Nov 212019

By Matt Diano:

AAA Champions – Cardinal Hayes

Henry Belin (So; QB; Offensive MVP)—There is a saying in high school and college sports that “no one is a rookie anymore when the postseason rolls around.”  In the case of the Cardinals’ 6’3, 200-pound sophomore field general, no truer words could be spoken as it pertains to the way he has taken his game to the next level during the course of the past three weeks in propelling Cardinal Hayes to their first triple-A title since 2016.

Not named to the POTW list at any point during the regular season, Belin has now been selected twice (also selected following the quarterfinals) during the playoffs and in all fairness, probably had a compelling argument to be nominated for all three of his performances.

Completing 28 of 38 pass attempts for 452 yards and six touchdowns, while rushing for 56 yards and an additional TD on 14 keepers during quarter and semifinal round victories over St. Anthony’s and Iona Prep, even before stepping onto the field this past Saturday afternoon for the triple-A championship, Belin had already asserted himself as the breakout headliner of the 2019 playoffs and the future face of the quarterback position in the NYCHSFL…His stellar display on November 16th was just the cherry on top!

The only underclassman of our eight title-game MVP recipients, Belin connected on 12 of his 18 pass attempts for 209 yards and one touchdown (his 20th TD throw of the year) in the Cardinals’ 25-7 victory over two-time defending league and state kings, Archbishop Stepinac…It was the second time in as many opportunities in 2019 that he notched a 200+ yard game in the air against the Crusaders.  In the narrow (28-26) week #7 loss, he went 16-for-26, tossing for 272 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

His team trailing 7-0 at approximately the midway point of the opening quarter, Belin was instrumental in squaring the game on Hayes’ third possession, rushing for a 15-yard gain to move the ball into Stepinac territory and then later hitting Jonathan Jenkins on a 14-yard WR screen to advance the Cardinals to the opposing 2-yard line…Both plays set the stage for Zachary Mitchell’s equalizer.

The game still deadlocked at 7 apiece with 2:33 remaining in the first half, Belin put the Cardinals in front, 13-7, by throwing a perfect strike over the middle on 2nd & 13 to the NYCHSFL leader in receiving yards and TD catches, Kuno Mendez, for the 34-yard go-ahead touchdown.

Hayes up 19-7 in the early stages of the 4th quarter, Belin laid the tracks for one final bonus score when he played pitch-and-catch with Jerald Munoz, on a pair of completions totaling 34 yards to advance the ball to the Stepinac 35…A 23-yard run by Sidiki Kone, put the ball inside the red zone and then Tafari Blackstock culminated the drive with the 12-yard TD dash to account for the final tally.

Senior RB, Jalen Smith, who also garnered MVP consideration, posted a game-high 125 yards and one touchdown on 13 carries…In six career playoff games between 2018 and 2019, he has surpassed the century mark four times, racking up 627 yards and four touchdowns on 80 carries.

The Cardinals now turn their attention towards winning the first Catholic State crown for the first time in program history on November 23rd when they  head upstate to clash with the Monsignor Martin League champions, Canisius…A rematch of the 2016 state finals won 50-44 by Canisius, both programs had modest regular seasons as evident by the fact that they entered their respective postseasons seeded 3rd [Canisius] and 4th [Hayes] in their brackets, but have caught fire in the month of November, combining to win five in a row, including avenging losses in four of those games.


Nicholas Burgess (Sr; LB; Defensive MVP)—Extending his career by another week, the 5’10, 210-pound Garden Stater, stepped onto Mitchel Field last Saturday with only two sacks this season (per MaxPreps)…By the time the final horn sounded, he had not just increased that number, he had absolutely obliterated it, concluding the afternoon with FOUR QB bags en route to claiming top individual honors on the defensive side of the ball.

The centerpiece (literally as the inside linebacker) of Head Coach, CJ O’Neil’s defensive cohort, Burgess was the catalyst behind a concentrated, suffocating demonstration of determination that saw a lethal Crusader offense accustomed to scoring 40 points, held down to just 7, including a drought that spanned the final 47:22 seconds of the contest.

Consistently plugging the pocket, any time Stepinac QB, Joey Carino, attempted to step up and run, #10 in white was there to personally greet him for a minimal gain or a loss of yards…Not allowing him to ever establish a comfort zone, the Hayes’ “D” also forced the future Albany Great Dane [Carino] into his poorest performance of the year in the air, as he was able to hit on only 7 of his 22 throws for a season-low 108 yards.

