Nov 252018

By Matt Diano:

On an otherwise very overcast Saturday afternoon on Mamaroneck Avenue, it may not have been sun, but something was certainly shining down on Archbishop Stepinac (8-4), as everything that possibly could go right did for the red, white, and blue juggernaut in their 49-7 victory over visiting St. Francis (5-7) in the Catholic Football Triple-A State finals…1-4 on October 6th, the Crusaders closed out the 2018 season on a seven-game winning streak.

The second consecutive state crown and the third overall (beat St. Francis in 2015 as well) in program history, Stepinac became the first school in the five-year existence of this contest to both repeat as champs on behalf of their respective region and taste victory on home soil.

Building a 42-7 lead at the break, Stepinac would need less than two minutes to get on the board when a Kevin McKenna blocked punt was scooped up by Mekhi Green and returned to the house to give the Crusaders the initial 7-0 lead.

Things would continue to break the way for Head Coach, Mike O’Donnell’s boys on their first official possession of the game when after forcing a turnover on downs via back-to-backs sacks, they would culminate a 68-yard drive with 4:41 remaining on a mishandled snap that junior quarterback, Joey Carino, was able to gain control of and scramble for the four-yard touchdown run to make the score 14-0….Prior to the TD run, it was the Crusader’s star tailback, Malik Grant, breaking for a 20-yard gain to move the ball within striking distance (the 4-yard-line) for his schools.

With the defense, led by standout performances by–McKenna, Brendan Wilkins, Kevin Gray, Doug Simmons, Zach Barnes, Dexter ChanceMichael Tartaglia, Joe Garbowski, and Nermin Metjajic—flying at Red Raider sophomore signal caller, Jake Ritts, from all angles (10 sacks in the first half; 12 total), the White Plains based program would make it two straight offensive possessions that yielded points when on the first play following a St. Francis punt, Carino would hook-up with his favorite target, Shawn Harris Jr. On a 50-yard screen pass to the promised land to make the game 21-0 at the end of 12 minutes.

Forcing another turnover on downs approximately four minutes into the second stanza on a dropped 4th & 1 pass attempt, the two-time NYCHSFL titlists took possession at the opposing 36 but did not stay there for long, as Carino played pitch-and-catch with junior WR, Quentin McCauley, on a 33-yard connection to further increase the advantage…Not credited with a catch prior to today, if you are going to pick a moment to get your name in the box score, McCauley absolutely chose wisely.

Never ones to concede, the Monsignor Martin league champions [St. Francis] would temporarily climb back into the game and establish some momentum when they converted on a pair of 3rd & longs (17 and 20) on pass completions to Xzavier Janczylik and Antonio Corsi to extend their mid-second quarter drive and then capped off the series when Ritts went back to his sophomore Tight End [Corsi] on a seven-yard dart to cut the deficit to 28-7.

The excitement among the Athol Springs faithful was short-lived though as Stepinac responded by tacking on their fifth and sixth touchdowns of the half in the final 3:00, as Harris and Grant both scored the final touchdowns of their respective decorated scholastic careers…In the case of Harris, it would be another screen pass for 62-yards that resulted in his 16th score of 2018….:08 still showing in the clock, Grant took a page from Carino’s book, picking up a fumbled snap on the 4-yard line and dashing cross the line for his 10th running score of his swan song.

Following a scoreless third quarter that concluded on a failed 4th down attempt by the Red Raiders inside the Stepinac 16, the Crusaders tacked on one additional touchdown with 9:26 to play in regulation as Carino put an exclamation mark on a five-TD (four throwing, 1 rushing) effort by hitting McCauley for the second time in the afternoon from 20-yards out…Carino finished his junior campaign with 26 touchdown passes (12 in the postseason).

The outcome decided long ago, St. Francis’s made one last push to draw closer, but would see their final series of the season disrupted by A.S. 12th-grade OLB, De’Andre Smith, created a moment he will forever cherish in his last game by intercepting Ritts in the end zone as the clock dipped under 4:00.  It was the first pick of the year for the 5’9, 170-pounder out of Cortland Manor.

Exhausting the remaining time by alternating between McKenna and CJ Wise on the ground, the celebration would commence for a senior class (27 members) that went a perfect 8-0 as upperclassmen in the postseason.

The Stepinac athletics’ twitter account posed the question, how do you want to be remembered? And for this very special group, the only acceptable answer was, AS CHAMPIONS!!!

Nov 232018

AAA Catholic State Finals: Stepinac (7-4) vs. St. Francis (5-6)

When: Saturday November 24th, 2018

Where: Archbishop Stepinac High School

Time: 1 pm


By Matt Diano:

Two programs that would make “Princess Bride” antagonist, Inigo Montoya, proud, when you look at the paths that the host Crusaders and their guests from Athol Springs, the Red Raiders of St. Francis, took to reach tomorrow’s state game, you could most definitely say that both were in the “revenge game”.

Winners of their last nine games combined, the defending state titlists from Stepinac would reverse a 36-34 regular season loss in the semifinals by defeating Iona Prep 37-26, and then followed it up by fighting back from a 12-point deficit to sweep Cardinal Hayes, 29-18 in last weekend’s NYCHSFL League Championship contest; In the case of St. Francis, they would transform 43-41 and 25-22 losses to St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute and Canisius respectively in October into 48-22 and 20-16 postseason triumphs.

A rematch of the 2015 title game, which Stepinac won by a score of 42-28 en route to a perfect season (12-0) and their first state crown, the school from White Plains will be hunting for their second straight title and the third overall in program history, whereas their foes from the Monsignor Martin region will be looking to hoist state hardware for the first time ever.

Interestingly, in the five-year existence of this NYCHSFL vs. Monsignor Martin battle for Catholic supremacy, no region has won the game twice in a row and the host school has yet to prevail.  Hence, before the first snap of the game even occurs, if you are Red Raider Head Coach, Jerry Smith, you already have a natural inclination for optimism.

With each team averaging over 37 points per game in the midst of their mini winning streaks (Stepinac six in a row; St. Francis three straight), as long as the weather cooperates, there is every reason to believe that just like the previous occasion that these two schools met for the spoils, you can expect fireworks and a plethora of scoring throughout the 48-minute affair.

Archbishop Stepinac with the 2018 NYCHSFL AAA Championship Trophy

On paper, Stepinac boosts the more well-balanced offense, as they possess both a 2,000-yard throwing quarterback [junior Joey Carino] as well as a 1,000-yard rusher [Malik Grant…However, the aerial attack of St. Francis, led by super sophomore signal caller, Jake Ritts, and his quintet of potential targets—Dominik Thomas, Noah Kunzman, Xzavier Janczylik, Antonio Corsi, and Mark Arrizza—is so lethal, that in true Vince Lombardi fashion, they could send you their playbook and you might still struggle to stop them from lighting up the scoreboard.

Carino, who in his first season under center, successfully led the Crusaders to their fourth downstate Catholic league title in the past five years, is an individual who just seems to get better with each subsequent outing…Picked off three times in the team’s last loss on October 6th, since that surprising loss to Chaminade High School, he has enjoyed a 14:1 touchdown to interception ratio and has hurled for 250 or more yards in three of his last six appearances…Factoring in the 10-for-16, 254-yard, 3-TD effort he posted on November 17th in the NYCHSFL finals, he is completing 70.2% of his attempts while averaging 232 yards 2.7 touchdowns throwing during the 2018 playoffs…On the year, he has compiled a stat line that reads as follows: 127-for-222 (57.2%) for 2,050 yards and 22 touchdowns.

Shawn Harris Jr

On the back end of half of those TD strikes has been one of, if not the most electrifying playmaker in the downstate Catholic league this season, Shawn Harris Jr…Ranked 2nd in NYS with 1,151 receiving yards (56 catches, 11 touchdowns), the 5’11, 175-pounder out of Mount Vernon, is fresh off of being named the Offensive Most Outstanding Performer last weekend when he made seven grabs for 162 yards and two touchdowns, and added a three-yard TD run in Stepinac’s league title win over Cardinal Hayes…A threat EVERYTIME he has the ball in his hands, The Stony Brook University verbal commit has logged multiple touchdowns in all three of the Crusaders’ postseason games this season.   He has averaged seven grabs for 163 yards during the playoffs…In the 2017 title game (49-28 win over Canisius), he scored twice, rushing for one TD (10 carries, 86 yards) and catching another (3 grabs for 92 yards)…While their numbers may not stand out the way their previously cited counterparts on the Red Raider sideline do, Eugene Boyd (12 catches for 216 yards, 2 TDs), Nick Furio (11 catches for 131 yards, 1 TD), and Dom Nicolo (10 for 175 and 2 touchdowns).  Boyd had a 53-yard reception last weekend that led to a backbreaking Stepinac touchdown in the 4th quarter; Furio made two catches for 48 yards, including a TD reception last Saturday; Nicolo has been quiet during the playoffs, but showed his talent and potential when he had a 4-catch, 94-yard, 1TD performance against regular season champs, St. Anthony’s….As we have mentioned in past previews, CJ Wise is the jack of all trades for this offensive unit, as he is second on the team in both rushing yards (507 and 2 touchdowns on 69 carries) and passes caught (24 grabs for 275 yards, 2 TDs).  He has gained 111 yards on 19 touches (5.8 average) during the postseason.  Prior to last week (zero catches) he had made at least two grabs in seven straight games.

Turning our attention to the 2018 NYCHSFL Triple-A rushing king, Grant, next to Harris, there may not be a more clutch student-athlete for the Head Coach, Mike O’Donnell’s squad…Two weeks removed from setting a league record with 405 yards rushing in the semifinal victory over Iona Prep, the senior from the Bronx simply knows how to elevate his effort when the stakes are at their highest.  Accumulating 657 of his 1,366 yards this season during the playoff stretch, Grant first turned heads and commanded attention in last year’s state title contest, when he rushed for a team-leading 130 yards on just 11 carries against Canisius…Grant had a modest (by his high standards) 82-yard effort last weekend; hence, it goes without saying that in his final appearance as a Crusader, he is going to want to put an exclamation on his scholastic career.

Stepinac defeated St. Francis for the 2015 State Title Photo courtesy of Ryan Nagelhout @goosesroost

Returning four starters (James Prince, Jonathan Mucciolo, Ajani Cornelius, and Shadi Rabadi) off of an O-line that enabled Stepinac to run for 338 yards and three touchdowns in the 2017 state title game, the addition of 247Sports 3-star recruit/future Temple Owl, Chris Fowx, has only added to the dominance in the trenches for the red, white, and blue juggernaut…A.S. needs just 113 yards of total offense to reach the 5,000 mark for the second season in a row.

As noted above, the road-warriors from Athol Springs will attempt to counter all of the Stepinac firepower by marching out the most prolific passing arsenal in the entire Evil Empire….The state leader in passing yards with 3,089 and third in touchdown hurls with 35, only once this season has Ritts been held to just one TD throw in a game…On the contrary, he has tossed for three or more scores in eight of his 11 appearances, including a 276-yard, three touchdown display on November 3rd in the Monsignor Martin semifinals against Joe’s Collegiate….The definition of the term gunslinger, the sensational 10th grader is averaging 30 pass attempts (19 completions) and 281 yards this season as the Red Raider field general…In two playoff games this season, he has completed 32 of 54 attempts for 485 yards and five touchdowns.

