Nov 172017
 

By Matt Diano:

#1 St. Anthony’s (9-1) vs. #3 Archbishop Stepinac (8-2)

When: Saturday November 18th, 2016

Where: Mitchel Field Athletic Complex

Time: 6pm

The last time they met:

-Stepinac dealt the Friars their only loss of the 2017 season, 38-19, on September 15th

-Crusader Senior Quarterback, Michael Nicosia, completed 11 of his 19 pass attempts for 271 yards and four TDs.

-On the receiving end of two of those aforementioned touchdown hurls was reigning Player of the Week honoree, Shawn Harris, who accumulated 75 yards as a receiver on this two grabs….The junior was also very dangerous on special teams, averaging 35 yards on three KO returns to give his school excellent starting field position.

-While Harris may have scored twice, it was Alex Thomas who had the best overall night out wide, racking up 145 yards and 1 TD on three snatches…Tyler Winston (3 for 31) caught the remaining TD ball.

-Using a ball carrier by committee approach, AS ran for an average of 6.4 yards, totaling 224 yards on the ground…Nicosia (73 yards on 10 carries) and junior, Jamal Dallas (71 yards on 10 touches) were the top-2 rushers in the game for the Crusaders….Trill Williams took a snap from the wildcat formation and trekked 29 yards for the only rushing TD of the game for Stepinac.

-Stepinac’s defense played outstanding in stuffing the run; they held a Friar squad that averaged 182 yards rushing on the season to just 82 yards total on 34 attempts (2.4/carry)….A big reason for their success was the play of junior LB, Kevin Gray, who posted a season-high 19 stops…Fellow linebacker, Justin Hairston, made 12 tackles of his own, while D-Linemen, Matt Mitrakos and Joseph Garbowski, set the example up front with eight and seven stops respectively

-Providing a fierce pass rush for AS was junior, Doug Simmons, who posted two of his league-leading 16 sacks….Alexis Pena, whose versatility was on full display (6 tackles) contributed the third sack of the game for Stepinac

-Crusader junior place-kicker, Nate Henderson, was incredibly steady, converting his only FG attempt from 28-yards away, and going a perfect 5-for-5 on PATs.

-In the defeat, STA dual-threat quarterback, Greg Campisi, still had a respectable evening, throwing for 192 yards on 19-for-26 passing, with one TD, and running for another TD on an five-yard scamper.

-Senior TB, Sean Bryan, who entered the game fresh off of a 254 yard effort in a non-league win over Delbarton, was contained to just 39 yards on 14 carries.  This was his lowest output of the season in appearances where he received 5 or more touches.  He was also kept out of the end zone, which only happened three times in the Friars’ 10 games.

-In the losing effort, both WR Julian Chung (6 catches for 105) yards and Tight End, Conor Ryan (5 for 46, 1 TD) had solid games in leading the list of receivers.

-Senior DB, Phil Platania, was responsible for creating the only turnover of the game for St. Anthony’s, when he picked off Nicosia and returned it 15 yards.

-Just like Stepinac got an excellent game out of their PK, so too did the Friars, as Jeremy Miller connected on a pair of 3-pointers (long of 42) and hit his only PAT try to personally put seven points on the board for STA.

Synopsis:

A showdown of the perennial powerhouse (St. Anthony’s) versus the present-day dynasty (Stepinac), since the year 2000, 13 CHSFL titles have been won between the two schools, with the Friars claiming 11 (including seven in a row from 2001-2007), and the Crusaders seizing two of the last three (2014, 2015)….Having an amazing 15-year streak of reaching championship weekend snapped in 2014, the Rich Reichert coached Friars approach the weekend looking to prove that the last three seasons were flukes and that the program is as strong as ever !!!!   Stepinac on the other hand, making their fourth consecutive appearances in the title contest, is out to prove that there while they respect the legacy of the Black & Gold, this is a new era, and that era exists in Westchester, not Long Island.

