, the future Syracuse Orangeman did the rest, running untouched to the end zone to complete the 61-yard play and give Stepinac a 16-14 lead that they would never relinquish.

The Stepinac defense having found their groove and forced a punt on Canisius’s first turn with the ball in the 3rd quarter, the offense made it two productive drives in a row when Malik Grant, who established a new career best on the ground with 130 yards rushing (11 carries) on the afternoon, shot through the middle and cruised 25 yards to the promised land to up the edge to 22-14 (missed XP) with 7:10 left to play in the 3rd….The scoring trek was set up by the play that preceded it as Nicosia, who was so masterful in his final appearance under center, danced his way to a 15-yard gain on 3rd-and-long to keep control of the pigskin for his school.

The predicament they faced went from bad to worse for the Rich Robbins guided version of the Crusaders when on 3rd-and-5, junior tailback, Joe Jamison, paid the price for trying to fight for additional yards as Stepinac 11th grader defensive back, Tyler DeCrescenzo, ripped “the precious” free and bolted 42 yards for the always valuable defensive touchdown to create further cushion, 29-14, at just under the midway point of the third stanza….The fumble for a touchdown would be one of two takeaways credited to the 5’11, 175-pound Port Chester resident.  In the last four minutes of the 4th quarter, he showed why you always practice the tip drill, adding an interception (on the STEP 27) to his resume on a ball that was initially knocked into air by Cappiello.

Following a shanked punt that put the ball on the opponent’s 30 yard line, it was the “Jack-of-all trades”, the “Thriller” himself [Williams] scoring his second touchdown of the game when he took a handoff wide, side-stepped a pair of would-be tacklers and tight roped his way 18 yards down the far sideline for the TD with 3:19 remaining in the 3rd quarter to account for the last six points (another missed PAT) of the game-turning rally.  On the previous play, it was Nicosia on a QB draw up the gut for the other 12 yards of the series.

Canisius, who had been forced to endure the misfortune of being held scoreless for a period of around 20 minutes between the end of the 2nd quarter and the start of the 4th, finally got on the board in the second half when the star of the 2016 title contest [313 yards, 5 TD passes in the 50-44 win over Cardinal Hayes], senior field general, Jayce Johnson tossed the first of a pair of touchdown passes to fellow 12th grader, RJ Brandon, from seven yards away just five seconds into the final quarter of their scholastic careers to briefly keep hope alive by cutting the deficit to 35-21.

That faith would be short-lasting however as Stepinac immediately issued a response when on back-to-back snaps, Grant ran 54 yards to the Canisius 13 and Harris polished off the drive by busting through for the remainder to again make it a three-score margin, 42-21 with only 10:40 unspoken for.

Never an offense in the habit of taking their foot off the gas, Stepinac tacked on one more “6” with 4:49 on the clock, as Williams allowed those in attendance and watching at home to bank just a few more candid memories of his God-given talents when after moving the chains on a 1st down run on 3rd-and-12, he made one of the best plays of the season, catching a 21-yard pass while flat on his back (The play was so good that ESPN SportsCenter deemed it #1 in their Top 10 for the day) in the end zone for his second receiving TD, third overall on the day, and seventh score in the past two weekends to make the score 49-21….He also racked up his third interception in the past two games when he won a jump ball early in the 2nd quarter.

As the clock dipped under 1:00 to go in the 2017 season, Canisius would make the final score a little more respectable as Johnson hooked up with Brandon on a long 50-yard pass….While his career is not ending the way he prayed it would, Johnson should still hold his head mighty high, as even in defeat he put forth a solid showing in his finale, having a hand in all of the Canisius touchdowns…In addition to the two passes to Brandon, he also had deuce touchdown runs from 1-yard out (plunged in on a second effort) for the first score of the game in the 1st quarter and a 53-yard QB option in the 2nd that make the score 14-9.

Ending the game with 338 yards on the ground, unsung hero honors have to be bestowed upon the middle of the Stepinac offensive line, who time and time again blew open tunnels for their assortment of backs….While you never want to single out one name or face, let it be known that sophomore guard, Ajani Cornelius, and junior pivot, Shadi Rabadi, whose names were uttered more than sporadically, are going to be massive (in size and significance) towards any repeat ambitions in 2018.   They, along with junior OTs, James Prince and Jonathan Mucciolo are going to be the anchors in the trenches for perhaps the best returning offensive line in the Empire State.

Wrapping up this chapter of their football careers in style were Nicosia, who chucked for 182 yards and three scores (to give him 30 on the year) on 9-for-18 passing, and Williams, who accumulated 141 yards of total offense, running for 66 yards and one TD on eight carries and catch three balls (2 touchdowns) for an additional 75 yards of production…..Harris Jr., who will be back in 2018, also put on a show, scoring one touchdown apiece with his hands and legs and surpassing his living legend teammate [Williams] atop the total production chart with 164 yards (86 rushing on 10 handoffs; 78 receiving on a trio of grabs).

 

Note:  Special Thanks to News 12 Varsity whose stats we used in this summary

Nov 242017
 

Archbishop Stepinac (9-2; NYCHSFL) vs. Canisius (8-3; Monsignor Martin)

When: Saturday November 25th, 2017

Where: Canisius High School

Time: Noon

Watch: News12Varsity.com

How they won their respective Regional Titles:

Canisius (Defeated St. Joseph’s Collegiate, 22-14)

-Junior linebacker, Joe Jamison, broke a 14-14 tie early in the 4th quarter, forcing and recovering a fumble and returning it 26-yards for the game-winning score….He finished the game with 10 overall stops and 1 sack in being named the Defensive MVP…Jamison also averaged 8.2 yards on the ground on 10 carries as the team’s primary option out of the backfield.

-Senior quarterback, Jayce Johnson, struggled a bit in the air (5-for-11, 67 yards), but was lethal with his legs, accounting for both of the Crusaders’ 1st half touchdowns on a pair of TD runs from 34 and 15 yards away.