One of the reasons why Ritts has thrived in his second season on the St. Francis varsity has been the stellar play of the five-man receiving corps acknowledged above…Thomas, who also happens to be a stud on the wrestling mat (2x defending CHSAA State Champion for Coach, Mike Messore) is the veteran presence/#1 target for this talent-rich cohort of youngsters.  The only senior among the group, 6’1, 185-pounder [Thomas] tops all receiving categories with 52 catches for 934 yards and 14 touchdowns (3rd in NYS).  In the postseason wins over SJS and Canisius, Thomas combined to catch five balls for 65 yards and one touchdown…Kunzman (39 catches for 431 yards, 3 touchdowns) and Corsi (27 catches, 430 yards, 6 TDs), who are also just sophomores, will be tearing up the gridiron for the next two years with Ritts.  The former has posted five grabs for 53 yards in the playoffs, while the latter brings a lot of momentum with him to the field this weekend, after a 5-catch, 86-yard, 1TD performance in the Monsignor Martin finals…Janczylik, who is a major contributor as a pass-catcher out of the backfield, is third on the team in receptions (35) and second in both yardage (535) and touchdown receptions (8).  In the MM semifinal win over St. Joe’s, he established a season-best with 128 yard receiving on five catches and then complemented it with a four-catch day in the finals win over Canisius….Arrizza, who has not been credited with a catch since October 20th (possible injury?) has compiled 20 a catch, 277-yard junior campaign.

Because their vaunted aerial game has been so spectacular, there could be a misconception that St. Francis is weak on the ground.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  The pass may be featured, but St. Francis is plenty capable of chewing up yards on the ground too…A true all-purpose tailback, Janczylik may have only run for 681 yards and seven touchdowns this season, but that is mainly due to a lack of opportunity as opposed to productivity.   Getting less than 10 carries in seven of the team’s 11 games, when he has taken the hand-off, the 5-8, 175-pounder has gotten the job done, averaging 7.0/carry…Like his peer on the other sideline [Grant], he too has flipped the dial up a notch since the start of the playoffs.   Surpassing 100-yards just once during the regular season, Janczylik has now emerged with back-to-back century mark effort, cruising for 131 and two touchdowns (on seven carries) in the semis and then tacking on a 102-yard showing in the MM title game.

Malik Grant

Defensively for Stepinac, a lot of the press in the past has been focused on the run stuffing/pass rushing abilities of front-7 members such as Kevin Gray (127 tackles, 8 sacks), Kevin McKenna (113 stops, 9 QB bags), De’Andre Smith (86 tackles), Doug Simmons (69 tackles, 11 sacks) and last weekend’s NYCHSFL AAA Championship Defensive MVP, Joe Garbowski (69 tackles, 8 sacks)…But alas, because of the known proficiency in the air of St. Francis, in order to on November 24th, we feel that Stefan Romero (41 tackles, 13 pass break-ups), Cory Richards (35 stops, 12 PDs), Jamel Fleming (32 tackles, 9 pass defenses), Dexter Chance (40 tackles, 2 INT, 2 PDs), and Mekhi Green (51 stops, 4 pass break-ups) could all materialize as game-changers in the secondary.

St. Francis, which surrendered an average of 37 points during the regular season (misleading when you consider that they played a very ambitious schedule that consisted of opponents from PA and OH, as well as NYSPHSAA State finalists, Aquinas Institute) has really found their groove in the postseason, trimming their allowance to a very reasonable 19 per game…And even though we are more familiar with the Stepinac student-athletes, we could not help but recognize that there are some major studs on the Red Raider defense too…Dawson Tyger (77 tackles, 2 fumble recoveries), Matt Jaworski (76 stops, 2 caused fumbles), [Dom]Thomas (66 tackles), Reilly Miller (52 stops), David Hayes (49 tackles), [Antonio] Corsi (43 tackles, 3 sacks), and D’Andre Jones (27 tackles, 1 sack) seem to be the names to know along the DL and LB units…Dan Browning (66 stops, 4 INTs), Janczylik (20 tackles, 2 interceptions), Jaron Alexander (8 tackles in the Monsignor Martin finals; 12 total postseason stops), Thomas Bestpitch (29 tackles, 1 pick), and Ian Snyder (28 tackles) are all integral assets along the last line of defense.


NOTE: For those unable to attend the game in person, Local Live ( in conjunction with Archbishop Stepinac High School, will offer live and archived webcasts of tomorrow’s festivities…Registering for a free account may be necessary in order to view the broadcast.

Nov 172018

After losing their fourth straight game on October 6th, Crusader’s Head Coach, Mike O’Donnell joked with his team that the way they were playing, he was planning on booking a vacation for Mid-November, because unless something changed, he’d be available…Well, now six weeks and six wins later, that respite is going to have to wait at least another week as Archbishop Stepinac will have a state title to defend following their 29-18 come-from-behind victory over Cardinal Hayes in the NYCHSFL Triple-A league finals…The triumph on Saturday night made it four of the past five years (including back-to-back seasons) that the red, white, and blue juggernaut from White Plains finished atop the downstate Catholic landscape.

A tale of two halves, despite only trailing 12-6 at the break, Stepinac would get grossly outplayed during the opening 24 minutes, as defensive struggles on third and long situations would result in their high-powered offense possessing the ball for less than six minutes and only snapping the ball for 13 plays.

Luckily for the #3 seed, one of those plays would be a 64-yard touchdown pass in the last 40 seconds of the second quarter from Joey Carino to Shawn Harris Jr. to cut a 12-0 deficit to only 12-6….This big strike came shortly after junior linebacker, Brendan Wilkins earned a sack on 4th and & goal inside his own 15 that kept the fifth-seeded Cardinals from potentially tacking on a debilitating third touchdown of the half.

Hayes’ points during the opening half would come on their first two drives of the contest, when between the two possessions, they converted on 3rd and/or 4th down on six separate occasions…On their initial series, it was Jeremye Brown-Allen punching it in from the 1-yard line with 8:17 remaining in the quarter after teammates, Jalen Smith (1st down run on 3rd & 8), Tafari Mason (pass reception on 3rd &1), and Sofian Massoud (16-yard scramble on 3rd & 4) all made clutch plays.

The second drive, a 17-plan, 80-yard endeavor, would conclude with the returning All-State QB, Massoud, hitting Smith on a 10-yard touchdown pass.  However, it was Brown-Allen, who had 3rd & 1 and 4th &1 conversions previously, that equally shared in the credit.

We weren’t privy to what O’Donnell said to his troops during halftime, but whatever it was, it certainly lit a fire under them, especially on the defense side of the gridiron…A program that is hailed for the ferocity of its pass rush, when the two teams squared off in week #8 of the regular season, the Crusaders sacked Massoud nine times…But, it was not until the start of the 3rd quarter that this vaunted front-7, consisting of 2017 NYS sack leader, Doug Simmons and nose-tackle extraordinaire, Joe Garbowski (named the Defensive Most Valuable Player of the game) turned up the heat on this chilly fall evening…Consistently applying pressure up the middle during the last two quarters of the contest, Garbowski might as well have been legally declared the Cardinals’ signal caller’s Siamese twin.

Stalemated at 12-6 at around the 4:20 mark of the third stanza, Stepinac would be the beneficiaries of a very short punt that gave them the ball back on the Cardinals 27-yard line…Rolling the dice and foregoing the field goal, it would be Carino’s turn to give his foes from the Bronx a dose of their own medicine, when he scrambled on 4th &9 and hit senior WR, Nick Furio, in the back of the end zone with a 25-yard dart for the equalizer…This was the 21st overall TD hurl of the season for the Somers resident [Carino], but Furio’s first TD grab;  he entered the game credited with just nine catches in 2018.

Coming right back over the top to regain the lead on their next possession was CJ O’Neill’s Cardinals, who needed approximately 1:20 before Massoud played pitch-and-catch with Micheal Escobar from a distance of 15-yards away to make the score 18-12….Massoud had runs of 12 and 35 yards on consecutive plays to put his school inside the Stepinac red zone…These would be the last six points of the night that Hayes would record, as Stepinac would own the final 13+ minutes of regulation, closing the show on a 17-0 streak.

At the heart of the comeback would be none other than Harris Jr…Inheriting the #6 jersey that current Syracuse student-athlete, Trill Williams, made famous last season, the 5’11, 175-pounder from Mount Vernon would make his predecessor proud, as he would catch a 56-yard pass towards the end of the 3rd quarter to move the ball to the Hayes 9-yard line and then on the first play of the 4th, he would take the jet sweep two yards to the house tie the score at 18-18…Nate Henderson’s successful PAT attempt would put Stepinac out in front for the first time all night.

Never ones to quit, Hayes would mount a solid drive on their next possession, advancing the ball to the Crusader 29.  However, a Smith fumble, recovered by Wilkins, would prematurely end their march.

With 6:16 showing on the scoreboard, Stepinac would add a little insurance to their lead, when a 54-yard pass to an out-stretched Eugene Boyd put them in position for Henderson to kick a 25-yard field goal to make the score 22-18.

Each second on the clock moving a little faster for them, Cardinal Hayes would gamble on 4th &6 with 5:20 remaining in the game, as Massoud tried to connect with Mason but the pass would be incomplete, creating a turnover on downs while on their own 47.

Smelling blood and sensing that there were on the cusp of slamming the door, Malik Grant (who rushed for a NYCHSFL record 405 yards in the semifinals) would make up for what was a modest performance by his loft standards when he broke off a 22-yard run to move the ball to Hayes’s 25…Needing just one more big play to seal the victory, Stepinac would get two huge contributions out of Harris Jr. Who caught an 11-yard pass on 4th &7 with 3:23 remaining in the game and then caught a nine-yarder on an identical down for his third TD to make the score 29-18….Not surprisingly, Harris Jr. Was the unanimous choice as the Offensive MVP.

With 1:40 left to play, junior defensive back, Cory Richards, ripped the ball out of the hands of Escobar to set up victory formation for the Crusaders!!!

Archbishop Stepinac will now face the Monsignor Martin (Buffalo regional) champions, St. Francis, in next weekend’s state title game…

Nov 172018


By Matt Diano

22 up, 22 down…The Kellenberg class of 2019 will finish their varsity careers having never tasted defeat as they repeat as NYCHSFL “AA” champions behind a 41-6 victory over Xavier.

Getting their title defense bid off on an unusual but admittedly effective foot, Kellenberg would recover the opening kick-off on a Kyle Sharkey squib on the Xavier 36-yard line…On the ensuing play, it would be senior quarterback, Matt Sluka, doing what he does best, calling his own number on a QB draw and running the entire way into the end zone for the 36-yard TD to immediately put the Firebirds ahead on the board, 7-0…The 6’3, 205-pounder’s double-A leading 21st rushing touchdown of 2018, the red-headed assassin would just be getting his afternoon started as he would add three TDs in the air and another on the ground en route to being named the Outstanding Offensive Player of the Game for a second straight finals appearance…Dating back to last November, in two title games, he accumulated 11 total touchdowns (7 rushing, 4 passing).

The Kellenberg lead would double to 14-0 on their next possession of the 1st quarter when the Blue & Gold followed-up a turnover on downs (Paul Taliercio pass break-up on 4th & 7) by Xavier when Sluka connected with fellow 12th grader/future U.S. Naval Academy student-athlete, Danny Wilson, on an 18-yard hook-up over the middle for the touchdown…Known more for his prowess on the other side of the ball, this was only the second catch of the year and the first TD scored by the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, Wilson….Prior to the touchdown strike, Sluka had a successful scramble on 3rd & 5 on his own 35 to preserve the drive.

