Jun 152019

By Matt Diano:

For departing St. Anthony’s signal caller, Greg Campisi, nothing could go wrong on Friday night…Winning a game of rock/paper/scissors over fellow All-Catholic/All-State representative, Matt Sluka (Kellenberg) in order to earn the right to orchestrate the first offensive series of the game for Team Long Island, the Harvard bound Friar would be the centerpiece behind an even greater victory, as LI emerged with the 44-20 victory against their counterparts from New York City in the 2019 Empire Challenge on the campus of Hofstra University.

Getting the best and brightest from Nassau and Suffolk counties off on the perfect footing, it would not take Campisi long to showcase that his scholastic swan song would be one that the NYCHSFL faithful will remember forever…Utilizing all of his appendages on LI’s opening drive, the Farmingdale resident would preserve possession by scrambling for 12 yards on 3rd-and-8, and then follow it up with another 15-yard dash to put Long Island on the 4-yard line…Two plays later, he would finish what he started, hitting Carey’s Nick Giacalone on a short slant for the touchdown to make the score 7-0 (Chaminade’s Anthony Pecorella with the successful PAT).

The aforementioned TD dart would be the first of two occasions in which #11 [Campisi] would hook up with #25 [Giacalone] for points…Providing bookend scores, the duo played pitch-and-catch on a four-yard strike midway through the fourth quarter to account for the final TD of the game for LI…Earlier in this drive, it would again be Campisi’s ability to make something out of nothing that paved the way to the promised land.  Twice facing 4th down deep in NYC territory, the future Crimson student-athlete would survey the field and find Jordan Clinton (William Floyd) both times (including on 4th-and-14) to keep the march alive.

Completing his evening with a stat line that read 9-for-15 with the aforementioned two touchdown passes, Campisi would complement his curricula vitae by adding 63 yards rushing…In recognition of his body of work, he was named the recipient of the Most Outstanding Player Award, making him the second NYCHSFL player in the past three years (Cardinal Hayes’s Christian Anderson in 2017) to have this esteemed honor bestowed upon him…Making the moment all the more special and cherished was the fact that he achieved all that he did while being coached one last time by his mentor/ living legend, Rich Reichert (Head Coach of Team LI), who put down his clipboard tonight after 41 amazing years of service to the St. Anthony’s program.

Outstanding in his own right would be the Metropolitan Catholic League’s other star field general, Sluka…Himself a worthy candidate of MVP consideration, the pride of Firebird Nation provided several glowing examples on Friday of why he never lost a single varsity game in which he suited up (22-0; back-to-back “AA” crowns).

Another unstoppable, All-Purpose, “Do anything and/or everything” presence under center, even when it was not the “Red Headed Assassin” punching the pigskin into the end zone directly, Sluka would still be very much at the heart of each triumphant pilgrimage up and down the gridiron…

Breaking free on a 27-yard run on the second series of the game (Long Island recorded points on five straight drives), Sluka moved the ball inside the New York City 39 and laid the tracks for Kevon Hall (Roosevelt) eventual 14-yard TD run to make the score 14-0 (another Pecorella PAT make).

Late in the 1st half (1:49 remaining), Sluka’s speed and strength again proved essential as he would gain five yards on a 3rd-and-6 to create a very manageable 4th-and-short (which Hall easily converted on the subsequent carry)…The reward for his effort came shortly thereafter when with 58 ticks still on the clock, #11 would hurl a “ball of beauty” into the arms of Oceanside’s Jake Lazzaro for the 20-yard touchdown to make the score 27-6

Answering a HUGE stop by his defense with  Holy Trinity standout and Uniondale native John Stroughn contributing all night at Defensive End, (held on 4th& goal) at the onset of the third quarter, the 6’3, 205-pounder out of Roslyn immediately picked up where he left off, connecting with Lawrence’s Jordan Alexander on 3rd-and-6 to move the chains and then teaming up with yet another Catholic school standout, Kyle Angus (St. Anthony’s) on a 37-yard catch-and-run to advance the ball to the opposing 12-yard line…Identical to his performance in the 1st half, [Kevon] Hall did the rest, taking the hand-off the distance to further pad the LI lead.

All in all, Sluka accumulated 95 yards in the air, going 6-for-12.  And while his total quantity of ground damage was not known at the time of publication, you best be sure it was plentiful!