-Trailing 14-7, junior, Joel Nicholas, set up the tying score when he returned a kickoff from his own 14 to the opposing 20…He was also stellar on defense, making 13 tackles and a sack.

-All in all, the Canisius defense was a collective turnover creating machine, forcing three fumbles during the game.

-On the first play of the game (an untimed down following a pass interference call that advanced the ball to the 1-yard line), the Crusaders knocked away the last ditch attempt by the Marauders to keep their chances alive….Earlier in the series, it was Rutgers bound, Paul Woods, with a successful pass defense in the end zone.  The team’s leading receiver, he added two catches for 27 yards on offense.

Archbishop Stepinac (Bested St. Anthony’s, 47-22

-Climbed out of a 14-0 first quarter hole by scoring 33 unanswered points in the 2nd through 4th quarters

-Senior Quarterback, Mike Nicosia, had a hand in four total touchdowns, scoring on a 1-yard keeper for AS’s first score of the game and then 8, 7, and 67-yard TD-yielding passes in the second half to Sergio Pinto, Trill Williams, and Shawn Harris….Nicosia finished the night completing 71.4 percent of his attempts (20-for-28), racking up 245 yards and the aforementioned three touchdowns in the air.

-Speaking of the man we have renamed “Thrill”, the previously cited 7yrd TD reception was just one of four scores in the game for Williams.  He also had a 56-yard run in the second quarter, as well as a 73-yard punt return and a 39-yard pick-6 in the 3rd quarter.

-While he may not have gotten on the board, senior WR, Alex Thomas, was a catalyst on many of the Stepinac drives, leading the team with seven catches for 110 yards….Fellow 12th grade wide-out, Tyler Winston, contributed five grabs for 37 yards.

-The Stepinac defense held a St. Anthony’s ground attack that entered the game averaging 181 yards to just 127 on 33 carries (3.8 average).

-As excellent as the defense was in stopping the rushing attack, they were even better patrolling the air, forcing Friars’ junior quarterback, Greg Campisi, into his poorest showing of the season….An individual who entered the title game with over a 70 percent completion percentage, Campisi was successful on just 8 of his 18 attempts (44 percent) and was intercepted twice (both times by Williams).  His 27.1 QB rating was nearly 70 points lower than his 2017 average of 96.7

Synopsis:

The only two schools to ever hoist championship hardware in the three-year existence of the state title game, thus far, it is the Crusaders from Buffalo leading the race, 2-1, over their namesakes from Westchester….

Opposing each other just once during this span, it was Canisius emerging with a 23-10 victory in the inaugural edition of the contest in 2014….Since then, the two decorated programs have split the last two crowns, with Stepinac winning in 2015 behind a 42-28 effort over St. Francis, and Canisius earning the right to defend their throne tomorrow when they pulled off a come-from-behind triumph (17-yard TD pass) in the last 12 seconds of regulation to shock Cardinal Hayes, 50-44. 

A clash of two explosive offenses (who are pretty darn good on the other side of the ball as well), when the All-Crusader showdown kicks off tomorrow in Buffalo at noon, the one thing that those in attendance can expect is no shortage of potential explosiveness and fireworks….Combining to average over 72 points per game (38.3 by Canisius; 34.3 by Stepinac), there are play-makers all over the field on both sidelines.   The question is not “if someone will step up and have a career-defining day?”, it is “who will be the man to put his team on his back and carry them to the 2017 state crown?”

Both programs who incorporate balanced attacks that are equally effective whether it be on the land or by air, if we had to handicap the match-up, the stats suggest that excluding any deviation of game plan (ex- Trill Williams taking over as primary ball carrier for AS; which is not far-fetched), Canisius, who is running for approximately 190 yards and 3.5 touchdowns per game would enjoy a slight advantage on the ground, while the Nicosia captained Stepinac cohort and their 245 yards and 2.6 touchdowns have proven more dangerous in the passing aspect of the game.

Setting the example and commanding the troops for Canisius will be one of three student-athletes at the skill positions that brings a wealth of big-game experience with him, the senior QB, Jayce Johnson….Despite throwing for career-highs of 313 yards and five touchdowns in last year’s state win over Cardinal Hayes, the 6’5 field general has never been regarded as an old-school gunslinger.  On the contrary, much like the quarterback that Stepinac faced in the AAA title game [Campisi], Johnson is known for his dual-threat ability, as evidenced by the fact that he has tossed for 16 touchdowns [113-for-201, 1,583 yards) while concurrently being the top TD producer on the ground with 13 (543 yards on 102 carries).

Insanely deep in the backfield, in addition to the man under center, Canisius has the luxury of possessing a who’s who of capable ball carriers….Included at the top of the list is junior two-way standout, Joe Jamison, who ranks 1st on the team in yardage (704) and trails only Johnson for TDs scored with 11….Also expected to see action is another of the polished veteran’s from the 2016 state title win, Kenyatta Huston.   Limited to just six appearances this season per Max Preps, the senior tailback was dynamic when he was on the field, averaging 10.4 yards per touch to enter this weekend with 353 yards and four touchdowns on just 34 carries.  Huston had a 23-yard TD run in the first half a year ago against Hayes….Joel Nicholas is yet another 300+ yard rusher on the season, racking up 347 yards of production and finding the promised land seven times on his 42 touches….

If Mike O’Donnell’s squad attempts to smother the run by stacking the box, Johnson will not hesitate to go aerial, which usually means heavy and painful doses [for the opponent] of future Scarlet Knight, Paul Woods.   By far the #1 target out wide, the 6’2, 185-pounder has more than double the number of catches (41) than the next closest teammate.  Not surprisingly, he also is the clubhouse leader in receiving yards and touchdown grabs with 577 and nine respectively…A game-changer in 2016, Woods had a nine catch, 179-yard, three TD effort in the “w” over Hayes….Likely to be shadowed by [Trill] Williams, If Woods struggles to establish space, a trio of other seniors—John Minogue (19 catches, 256 yards, 2 TDs), Keenan Ollison (18 snatches, 210 yards, 2 touchdowns), and RJ Brandon (16 grabs, 332 yards, 3 scores)— will be asked to elevate their performances and aid the pass attack.