St. Anthony’s Head Coach Rich Reichert

Billed in the pre-season as a potential finals preview, when the two schools squared at Stepinac during the second week of the 2017 season, the result was slightly shocking…While a Crusader victory certainly was not a surprise, the margin in which they delivered that “w” was completely unexpected…A big reason for the one-sided contest was the play on both sides of the line by Stepinac….If there is one thing that Friar Nation prided itself on during their decades-plus of dominance, it was that every time they stepped onto the field, they knew they were tougher than you in the trenches.   However, on this Friday night in September, it was the host school that dictated terms to their visitors, holding STA to 100 yards fewer than their seasonal average on the ground….If the top-seeds from South Huntington hope to bring the plaque back to their campus for the first time since ’13, it is imperative that unlike the first meeting, they must demonstrate an ability to get the ground game working.  While Campisi is more than capable of beating you with his arm, the bread-and-butter of the Friar offense has always been to use the explosive run game to set up the aerial attack…For this reason, STA is going to need to get solid games out of their usual 1-2 punch of Bryan and Campisi.

Held to a little more than 60 yards combined in the first meeting, Bryan (828 yards, 12 TDs on 120 carries) and Campisi (627 yards, 10 touchdowns on 90 touches) are both “take it to the house” type of runners….Last week in STA’s semifinal win over Iona Prep, Bryan punched the ball over the line on three separate occasions, finishing the game with 77 yards on 18 carries (4.3)…Campisi, who is a magician when it comes to escaping pressure and turning nothing into a big gainer, notched his second 100+ rushing game of his junior campaign, running for 101 and a score on 18 carries…..This is the Friar proficiency that we are used to seeing in big games and when push comes to shove, we anticipating seeing a much better effort the second time around from this potentially game-changing duo….Another name to be mindful of is junior Kyle Angus.   In the past three weeks, he has seen his level of responsibility increased and has responded well to the heavier load, running for a season-high 66 yards on 12 touches in last Friday’s victory over the Gaels.

As noted above, while tradition tells us that the run is the key to success for the Friars, Campisi can definitely sling it around the field when necessary…Connecting at a remarkable rate of 73.1 percent (152-for-208), the Harvard (lacrosse) bound junior has thrown for 1,721 yards and 10 touchdowns this season…On the back end of all of those completions has been three primary faces—Chung (57 catches, 715 yards, 3 TDs), Heron Maurisseau-O’Neal (29 grabs for 436 yards, team-leading 5 TD receptions), and Ryan (26 snatches for 282 yards; his lone TD came against Stepinac)….Chung, who has also been utilized as a runner in short yardage situations (4 TDs on the ground) is the consummate playmaker.  You’ll see him take a short completion and turn it into a huge play by using his speed and agility to make tacklers miss….The future UConn Husky, Maurisseau-O’Neal is your traditional, route-running, deep threat.  He’s the person you put your #1 CB on, because if you don’t, he finds a way to make you regret it….Ryan is your chain mover.  He has good size, steady hands, and is as tough as they come.   When you need a 5 to 10 yard completion, you best believe he will be open and ready to make the catch.

Archbishop Stepinac won back to back Titles in 2014 & 2015

Stepinac and their #2 (in AAA) rated offense will counter by incorporating a very balanced attack of their own….Averaging 33.1 points per game this season, if you look at the TD splits between the passing and ground game, you notice that the 26:22 ratio is about as even as you will find on the scholastic level…Simply put, they don’t have just one means of which to beat you.  If you stack the box and try to stop the run, they will torch you in the air with their speed and accuracy.   If you drop your linebackers back into coverage, you are inviting their array of talented backs to have a huge evening…