Not to be overshadowed was the kicking prowess of Pecorella, who in addition to his previously cited consistency on extra point attempts, also tacked on a 35-yard field goal to close out the first 30 minutes of action.

LI’s output of 44 tied the all-time event record set by another group of Section VIII/Section XI/NS Catholic’s finest in 2005.

Perhaps the ultimate indicator that the festivities truly belonged to the NYCHSFL was that even on the losing sideline, it was wide receivers extraordinaire, Camari Glasgow (Iona Prep) and Shawn Harris Jr. (Stepinac) having a hand in all three of New York City’s scores.

Trailing 20-0 with 2:13 remaining in the second quarter, it would be the soon-to-be Merrimack College stud [Glasgow] on the back end of a TD pass to break the ice and put the City on the board…The touchdown haul was the first of a pair for the now graduated Gael, as he later made a spectacular 14-yard, sliding grab (as described by Newsday) half a minute into the 4th quarter to cut the deficit to 37-12.

Approximately 10 minutes later, it was Harris Jr.’s turn to shine, as he rounded out the combined tally of 64 points with a 20-yard reception.

To these gentlemen referenced above, as well as all of our favorite sons who graced us with an encore on June 14th, we thank them for the plethora of memories and wish them nothing but continued blessings as they embark on the next chapter of their careers!

Most of all, the players and fans who attended walk away supporting a great cause with the proceeds of the game going to the Boomer Esiason Foundation which fights to combat Cystic Fibrosis.

In case you missed it the Game will air on TV on CBS Sports Network on Saturday June 29th at 3:00 PM

Dec 022018

By Matt Diano:

As we closed the book on another action-packed season of NYCHSFL football and commenced with the process of bidding farewell to our treasured class of 2019 members, we did so in the manner in which the Lord has taught us, by sitting down as one league, one community, and one family to partake in one of our grandest rituals, the Annual Communion Awards Breakfast.

Father Albert of Kellenberg celebrates Mass

Hosted once again on the campus of Kellenberg Memorial High School, prior to breaking bread and paying homage to our best and brightest performers from the 2018 season, celebrant, Father Albert Bertoni SM would impart upon his congregation the lessons of Luke 21: 25-28, 34-36, reminding the captive audience that Jesus will reveal himself in a variety of forms.  Therefore, we must always be attentive to the signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars for the return of our savior in the clouds.

Perhaps not quite the literal definition of this gospel passage, but in reflecting on all of the “power and glory” that our esteemed honorees brought with them to the field every day for the past three months, it was not difficult to spot the presence of God in these present-day stars!!!

David Amelemah of St. John the Baptist

Claiming the morning’s most prestigious and cherished distinction, the Monsignor Matthew Peters Award, in recognition of being named the top scholar-athlete in the NYCHSFL this season was St. John the Baptist senior running back/defensive back, David Amelemah…A two-year starter and three-year member of Head Coach, Ralph Carusillo’s varsity squad, the resident of Amityville finished third on the team in rushing yards (157 yards on 30 attempts), while also ranking in the top-10 among SJB tacklers with a defensive stat line that included 21 stops and one interception…However, while his contributions on the gridiron were nonetheless outstanding, what would set Amelemah apart from his peers this season would be the breadth of resume he possesses in all areas of his scholastic journey…On pace to be the salutatorian (second highest grade point average) of the class of 2019 at the West Islip based high school, the 17-year-old, three-sport athlete (also runs track during the winter and spring seasons) holds an average of 104 while enrolled in a curriculum that includes several advanced placement and honors courses.  He scored a remarkable 1530 on the scholastic aptitude test (SAT), darn-near achieving a perfect score in the mathematics section with a 790…Having already been an invited participant to the Cornell University CATALYST Academy, as well as having secured a six-year internship with National Grid, this future engineer is equally as selfless as he is brilliant.  A retreat leader, a mentor in the Big Brothers/Big Sisters program, active in Habitat for Humanity, while also serving as a volunteer at both Good Samaritan Hospital and the Long Island Cares Corporation, Amelemah is the epitome of all the values in which we hold sacred within our league, thus making him a perfect selection.

Hailed for their abilities to consistently dazzle the crowd with spectacular exploits with the pigskin in hand were a quartet of senior showstoppers—Derek Robertson (Iona Prep), Greg Campisi (St. Anthony’s), Matthew Sluka (Kellenberg Memorial), and Myles Proctor (Kennedy Catholic)—who are this year’s recipients of the Offensive Player(s) of the Year in their respective divisions.