Defensively, Canisius will feature a lot of fresh faces in 2017 compared to last season.   Despite graduating their top eight tacklers, their top-2 pass rushers, and 3/4s of their leading interception men, the Rich Robbins inspired unit has not skipped much of a beat, holding their foes to an average of 20.1 points/game….A big reason why it has been such a smooth transition has been the outstanding play of many of the names already introduced…Jamison is second on the team in both stops and sacks with 59 and seven, and is part of a four-way tie for top honors with a pair of INTs; Nicholas is the top QB bagger with eight and is third with 53 tackles; Ollison is another player with multiple interceptions and has added 39 stops…..Some new names on “D” that you will surely get to know tomorrow are the team’s overall tackles king, Raymond Miranda (66 stops, 2.5 sacks), Chris Louisos (36 tackles, 3 sacks), Benjamin Schoehle (34 stops, 2.5 sacks), and Giovanni Gilchrist (30 tackles; team-leading with four PDs, tied for top spot with two INTs)….Known for their ability to pry balls loose, the trio of Jamison (8), Miranda (4), and Nicholas (3) have accounted for 15 of the 22 forced fumbles recorded by the team this season.

Providing the razzle dazzle on the other sideline for the boys wearing the Red, White, and Blue will be the school’s All-time passing leader, Michael Nicosia (146-for-226; 2,507 yards, 27 touchdowns in 2017) and his band of speedsters—Alex Thomas (tied for the team lead with 39 catches; leader in receiving yards and touchdowns with 964 and seven), Tyler Winston (39 catches, 544 yards, five TD grabs), Shawn Harris (23 catches, 473 yards, six TDs), and Trill Williams, who has only made nine catches (3 TDs) this season, but gets mentioned because he tends to get spotlighted in some capacity (receiver, wildcat QB, etc) on must have 3rd and 4th downs…Sergio Pinto, who caught a touchdown pass in the AAA title game last week, is another capable bullseye for Nicosia to hit.

Identical to what we stated in the AAA title game preview against St. Anthony’s, Stepinac may be lacking in that same 1-2 punch [Giannico/Gomez] they rode in 2016 on the ground, but may be slightly deeper on the depth chart when it comes to trusted handlers….Jamal Dallas leads the Crusaders with 524 yards on 93 carries.  While the junior [Dallas] has been the workhorse/track layer, the finishers this season have come in the persons of Harris (329 yards, team-high six rushing TDs on 41 carries), Malik Grant (271 yards, five touchdowns on 51 touches), Williams (251 yards and five scores on just 25 handoffs), and QB keeper legend, Nicosia (226 yards, five touchdowns on 81 attempts).  Excluding Nicosia, the other names on this list are all averaging 5.3 or more yards per carry, with Williams (10/touch) and Harris (8/handoff) being the biggest breakaway weapons.

Stepinac Earned the Crown in 2015 against St. Francis. Canisius has won both times they played in the game in 2014 & 2016 Photo courtesy of Ryan Nagelhout @goosesroost

On the other side of the ball, Stepinac has been completely locked in the past previous weekends, holding the always electrifying Cardinals and Friars to just 12 and 22 points in their run to a third NYCHSFL crown in the past four years….If you looking for a reason for this clutch, collective display, it all starts and ends with the work of the D-line and the linebacking corps….Slept on at the beginning of the 2017 season, the cohort upfront, consisting of Matt Mitrakos (50+ tackles, 3 sacks, 3 forced fumbles), Doug Simmons (50+ tackles, close to 20 sacks), Alex Pena (29 tackles, 2 sacks),  Joseph Garbowski (40+ stops, 2 sacks, 2 fumble recoveries),  Nermin Metjajic (33 tackles), etc. have taken their efforts to a whole new gear down the stretch.

Never short on talent at linebacker, this year’s group has been especially potent, with Kevin Gray (the defensive MVP of the AAA title game) now well over 100 tackles for the season, sophomore Kevin McKenna, asserting himself as a future standout with 70+ stops, and Dexter Chance Jr. and De’Andre Smith excelling on the outside with 43 stops/1 sack/2 INTs and 42 tackles/2 sacks/7 PDs respectively.

Last, but by no means least, when it comes to secondaries, you’d be hard pressed to find a more complete one anywhere in the Empire State…The Syracuse bound, Williams (39 tackles, 4 INTs, 5 forced fumbles, and 13 pass break-ups) carries the star label because of his shutdown tendencies, but everywhere you look, there is a solid play-maker…Joey Cappiello (60+ tackles, 4 INTs of his own, 8 PDs), Tyler Decrescenzo (40+ stops, 5 pass break-ups), Isaiah Walker (40+ tackles, team-leader with 14 successful pass defenses, and Dominic Nicolo (12 PDs) are plenty capable of turning the entire football field into a restricted air space!!!

One interesting tidbit that we’d be remiss if we did not address is the fact that in the previous three renditions of this state title contest, the home team has yet to win, as Stepinac lost in 2014 to Canisius on Long Island (Mitchel Field), St. Francis was defeated by Stepinac the following year while playing in Grand Island, and last season, Hayes saw their late lead disappear at the hands of Canisius in a game played in the Bronx on the campus of Fordham University/Coffey Field….With this in mind, perhaps it is Stepinac that will enjoy the “non-home field advantage”.