His team leading 25-7 in the last 4:00 of the 4th quarter, Burgess’s coverage sack on 4th down on his own 44-yard line was the nail in the coffin, as it halted Stepinac’s last-ditch attempt at a late-game rally.

All in all, Burgess was credited with seven total tackles, four stops for negative outcomes, and the previously acknowledged four-spot in terms of sacks.

Charles Miracle Oguamanam was quite imposing himself, making five tackles, 3 TFL, and sacking Carino on three occasions…Na’Sir Douglas was incredible in the secondary, amassing four successful pass break-ups, including creating a turnover in the red zone when he defended a pass on 4th down late in the first half…Shawn Ward notched sacks on back-to-back snaps late in the 3rd quarter to put himself into the DMVP conversation.

The Cardinal & Gold “D” will need to continue to bring their “A games” this coming weekend, as they face a very formidable and balanced Canisius attack (150 in the air; 201.5 on the ground) that is averaging over 30 points per game.

AA-1 Champions – Chaminade

Donovan Wood (Sr; WR; Offensive MVP)—One of the most explosive student-athletes in the Double AA-1 league in 2019, there were multiple times this season that the 6’0, 175-pound wide out of Manor Park could have been bestowed a POTW nomination…However, perhaps the fact that the distinction came in his final appearance as a Flyer makes the moment all the more special.

Tying his personal-best for receptions in a single game with six (previously set in week #1) in Chaminade’s 29-12 victory over two-time defending champions, Kellenberg Memorial, in the AA-1 title game last Saturday evening, #4 in Crimson & Gold notched the first 100-yard receiving day of his two-year varsity career, finishing with 140.  He would also post his third two TD reception game of the year (week #4 versus St. Peters; week #8 over Fordham Prep).

Wasting no time getting the top-seeded Flyers off to a fast start, on his school’s first possession of the title contest, Wood caught approximately a 10-yard pass, but then spun up field and out-raced the Firebird defense to the tune of a 91-yard touchdown to make the score 6-0.

Trailing 12-9 in the early stages of the third quarter and in need of a big play to regain momentum, again it was Wood on the back end of a beautiful toss from fellow senior, Ryan Walsh, winning his one-on-one match-up with the KMHS cornerback and making a leaping grab on a back-shoulder route to put Chaminade back on top for good, 16-12…Prior to the touchdown grab, Wood also had a key catch on 3rd & 7 to preserve what ended up being the game-winning drive.

Serving as the team’s place-kicker as well, in addition to his pair of TD receptions, Wood converted a 25-yard field goal at the end of the 1st half (to give Chaminade a 9-6 lead at the break) and went 2-for-4 on PAT attempts to conclude the day having been responsible for nearly 60% (17 of 29) of the Flyer point output.

Walsh (16-for-20, career-high 250 yards passing, two touchdown throws), Paolo Maggio (personal-bests in catches and yardage with five grabs for 85 yards respectively), and Mario Fischetti Jr. (18 carries for 135 yards and two TD runs) also were given serious consideration for top offensive player honors.


Robert Booth (Sr; DL; Defensive MVP)—An individual that was immensely solid all season long, but really seemed to elevate his performance in the two rivalry games against Kellenberg, the 6’3, 225-pound defensive lineman was so active in flying to the ball during championship weekend that at times, it gave off the impression to those in the press box that there were multiple #51s occupying the DL for the Flyers.

Posting a career-best 13 total stops in Chaminade’s 28-26 regular season win over KMHS during week #6, the multi-sport student-athlete (committed to the United States Naval Academy to play lacrosse) may not have collected as many tackles during round #2 of the Marianist Bowl, but the quality of his efforts were every bit as important, if not more so.

Of the eight total tackles in which Booth was credited, four of these stops were in the backfield and resulted in a significant loss of yards.   He also recorded his fifth sack of his senior season, and even added a pass defense to his resume, forcing a punt by getting his arms up and knocking pass a 3rd down pass attempt by Kellenberg field general, Daniel Settino, on the Blue & Gold’s second offensive series of the contest.

In fitting fashion, with Chaminade enjoying the 17-point advantage in the final 3:00 minute of the 4th quarter, it was Booth making one final stand when on 4th & 6th, he created a turnover on down by stopping Settino’s scramble attempt short of the sticks.

The anchor and captain of the Flyer “D”, Booth’s individual accolades were part of a tremendous collective effort by Chaminade on the defensive side of the ball that witnessed them hold a very potent KMHS office (entered averaging over 35 points per game) to the school’s lowest output since the 2016 season…Anthony D’Agostino, Brandon Coward, Aidan Cappellino, Liam McCormick, and Dylan Lomelo (1 INT) were all extraordinary in their own right on Saturday night.