So special and paramount to the successes enjoyed by their schools, when it came time to pick this year’s Joseph Riverso Memorial Award winner (AAA Offensive Player of the Year), it became apparent that the only way to truly achieve justice and fairness was to establish a precedent and recognize TWO heralded signal callers in the persons of Robertson and Campisi.

Throwing for a Westchester County record of 2,774 yards as a junior in 2017, the two-year starter under center for the Gaels [Robertson] may not have succeeded in breaking his own milestone this season, but was quite extraordinary in every other possible way…Topping all triple-A field generals and finishing 5th overall in the Empire State in both categories in his swan song, the 6’2, 185-pounder out of Yonkers would complete 201 of his 312 attempts (64.4%) for 2,556 yards and 31 touchdowns in leading Iona Prep to a 7-2 mark this season…Combing to hurl for 5,330 yards and 58 touchdowns during his tenure in New Rochelle, Robertson led the Gaels to the AAA semifinals in each of his two years as the starting quarterback…He becomes the third Gael this decade to receive the Riverso, joining the likes of Mario Biaggi (2012) and Robert Madison (2014).

Bound for Harvard University next fall, there may never again be a dual-threat quarterback the caliber of Campisi in South Huntington.  Absolutely unstoppable at times during his 2.5-year reign running the Friar offense, the 6’1, 175-pounder contributed two NYCHSFL regular season titles and a 2017 runner-up finish to the rich STA football history, as he compiled an incredible 19-3 record against New York Catholic foes (21-4 overall)…Named Honorable Mention All-State as an 11th grader last year following a season where he accumulated 2,432 yards and 20 touchdowns of total production, Campisi would surpass all of his previous personal bests in his final season donning the Black & Gold…Named to the Newsday All-Long Island 1st team earlier this week, #11 would have a senior campaign for the ages, completing 60.3 percent of his throw attempts (138-for-229) for 2,109 yards (3rd in AAA) and 25 touchdowns (3rd in AAA), while simultaneously rushing for 942 additional yards and scoring 12 more times to account for a mind-blowing 37 TDs in 2018…Closing out this chapter of his football career having thrown for 4,879 yards and 47 touchdowns, and run for 1,641 yards and 24 scores, Campisi may have never won the AAA league title, but he certainly won the hearts of all NYCHSFL aficionados and enthusiasts…Campisi is the first Friar since fellow signal caller, James Brady (2007), to win this award.

Never tasting defeat (22-0) in his two-year varsity stint as the field general for the KMHS Firebirds, 2018 must have felt like déjà vu for the Roslyn resident [Sluka], as he complements the back-to-back Double-A team titles he won with the Blue & Gold juggernaut by adding a second All-Long Island 1st team designation this past Wednesday and now a second consecutive NYCHSFL Player of the Year plaque to his mantel…The centerpiece and/or focal point for an offensive cohort that averaged over 40 points per game in both of his seasons taking the snaps, the 6’3, 205-pound red-headed stud leaves behind a legacy in Uniondale that will forever survive the test of time…Inheriting a program that went 1-8 in 2016, Sluka’s influence would bear witness to Kellenberg rising to the #3 ranking in NYS in the latest polls…A 2nd-Team All-State selection in 2017, it goes without saying that when the NYSSWA releases the 2018 edition, he will again be featured prominently…A year removed from a 2,603-yard (1,619 on the ground; 984 in the air), 36-touchdown (24 rushing, 10 passing) all-purpose season as a junior, Sluka would be even better this season, as his commitment to the development of his passing skills would yield a 69.2 percent completion rate (74-for-107), as he tossed for 1,203 yards and 14 touchdowns…The emergence of All-League running back, Jordan Delucia (led AA with 1,380 yards) meant that Sluka would not need to be as busy with his legs.  But still, despite calling his own number on fewer occasions, the Marianist gem would be the NYCHSFL TD king on the ground, finding pay dirt on 22 separate occasions as a part of an 1,131-yard effort…Posting 11 touchdowns (seven rushing, four throwing) in two title game appearances (2x Offensive MVP) in 2017 and 2018, perhaps what fans will miss most about Sluka next season is his propensity to play his best when the stakes were their highest…The first NYCHSFL player since Matt Hahn (St. Anthony’s; 2002/2003) to repeat as an Offensive Player of the Year winner, Sluka is the third Firebirds this decade to earn the award, joining Matthew McDaniels (won the AAA award in 2011) and Bobby Musso (A/AA recipient in 2014).