Nov 242017
 

Picture from High School Football America

While no one will disagree that the true meaning of Thanksgiving is a celebration of family, friends, and good fortune, in the NYCHSFL it possesses an equally great purpose; many a time it is the day that we bid a fond fair well to some of our most accomplished and cherished student-athletes.  2017 proved no different as between the 94th and 75th anniversaries of the Turkey Bowl games played between Fordham Prep/Xavier and Cardinal Hayes/Mount St. Michael Academy, the downstate Catholic football faithful said goodbye and banked away another afternoon of memories  for six returning All-League players, three of whom earned the distinction of being named All-State during the first three years of their respective careers (Note: many will repeat and fresh faces will surely be added when the 2017 list is released at a later date).

Fordham Prep-28; Xavier-0

Less than a week removed from moving into 2nd place All-time in career passing yards for a NYS scholastic quarterback (was already top-3 for touchdown passes) after throwing for 400+ in the Double-A finals loss to Kellenberg Memorial, Rams Quarterback, Matt Valecce, got his much deserved happy ending in his final appearance in the Maroon, leading his school to their second consecutive Thanksgiving Day victory over rivals, Xavier.

Without question the most accomplished signal caller to ever play in the NYCHSFL, the future Boston College Eagle would close out this chapter of his bright career on the gridiron ideal fashion, hurling the last four touchdowns of his four-year varsity career to three different receivers to have a hand in just about every point FP put on the board on Thursday morning….This final four bullets brought his season total to an astounding 41 and his career tally to a mind-blowing 112.

Already a two-time All-State honoree (5th in 2015, 2nd last season), Valecce is a virtual lock to earn a third straight designation and should very much be in the conversation for both 1st team honors, as well as the overall State Player of the Year Award.

Needing only three plays to get his team on the board in the opening drive of the contest, Valecce would hit fellow 12th grader/Ram’s leading receiver entering the game (67 catches), Liam McHale with a 15-yard dart to make the score 7-0….McHale, who should garner some major All-State consideration himself after posting a monster swan song campaign, ends his 2017 season with nine TD grabs.

Losing their top-3 pass catchers to graduation in June, today’s festivities also gave FP the opportunity to take a look at some new talent out wide.   And it appears they have found quite the keeper in the person of junior, Devin Pettus….Credited with just seven snatches and no scores heading into the 2017 finale, the 6’3, 175-pounder had the finest performance of his young career, finding himself on consecutive TD connections between the 1st and 2nd quarters to increase the FP lead to 21-0….His first touchdown catch of the season came immediately following a special team’s turnover by Xavier that put the ball on the Knights’ 15-yard line.  On the ensuing snap, Valecce hit him perfectly for the 15-yard strike to make the score 14-0 at the end of the 1st….Fast-forward to the second quarter and this time the tandem hooked up from 11-yards away to further pad the advantage.

Coming out of the intermission still very much on fire, the 112th and last score hurled by Valecce would go to the perfect target, as it was his three-year partner in crime/fellow 2016 All-State (3rd Team) recognized player, Will Loffredo, on the back end of a 38-yarder for his career-best 14th TD catch of the year…His four-year journey comes to an end with 32 touchdown grabs.

Also donning the Fordham Prep colors for the last time in his career was dominant lineman, Joseph Petti….An All-League pick last year, the 6’6, 295-pound gentle giant (described as a great human being on and off the field) will answer the call to serve his country as he will continue his academic and athletic pursuits as a member of the class of 2022 at the United State Naval Academy.

In a shocking turn of events, the aforementioned three studs will not be the only faces adorning the Rams’ sideline in 2018.   Breaking the news to News 12 Varsity reporter Greg Thompson, FP Head Coach, Pete Gorynski, announced that after 21-seasons at the controls he will not be coming back next year….In his more than two decades at the helm, Gorynski was the architect of two title winning squads, hoisting the Double-A crown in 2011 and the A trophy in 2014…His teams also finished as AA runners-up on two separate occasions, 2006 and this past season.

Cardinal Hayes-44; Mt. St. Michael Academy-16

While it was the 6’4 Valecce serving as the catalyst in the first of our two traditional Holiday showdowns, in the other, the star-power was delivered by one of the shortest in stature, but largest in terms of play-making ability, Hayes senior wide receiver, Lucas Nunez.

Standing just 5’8, the Sacred Heart University commit has been a larger than life presence every time he has stepped onto the field during his three-year Cardinal career. ..The definition of a football magician, the reigning NYS 2nd Teamer (1500+ yards, 21 TD catches last season), is a threat any time the ball gets into his hands, whether it be as a receiver, a DB, or a return man.  No matter his physical measurements, he ends his high school career toppling all when it comes to being feared by the opposition.

One year removed from having nine grabs, 184 yards, and 1 TD in the Turkey Day victory over the Mountaineers, the future Pioneer would make it wins in a row for Hayes, putting one final exclamation mark on his decorated resume by turning three of his final snatches on the morning into scoring plays, as he personally accounted for 3/5s of super sophomore, Sofian Massoud’s five touchdown passing performance, and was on the back end of 164 of the 10th grade field general’s 350 ( on 11-for-17 in attempts) yards in the air.

Massoud would partner up with another of the Cardinals heralded senior two-way players when he opened up the scoring approximately 90 seconds into the game, hitting Valecce’s soon-to-be Boston College teammate, Elijah Jones, on a 51-yard TD bomb to give the 2016 AAA Champions the early 8-0 lead….An individual who entered the season having never made the All-League or All-State teams, Jones was so outstanding in areas of the game this season that we fully expect that to challenge when the accolades begin to get bestowed…The TD reception gives him 14 on the year in this capacity to go along with three rushing scores, an INT return a kick return.

The 2017 double-A semifinalists from Murdock Avenue [MSM] would drew even just about 1:00 later when returning All-League defensive back, Marquis Jimenez, put his offensive prowess on display, running 16-yards on a QB draw to knot the score at 8-8.  This was the 11th time in 2017 he found the end zone with his legs.   He also added four TD passes from under center.