AA-2 Champions – Moore Catholic

Justin Lacks (Sr; RB; Offensive MVP)—What a send-off it was for the 6’1, 215-pound three-time (soon to be four) All-Catholic selection from Staten Island…Donning the Maverick jersey one final time in his storied career, Lacks won his second NYCHSFL crown, earned bookend Offensive Most Valuable Player status during championship weekend, and even ascended to the top of the New York City record book in Moore Catholic’s 28-6 triumph over St. Joe’s by the Sea in the AA-2 title game.

Returning to the same turf at Mitchel Field Athletic Complex that three years earlier saw him run for 138 yards and four scores in leading the Mavs to just their second ever NYCHSFL team title (32-22 over Cardinal Spellman in the 2016 “A” championship, there was no better way to close out the scholastic chapter of his football story than to do it all over again in delivering the hardware to Merrill Avenue as a final testament to his legacy.

Carrying the pigskin 35 times this past Saturday morning, Lacks accumulated 225 yards on the ground and found pay dirt on two separate occasions.   It was the fifth 200+ yard running game of the year (8th of his career) for the Mavs All-State tailback, including a 36-carry, 251-yard, 3TD performance in week #7 in the first meeting between these two schools.

The Mavericks trailing 6-0 after surrendering a touchdown to the Vikings on the initial drive of the game, Lacks quickly issued a response and evened the contest when on 3rd & 6, he took the hand-off in the wildcat formation and darted 64 yards to the house for the first of his two aforementioned TDs.

Moore now safely in front by a score of 20-6 early in the 4th quarter, Lacks made history when he took the toss in the backfield and raced 48 yards to the promised land for his 22nd touchdown of the year (67th of his career)…In addition to providing additional insurance, the trek enabled the MC 12th grader to move into sole possession of the New York City career rushing record, surpassing Kadeem Walcott’s (Fort Hamilton) total of 5,400…For good measure, #6 then pounded in a 2pt conversion run to round out a 14-point outing.

Lacks continued to tack on bonus yardage in the waning moments of the title game, capping his tenure with 5,468…His 2019 total of 1,998 yards (8.6 average) rushing was best among all Catholic ball-carriers (all divisions) this season.


Artie Padilla (Sr; LB; Defensive MVP)—The cream of creams for a Maverick defense that concluded the 2019 season as the top-ranked unit in the NYCHSFL (regardless of division) by allowing just 15 points per game, Padilla was at the heart of a unified shutdown effort that held St. Joe’s by the Sea nearly 30 points below their season average (35.8 entering the AA-2 finals) and bottled up Vikings star signal caller, Jackson Tucker, limiting the dual-threat weapon to 178 yards of total offensive production (averaged 283+).

Equally involved and dominant in disrupting the passing game (Tucker threw for a season-low 87 yards and was intercepted two times) and stuffing the ground attack (the Vikings mustered just 104 yards rushing after averaging 235.2), the 5’10, 212-pound senior linebacker was unblockable in his pursuit of any and all SJS ball carriers, recording five of his seven total stops behind the line of scrimmage…Applying so much pressure to Tucker from the outside that he might as well have been his conjoined twin, Padilla logged his third consecutive two sacks performance…To boot, he even had a forced fumble [that Sea was fortunate enough to dive on].

Reflecting upon his body of work as a whole in his swan song campaign, there is no doubt that Padilla is worthy of serious consideration for league Defensive Player of the Year merit…Having amassed 140 total tackles (2nd in NYS) and 8.5 sacks in 2019, he sits atop the AA leaderboard in both categories.

If not for Padilla’s outstanding showing in the AA-2 finals, Anthony Perlongo (5 tackles, 2 stops for a loss, 1 sack, 1 blocked punt), Matt Heineman (6 stops, 1 sack), or Michael Peraino (6 tackles, 1 TFL) could have all been named as Defensive MVP on November 16th.

Senior, Cameron Holmes, played the most complete game for the Mavericks, as he scored a touchdown on both sides of the ball, catching a 15-yard pass on 4th down to snap a 6-6 tie and give MC the 12-6 edge 15 ticks into the 2nd quarter…Holmes later turned defensive into offense when he registered a 29-yard pick-6 at the onset of the 4th quarter to up the advantage to 20-6.

A Champions – Kennedy Catholic

Clayton Proctor (Jr; QB; Offensive MVP)—A season ago, an injury robbed Myles Proctor of the privilege of playing in the “A” title game; the result of his absence was a hard fought loss to Cardinal Spellman…On Sunday, November 10th, younger brother, Clayton, made sure that even if it was a year later than anticipated, there would be celebration in the family home…He delivered on his promise!