A true breakout star during the 2018 season, Proctor, alongside teammate, Seth Surrett, would traumatize opposing defenses this year, finishing as the top-2 runners in the A-division and combining to gain close to 2,000 yards and score 19 touchdowns…Just barely edging out his “partner in crime” in the rushing yards race, Proctor finished second to Surrett in touchdowns scored, with the former crossing the goal line nine times, while the latter accomplished the feat on 11 different occasions…Together, this dynamic duo would make history in Somers, delivering the first “A” division regular season title to Head Coach, Dom Tassone, and taking the Gaels to championship weekend for the first time in school history…Surpassing the 100-yards running plateau in six of the eight games he played this season (ran for 96 yards in another contest), the 6’2, 190-pounder out of Yorktown Heights was a human highlight reel as a senior, averaging over eight yards per carry…Proctor was twice selected as a POTW in 2018, including an afternoon of career-bests during a week #3 victory over St. Dominic’s where he ran for 215 yards and three touchdowns on just nine carries…By virtue of their senior tailback’s selection, Kennedy Catholic has now claimed this award in the two of the past three seasons, as quarterback, David Keogh, earned the prize in his senior season in 2016.

Turning our attention to the other side of the ball, whether it be Lombardi, Ditka, Saban, or any other legendary coach in any sport in this country, the sentiments regarding defense remains the same…Whereas the offense tends to be the face of many winning teams, it is the 11 men on the other side of the line of scrimmage that operate as the heart, soul, and backbone of any perennially successful organization…Three young men who always put their schools in a position to obtain victory, Makhai Murphy (St. Anthony’s), Valery Gwardyak (Xavier), and Cole Esposito (Kennedy Catholic) are precisely the type of individuals that military historian, John Keegan was writing about when he spoke of an “inability to compromise, an unrelenting devotion to the standards of duty and courage, an absolute loyalty to others, and a refusal to let the task at hand go until it is has been sufficiently done.”….Two of our three selections [Gwardyak and Esposito] would be dominant linebackers on divisional runner-up programs, while the third [Murphy] was the shutdown defensive back for not one, but a pair of AAA regular season crowns.

Murphy, who finished 2nd in the triple-A division (top-20 in NYS) with four interceptions for the second straight season, was such a feared commodity at the cornerback position that more times than not, he would successfully negate the top receiver on the opposing team, thus creating many a long afternoon or night for adversarial quarterbacks…Tasked with the unenviable challenge of being a D-back in a league that boasted four of the top-20 passing quarterbacks in the entire Empire State, when you look at the numbers that those signal callers mustered versus the Friars as opposed to other secondaries, you begin to garner a deep appreciation for how unique a talent the 5’10, 175-pounder truly is…When St. Anthony’s played eventual league and State champs, Archbishop Stepinac, the Friar defensive backfield held Crusader signal caller, Joey Carino to a 52.4 completion percentage, which was seven points below his season average…In two showdowns this season against returning 3rd Team All-State field general, Sofian Massoud (Cardinal Hayes), from an individual perspective, Murphy notched one INT apiece and the secondary as a whole forced the Cardinal junior into his only two interception game of the regular season and limited him to a modest 106-yard tossing in the AAA semifinals…Competing against another 2018 All-Catholic performer, Farrell QB, Mike Regan, Murphy would post another interception and the last line of defense collectively limited the Lions to 11-for-29 for only 108 yards…The first STA student-athlete since Scott Vallone (2007) to be named the Vincent O’Connor Memorial Defensive Player of the Year, Murphy snaps Stepinac’s four-year streak (Gavin Heslop, Dan Negron, Gene Brown, and Trill Williams).

League President Chris Hardardt

As it pertains to vaunted defensive tradition built by Xavier Knights’ head coach, Chris Stevens, the saying goes, show me a bunch of goose-eggs and I’ll show you a star linebacker at the eye of the storm…Following in the footsteps of Frank Masella (2015), Gwardyak would put an exclamation mark on his incredible scholastic career by captaining the NYC based school back to championship weekend for the first time since winning in 2015…And while the Knights may have fallen short of hoisting the hardware on November 17th, the loss in no way detracts from what was one heck of an individual and unified effort by the Maroon & Blue “D”…Pitching four shutouts during the course of the year, including two straight in the quarter and semifinal round of the double-A playoffs, Xavier may have bent a bit at times, but they hardly every broke during the homestretch…A person who flies to the ball with a natural fluidity and tenacity, Gwardyak would top all Knight tacklers for the second year in a row, reaching the 70+ stop milestone for the second time in as many attempts…Finding himself in the opposing backfield on more than a few occasions, the Staten Island resident would post double-digit tackles for losses this season…In addition, after not being credited with a single sack in his junior year, #44 would rank second on the team in the category with 2.5 QB bags.  He would add the first interception of his career to further enhance his solid resume.