As they had done during the earliest points of the contest, the two squads traded scores before the end of the 1st quarter with a pair of senior tailbacks inflicting the pain in each case….Putting Hayes back in the lead 15-7 on just his fourth TD run of the year was Nasier Salgado, who found space and broke free from 13-yards out…The Mount would then take their turn and briefly make their guests sweat when a 3-yard TD rush by Tim Brumell (his 7th of the year) was complemented by a successful two-point conversation to give them the slimmest of edges, 16-15, at the end of 12 minutes.

Unfortunately for the host Mountaineers, any hopes they may have had of snapping the four-year skid in the historic series became quickly dismissed by Nunez, who, as he has done several times prior in the past two seasons, would single-handedly take over the contest in the second quarter, catching touchdown passes of 67, 5, and 84 yards in a span of nine minutes to turn the previously cited 16-15 deficit into a commanding 38-16 lead at the midway point….Most impressive about his two 60+ yard scores were that in both situations, the catch itself was for a modest amount and it was Nunez’s ability to gain major YAC yardage that turned them from singles into home runs…He concludes his senior campaign with 15 receiving TDs, two scores on the ground, as well as a KOR for a touchdown, to barely surpass Jones for the team-lead with 18 total.

Commencing the second half in precisely the same manner in which he started the game, it would take Massoud little to no time at all to continue to add to his school’s lead, throwing his fifth and final TD of the morning to junior WR, Angel Tamarez, early in the 3rd quarter to round out the scoring the game…The TD snatch by Tamarez, his first touchdown of the season, was the only TD scored by a non-senior between the two schools.

Massoud, who in our preview, we stated might struggle to fill the cleats of Christian Anderson, wraps up his first-year as the starter under center having tossed for more than 3,000 yards and 32 touchdowns….We proudly eat our humble pie after underestimating him and look forward to seeing what he can/will accomplish during the course of the next two seasons in the Cardinal and Gold #10 jersey.

Not getting on the board, but still worthy of recognition is Hayes’ running back, Carlos Fernandez, who if not the injury bug, would have had an incredible senior season…A 2016 All-League selection as a junior, rushing for 753 yards and amassing another 363 as a pass-catcher out of the backfield, while compiling touchdown totals of 10 and 3 in each role, the three-year varsity team member never seemed to be at full strength in his last months as a Cardinal student athlete.  However, even if his body would not allow it to happen for him in 2017, his legacy is never forgotten by those of us blessed to watch him compete.

Port Richmond-14; Moore Catholic-6

In the only remaining game involving a Catholic League team, it would be the Port Richmond Raiders of the PSAL winning a battle for Staten Island bragging rights over last year’s NYCHSFL “A” titlists, the Mavericks of Moore Catholic.

The first appearance by either school on Thanksgiving in over 20 years (per the SI Advance), unlike the two aforementioned games above, this contest was as much about player development and getting an early look at rising varsity talent as it was about ending the 2017 season victorious.

After playing a scoreless opening 12 minutes, it would be Coach, Nick Giannatasio’s Mavs drawing first blood when junior classmen, Vincenzo Scarola and Nicholas Melo, played pitch-and-catch on a 29-yard hurl during the second quarter to put their school up 6-0….This was Scarola’s seventh overall touchdown pass on the year and the first caught by Melo, who per Max Preps, entered having caught just two balls all season for minimum gains.

The MC lead would be short-lived though as the Lou Vesce mentored Raiders offered an immediate response in the form of their own 20+ yard scoring play, as quarterback Elijah Prysock, tossed the first of his two TD passes on the day to fellow 12th grader, Josiah Bideau, hitting 5’9, 145-pounder from 24-yards out to even the showdown at 6-6.

The two programs stayed deadlocked at 6-6 for the remainder of the opening half and for much of the 3rd quarter before Prysock struck again with his arm, connecting with another student-athlete taking the final bows of his high school career, Stephen Montgomery, on a 21-yard throw, to give Port Richmond the lead for good, 12-6…Having caught the pass for the TD, Montgomery tacked on the 2pt conversion with his legs to create the final eight point margin.

While today was admittedly about learning and growing for both schools (who combined to win just five games this season), it probably goes without saying that Giannatasio and his staff left the field knowing that a win to close out 2017 was very much attainable….The Mavericks were within inches of seizing momentum at the end of the 1st half when a 59-yard hurl from Scarola to senior, Tommy Meyers, put the cohort in prime position to go back in front….Unfortunately, Moore’s star running back, sophomore Justin Lacks (back-to-back 1,000+ yard rushing seasons in his two years) would be unable to punch in his 12th TD of the season, as he got stone-walled on three straight attempts, stranding the pigskin on the opposing 1-yard line and turning the ball over on downs….This was a missed opportunity that ultimately proved to be the downfall for the Mavericks as a five-game drought will now hang over their heads at the onset of 2018.

 

Note: Special thanks to News 12 Varsity journalists extraordinaire, Greg Thompson and Elio Velez, both of whom were extremely forthcoming and accommodating in providing game insight into the FP/XR and CH/MSM match-ups.  

Nov 232017
 

On Saturday Archbishop Stepinac will travel up to Buffalo to play Canisius for the 4th edition of the New York State Catholic High School Athletic Association Championship.  Stepinac defeated St. Anthony’s 47-22 in the NYCHSFL Championship Game while Canisius defeated St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute 22-14 in the MMA Championship Game.

Kickoff is 12:00 Noon at Canisius High School and the game will be streamed live on News12Varsity.com and the News12 Varsity App.

 

These two squads battled it out in the inaugural New York State Catholic High School Championship Game back in 2014.  Canisius won the game 23-10 that many deemed to be an ‘instant classic’ of two squads loaded with future college football talent.  Since then Stepinac captured the title in 2015 against St. Francis of Athol Springs NY before Canisius claimed the title back last year against Cardinal Hayes.  This year’s edition of our State Championship should not disappoint.  