The 2015 champion, Knights, would get on the board with 7:45 remaining in the first half on a 12-yard touchdown carry by Anthony Bruno, but was unable to maintain their momentum as the “Berg” would re-establish their two-touchdown lead in the final moments of the second quarter on another Sluka TD trek…Already enjoying excellent field position after a Paul McGuinness fumble recovery off of a Jake Deakin (Defensive MVP) hit put them in Xavier territory, Sluka twice moved the chain on 3rd & 4 and 4th &1 situations before taking it to the promised land from 16-yards out to make the score 21-6 at the intermission.

Picking up exactly where they left off, the Kevin Hanifan mentored Firebirds came out of the locker room on fire, putting touchdowns on the board on their first three possessions of the second half to record the only 20 points of the final 24 minutes of the Catholic season.

Facing a 3rd &10 just across midfield with 7:52 remaining in the 3rd quarter, Sluka would find his favorite target, Matt Mongelli, on a 46-yard bomb to make the score 28-6…The TD grab was the ninth of the season for the 6’3, 176-pound WR who calls Flower Hill home.

With the sun setting on what has been a magical journey for this Marianist senior class, Sluka would make sure to get one more name into the box score…Contributing the 70th and final TD of his decorated two-year career under center, #10 would roll out and put a beautiful rainbow pass over the shoulder of senior, Sean Boll, for another 46-yard strike…For Boll, who entered having caught just six balls in his swan song campaign, this reception was his 1st TD of the year.

The outcome no longer in question, junior tailback, Jordan Delucia, would tack on a 57-yard touchdown run on the opening play of the 4th quarter to account for the final tally…The surefire successor to his field general as the focal point of the offense next season, the Bellmore native [Delucia] wraps up an incredible 11th grader year with 18 rushing touchdowns.  He also was the yardage leader in the division with over 1,300 yards.

Nov 172018

By Matt Diano

Football, much like life, is a game of adjustments…Down 12-0 at the onset of the second quarter to an opponent [Kennedy Catholic] that swept them by identical 21-7 scores during the regular season, there was plenty of reason for the defending NYCHSFL “A” Division champions, Cardinal Spellman, to doubt themselves…However, true to the “heart of a champion” spirit, the William Cawley led Pilots would not cower and they would not quit…And because of this refusal to lose attitude, they are once again kings of the Catholic football kingdom, following a 19-12 victory this morning at the Mitchel Athletic Complex.

Unable to generate even a first down during the first quarter and a half of competition, things would look bleak for the school from the Bronx until the final minute of the opening half when a combination of a defensive holding call against Kennedy, a pass completion from Aidan Hanley-Piri to Lance Powell, and a long-run by Matthew Forti put the Pilots on the doorstep…Needing just one yard to break the plane, Spellman would put the ball in the hands of their 202-pound junior fullback, Ethan Ortiz, who punched it up the gut to cut the deficit to 12-7 at the break.

An exchange of prolonged drives that occupied the entire 12-minute duration of the third quarter, the top-seeded Gaels (who entered this game a perfect 8-0 against their NYCHSFL peers) looked primed to add to their advantage on their lone possession of the third stanza, but instead would get stymied by a determined Spellman defense, resulting in a punt that buried the returning titlists on their own 12-yard line.

Given the opportunity to seize momentum, Spellman would take advantage, finding immense success by rotating Ortiz, Forte, and Kyle Maysonet on runs up the middle…Chewing up major yardage and wearing down the opposing defense, the Pilots’ three-headed monster ground attack would witness the fruits of their labor 10 seconds into the 4th quarter when Mayonset (who was named the Offensive Most Valuable Player] exploded on a 29-yard TD run to give Spellman a 13-12 lead of which they would not squander.

Channeling their inner-’86 Chicago Bears, the Pilot defense would be impenetrable down the stretch, as they kept the #1 scoring offense in Single-A off the board for nearly three full quarters and bottled up the tandem of Myles Proctor and Seth Surrett (the top-2 rushers this season in “A”), preventing either one from scoring a touchdown for the first time this season against an Empire State opponent.

Speaking of the D-unit, anchored by the game’s Defensive MVP, Ortiz, the Pilots were so stout upfront that on almost every drive of the second half, Kennedy Catholic faced a 3rd and long…And one of these occasions would yield the proverbial backbreaker in the game, when just before the 6:00 mark of the final quarter, it would be junior defensive back, Dylan Williams-Molitor, intercepting a deflected pass and returning it to the Gael 19….One the next play, senior, Salvatore Maida, took the hand-off on a jet sweep and cruised the distance to increase the cushion to 19-12 with only 5:58 still to be contested.

Needing just one additional stop in the last 1:00 of regulation to celebrate for the second straight season, it would be a knocked down pass on 4th & 10 (still on the KC side of the field) by Nicholas Payne, that secured a repeat for Spellman.

Kennedy, who was seeking their first Catholic football title in program history and fell to 8-2 this season, would score all 12 of their points on consecutive drives between the first and second quarters.

Breaking through for the initial TD of the morning for the Gaels would be freshman, Gary Kellogg, who took the hand-off on a misdirection play and ran up the gut from the 2-yard-line to make the score 6-0.  It was the first rushing touchdown of the season for the 5’10, 175-pounder out of Peekskill and he could not have picked a better moment to make it happen…The drive would be previously kept alive when the Gaels enticed an offsides call on 4th & 3rd via a hard count.

Following a hold on defense that forced a Pilot punt, the Gaels wasted little time in doubling their lead when on the ensuing play, it would be Zach Sellinger hitting a wide-open Tyler Outhouse on an all-senior 53-yard strike to make the score 12-0…Much like Kellogg’s aforementioned run, the TD reception for the Cortlandt Manor resident [Outhouse] was the first of its kind this season, as the often run-heavy Gaels entered the game having only thrown nine touchdown passes all season.

Nov 162018

By Matt Diano:

A: #1 Kennedy Catholic (8-1) vs. #2 Cardinal Spellman (5-4)

When: Saturday November 17th, 2018

Where: Mitchel Athletic Complex

Time: 10 am


A clash of the established versus the newcomers on the block, defending single-A champions, Cardinal Spellman, have advanced to championship weekend four straight years (winning their lone title in 2017), whereas the top-seeded Gaels of Kennedy Catholic will be making their first appearance on center stage.

Despite being the team who is making their title game debut, the Dom Tassone mentored Gaels should head into the “A” finals with a lot of confidence following a sweep of the regular season series by identical scores of 21-7.

Myles Proctor

Riding their dynamic duo of senior tailbacks, Myles Proctor and Seth Surrett to a perfect record this season against NYCHSFL opponents, the Gaels are averaging over 200 yards per game on the ground and have scored 21 rushing touchdowns this season…In the two previous meetings between the Pilots and Gaels, Kennedy Catholic has racked up 397 yards and five touchdowns…Proctor, who missed the semifinal win over Nazareth Regional but is expected to play this Saturday has posted a pair of 100+-yard performances against Spellman, running for 110 yards and one TD in game #1 and then following it up with a 155-yard, 1 TD effort in the rematch…Surrett, who is fresh off of a career-high 194-yard rushing game last weekend, has also enjoyed his fair share of success against this Pilot defense, gaining 145 yards and scoring three touchdowns on just 18 carries (8.1/carry).

Seth Surrett

While the Gaels should feel pretty good about their ability to move the ball on the ground, we have taken notice that previous meetings have revealed that if they want it, the aerial attack should also be open to them…Between alternating senior quarterbacks, Ryan Johnson (8-for-9 for 65 yards) and Zach Sellinger (9-of-15 for 122 yards), KC has completed over 70 percent of their toss attempts against the CS secondary…If the passing game does become a factor, look for Eric Volpi, Tyler Outhouse, or Surrett to be on the receiving end…Volpi, the team’s leading receiver this season with 18 catches for 351 yards and 3 touchdowns tied his season-high of four grabs (74 yards) during the initial meeting and then added two more catches for 27 in game #2…Outhouse (10 catches, 178 yards receiving in 2018) had his finest showing of the year in the second game against the Pilots, snatching three balls for 45 yards…Surrett, who had the only TD reception of the semifinal round on a 67-yard screen pass, made two catches for 22 yards in game #1.

Ethan Ortiz

Spellman will look to counter with their own polished running attack…As noted in last weekend’s semifinal preview, unlike the Gaels, William Cawley’s cohort is a team that relies on depth as opposed to star power in their offensive backfield…Utilizing a rotation consisting mostly of 4-5 potential ball carriers, the Pilots did have nine different student-athletes carry the ball in the first meeting between the two schools.  So, you can expect fresh legs on every hand-off…Leading the way for the #2 seed should be the team’s top rusher in 2018, Kyle Maysonet.  Averaging 60 yards in two appearances against the Gaels, 85 of Maysonet’s 120 total yards came in the first match-up when he averaged over 14 yards per carry on six touches.  His numbers decreased to 35 yards on 10 carries in game #2, thus showing an adjustment was made by the KC defense.  Maysonet rushed for 85 yards in last weekend’s semifinal victory over St. Dominic’s….Junior, Ethan Ortiz, is another dangerous operation for Spellman.  An individual that they seem to save for big moments, Ortiz earned his second Player of the Week distinction yesterday when after rushing for 40 yards and a TD in the win over the Bayhawks.   Ortiz would score his school’s only touchdown in the first meeting on a 10-yard run and then added his highest yardage game of the season in the rematch, averaging 10 yards per carry on five hand-offs to finish with 50 yards.  Considering that he is averaging double-digit gains in a short sampling, it would behoove the Pilots to feed him the ball often to see if his consistency can withstand a heavier workload…Matthew Forti (318 yards, 2 touchdowns this season) should also fit into their running plans this weekend.  Like Ortiz, Forti is averaging 30 yards on the ground in this series, gaining 35 yards on eight carries in game #1 and tacking on an additional 25 on six attempts in the second round…One final name to know will be Salvatore Maida.  Carrying the ball just four times between the two games, the senior gained 50 yards and scored the only TD of the game on October 26th.

Matt Forti

With regard to the passing game, it is no secret that freshman, Aidan Hanley-Piri has had his ups and downs this season, completing under 40 percent of his attempts (31-for-86, 471 yards, 4 TDs/4 INTs)…However, he would put forth his finest showing of his rookie campaign on September 29th against KC, tying his season-best of six completions (out of 13 attempts) and logging the only 100-yard passing game of his career in the week #4 loss…If it is this version and not the young gentleman who went 1-for-6 for 12 yards in the rematch, that shows up on November 17th, then it is very possible that CS can keep their opponents from Somers guessing on defense…If/when the pigskin does go flying, more times than not, the intended target will surely be Lance Powell.  The top man in all receiving categories for the Pilots (12 catches, 263 yards, 3 TDs), Powell is no stranger to the pressures of title weekend.  In 2017, he had a 17-touchdown reception in the finals.  Of the seven passes that Hanley-Piri has connected on this season against Kennedy Catholic, four have found the arms of Powell, including a season-best three-grab, 80-yard effort in September.