Like Gwardyak, Esposito too would prove himself to be a revolutionary player, as it would be his stellar play from the LB position that enabled the Gaels to reach the “A” title game for the first time in program history…The second [Sluka above] and final repeat award winner of the morning, the 6’1, 205-pound Cortland Manor native was to the Gael defense what his teammate, Proctor, was to the offense; a God-given play-maker that elevated those around him…A three-year linchpin and/or anchor in the middle of the Kennedy Catholic front-7, Esposito would earn DPOY status in 2017 following a junior campaign that saw him finish second overall in “A” with 95 tackles (12 TFL), while adding three sacks and two caused fumbles…Demonstrating that he had no intention of resting on laurels, his numbers would explode through the roof in his senior year, as he wrapped up his last season as a Gael by being ranked in the top-20 in NYS with 120+ tackles (3rd in the “A” Division), tying for the Empire State lead with 49 stops for negative yardage (tops in the NYCHSFL), and tacking on seven sacks (tied for best in “A“)…Making 10 or more tackles in seven of his team’s 10 appearances in 2018, Esposito would put forth his finest display in the 2018 semifinal round when he accumulated 17 total tackles, while setting new personal records for TFL (11) and sacks (3….Praised a year ago for being a huge reason why Kennedy Catholic was able to shave 10 points off of their per game allowed average between the 2016 and 2017 seasons, Esposito would do it again in 2018, as KC would surrender only 12.2 points per contest this season (8.1 against “A” division foes).

Rounding out our list of distinguished student-athletes that were recognized on Sunday morning were the young gentlemen who have the often thankless and undervalued job of banging heads in the trenches…The proverbial “straws the stir the drink”, if you watch game film at any level of the sport, you will clearly see that nothing worthwhile occurs without a lineman of some kind providing a much-needed spark…A constant clash for territory, there is no purer art in the realm of athletics than the “dance” that these 200-300 pound warriors perform week in and week off…The muscle within a game that is becoming more and more finessed, there is no “half speed” or “plays off” when trying to be the ultimate difference maker in a battle for inches…Leading the charge for this year’s talented OL/DL class were Anthony Bonavita (Iona Prep), Tedi Kushi (Moore Catholic), and Brenton Winter Jr. (Nazareth).

Bonavita, one of the most potent and polished offensive linemen in New York State, put himself in a club all his own today, as he became the first IP player to earn the Joe Thomas Award…Standing 6’3 and tipping the scales at an even 300 pounds, the Irvington resident certainly passes the eye test of what a dominant lineman ought to resemble…However, in bestowing upon him this honor, the selection committee looked more at the measurement of his skillset than at his physical stature…Simply put, this is a beast that knows how to push people around…In fact, so good was Bonavita this season, that it could be argued that without him serving as primary protector, Robertson’s candidacy as OPOY would have greatly compromised…Part road grader, part body guard, no matter what was asked of him this season, Bonavita would go above and beyond the call of duty in all endeavors…Paving the way for a Gael running attack that accumulated 1,500 yards (167 per game) and scored 19 touchdowns, as well as kept Robertson and his 2,556 yards + 31 touchdowns in the air upright, the Iona Prep senior OL provided the grit and foundation for an offense that ranked 1st in AAA in points per game (40.8) and averaged 452 yards of total output.