 

 

Archbishop Stepinac after the 2015 Game Photo courtesy of Ryan Nagelhout @goosesroost

 

 

Nov 182017
 

Mike Tyson was famously quoted as saying that “Everyone has a plan until they get hit”….For the third-seeded Crusaders from Archbishop Stepinac, they would get hit really hard during the opening quarter of the AAA title contest, surrendering a 75-yard punt return [by Friar junior DB, Makai Murphy] and an eight-yard touchdown run by Sean Bryan to trail top-seeded St. Anthony’s 14-0.

However, rather than allow the early damage to dampen their spirits, the Mike O’Donnell mentored program from Westchester would do what true champions always seem to be able to do, they simply brushed themselves off and got back to the work….The result was streak of 34 unanswered points from the second through the 4th quarters to run away with their third Catholic crown in the past four years, 47-22.

Initiating the two touchdown comeback effort would be senior Quarterback, Michael Nicosia, who completed a 93-yard drive by sneaking in for the last yard to make the score 14-7….Prior to short TD run, it was a pair of screen passes (including a 48-yarder to the 1-yard-line) to fellow 12th grader, Alex Thomas, that spearheaded the majority of the surge.

Stepinac drew within one (14-13) on their next position when just moments after forcing a Friar punt, Syracuse bound, Trill Williams, turned what looked like a play for minimal gain into a home-run blast, reversing field and out-racing the entire STA secondary for a 56-yard touchdown trek with 5:36 remaining in the opening half.   The extra point attempt would be blocked to keep the boys from South Huntington in the lead.

The Crusaders earned the right to carry the edge into the locker room when they made it three consecutive series with a score when Nicosia hit Junior WR, Sergio Pinto on an eight-yard play-action pass for the touchdown with 41 ticks left in the half…While Pinto was the one credited with the TD, Nicosia did much of the layman’s work in getting Stepinac to that point, as it was his three straight QB draws that advanced the ball inside the 10.

In the second half, the cushion would only continue to grow for Stepinac, when Williams would prove why many consider him the greatest triple-threat in the NYCHSFL, fielding a punt and cruising 73 yards for his second TD of the night to make the score 25-14 (another blocked PAT) with 7:01 still to play in the third stanza.

Having scored first on special teams and then on offense, the only thing left for Williams to do would before the night was over would be to get that ever impressive defensive score….That trifecta play would come less than 1:00 into the 4th, when he darted in front of a Greg Campisi pass attempt for a 39-yard Pick-6…A successful 2pt conversion throw made the score 33-14.

The bleeding finally stopped with 7:45 remaining in the game when Bryan followed up a long Julien Chung run by finishing off the drive with a 4-yard TD run….Campisi called his own number on a keeper for the 2pt conversion to make it a two-score margin, 33-22.

With 5:56 still to play, the Friars would have the chance to get back in the game, but would see that opportunity squandered when they fumbled a punt return deep in their own zone…A few snaps later, the nail would be hammered into the STA coffin when the man we nicknamed “Thrill” in the press booth, Williams, tacked on his second offensive and 4th overall touchdown of the night on a 7-yard grab with 3:51 on the clock to make the score 39-22…Nicosia hooked up with Jalen Barger on the 2pt conversion to further put the champagne on ice.

With little left to play for but pride, Williams would deprive the Friars of even that when he closed out his incredible night with a second INT deep in Crusader territory with only 3:20 standing in the way between him and celebrating with his teammates.

While perhaps unnecessary, Stepinac would keep their foot on the throttle until the very final whistle, as Nicosia would team up with Shawn Harris on a 67-yard missile to account for the final tally with just under 3:00 remaining in another electrifying championship weekend.

On a night where he did everything but sell hot dogs at the concession stand, Williams’s 183 yards of total production earned him the Offensive Most Valuable Player….Junior middle linebacker, Kevin Gray (who was a POTW selection during the first meeting between the two schools) put forth a heck of an encore, winning individual honors on the defensive side of the ball.

Nov 182017
 

Matt Sluka…Matt Sluka…Matt Sluka…Matt Sluka…Matt Sluka….Matt Sluka….We wrote it six times because that is exactly the number of times that the red-headed junior assassin either contributed or single-handily orchestrated a Firebird touchdown in the Marianist school’s 54-19 victory over Fordham Prep to seize the a Catholic football crown for the first time since 1999….The 11th and final “w” of the season for the  Uniondale based program holds another special purpose as it puts the finishing touches on the first perfect season in KMHS football history….No matter what happens in the future, these young  men are forever immortalized by their immaculate journey to the throne !!!

Already leading 7-0 following a 47-yard run by super sophomore, Jordan DeLucia, Sluka would explode for the first of his five running TDs on the evening when a Danny Wilson block sprung him for a 63-yard scramble down the sidelines to double the lead to 14-0.

After a Rams’ 21-yard TD pass from Boston College bound Matt Valecce to Liam McHale cut the lead to 14-6, Sluka would demonstrate that he is more than just a pair of legs as he lofted a perfect pass into the arms of DeLucia for a 67-yard touchdown strike to make the score 21-6 with 9:54 remaining in the half.

Valecce would toss his second and third TD passes of the evening to end the half, hitting Tommy Walsh on a 58-yarder with 8:26 remaining, and then connecting with Will Loffredo from 19-yards out on the final play of the opening 24 minutes to draw his team within two points at the break, 21-19.

Unfortunately, for the Pete Gorynski guided squad from the Bronx, this is as close as it would get, as Sluka, who has not been a stranger to big gainers throughout the year, would find an unearthly gear in the second half, scoring touchdowns on four consecutive drives to blow open the game, 47-19.

Commencing with an 11-yard keeper with 10:12 remaining in the third quarter, the Roslyn native, who was a unanimous selection as the game’s Most Outstanding Offensive Player, would add runs from 16 (4:02 to go in the 3rd), 32 (3:09; after Kellenberg forced a fumble on the kickoff), and 52 yards (on the first play of the 4th quarter) out to solidify his living legend status….All in all, he finished the game with 227 yards on 17 carries….He wraps up his junior campaign with over 1,600 yards rushing and 24 touchdowns, both unheard of quantities for the QB position.