Unlike last year’s runner-up squad that featured a pair of dominant senior running backs in the persons of Antonio Giannico and Johnathan Gomez (1,682 yards, 17 TDs rushing between them; 48 catches for 634 and six TDs as pass catchers), the 2017 version of the Crusaders backfield does not have that workhorse, game-plan against them type of back…Instead, they come at you with depth….Four different players on the AS roster have run for 200+ yards this season, and a fifth, [Trill] Williams (194 yards, 4 TDs) is probably the most dangerous ball carrier of all, but is only used in special circumstance so  that he can conserve energy as a shutdown CB on defense….Leading the team in rushing is  the junior classman, [Jamal] Winston, who averaged 5.9 yards per carry on his 83 touches to enter the title game with 492 yards and one TD…Complementing Dallas for much of the season, but likely to see more than his fair share of touches (as both a runner, receiver, and return man) will be the always dynamic and electric Harris, who had season-highs for carries (16) and yards (116) last week in the semifinal win over defending champions, Cardinal Hayes.  As noted above, Harris was used more as a deep ball/home run threat out wide when the two schools played in September.   He may be called upon to be a jack-of-all trades tomorrow evening.  Harris leads all Crusaders with six rushing touchdowns on the ground in 2017….Just behind Harris on the TD list with five is Malik Grant, who has tallied 271 yards on 51 carries…Rounding out the list of 200+  runners is Nicosia.  Still an individual who is more comfortable in the pocket, the senior QB has shown a willingness to take what defenses give him.  The perfect example of this was that first meeting when he ran for 73 of his 201 total yards in the early season win over STA.

The more polished of the two quarterbacks in tomorrow’s title game, if his offensive line gives him ample time to work, he is a known sniper with this throws.   The owner of a 64.1 percent completion rate, the 12th grade field general has tossed for 2,262 yards and 24 touchdowns (compared to just four INTs).  He makes smart throws and has amazing field vision….Just like Campisi has his trio of favorite targets, so too does Nicosia, who has seen 18 of his previously referenced 24 TD hurls land in the direction of Winston (34 catches, 507 yards, 5 TDs), Thomas (32 catches, 854 yards, team-leading 7 TD grabs), or Harris (22 snatches for 407 yards and six 6’s).

As we alluded to in the “what happened last time” section of the preview, the play on defense will also be a huge deciding factor….While we have already highlighted some of the names that led the Crusaders to that eye-opening week #2 triumph, a few others that need to be mentioned are as follows: Kevin McKenna (2nd on the team with 70 tackles; coming off of a 19-stop effort in the win over Hayes), Joey Cappiello (64 tackles, 4 INTs, 8 pass defenses), Isaiah Walker (41 tackles, team-leading 14 successful PDs), Dexter Chance (41 tackles, 2 INTs), D’Andre Smith (41 tackles, 7 PDs), and Tyler Decrescenzo (42 tackles,  5 pass breaks-ups) are a sampling of the individuals you need to keep an eye on when Stepinac is on “D”.

Looking to erase the memories of their single imperfection will be the top-ranked Friar defense….Surrendering 13.5 on the season, the 38-point output against them is most definitely the exception and never the rule….After all, when you have beasts like Bucknell bound Grayson Cherubino, defending CHSAA State Wrestling champion, Nick Greer anchoring up front, Tyler Sorrentino, Ryan Vahey, and Tynan Hillery excelling as LBs, and Makhai Murphy (4 INTs), Platania (3 interceptions), and Gershom Delva patrolling the no fly zone, you are always going to be in a position to shutdown opposing offenses.

One last tidbit that we will reflect upon in the intangible of “experience”….Because they have reached this point in each of the previous three seasons, many of the players on the Stepinac roster knows what it feels like to deal with the adrenaline rush, the nerves, and all that accompanies playing for all the marbles….Student-athletes like Nicosia (20-for-31, 345 yards, 4 TDs), Harris (6 catches, 109 yards, 1 TD), Thomas (4 grabs for 45 yards),  Pena (8 tackles, 1 sack), Hairston (6 stop), Simmons (5 tackles), Cappiello (5 tackles, 1 pass defense), Mitrakos (4 stops), and Gray (4 tackles) all saw considerable playing time in last year’s finals loss…Might this familiarity with the big stage allow them to come out of the gate more relaxed and poised?   Given how the first meeting transpired, the last thing STA needs is for Stepinac to get off to a quick start. If they do, it might feel like déjà vu for the #1 seeds.