Kushi, who at 6’6 and 330 pounds might be one of, if not the only Catholic League football player capable of making Bonavita look small by comparison, would be our favorite kind of linemen, a two-way, 48-minutes a day, unapologetic animal for the Mavericks….Named to the All-Catholic team for the third time in his scholastic career, the mainstay at left tackle for Moore Catholic would be an invaluable asset as both a lead blocker and a blindside watchdog…Running through the tunnels built by their massive senior OT, the Mavs’ assortment of rushing options (led by sensational junior, Justin Lacks; 1,161 yards, 19 touchdowns) would accumulate 2,000 yards (222.1/game) of ground production, scoring 27 touchdowns…Aerially, senior quarterback, Vincenzo Scarola, would make the most of the clean pocket, as he hurled for career highs in yardage (971) and TDs thrown (11)…All in all, the MC offense averaged 348 all-purpose yards while scoring 34.2 per outing.  This represented a 7.5-point and 88-yard improvement in one year’s time…Already established on the offensive side of the gridiron, Kushi’s greatest area of improvement came on “D” where he went from making just 13 stops as a junior to being one of the most menacing and disruptive DTs in the league, as evidenced by his 48 tackle, .5 sack, two fumble recovery showing as a 12th grader…And just as the points scored average would increase, the points surrendered stat would fall from 26.7 (2017) to a 17.8 (2018).

Just the second ever Kingsmen to amass individual honors (the other being 2015 Defensive Player of the Year, Tariq Gordon), Winter Jr. would set the tone for a program that performed considerably better than their 1-8 tally might suggest…Gelling by the end of the 2018 season, Nazareth Regional would lose both games, but succeeded in pushing “A” champions, Cardinal Spellman and divisional runners-up, Kennedy Catholic, to the brink, losing by respectable scores of 9-8 and 21-12…A diamond on a roster of promising but still developing coal, Winter Jr. would leave no doubt as to his prowess as a pass rushing specialist, leading the “A” division with five recorded QB hurries and finishing tied with Esposito for the top honors with seven sacks…In addition, he would raise his stop total from 19 in 2017 to 32 in his last hurrah donning the Maroon & Gold jersey.

One final gentleman most certainly worthy of commendation and acknowledgement is St. Anthony’s senior defensive back, Peter Hagan.  One of those rare exceptional human beings whose contribution to his team and his school transcended what appears within a box score, repeatedly throughout the 2018 season, the 5’11, 175-pounder  conducted himself as the consummate “team-first” ally, putting the best interests of the Friars ahead of any personal acclaim or fame…It was due to this ideal demeanor that there was no more fitting a candidate to be the recipient of this year’s Lieutenant Ronald Winchester Award, presented to the person deemed to be the unsung hero of the roster…Handed out in tribute to the former Chaminade High School/United States Naval Academy offensive lineman who sacrificed his life on September 3rd while fighting for his country in Operation Iraqi Freedom, Winchester was described by former teammates as the “guy who was behind the scenes making the block that no one saw; the guy who would play with broken ribs; the guy who stood out because of his work ethic.”…Like Winchester, Hagan has made his patriotic vow, accepting admission into West Point (United States’ Military Academy) as a part of the class of 2023.

Congratulations to our decorated student-athletes…And to all of our departing seniors, we whole-heartedly thank you for the wealth of memories you leave behind…Win or lose, you always did yourselves, your families, your school, and our league mighty proud!  May your future journeys, both on and off of the field football field be met with continued blessings and wisdom from above.

Nov 262018

Senior Bowl Practice Schedule;

City Practice Schedule
(11/26) Monday at Monsignor Farrell (4:30 – 6:30) (CANCELLED)
(11/27) Tuesday at Fordham Prep (4:30 – 6:30)
(11/28) Wednesday at Fordham Prep (4:30 – 6:30)
Island Practice Schedule
(11/26) Monday at Mitchel Athletic Complex (4:30 – 6:30) (CANCELLED)
(11/27)  Tuesday at Mitchel Athletic Complex (4:30 – 6:30)
(11/28) Wednesday at Mitchel Athletic Complex (4:30 – 6:30)
Combined Practice
(11/29) Thursday at Holy Trinity High School (4:30 – 6:30)

Photo by Harrison Keller (CHSFL)


College Night – Thursday, November 29th @ Holy Trinity High School (7:30 pm) – Open to Seniors and their parents from member schools only.  No Ticket Required.


Communion Awards Breakfast – Sunday, December 2nd @ Kellenberg (Mass – 9:30 am followed by breakfast) – Tickets will be sold through member schools.  Tickets are $20.00. Parents, coaches and players are required to have a ticket for admission.  No Tickets will be sold at the door. Jacket & tie recommended.


Senior Bowl Game – Sunday, December 2nd @ Mitchel Athletic Complex (1:30 pm) – No Ticket Required.

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 (http://locallive.tv) 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. This is a name to remember when you’re reading fantasy football news not long from now, as being drafted into the NFL is surely on the cards for him down the line.

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.