With the victor long decided and the matter now rendered academic, junior Frankie Roder would bring the KMHS faithful to their feet one last time in 2017 when he exploded on a 45-yard rusher in the last 5:00 of the game to account for the final score….Roder ended the evening with a 154 yards on the ground, and DeLucia emerged with a 114 yard of his own….Collectively, the Firebirds rushed for 506 yards.

Shawn Hughes, [Danny]Wilson, Elijah Eddy, and Brendan all had banner days on the D-Line, and Aidan Fitzgerald, in his swan song wearing the Firebird colors had an interception (on the 1st series of the game) to hold Fordham Prep to their lowest output of the 2017…Hughes, the leader in tackles on the evening with nine, was your Defensive MVP recipient.

In his next to last high school appearance (will play on Thanksgiving in the Annual Turkey Bowl against Xavier), Valecce may not have gone out as a Double-A champion, but he still did himself, his family, and especially his school proud, throwing for 375 yards and the previously cited trio of TD hurls…He will need to toss for just seven yards in his scholastic finale to move into 2nd place All-time for career passing yards.

 

Nov 182017
 

The wait is over!!!  After playing the role of bridesmaids in each of the past two seasons, the Pilots of Cardinal Spellman finally find themselves atop the NYCHSFL world, following a 20-18 victory over top-seeded Xaverian, in the “A” Division final….The victory avenged a pair of losses (14-13 on September 30th; 20-6 on November 3rd) during the regular season.

Surviving a serious scare in the semifinals that witnessed them have to climb out of a 14-0 4th quarter hole to Kennedy Catholic by scoring 16 unanswered points in the final 12 minutes of play, the Pilots were forced to sweat it out yet again in the title contest when a Xaverian 94-yard touchdown pass from James Resker to Timothy McCabe with 2:55 remaining put the Clippers up 18-14.

However, like a team that refused to lose on this day, the William Cawley led cohort would find an answer on their final drive of the game, when reigning Offensive Lineman of the Year, Michael Booth, channeled William “Refrigerator” Perry by pounding in the winning score from the 1-yard line with 25 ticks remaining in the game to earn his school the right to hoist the hardware for the first time since 2008…The winning score was set up by a clutch QB keeper by senior quarterback, Isaac Yearbook, who on 4th-and-5th, dove at the goal line and got just enough to earn the 1st down and keep hope alive….Earlier in the drive, it was a 29-yard completion from Yearwood to Junior WR, Lance Powell, on 3rd and three that served as the biggest gainer of the series, putting the ball on the Xaverian 27.

A contest of conflicting halves, everything would go right for the Pilots during the opening 24 minutes, as they built a 14-0 advantage by scoring on their first and last drives of the opening half….

Yearwood, who was named the Most Outstanding Offensive Player of the “A” finals gave the Pilots the initial 6-0 lead with 7:10 remaining in the 1st quarter when he threw a beautiful ball to Powell for a 20-yard TD reception…A pattern all day, it was a 13-yard scramble by the signal caller on 3-and-10 that preserved this successful drive as well.

The score remained unchanged until the very last moments of the half, when after missing a 29-yard field goal, Spellman would step up in a massive way on defense, forcing a three-and-out and then blocking the ensuing punt attempt to take possession of the pigskin on the Clipper 5-yard line with approximately 40 seconds left on the clock….On the first offensive play following the special teams’ block, Noah Stewart would dart up the middle for the TD.   A Yearwood 2pt conversion run accounted for the aforementioned margin at the midway point.

Entering title weekend with a perfect record in league play, Mike Jioia’s Clippers had no intention of going down quietly, as they came out of the locker room on fire, cutting the deficit to 14-6 on their first drive of the second half when 11th grade, stud running back, Roberto Auguste, finished off the nearly eight minute drive by bursting through for a 3-yard TD run…Prior to the Auguste TD trek, it was Emmanuelle Olagunju’s 23-yard rush that advanced to the ball to the opposing 6-yard line.

Xaverian, who was seeking their second crown in the past three years (defeated Spellman in the 2015 final), would further climb back into the contest when after standing strong on defense, they made it 2-for-2 in productive 2nd half drives, when Thomas Resker capped off their second possession with a 4-yard rush with 10:06 to play in the game…They would attempt to tie the game with a 2pt pass attempt, but the throw would never make it out of the hands of the quarterback….

Taking their first and only lead of the afternoon on that previously cited 94-yard bomb in the final 3:00 of regulation, the epic comeback story seemed to be ready to write itself…After all, as the owners of the #1 overall defense in all of Catholic football, most times when the game is put in the hands of the Clipper “D”, that game goes into the books as a “w”….But alas, as made famous by the movie, “Little Giants”, one-time is all you need, and today was that one-time for the Pilots…The afternoon belongs to them!!

Nov 162017
 

By Matt Diano:

#1 Xaverian (8-1) vs. #2 Cardinal Spellman (5-5)

When: Saturday November 18th, 2017

Where: Mitchel Athletic Complex

Time: 11 am

 

History of the Season Series:

-Xaverian swept the regular season series, winning 14-13 on September 30th before expanding the margin of victory to 20-6 on November 3rd.

-In both of the Clippers victories, junior standout running back, Roberto Auguste, had breakout performances, running for a combined total of 380 yards (205 in game #1) and scoring two touchdowns apiece in each of the head-to-heads.

-Xaverian QB, James Resker, had struggled with turnovers, tossing three between the two games.  However, when he does avoid INTs, he is proving to be quite capable in the air, competing 57 percent (16 of 28) of his throw attempts.   His role grew considerably in the rematch in November, as his pass attempts doubled from nine to 18 and his yardage tossed increased from 88 to 170.