Defensively, the “A” title contest will feature nine of the top-11 tacklers in the division, three of whom happen to rank in the top-15 of New York State…

Spellman Champs in 2017

Boosting the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, Cole Esposito (114 tackles, 49 TFL, 7 sacks, 2 caused fumbles), Kennedy Catholic is allowing just 11.4 points per game this season.  That number drops to 6.6 ppg when you include only “A” opponents…Joining Esposito in forming the most dominant front-7s in all of NYS is Wyatt Rumpf (120 stops, 44 tackles for a loss, 3 sacks), Joseph Eckardt (64 tackles, 19 stops for negative yardage, 3 sacks, Aidan Bernal (56 stops, 20 TFL, six QB bags), and freshman sensation, Gary Kellogg (76 stops, 21 tackles for a loss of yards, 6 sacks, 2 fumble recoveries)…Rumpf led all Gaels during the series with 27 tackles and 9 TFL…Esposito contributed 20 tackles (7 for a loss) and 2 sacks…Nine of Eckhardt’s 13 total tackles game in game #2 when he also added a sack…Against the Pilots, seven of Bernal’s 17 total tackles were accompanied by a loss of yards; he also added four sacks (3 on 9/29)…Kellogg was also outstanding in the first meeting, making 8 tackles (2 TFL) and being credited with a pair of QB bags.

At the heart of the Spellman “D” unit will be the current tackle king of the “A” division, Ortiz, who has made 121 stops (including 27 against KC) this season…Zoilo Carmona (82 stops, 3 sacks, 2 fumble recoveries in 2018) has heard his #62 called quite often during the two games against KC, as he has recorded 23 tackles and 2 sacks…Forti, who is second on the team with 82 tackles this season, has posted games of 8 and 11 stops this season against the Gaels…Nathaniel Colon (59 tackles) had a great game in September, making eight stops….One person who Cawley and his staff hopes does not have a busy morning is defensive back, Meki Howell-Browne.  In two games against KC, he has been forced to make 25 tackles, meaning that KC’s 1-2 punch of Proctor and Surrett have had way too much success escaping the Spellman DLs and LBs…Senior, Thomas Nguyen, seems to be coming on strong following a 10-tackle, 1 sack effort in the semis.  He could materialize as a defensive sleeper.


AA: #1 (East) Kellenberg Memorial (10-0) vs. #3 (East) Xavier (7-3)

When: Saturday November 17th, 2018

Where: Mitchel Athletic Complex

Time: 1:30 pm


A classic battle between two of the past three AA champions, the top-seeded Kellenberg Firebirds will be looking to become just the second program ever to win back-to-back double-A crowns (Christ the King accomplished the feat in 2002/2003), while the Knights of Xavier will look to ascend back to the top of the NYCHSFL for the first time since their shocking victory over Christ the King in 2015 (won on a blocked punt return).

Owners of the third longest current winning streak in NYS with 21 straight victories, the #4 ranked team in the New York Sportswriters poll [KMHS] has made it look easy the past two years, beating their foes by an average score of 39.7 to 13.2…Only once during this stretch have the Blue & Gold failed to win by less than double-digits…When they two teams squared off during the regular season in week #3 (September 22nd), it was the Marianists winning 47-14.

Enjoying an embarrassment of riches on both sides of the gridiron, what has made KMHS so successful in 2017 and 2018 is that no matter where you look, there is a capable, if not extraordinary play-maker occupying all 22 positions.

Matt Sluka

Captained on offense by “Mr. Postseason” himself, senior All-State field general, Matt Sluka, the defending titlists is the only school in the AA division that has both a top-4 passer and multiple 1,000+ yard rushers….The Offensive Most Outstanding Player of last year’s championship game (238 yards rushing, 5 TDs in the win over Fordham Prep) as well as the reigning NYCHSFL Offensive Player of the Year, Sluka (69-for-101 for 1,092 yards and 11 touchdowns passing; 111 carries for 1,022 yards and 20 TDs running) might be the most dynamic student-athlete in all of New York State…In his team’s two playoffs wins to advance to the finals, the red-headed assassin has rushed for 217 yards and scored seven touchdowns on 30 carries…Sluka was also the top runner during week #3, gaining 130 yards and scoring a pair of touchdowns on just nine attempts…The Roslyn native also set a new career-high with 232 yards passing on 9-for-11 attempts (3 additional TDs) against Xavier in September.

The potency of Sluka alone in the backfield would be enough to drive opposing defensive coordinator’s crazy.  But unfortunately for the opposition, he is not even Kellenberg’s most dangerous runner.  That honor belongs to junior, Jordan Delucia, who currently leads the AA division with 1,236 yards on the ground (17 touchdowns)…Like Sluka, Delucia proved that he knows how to flip the switch when the stakes are highest, as he ran for 125 yards and one TD on only four carries in the 2017 championship game…Averaging 168 yards and two touchdowns rushing thus far in the play-offs, Delucia will be playing with a chip on his shoulder.  When he faced Xavier earlier in the year, he was held to his lowest output of the season, finishing with just 15 yards on seven hand-offs.

Never one you can/should overlook, if we have said it once, we must have uttered it 100x this season; no matter what Frankie Roder’s stat line looks like in 2018 (limited opportunities has resulted in a 318- yard, 4 TD senior campaign after he ran for 800+ and 15 as a junior), you have to consider him a severe threat…The third Firebird to exceed 100 yards in last year’s finals contest (142 yards + 1 score on 19 carries), Roder showed off his explosiveness last weekend in the semifinals when he needed just three touches to run for 66 yards…In the first meeting between our two finalists, Roder finished second on the team with 36 yards rushing on six hand-offs.

Because he had such an impressive game in the air when these two schools met, don’t be surprised if Sluka (who only three two passes in the 2017 title game) get a little more aggressive with his arm this Saturday afternoon…If Coach Hanifan gives him the green light to go vertical, there will be no shortage of targets for the 6’3, 205-pounder dual-threat QB to lock his radar on…At the top of that list of available receivers would have to be Matthew Mongelli, who has posted team-leading numbers in all major categories this season with 17 grabs for 452 yards and eight touchdowns.  On the back end of all three touchdowns passes during the regular season meeting with the Knights, Mongelli finished the game with 3 catches for 149 yards…Fellow 12th grader, Bobby Filshie, is making the most of his final moments in a Kellenberg Jersey.  He steps on the field this weekend as the team’s leader in postseason catches so far with three snatches for 34 yards…Delucia (15 catches for 271 yards, 1 TD this season) and Roder (2 catches for 49 yards and one score in the quarterfinals) will be weapons out of the backfield.

Daniel Vittiburga

For Chris Steven’s Xavier squad, circumstance may dictate a deviation from the high-octane, quick strike running game that generated over 28 points per game through the quarterfinal round of the play-off…Unable to play during the Knights’ 7-0 semifinal win over Holy Trinity, if senior running back, Dan Vittiburga (2nd in AA with 19 rushing touchdowns; 3rd with 1,141 yards) is a no-go again this Saturday, it would be a big, but not insurmountable obstacle for the New York City based school to overcome…With #36 in the line-up, the Knights averaged 268.8 yards per game on the ground and scored 30 touchdowns…In his absence, they still had a solid afternoon, running for 168 yards and one score last weekend.

Matt Geruso

One of the reasons why we feel Xavier can absorb this loss of talent better than most is that they enjoy immense depth in the persons of Matt Geruso, Demetrios Demetriades, and Anthony Bruno…Geruso, who would likely be the #1 tailback on the majority of high schools in New York State, had a fine junior campaign, rushing for 709 yards and five touchdowns in 2018.  While he would be held to just 27 yards in the semifinal win versus the Titans, he did have a banner day the previous weekend when he accumulated 96 yards and scored his first postseason touchdown in the quarterfinal “upset” over Xaverian.   In the previous showdown between these two programs, Geruso finished second on the team [behind Vittiburga’s 59 yards] with 30 yards on 10 attempts…Demetriades, who was stuffed for –3 yards on three carries versus the ‘Berg in week #3, is fresh off of a semifinal performance that saw him gain 56 yards on three attempts…Bruno may be the biggest surprise/saving grace of them all, as he went from supporting actor (109 yards on seven carries during the regular season) to leading man in the semifinals, as he rushed for a season-high 84 yards and scored the only touchdown of the afternoon in delivering the “w” to his school…Bruno averaged 6.5 yards on his four carries (26 yards total) on 9/22.

Adding to the intrigue of this game is the fact that on the other side of the ball, you have the statistically #1 defense in AA [Kellenberg] matching up with what is without question the hottest defense over the course of the past three weeks [Xavier].

Dan Wilson

The Firebirds, which surrendered only 12.8 points this season, will turn to the likes of Danny Wilson, Jake Deakin, Paul McGuinness, Thomas Cipolla, Thomas Brzezinski, and Matthew Leahy among others to stymie the Knights’ ground attack…The future U.S. Naval Academy Midshipman/reigning Defensive Player of the year, Wilson, led all Firebirds with nine tackles during the first meeting…Deakin was not far behind with seven stops of his own…McGuinness and Cipolla (POTW selection yesterday), who combined for 11 tackles and four sacks in the semifinal victory over Fordham Prep last weekend, each made three tackles against the Knights in round #1…Brzezinski contributed seven tackles and a sack during week #3; and Leahy emerged with a 5-stop performance.

With only 22 pass completions this season, we are not anticipating much of an aerial attack from the Knights.  But if they do get creative and try to catch Kellenberg off guard, Peter Taliercio, Zacarias Estrella, Alain Telfort, and Stephen McAllister, will dutifully patrol the ”no fly zone”….Taliercio had an interception during the previous encounter.

Kellenberg Champs in 2017

As it pertains to Xavier, which has not surrendered a single point in their last 12 quarters, the key will be to maintain their tough run defense (limited Kellenberg to their second lowest amount of ground yards w/204), while simultaneously correcting whatever went wrong in the secondary during the first engagement…

Tasked with the first objective will be the team’s leading tackler the past two seasons, Valery Gwardyak (68 tackles, 9 TFL, 2.5 sacks), James Donaldson (56 stops, 4 tackles for a loss, 1 sack), Milton Guzman (49 tackles, team-high 11.5 TFL, 2 sacks, 3 fumble recoveries), Kevin Connelly (45 stops, 4 tackles for negative yards), John Walsh (42 tackles, 6 stops for a loss, 2 sacks), Jordan Sosa (37 stops, 11 TFL, 2 QB bags), and Giovanni Bernie (36 tackles, 6.5 stops for minus yardage, 2.5 sacks)…Gwardyak made 10 tackles (1.5 TFL) during the first meeting…Donaldson (13 tackles in the semifinals) was credited with six stops versus KMHS….Guzman, who was another of our Player of the Week picks following a 10-tackle, 1 sack, 1 fumble recovery effort last weekend, made four stops against KMHS on September 22nd…Connelly, Walsh, and Sosa all made five tackles in during the first exchange and Bernie kicked in with four additional stops.

After coercing HT Titan quarterback, Ryan Razzano, into an 8-for-20, 103-yard, 1 INT game in the semis, the Knights’ last line of defense, anchored by Demetriades (team-high six pass break-ups; tied for the lead with 2 INTs) and Joseph Maratea (1 INT, 4 pass defenses) will need to be just as effective this Saturday.

Safety, Langston Williams, is a bridge between the front-7 and the defensive backfield.  His 61 tackles this season trails only Gwardyak on the Xavier leaderboard.  He made six stops during the initial meeting in September.


AAA: #3 Archbishop Stepinac (6-4) vs. #5 Cardinal Hayes (4-4)

When: Saturday November 17th, 2018

Where: Mitchel Athletic Complex

Time: 5 pm


In world that too often gets wrapped up in seeding and whatnot, when you look at this match-up for our final title game of the day, you cannot help but think that, perhaps these weren’t the heroes we deserved, but rather the ones that we DO need right now…For every parent, teacher, coach, etc., when you try to impart the lesson about the importance of perseverance and not quitting, you can point to this game as inspiration.