Emerging with what may have been the greatest individual single-game effort of the 2019 Catholic football season, the 5’10, 170-pound field general out of Yorktown Heights left “everything and then some” on the field in catapulting (he literally dove) top-seeded Kennedy Catholic to their first team title in program history, 39-33 (OT) over the rival Pilots.

A surefire candidate, if not the consensus front runner, to follow in his brother’s footsteps and win the “A” Offensive Player of the Year award at the Communion banquet next month, [Clayton] Proctor’s dual-threat capabilities were never in question, as evident by the fact that he was both the #1 passer (765 yards + 6 TD throws) and a top-3 rusher (665 yards and seven touchdowns) in the division…However, despite his mighty impressive track record, he managed to outdo even himself in ensuring that the hardware would be Somers bound.

More than doubling his regular season average of 204.3 yards of total offensive production in the championship contest, Proctor was deadly with all of his limbs, rushing for a career-best 275 yards and four touchdowns on 36 carries (7.6/per), while simultaneously flinging the pigskin for an additional 145 yards and one score on 12-of-18 in the air…The 30 points that he PERSONALLY had a hand in generating was more than any of our other three championship-winning schools were able put up in their respective triumphs on November 16th.

The Gaels trailing 7-0 late in the first quarter, Proctor recorded the first or his five scores when he connected with Bobby Piesco (2 catches for 31 yards) on a 17-yard TD pass to even the score at 7 apiece.

Approximately five minutes later, he let his legs do the talking on another equalizer, as he took the ball in on a 3-yard keeper to tie the score at 14-14.

With 6:12 remaining in the game, Proctor gave the Gaels their first lead of the night when he again called his own number, this time from 7 yards away to put KC on top, 23-20.

TD #3 on the ground/his fourth overall came with 3:09 still on the clock on a six-yard draw to make the score 30-20.

After an absolutely mind-blowing sequence of events witnessed Spellman score two touchdowns and then Kennedy respond with a game-squaring field goal with :01 on the clock, the game went to overtime.

Regaining possession after a clutch defensive stand by the KC defense yielded no points, Proctor fittingly had his hero moment, transforming a broken pass attempt into a 12-yard scramble, which ended with him diving at the pylon for the winning touchdown.


Aidan Bernal (Sr; OL/DL; Defensive MVP)—On an evening where the cumulative point total may suggest defensive struggles on both sidelines, the constant and consummate playmaker for the Gaels was their senior two-way linemen [Bernal].

A POTW selection in week #5 when he forced a fumble, intercepted a pass, and racked up 10 tackles in a 28-12 victory over Spellman, Bernal used the “A” finals to pick up where he left off in being a consistent menace to the Pilot offense.

Suiting up for the last time on his home field, the “captain and heart of the line” as hailed by Head Coach, Dominick Tassone, made sure he went out in memorable fashion, setting a new career-high with 15 total stops, tying his personal-best of six tackles for a loss (originally set in an Oct. 11th non-league game versus Woodlands), and tacking on a sack.

A young gentleman who most certainly has the respect of the rival Pilots, Bernal has been so good throughout his career when playing opposite them that it goes without saying that his graduation will likely bring a smile to the face of the Cardinal Spellman staff…According to MaxPreps, during his four years as a member of the KC varsity, he compiled the following stat line against Spellman: 51 tackles, 16 TFL, 5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, and 1 INT.

One of the hardest and busiest student-athletes on the field most weekends, he also serves as the linchpin of the OL as the starting center…For this reason, he shares in Proctor’s huge day!

Nov 172019

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.

Coach Kevin Dolan with Offensive MVP Donovan Wood

Coach Kevin Dolan with Defensive MVP Robert Booth

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).

Nov 162019

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.

Coach CJ O’Neil with Defensive MVP Nicholas Burgess

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.

Nov 162019

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.

      Coach Jim Esposito with        Offensive MVP Justin Lacks.

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.

Coach Jim Esposito with Defensive MVP Artie Padilla.

Nov 162019

Archbishop Stepinac and Chaminade claim the 2019 JV titles.  Stepinac defeated St. Anthony’s 41-0 Friday night to capture the CHSFL JV league title.  Chaminade outlasted St. Francis Prep 17-14 to win the CHSFL AA JV title.  

Nov 152019

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.

Nov 112019

By Matt Diano:

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?

Nov 102019

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)

AA Championship

#3 St. Francis Prep @ #1 Chaminade (Saturday, November 16 – TBA)