-After being limited to just eight yards on two grabs in the first game, Senior, Timmy McCabe, was stellar in November, making four snatches for a team-high 75 yards.

-Two-way athletic freak, Isaiah Amazon, proved his ability to impact a game on either side of the ball, catching a 50-yard pass in the first meeting and following it out with an amazing defensive showing that saw him notch a sack, cause two fumbles, and make five stops, in the rematch.

-Philip Iacono has led the Xaverian defense in tackles per game in the series, averaging 8.5 stops per….He also logged an interception in the second game….Sophomore Derin Hansen is not far behind, as he has consistently recorded eight tackles in each contest.

-After surrendering 120 yards on the ground in the first game, the #1 ranked Clipper defense held Spellman to just 57 yards rushing in the November rematch….

-For the Pilots, the senior duo of Noah Stewart and Steven Manfredi, wreaked havoc in their team’s two losses…Combing to record 18 TFL in the two games, Stewart (23 stops; nine for a loss) and Manfredi (22 tackles, nine for a loss) have been bright spots despite the overall outcome.

-In the November defeat, Justin Medina, was spectacular in the defensive backfield, picking off a pair of passes for Spellman…In the initial meeting, he had a pick-6…Between his INT return for a TD in game #1 and his TD rush in the second game, he is personally responsible for 12 of the 20 points that Spellman has scored in the two contests.

 

Synopsis:

Two teams who have had made a history of getting to the title, the last time that at least one of these schools was not participating in the “A” finals was 2012….Since that point, the Xaverian has reached championship weekend in four of the past five years, finishing as runners-up in 2013 and 2014 before winning it all (against Spellman) in 2015….Spellman is making their third straight trip to the title game, having lost 31-12 in the aforementioned 2015 finals to Xaverian, and then following it up with a 32-22 defeat in last season’s championship to Moore Catholic….The Pilots are looking to win their first “A” crown since having a run of two in three years in 2006 and 2008.

On paper, it is no secret who is heavily favored in this game….In addition to entering the weekend undefeated in league games this season, Xaverian boasts both the top-rated offense (27.9 points per game) and the best defense (10.6 points allowed) this season.   These numbers are even slightly misleading when you consider that their lone loss was in a non-conference game in the first week of the season where 20 of the 95 total points they gave up were put on the board.

Xaverian won the A Championship in 2015

The Clippers will be expected to stay with what has worked so well for them in the past; AKA, heavy doses of handing the pigskin off to their junior stud RB, Auguste….A leading candidate to be the recipient of the Offensive Player of the Year in the “A” Division, Auguste tops the field in just about every rushing category possible.   His 144 carries are almost 50 more than the next guy on the list, his 1,126 yards are more than double the next man, he is the only person to average over 100+ per game (125.1), and not shockingly, his 13 TD runs lands him the #1 spot.

While they have not had to utilize the pass game very much (approx. 12 attempts per game) in 2017, when the ball is in the air, signal caller, James Resker, has delivered, as he too stands alone on the leaderboard with 845 passing yards, a 56.2 percent completion percentage, and seven TD hurls….It is quite a major advantage when option B is just as lethal as your primary weapon….Assisting Resker in compiling his impressive numbers just happen to the #1 and #2 ranked receivers, McCabe (17 catches for 295 yards and four scores) and Jason Perlstein (15 grabs, 239 yards, and two touchdown receptions).   Amazon has also been a great weapon out wide, racking just under 27 yards per catch to total 269 on only 10 grabs.  His three TD snatches are second only to McCabe.

 

Lacking some of the star power that is present on the opposing sideline, for Spellman, the name of the game on Saturday has to be “total team effort”….They do not possess a break away, take over the game offensive player the way that Xaverian can ride Auguste….What they do have though is a number of steady and consistent student-athletes that if they work together, can make special things happen for the Pilots….We have already talked about Medina’s exploits as a defensive back; however, he also happens to be their #1 option out of the offensive backfield as well, running for 467 yards and four touchdowns this season.   Complementing him will two additional 12th graders, Darrell Okpo and Michael Booth…Okpo, who scored a 25-yard TD in last year’s title game, leads the squad with five rushing TDs and is second in yardage with 260…Booth, who as one of the best linemen in the division (reigning Player of the Year at his position), is more accustomed to opening the holes than running through them, has been spotlighted a bit as a back, compiling 214 yards and a pair of touchdowns on just 31 carries…Finally, even though he has not been used much in this capacity, you cannot sleep on the possibility than an individual like [Noah] Stewart might be asked to make a contribution on the ground.  Carrying the ball just 14 times for 57 yards, Stewart may not seem like a weapon, but his 47 yards in the 2016 title game solidify him as a very genuine factor.

Because we perceive Xaverian to have more of a quick strike offense, our feeling is that similar to game #1, if Spellman can make the game into a defensive war, they could very well steal it….On the contrary, if Xaverian/Auguste is allowed to dictate terms and put up 20+, they likely will be heading home with the trophy for the second time in the past three seasons.

Nov 112017
 

Varsity at Mitchel Athletic Complex, Uniondale

Saturday, November 18, 2017

A Championship – Thomas Murray Trophy (11:00 am)

#2 Cardinal Spellman v. #1 Xaverian

AA Championship – Joe Lamas Memorial Trophy (2:30 pm)

#2 Fordham Prep v. #1 Kellenberg

AAA League Championship – Michael Cunnion Memorial Trophy (6:00 pm)

#3 Archbishop Stepinac v. #1 St. Anthony’s

Tickets $7 in advance, $10 at the gate.

Tickets go on sale Tuesday at participating schools

Junior Varsity at Higher Seed

AAA Championship – John Marchassalla Memorial Award

#2 Archbishop Stepinac v #1 Cardinal Hayes @ Rooftop (Saturday, November 18 – 2:30 pm)

AA Championship

#2 Xavier @ #1 Moore Catholic (Saturday, November 18 – 10:00 am)