A combined 2-6 at the halfway point of the regular season, very few, if anybody would have predicted this match-up way back in early October.  But alas, that is the great thing about sports; on any given day, you can go from basement to penthouse in the blink of an eye.

A rematch of the 2016 triple-A championship game won by the Cardinals, 41-39, on a broken up two-point conversion pass, if the 2018 installment is even half as exciting as its predecessor from two season ago, then those in attendance are in store for a real treat this Saturday night.

Collectively winners of eight of their last nine games, both teams are bringing a wealth of momentum with them to Mitchel Field this weekend…Stepinac, who has advanced to the finals five straight seasons and will be seeking their fourth crown during this span (2014, 2015, 2017) have peeled off five straight “w’s”, whereas Hayes, in their third championship weekend appearance in the past four years, have won three of their last four games, with the sole loss being at the hands of this same Crusader squad, 23-20, in week eight (October 28th).

Malik Grant

For the defending league and state champs [Stepinac] out of White Plains, the key(s) to victory will be to get the ball into the hands of either Malik Grant or Shawn Harris Jr. as early and often as possible…Two of, if not the two most explosive players in the entire NYCHSFL, both possess “take it to the house” potential on every single instance where they are grasping the pigskin…Grant, who made a name for himself when he rushed for 130 yards in last year‘s state title contest, just has a knack for elevating his performances based on the significance of the game.  Running for 170 yards and two TDs in the quarterfinal win over Christ the King, the 5’10, 190-pounder out of the Bronx was just getting warmed up.  In the semis, he would establish a new NYCHSFL record when he accumulated 405 yards and scored three times on the ground in avenging Stepinac’s previous loss to Iona Prep.  The overall top rusher in the New York Catholic league (all divisions) with 1,284 yards, Grant settled for 79 yards on 14 carries in the regular season finale between these two schools, but is sure to blow that number out of the water this weekend…Harris Jr., who had his coming-out party in that 2016 finals loss (6 catches for 109 yards) also has propensity for shining brightest when the stakes are the highest.  The runaway leader on the team in all major receiving categories this season (49 catches, 989 yards receiving, 9 TD catches), in the two postseason games played by the Crusaders, he has made 14 catches for 327 yards and four touchdowns.   When he last faced this Hayes’ cohort, he recorded five catches for 85 yards in the win.

CJ Wise

While Grant and Harris may be the proverbial showstoppers, there are several other student-athletes that bring “home run” potential with them every time they don the red, white, and blue jersey…With 761 yards of total offense in his senior campaign (486 as a rusher; 275 as a pass catcher), CJ Wise the quintessential all-purpose tailback.  In the quarterfinal victory over Christ the King, Wise finished with 70 yards rushing (on 10 attempts) and added another 16 yards on three catches.  Last weekend, he contributed 50 yards to the winning cause in the semis, rushing for 20 (4 hand-offs) and catching a 30-yard pass…After making only eight catches during the regular season, the play-offs have brought the best out of senior WR, Eugene Boyd as well.  Highlighted by a two-catch, 52-yard, 1 TD effort in the quarterfinals, Boyd has three grabs for 57 yards in the postseason.

After praising him in the semifinal preview for the growth he has shown during the second half of his junior season, quarterback, Joey Carino, did not let us down, as he completed 9 of his 12 attempts for 177 yards and two touchdowns (both to Harris) in last weekend’s win over Iona Prep.  This clutch showing came on the heels of what was his best game of the season in the quarterfinals where he tossed for 265 yards and three TDs versus CTK…And even though it has only been three weeks since he last faced Hayes (7-for-19, 117 yards, 2 TDs/1INT), we feel that the confidence he has added during the postseason will propel him to a monster day should he be afforded the freedom to air it out…With 301 yards and four touchdowns (including 40 and 1 in the semis) rushing this season, Carino is also a complementary piece in the ground attack.

On the opposite sideline, when you look at the 2018 Cardinals, you cannot help but have feelings of déjà vu back to the aforementioned 2016 title season in the Bronx…Another situation where CJ O’Neill’s team got off to a slow start (0-3), even though the names and faces have changed in the time that has past, it is the attitude that has stayed firm…When you put on the Maroon & Gold, you do so with the understanding that no matter what is thrown at you, you will overcome and you will not go gently in November.

Sofian Massoud

Commanding the Cardinals offense is returning All-State signal caller, Sofian Massoud….No stranger to making the big play at the necessary moment, it was actually a then freshman Massoud denying Stepinac the 2pt conversion in the waning moments of the 2016 title game….And, despite owning just a 1-2 record against the Crusaders as the starting quarterback, he has continued to be a thorn in their side, completing 58.4 percent of his passes for an average of 280 yards and seven total TD hurls.  In the most recent match-up during week #8, he went 16-for-33 for 254 yards and tossed three touchdowns…The 6’2, 175-pounder who is said to be drawing the attention of multiple Ivy League schools, has performed well in the play-offs thus far, connecting on 23 of 33 tries for 258 yards and four touchdowns.  He also ran for 52 yards and another TD in the upset win in the semifinals over top-seeded St. Anthony’s.

Jalen Smith

Much like Boyd for Stepinac, one of the catalysts for Hayes’ unexpected rally to title weekend has been the development and/or realization of abilities for a trio of Cardinal senior wide-outs—Tafari Mason, Micheal Escobar, and Angel Tamarez…With the team’s top receiver, Jalen Smith (46 catches, 626 yards, 7 touchdowns) embracing more responsibility in the running game (214 yards, 2 touchdowns in the postseason) down the stretch, there has been a need for the remaining members of the corps to step up and assert themselves as impact targets.  That call to duty has been answered and then some…Making just 15 catches during the regular season, Mason has already been credited with eight grabs for 63 yards (2 TDs) in two postseason games.  During the first meeting between the two schools, Mason had a 3-catch, 52- yard, 1 TD performance…Escobar, who led all Cardinals with 107 yards and 1 touchdown (3 grabs) receiving during week #8, has snatched seven balls for 83 yards and one touchdown (the game-winner in the semifinals) the past two weeks….Tamarez had a 14-yard TD catch in the quarterfinal victory over Monsignor Farrell and did enjoy a solid showing the last time Stepinac and Hayes hooked up, making four catches for 48 yards with one TD….Let it be known that even when he is focusing on being a ball carrier, Smith has still been a viable option as a pass-catcher, logging three grabs apiece in each of his two postseason games for a total of 84 yards.  Smith caught five balls for 42 yards on October 28th.

The final piece to what the Cardinal faithful hope will be a championship-winning puzzle on Saturday night is Jeremye Brown-Allen….The primary option in the running attack for much of the 2018 season (727 yards, six touchdowns on 124 carries), the 5’11, 170-pounder from the Bronx is to be commended by how well he has adjusted to splitting carries with Smith…Brown-Allen is fresh off of his third 100+ yard rushing display of the season, as he handled the ball 20 times for 109 yards and scored the first TD of the game in the semifinal triumph on the road over the Friars of St. Anthony’s.

More than ever, look for the war in the trenches to be an invaluable factor in determining a winner…In the first meeting, the Crusaders, led by Doug Simmons (13 tackles, 4 sacks), Kevin McKenna (12 stops, 3 sacks), Kevin Gray (17 tackles, 2 sacks), and Joe Garbowski (5 stops, 2 sacks) all took up residency in the face of Massoud, sacking him 11 times and adding five QB hurries…Gray was the Defensive MVP in the 2017 title contest following a 10-stop, 1 sack, 2 QB hurry evening.

Stepinac Champs in 2017

On the flip side of the coin, Chyon Pearsall (22 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 sack in the postseason), Sidiki Kone (14 stops, 4 tackles for negative loss, 1 sack in two play-off games), Maurice Sherrod (15 tackles, 3 TFL, 1 sack), Michael Tetteh (11 stops, 1 TFL), and Christian Zapata (6 stops, 3 negative yardage tackles) have all looked outstanding in the month of November…Joel Atuahene, was the top tackler for the Cardinals during the regular season meeting with eight stops.

Returning four starters—James Prince, Jonathan Mucciolo, Ajani Cornelius, and Shadi Rabadi—on an offensive line that has helped to generate 9,619 yards and 96 touchdowns the past two seasons, we feel that Stepinac may have a slight edge along the line, but do not want to underestimate a very determined and locked-in Cardinal unit.  After all, Hayes won the total yardage battle in the first meeting (315 to 238).

Best of luck to all teams competing tomorrow!

Nov 122018

Varsity Championships at Mitchel Athletic Complex, Uniondale

Saturday, November 17, 2018

A Championship – Thomas Murray Trophy (10:00 am)

#2 Cardinal Spellman v. #1 Kennedy Catholic

AA Championship – Joe Lamas Memorial Trophy (1:30 pm)

#3 Xavier v. #1 Kellenberg

AAA League Championship – Michael Cunnion Memorial Trophy (5:00 pm)

#5 Cardinal Hayes v. #3 Archbishop Stepinac

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 Chaminade @ #1 Iona Prep  (Saturday, November 17 – 10:00 am)

AA Championship

#2 St. Francis Prep @ #1 Kellenberg (Saturday, November 17 – 10:00 am)


Nov 092018

By Matt Diano:

#1 (East) Kellenberg Memorial (9-0) vs. #2 (West) Fordham Prep (6-3)

When: Saturday November 10th, 2018

Where: Mitchel Athletic Complex

Time: 7pm


A rematch of last season’s title game, which Kellenberg won 54-19, with each week that comes and goes, this Firebirds senior class moves ever closer to finishing their varsity careers with immaculate status…A group of young men who have known nothing but victory for the better part of the past three years (tracing it all the way back to their 2016 Junior Varsity title team that lost just twice), the Uniondale based school rooted in the Marianist tradition has dominated this rivalry during the course of the past calendar year, following up their aforementioned one-sided win in the 2017 title game by pitching a 41-0 shutout over the Rams just two weeks ago in the regular season finale.

Immensely gifted on both sides of the ball, the Blue & Gold boost the top-rated offense (40.2 ppg) and defense (allowing 12 points/game) in the double-A division and rank 3rd and 2nd respectively with regard to the NYCHSFL as a whole…Just once during their 20-game winning streak have they won by a margin of under 10 points (33-32 over St. Peter’s during week 7 of the 2018 season) and they rectified that situation by defeating that same opponent 48-14 in last week’s quarterfinal round.

Bobby Filshie

Renowned for their legendary land attack, Kellenberg is averaging 286 yards and more than four touchdowns per appearance this season on the ground alone…In the engineer’s seat for this runaway train of an offensive juggernaut is the combo of senior signal caller, Matt Sluka, and junior tailback, Jordan Delucia.  The former is a returning 2nd team All-Stater, whereas the latter is well on his way to becoming the second member of his family to garner All-State recognition (older brother, Jason, was an Honorable Mention in 2014)…And both have been absolute Ram killers during the 2017 and 2018 season…Among the three games, Sluka has rushed for 546 yards (including a career-best 244 during the 2017 regular season) and nine touchdowns versus Fordham Prep….Delucia, whose personal-best also happened to occur against the Rams (226 yards during the last week of the 2018 regular season), would miss the first of two meetings between the two programs last year, but made up for it by running for 125 yards and one touchdown on just four handles in the 2017 title game.  Combined, he has torched FP for 349 yards and a pair of scores between the past two seasons…Both Sluka (140 yards, 4 rushing touchdowns) and Delucia (145 yards, 1 touchdown) are fresh off of spectacular performances in last weekend’s quarterfinal victory over St. Peter’s….Senior, Frankie Roder, is another Firebird who always looks forward to facing the Rams.  The 6’2, 173-pounder hailing from Franklin Square, averaged 109.5 yards rushing and scored two touchdowns last season versus Fordham Prep.

Derek Bufano

Adding to what was already a pretty complicated and troublesome predicament for the visiting Rams is the fact that Sluka has honed his skills as a passer and is now lethal in all areas of the game…Completing just 2-of-8 attempts for a cumulative gain of 74 yards in the two games last season, the red-headed wonder kid from Roslyn really showed off his improved gun-slinging skills two weeks ago when connected on 6 of his 8 throws for 121 yards and three touchdowns.

On the receiving end of those three TD hurls would be the AA leader in touchdown catches this season, Matt Mongelli (2 grabs for 73 yards, 2 TDs), and fellow 12th grader, Bobby Filshie (3 snatches for 27 yards, 1 score).

At the heart of the goose-egg yielding effort on defense on October 28th were seniors, Danny Wilson and Jake Deakin.  As he seems to do each time he puts on that #88 jersey, the Levittown native, Wilson, would make several plays in the backfield for a loss of yardage…Deakin, who was credited with eight stops on the night, also had the play of the night on “D” for KMHS when he turned defensive into offense by returning an interception 45 yards to the house the pick-6.

Fordham Prep, who is fresh off of a 39-point outing (39-12) in their quarterfinal victory over St. John the Baptist may have been beaten up on the last few occasions, but they are hardly a broken team…With an average of 26+ points per game this season, until proven otherwise, we are going to consider that shutout at the hands of the Firebirds to be nothing more than an off day.

Already regarded as one of the most prolific passers in the NYCHSFL, Rams’ senior QB, Derek Bufano, did nothing to hurt his reputation this past weekend in the quarterfinal victory over the Cougars….Completing 15 of his 24 pass attempts, the first-year varsity starter would toss for 248 yards and four touchdowns.

Having big days as pass catchers last Saturday were Jack Goodkin and Owen Loffredo….Goodkin was named a Player of the Week after posting personal-highs in all major receiving categories with six grabs for 147 yards and three touchdowns…Loffredo contributed four catches for 46 yards and was the recipient of the remaining Bufano TD pass…Rams’ top target, Matthew McCarthy, would be held to just 1 catch for 1 yard against the Cougars, but we fully expect for him to return to form for the semifinals…Devin Pettus (2 catches for 12 yards on November 3rd) also brings momentum with him into the championship round of 4.

The FP defense, who will powered by several players who performed at exemplary level last week—-George Gaspar (8 tackles), Jaysen Sanz (5 stops), William Woods (team-high 9 tackles, 1 sack), Arthur Long (2 stops, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble), Goodkin (4 tackles), Jack Andreana (1 interception), etc.—-will need to find a way to stop KMHS from running wild yet again.  If they can keep the damage to within a reason, we truly do think that they have the ability on offense to make this a competitive contest.



#2 East Holy Trinity (8-1) vs. #4 (East) Xavier (6-3)

When: Sunday November 11th, 2018

Where: Holy Trinity High School

Time: 1:30 pm


The AA equivalent of Iona Prep/Stepinac, much like the anticipated semifinal game in the triple-A division, the first time that the Titans and Knights butted heads (October 13th), the crowd would have to wait until the final whistle before a victor was determined.

A back-and-forth affair that had four lead changes and two ties, the Knights could have elected to even the score at 29 apiece in the closing moments (:20 remaining in the 4th) but elected instead to play for the win by attempting a two-point conversion…With the “w” on the line, it would be Titan senior linebacker, Stephen Collica, making a game-saving stop on the 2pt try to clinch the 29-28 win for Holy Trinity.

And while the setting may shift from Brooklyn to Long Island for the rematch on Sunday, one thing we know will remain consistent is the amount of fight and toughness both schools will bring with them to the field…Combining to win 11 straight games (HT-8, Xavier-3), both of these teams are locked, loaded and ready for another instant classic!!!

Ryan Razzano

No strangers to drama, the host Titans would almost see their postseason ended prematurely during the quarterfinal round, as they required a 4-yard TD pass from Ryan Razzano to Chris Porcaro with 8.4 seconds remaining in regulation to emerge with the 27-26 win over Moore Catholic….In fact, of their eight victories in 2018, four have been accompanied by margins of less than five points.  Thus, while some pundits believe that when you play with fire you eventually get burned, we prefer to take the glass half-full approach and say instead that the ability to repeatedly prevail in tight games is a sign that pressure does not phase this Titan cohort and no matter the circumstances in the 4th quarter this Sunday, they are going to remain patient and poised.

Throwing (literally) a new wrinkle into the offensive scheme during the quarterfinal round (and making us look silly for suggesting that they were one-dimensional), HT would have their greatest success of the season in the air against the Mavericks, with Randazzo setting season-highs for completions (10) and touchdown tosses (3)…Spreading the ball out to four different targets, Jalen Rivers (4 catches for 59 yards), Spencer Nixon (2 grabs for 26 yards), and of course Porcaro (3 snatches for 15 yards) all recorded a TD reception…Sophomore, Jaden Sinclair also added an 8-yard grab during the afternoon…Should the Green & White decide to keep this more balanced strategy intact for another week, it is possible they will be able to catch the Xavier defense a little off guard.  Afterall, having only thrown the ball four times during the initial meeting, it is doubtful that a review of the game film would do the Knights much good.

Now, don’t misunderstand; even though this new-found aerial arsenal is certainly a change of pace option to keep opposing defenses on their toes, we do not by any means expect Holy Trinity to “ditch the girl that took them to the dance”.  Come this weekend, there will still be a healthy dose of hard-nosed, pound-it-out, Big-10 style football where the ground game will be king…In the first meeting, Randazzo would call his own number quite often on keepers, running the ball 18 times for a season-high 158 yards and two touchdowns in the “w” over Xavier…Nixon, who is coming off of a 96-yard, 1 TD performance on the ground against Moore Catholic, also looked quite good back in week #6, as he was second on the team with 83 yards and one score versus the Knights…

On the opposite sideline, Xavier, which we have mentioned countless times is enjoying their most explosive offense season in the past six years, will counter with their own potent running assault…Out-gaining the Titans 305 to 259 on the ground when the two schools faced off during the regular season, a scary notion is that in the subsequent weeks since their loss, the Maroon & Blue juggernaut has actually become even more deadly with their legs, as they have racked up just under 1,200 yards (1,163) and scored 14 touchdowns in the past three weeks.  In their 27-0 blanking of Western Conference regular season champions, Xaverian, Xavier would score all of their points on the ground, running for 265 yards and 4 TDs.

Daniel Vittiburga

Spearheading this never-ending barrage of positive gains has been the breakout star of the 2018 season in the double-A division, Dan Vittiburga….Running for 991 yards and 16 touchdowns (including a 101 and 3 game versus Holy Trinity) during the regular season, the Brooklyn native’s first real taste of postseason football would be a sweat one as he finished the quarterfinal win over the Clippers with a stat line of 150 yards and three more TDs on 31 handles…Junior, Matt Geruso, who has left no doubt that he will be the heir apparent to Vittiburga as the featured member of the backfield next year, just missed his fourth straight 100-yard effort last week, as he “settled’ for 96 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries.  In the game against the Titans in Mid-October, it was Geruso and not Vittiburga who led the Knights in yardage, as he gained 125 on 13 attempts…Don’t make the mistake of underestimating Demetrios Demetriades either.  The 6’1, 180-pounder averaged over 11 yards and scored one touchdown on his seven carries (79 yards) against the Titans earlier this year.

With both teams loving to ram the ball down the throats of their opponents, prosperity in the trenches will likely translate into advancement on the bracket…

In the first meeting, Brian Holder (10 tackles), Sinclair (8 stops), Bashiri Clark-Cain (7 tackles, 1 TFL), Collica (6 stops, 1 tackle for a loss), Rivers (5 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 sack), John Stroughn (5 stops, 1 tackle for negative yardage), and Dylan Lewis (4 tackles, 2 hits behind the line of scrimmage) were the most active for Titan Nation.

For the Knights, quarterfinal round POTW selection, Valery Gwardyak (9 tackles, 3 TFL), Langston Williams (10 stops), James Donaldson (9 tackles, 1 stop for negatives yardage), Milton Guzman (7 stops, 1 TFL), Jordan Sosa (5 stops, 1 stop for a minus), Gregory Steffens (5 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 pass break-up, 1 forced fumble) and Joseph Maratea (4 stops, 1 INT) would be the headliners…The Xavier defense is riding a streak of two consecutive shutouts.  Therefore, as we have come to expect from a Chris Stevens trained unit, points are going to be at a premium against them down the homestretch.

Nov 092018

By Matt Diano:

#1 Kennedy Catholic (7-1) vs. #4 Nazareth Regional (1-7)

When: Friday November 9th, 2018

Where: Kennedy Catholic High School

Time: 7pm


A year removed from seeing their 14-0 lead in the 4th quarter of last year’s semifinals evaporate at the hands of eventual “A” champions, Cardinal Spellman, if there is one lesson that the Gaels know all too well, it is that nothing is ever over until the final horn is blown…With these sentiments in mind, there is no way that the top-seed from Somers are going to make the mistake of counting their chickens before they hatch…But, based solely on the how the first two meetings of the season have gone against their semifinal opponent, Nazareth, there is reason for more than a little bit of optimism if you are Head Coach, Dom Tassone and his KC student-athletes.

Posting victories over the Kingsmen by scores of 28-0 and 26-6 during weeks 2 and 5 of the regular season, the Gaels have hardly been tested against their single-A peers…Owners of both the top-rated offense (25.4 points per game) and defense (11.75 allowed) in their division this season, if not for a loss to an out-of-state opponent from Florida, Kennedy Catholic would be heading into the postseason with an unblemished resume.

Myles Proctor

Boosting the top-2 rushers in the “A” division this season, the Gaels are averaging over 200 yards per game on the ground and are showing no signs of letting up anytime soon…Coined Batman & Robin by us a few weeks ago in the Players of the Week article, seniors, Myles Proctor and Seth Surrett truly are a dynamic duo when they step foot onto a football field…Responsible for 22 of KC’s 28 total touchdowns this season, Proctor (978 yards and nine rushing TDs on 116 carries; 4 catches for 65 yards, 1 TD) and Surrett (628 yards and nine touchdowns on 63 carries; 8 receptions for 72 yards + 2 scores; 1 punt return for a touchdown) have been so off the charts in 2018 that each has individually outscored nearly 2/3 of the teams in their division….In two games this season against their semifinal opponent, Proctor has rushed for 237 yards and two touchdowns, while Surrett has gained 198 yards and added a pair of scores himself.

While there may not be a need to throw the ball much this Friday, if the occasion does call for an aerial attack, look for Eric Volpi (18 catches for 351 yards and a team-leading 3 touchdowns) to be on the receiving end of either Ryan Johnson (23-for-42, 291 yards, 4 TD passes) or Zach Selinger’s (19-for-42, 332 yards throwing, 1 TD pass) passing attempts….Between the two games, Volpi caught four balls for 110 yards, including a 77-yard TD in the first meeting…Brendan Gibson (4 catches for 71 yards, 2 TDs) caught both of his touchdowns this season during round #1.

As if it was not enough of an advantage to have the top two offensive weapons in the league, Kennedy Catholic also happens to feature what is bar none the best front-7 in the “A” division…Led by reigning Defensive Player of the Year/Linebacker extraordinaire, Cole Esposito (97 tackles, 38 TFL, 4 sacks), Wyatt Rumpf (106 stops, 37 tackles for a loss, 3 QB bags), Joseph Eckardt (56 tackles, 19 TFL, 3 sacks), Gary Kellogg (64 tackles, 17 stops for a loss, 6 sacks) and Aidan Bernal (51 stops, 19 negative yardage tackles, 6 sacks), the D-line has not allowed a single running back to cross over the 100-yard threshold this season…When you factor in Clayton Proctor (team-leading 2 INTs, 3 PDs), Bobby Piesco (1 INT, 3 pass break-ups), and several of the names we have already mentioned who have done admirable double-duty along the last line of defense, the “D” as a whole is allowing less than 180 yards of total offense against “A“ foes this season.

Justin McDuffie

As they attempt to pull what would in all likelihood be the biggest upset of the weekend if it were to happen, the Desmond Defritas-guided Kingsmen will need to get big nights out of running backs, Justin McDuffie (156 yards and 3 TDs on 39 carries) and Kevin Fleetwood (77 yards on 22 attempts)…McDuffey has struggled in the two outings against the Gaels, running for a combined total of 12 yards on 8 carries)…Fleetwood on the other hand did enjoy some success during the second go-around, as he rushed for a season-high 41 yards on eight hand-offs.

Dual-threat senior QB, Kenial Densiar (19-for-58, 215 yards) has yet to find his groove in the throwing game, but does lead NR in rushing yards with 191 on 44 carries…Showing some flashes in each aspect of the game (team-high 26 rushing yards in game 1; season-high 5 completions in the rematch), if the 6’0, 156-pounder from Brooklyn can put all of the pieces together in one night, it certainly could be a potential difference maker.

Senior, Teshawn Howard, could materialize as a sleeper…An explosive kick returner who had 50-yard run backs in each of the two games, the 5’10, 160-pounder is also the Nazareth’s leading receiver with 7 grabs for 59 yards this season.

Tasked with the most difficult job (AKA trying to stop the two-headed monster of Proctor/Surrett) will be a front-7 anchored by Elijah Jordan (50 tackles, 2 sacks), Fleetwood (47 stops, 3 TFL, 4 sacks, 1 INT), Brenton Winter (30 tackles, 4 TFKL, 7 sacks, 4 QB hurries), Christian Mazier (23 stops, 3 sacks), and William Etokhana (19 tackles, 1 sack, 1 pick).


#2 Cardinal Spellman (4-4) vs. #3 St. Dominic’s (1-6)

When: Saturday November 10th, 2018

Where: Cardinal Spellman High School

Time: 1pm


Bridesmaids in 2015 and 2016, the Pilots would finally earn the right to celebrate at mid-field last season when they defeated Xaverian, 20-18, in the final minute of regulation…And now that they have experienced those feelings of euphoria, there is no way they are going to allow their ascension from “hunter” to “hunted” status to be disrupted without a fight…Commencing their title defense against a Bayhawks team that they have already shutout twice this season (7-0 21-0), if you were a betting man, it would wise to predict that Spellman will be making a fourth straight trip to championship weekend on November 17th.

A Pilot squad that does not rely on just one or two superstars in order to carry (literally or figuratively) them to victory, what makes Spellman so effective on offense is that their willingness to utilize all of their depth enables them to always have fresh personnel handling the pigskin.

Matt Forti

Showcasing five unique individuals who have run for 100 or more yards this season, and a sixth who is just three yards short of the century mark, William Cawley’s offense is a lot better than the 10 points per game that it averaged in 2018…At the forefront of the nearly 174 yards per game that they are gaining on the ground this season is senior, Kyle Maysonet, who ranks 3rd in rushing yards (behind Proctor and Surrett) with 430 on 83 attempts.  Maysonet would lead all Pilot runners during the first meeting between these two schools, accumulating 40 yards on 21 carries…Matthew Forti, the top runner during round #2 with 80 yards and one TD on seven carries, is second on the team this season with 278 yards…Myles Bideau (18 carries for 153 yards), Salvatore Maida (13 hand-offs for 120 yards) and Meki Howell-Browne (60 yards on 5 carries), would all join Forti in having significant performances during the rematch, as all three finished with identical 40-yard efforts in the October 6th affair…Aidan Hanley-Piri (101 yards on 35 attempts), is the fifth and final member of the 100-yard club…Ethan Ortiz, who ran for 11 yards on his only try between the two games, currently sits at 97 yards rushing in his senior season.

Speaking of the fab frosh [Hanley-Piri], he will head in to his first postseason game as the #1 passer in the “A” division…Connecting on 28 of his 78 attempts, his completion percentage (35.9) may leave a little something to be desired, but when he does hit his target, it has yielded big gains as evident by the 428 yards he has thrown for in his rookie campaign…Combined, he has gone 6-for-22 for 120 yards and 1 touchdown against St. Dom’s….On the back end of half of those strikes was the team’s leading receiver, Lance Powell (12 catches, 263 yards, 3 TDs), who made two grabs for 47 yards in the initial head-to-head and then followed it up by catching a 45-yard touchdown pass in game #2….Forti, who recorded a pair of snatches for 30 yards in the first meeting, is the only other Pilot student-athlete with multiple catches in the series.

Representing the nucleus of the D-Unit that has held the Bayhawks scoreless for 72 straight minutes is Ortiz (101 tackles, 1 sack), Forti (72 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 INTs), Zoilo Carmona (61 stops, 3 QB bags), Nathaniel Colon (53 tackles), and Bideau (40 stops, 4 sacks)…Ortiz made 33 tackles (including a 20-stop performance during game #2) in the two contests, while Forti and Carmona would contribute 21 and 17 stops in the series…Colon, who also had an interception in the first game, had a pair of 5-tackle showings to end the regular season home-and-home with 10 total stops…Bideau recorded three sacks in two games.

Hoping to play spoiler and prove how hard it really is to beat the same foe three times in the same season with be a St. Dominic’s cohort that despite being 0-2 in the series, really did not play particularly poorly in either meeting.

Shutout in five of their seven appearances in 2018, when you look at the talent on the Bayhawk roster, it kind of makes you scratch your head.  On paper, there is no reason why this team should have only scored 28 points in total.

Will Ford

Jack Rooney (59 yards on 10 carries in game #1) and Will Ford (74 yards on 12 attempts during game #2) both have the skill set to march the ball down field on the ground…Alternating under center, both would complete 50 percent of their pass attempts as well, with the former going 6-for-12 for 42 yards in game #1, and the latter compiling similar numbers (5-for-10, 48 yards) in the second showdown.

Alfonso Iacono (3 catches for 32 yards in the series) and Niko Whitcoamb (2 grabs for 14 yards in the initial meeting) both appear to be sure-handed, reliable receivers.

And the defense, anchored by all of the above, as well as Thomas Kahl, Timothy Riordan, Dom Camera, and Mykael Morring, demonstrated what they are capable of doing when they limited Spellman to just 68 yards on the ground in the 7-0 loss on September 14th…That rushing total increased to 244 during the week 5 encore, so we know that controlling the running game will be a main focus for Robert Ploth’s “D”…Rooney and Whitcoamb would be credited with double-digit tackles on each occasion, with their totals for the series being 27 and 25; Rooney added a sack and three QB hurries during game #1….Kahl and Riordan would post 15 and 14 stops between the two games…Camera’s six tackle/1 sack display during week #2 was key….And Morring was his usual steady self in the middle of the DL, averaging five tackles per game versus the Pilots.

Nov 082018

By Matt Diano:

#1 St. Anthony’s (7-1) vs. #5 Cardinal Hayes (3-4)

When: Friday November 9th, 2018

Where: St. Anthony’s High School @Cy Donnelly Field

Time: 7pm


Regular season champs now in back-to-back seasons for the Friars of St. Anthony’s High School, going all the way this postseason has a much greater meaning than ever before…Triple-A titlists a remarkable 11 times in a span of 13 years from 2001-2013, the South Huntington school has not hoisted NYCHSFL hardware in their past four attempts, including a loss in last year’s finals to Archbishop Stepinac…And, with long-time Head Coach/legend Rich Reichert, set to hang up his whistle and clipboard at the conclusion of the 2018 season, you know there is added pressure to send their mentor out on top.

Undefeated this season against in-state competition (their lone loss was to an opponent from Maryland), the Friars possess an offense that at times can look invincible…Averaging 41 points per game this season, which includes a season-best 56 (56-32) that they put up in the week #6 match-ups with this same Cardinals opponent, St. Anthony’s welcomes a high-scoring shootout because in their opinion, they have the best artillery in NYS.

Greg Campisi

At the or rather under the center of it all is their three-year starting quarterback, Greg Campisi, who has been nothing if not magical during his swan song campaign…An individual who is garnering serious Hansen Award (Suffolk County Player of the Year) hype and should be in the conversion for the overall NYS Player of the Year, the 6’1, 175-pound Harvard-bound student-athlete can do anything and everything on a football field…The purest form of the term “dual-threat QB”, Campisi has accounted for 34 touchdowns this season, completing nearly 60 percent of his throw attempts (127-for-212) for 1,982 yards and 23 touchdowns.  He also ranks among the top rushers (regardless of positions), having carried the pigskin 93 times for 846 yards and an additional 10 touchdowns….When these two storied programs met on October 12th, the Friar signal caller went 14-for-22, hurling for 302 yards and tossing four touchdown passes.  He tacked on another 77 yards on the ground to give him 379 yards of all-purpose production.

An offensive that is capable of moving the ball on the ground but just prefers to utilize the aerial pass in order to get their wealth of playmakers into open space, when #11 drops back to hurl, he is blessed to have five capable targets, all of whom are threats to take it to the house at any given moment…Leading the Friars in all receiving categories this season has been senior, Daniel Parker, who has made 34 grabs for 626 yards, and eight touchdowns.  During the first-meeting, Parker would have a modest game by his standards, catching four balls for 52 yards + 1 score….Fellow senior, Kyle Angus, who next to Campisi, has asserted himself as the Friars most versatile weapon (864 yards of total yardage; 15 touchdowns) had his only multiple TD reception game of the season against Cardinal Hayes, as he brought two of his three catches on the night to the promised land to finish with 115 yards receiving.  He would also run for three touchdowns (5 carries, 68 yards) en route to being named as a NYCHSFL player of the week following the victory over the Cardinals.  For the season, Angus trails only Parker with 33 grabs for 505 yards and five touchdowns.  On the ground, he is averaging six yards per carry, accumulating 359 yards and scoring 10 TDs on 60 attempts….Greg Randall, who tied Parker for most catches during the game back in Mid-October with four grabs for 84 yards, is yet another 30-catch option for STA, as he has enjoyed a banner junior year with 30 catches for 429 yards and three touchdowns…Rounding out the list of available pass-catchers with 15 and 12 grabs respectively this season are Makhai Murphy (15-253-5) and Jaden Jernigan (12-146-2).  The former was not credited with a reception in the first meeting, whereas the latter had his finest game of the season, making three snatches for 47 yards and scoring once.

Defensively, the key for the Friars will be to get solid play out of their secondary…Playing against a Cardinal squad that featured a returning All-State quarterback in Sofian Massoud, you know that the ball will be thrown early and often by the Cardinals.  Therefore, Nick Espada and Murphy, who are tied for the team-lead with three interceptions apiece, as well as James Errante and Nicholas Alvarado, will all need to be alert.

On the opposite sideline, the name of the game for Head Coach CJ O’Neill and the Cardinals will be execution…Too many times during the first match-up, Hayes would be on the cusp of doing something big on offense only to have their drive derailed by a turnover deep in opposing territory.  If the Cardinals have any chance at all of pulling the upset and avenging their previous loss, it will be necessary for them to play “clean football”.  Because when they do protect the ball, good things seem to happen for them.

Gaining over 500 yards of total offense in the October 12th loss, if you are the visitors from the Bronx, you know that you should be able to march down the field and put points on the board.

Massoud especially should feel rather confident, as the 341 yards (21-for-32 passing; 3 TDs) he tossed for against the Friars were among his career-best days…Adding to the swagger that he will need to bring with him to the field on Friday is the knowledge that he is currently playing his best football of the season.  In his team’s quarterfinal victory over Monsignor Farrell, the 6’2, 175-pound junior threw three touchdown passes and ran for a fourth TD.

Tafari Mason

Speaking of peaking at the ideal time of the year, WR Tafari Mason, is fresh off of a two-touchdown game against the Lions and continues to become a bigger contributor to this Cardinal attack with each subsequent appearance.   When he faced STA during the regular season, he had a quiet 2 catch, 31-yard evening.  However, based on what we have been seeing from him down the stretch, we are fully expecting to see a much more impactful performance on November 9th. 

Also expected to be on the back end of many a Massoud completion this weekend will be two guys who had extraordinary efforts in the previous loss to the Friars—Jalen Smith and Angel Tamarez….The top-2 receivers on the team, as identified in last week’s quarterfinal preview, Smith had one of, if not his best game in the Maroon & Gold during week #6, making eight grabs for 136 yards and scoring twice….Tamarez too would be mighty impressive, making six catches for 100 yards and one TD.

Honored as a Player of the Week following his breakout performance during the opening weekend of the postseason, the Cardinals are going to need to get the same stellar display out of Maurice Sherrod on the defensive side of the ball…Credited with eight tackles, 1 sack, and 3 QB hurries last weekend, the senior two-way lineman (also plays OT) is going to have to make a habit of being a pest to Campisi all night during the semifinals…Joel Athuahene (2) and Micheal Tetteh (1) combined for three sacks against the Friars and will also need to turn up the pressure in order to disrupt the usually cool as a cucumber Campisi.

Let it be known that St. Anthony’s has never lost a home game in which Campisi was the starting quarterback.  Hence, the odds will no doubt be stacked against the road warrior Cardinals in their bid to return to the AAA finals for the second time in the past three seasons.


#2 Iona Prep (7-1) vs. #3 Archbishop Stepinac (5-4)

When: Saturday November 10th, 2018

Where: Iona Prep High School @Mara Field

Time: 1:30 pm


An absolute barn-burner that was settled on an unsuccessful two-point conversion attempt in overtime by Stepinac (36-34 IP) when the two schools met on September 15th, to call this Saturday’s rematch one of the most anticipated games anywhere in New York State would actually be a bit of an understatement…A clash of two Lower Hudson perennial powerhouses, not only will the berth in the AAA finals be on the line, so too will be a year’s worth of bragging rights.

Trailing 28-14 late in the 4th quarter during week #2, the second-seeded Gaels would use a combination of their elite passing game (60-yard TD to Matt Panker) and a huge pick-6 by Jimaar Edwards, to pull off the comeback…Given a second life, Iona Prep would lean on tailback, Frankie McFadden, in the extra frame and they would be rewarded for the confidence they showed in their super sophomore, as he would account for all eight their points by finding the end zone on an 11-yard TD run and then following it up with a successful 2pt conversion.

The defending league and state champion Crusaders would get within 36-34 when Mekhi Green scored from shortage yardage.  However, their opportunity to extend the game to a second overtime would be denied when junior field general, Joey Carino, was stopped short of the goal line on a designed roll out keeper.

The outcome of this game would unleash a chain-reaction in which the two teams would travel in different directions…Iona Prep would go on to win their next three games en route to earning a top-2 seed…Stepinac on the other hand would drop three in a row, putting them in the unenviable position of needing to claw their way back (which they did, closing out the regular season with three consecutive wins)…But alas, no matter the path they have taken to reach this point, all that matters on November 10th is that both enter the game playing grade-A ball and all signs suggest it will be another classic in New Rochelle.

Derek Robertson

Iona Prep QB, Derek Robertson, who leads the NYCHSFL in all passing categories with 2,328 yards and 28 touchdowns on 184-for-282, takes the field fresh off of a five-touchdown passing effort in the Gaels’ 42-21 quarterfinal victory over Chaminade….During the first meeting between these two schools, he would complete 20 of 32 attempts for 297 yards and a pair of touchdowns….And While Panker (5 catches for 130 yards during week #2) would be the one on the back end of the play to turned around the momentum, fellow senior, Sean Fleming, would also have a strong showing, making 5 catches for 52 yards and the other TD reception…Fleming was a POTW selection this week after making nine catches for 71 yards and establishing a new personal best for TD receptions in a single-outing with three in the win over the Flyers…Camari Glasgow, would be the third Gael to post a 5-catch game during the second week of the regular season, as his stat line against Stepinac was 5 grabs for 38 yards.  A Percy Harvin type receiver who can make his presence felt just as efficiently as a ball carrier, Glasgow had a highlight TD run during the quarterfinals, going 70+ yards for the score.   He also was credited with two catches for 27 yards on November 3rd….Ryan Soules and Alex Williams, both made two catches for 18 and 23 yards in the win over A.S.

McFadden, who gained 80 yards and scored two touchdowns (including the previously referenced game-winner) on 17 carries versus Stepinac, continued to the consistent complementary piece that Head Coach, Joe Spagnolo, needs him to be, as he kicked off his postseason by running for 56 yards on 12 carries. His 822 yards on the ground rank him 4th in AAA this season, but he remains tied for the TD lead with 10….Jayden Lambert, who did not take a single hand-off in the first meeting, has really emerged the past few weeks as a trusted option out of the backfield for IP.  In back-to-back wins over Chaminade in the regular season finale and the first round of the playoffs, he has seen his involvement on offense increase tremendously, as he has gone from carrying the ball just twice in the entire month of September to nine carries for 105 yards and two touchdowns in the past two weeks.

Despite the head-to-head loss, if you are Stepinac Head Coach, Mike O’Donnell (who just picked up career win #200 in the 51-13 quarterfinal triumph over Christ the King), you really have to take the field with some semblance of confidence.  After all, despite playing on the road with a then inexperienced quarterback and without the services of your top running back, you still managed to almost come away with the “w”.

Leading the majority of the game (including a 14-0 edge at the intermission), when Stepinac looks back at the film, they probably should not see a loss, but rather, a missed opportunity…Because they were so in control for large parts of the contest, they know they have the studs necessary to get revenge.

One big difference between then and now that the Crusaders will be banking on, is the maturity and overall development of their junior signal caller, Carino….Competing in just his second varsity start when they played IP at the onset of the 2018 season, the 6’2, 190-pounder did not perform poorly (15-for-23 passing, 162 yards, 1 TD/1 INT; 61 yards rushing and 1 touchdown on the ground), but he also was not yet at the level in which he is currently operating…Stepping onto Mara field riding a streak of three-straight multiple-TD passing games, the Somers resident was the best we have ever seen him during the quarterfinal round, as he connected on a career-best 73.7 percent of his attempts (14-for-19), tossing for 265 yards (2nd highest total of the year) and three touchdowns against the CTK Royals.

Another undeniable change between week 2 and the semifinals will be the involvement of starting tailback, Malik Grant….Hampered during the initial battle and limited to just two carries for eight yards, even without him in the line-up, the Crusaders still were able to generate 369 yards and four touchdowns on the ground…Add him and his AAA-best 879 yards running to the equation and only God knows how explosive Stepinac will be with their land attack this weekend…Surpassing 100 yards in four of his past five appearances, the offensive star of the 2017 State title game showed once again that when the postseason starts, he goes the extra mile, running for 170 yards and two touchdowns in the quarterfinal win last Sunday.

Filling the void in Grant’s absence during the first meeting was the aforementioned Green, who ran 30 times for 202 yards in the loss…Since the return of Grant, Green’s numbers have diminished a bit, but that seems to be more a case of lack of touches rather than a falloff in ability.  We have no doubt that if he gets his #21 called, he will be ready to pick up where he left off against this Gael defense.

A potential x-factor in the game will be another option out of the backfield, Kevin McKenna.  Known more for his ferocious play on the defensive side of the ball at LB, McKenna would get some carries early in the 2018 season and did quite well, averaging 7.3 yards on 11 chances.   In the game against Iona Prep, he gained 49 yards on five carries and scored twice.  But, like Grant, he has not been a focal point down the stretch.  So, it remains unseen whether or not they will go back to the well and try to capitalize on a strategy that was successful in the past.

One final RB that is worthy of our attention is CJ Wise.  The opposite of Green and McKenna, the Harlem resident has actually seen his role increase the deeper into the season we have gone…Getting just three carries for 15 yards during week #2, Wise has since posted a pair of 100+ yard games in the month of October and is coming off of a 10-carry, 70-yard showing last weekend in the championship round of 8…Wise, who had four catches for 40 yards versus Iona Prep, is second on the team this season in receptions, so he will be a threat as a pass-catcher too.

Shawn Harris

While all of the young men listed so far for the Crusaders are immense talents, if you want to talk game-changing potential, then the man you need to know about is none other than Shawn Harris…The caliber of student-athlete that fans flock to see because of his dynamic skill set and ability to go all the way every time the ball is in his hands, the LoHud Super-11 selection is like a smaller version of Bo Jackson.  Simply put, he knows and does everything exceptionally well…Whether it is as a spot ball carrier, an every down receiver, or a kick/punt returner, he is lighting in a bottle and the more times A.S. can feed him the pigskin, the exponentially higher their chances of winning improve…Held to his lowest output of the season with just one catch for 5 yards when these schools squared off previously, Harris has made no fewer than three grabs in any game since and is really shifting into a new gear of late, scoring three TDs in two of his team’s last three contests.   In the quarterfinal win over Christ the King, he had a 38-yard TD run and added a pair of long TD receptions…Kudos to the Gaels for containing him once.  But, if they hope to dethrone the defending kings, they are going to have to prove that they can do it again!

Defensively both teams are going to have questions to answer…For the Gaels, victory will mean playing considerably tougher against the run.  While it is no easy task to have to contend with the likes of Jonathan Mucciolo (reigning POTW selection), Ajani Cornelius, Shadi Rabadi, and James Prince in the trenches, the Iona Prep front-7 are going to need to win their fair share of these battles.  If they let Stepinac have another 370-yard showing on the ground, it could spell doom for them.

Stepinac on the other hand is going to need their vaunted pass rushers to all show up…Per the stat sheet from September 15th, there was not a sack recorded in the game by the Crusaders…This cannot happen a second time around.  Robertson’s field vision is too good and he has too many available targets to be allowed to sit comfortably in the pocket like a sniper and throw darts all afternoon.