 

We’ll see everyone at Mitchel Athletic Complex Saturday

Nov 162017
 

By Matt Diano:

#1 Kellenberg Memorial (10-0) vs. #2 Fordham Prep (9-1)

When: Saturday November 18th, 2016

Where: Mitchel Athletic Complex

Time: 2:30 pm

 

The last time they met:

-Kellenberg handed the Rams their only loss of the season, 34-24, on October 6th

-The Firebirds rans for 337 yards and five touchdowns, led by junior QB, Matt Sluka, who tallied 244 and three by himself…His TD dashes came from distances of 11, 80, and 42 yards.

-Excluding sacks, the KMHS defense limited Fordham Prep to just 38 yards on 10 rushing attempts.

-Juniors, Jake Deakin and Alain Telford, each had an interception, making it the only game this season that Fordham Prep All-State field general, Matt Valecce, has been picked multiple times in a game.

-Anchored by junior, Dan Wilson’s three, Kellenberg put extreme pressure on Valecce, sacking him six times….Peter Talicercio, Elijah Eddy, and Matt Olsen, also joined the party with one apiece.

-A second half team for much of the 2017 season, the Berg turned a 15-14 deficit at the break into victory by outscoring Fordham Prep, 20-9, over the course of the final 24 minutes of play.

-Despite getting intercepted two times, Valecce still had a great night, completing 24 of his 39 attempts (61.5 completion rate) for 297 yards and two touchdowns.

-The Rams’ dynamic pass catching trio—Will Loffedo (5 for 61), Liam McHale (8 for 99), and Thomas Walsh (7 for 133, including both TD grabs) all had their usual explosive games despite the loss.

-While they struggled in their ground defense, FP excelled in pass coverage, holding Sluka to just seven yards on 1-for-6.

-Fordham Prep would make things uncomfortable for Sluka as well on drop backs, as they responded to KMHS’s six bags by getting three of their own, including a pair by junior, Jack Goodkin…Goodkin, who has also been utilized as a receiver on offense, also contributed a pair of catches for short yardage…The other sack on the evening was courtesy of the game’s leading tackler, George Gaspar, who ended the contest with 10 stops.  One of these 10 tackles resulted in a 3rd quarter safety.

-Despite the double digit margin of victory for Kellenberg, this was a back-and-forth war all night that witnessed seven lead changes.

 

 

Synopsis:

The rematch that the Catholic football world has been eagerly awaiting has come to fruition following a pair of one-sided semifinals that saw the top-seeded Firebirds remain undefeated in 2017 behind a 28-7 victory over nemesis, Xavier, and Fordham Prep completely overwhelm fifth-seeded St. Francis Prep to the tune of a 41-14 triumph.

A game that no matter who wins on Saturday will contain a great human interest story, for Kellenberg, this weekend represents a chance to post the first immaculate season in Firebird football history while at the same time claiming the brass ring for the first time since winning “A” in 1999…..On the opposing sideline, November 18th is about closure to one of the greatest scholastic careers ever by a New York State quarterback.   Already in the top-3 All-time for TD passes and yardage thrown, when we say that Valecce is a living legend, we are not just limiting our praise to within the NYCHSFL.   If you took this same young man and put him anywhere, he’d still tower over the rest of the field….The catalyst behind leading FP to the Single-A title as a freshman in 2014, there could be no better and more fitting conclusion to his decorated resume than to tack on a bookend title in the AA.

The classic tale of a dominant rushing attack (Kellenberg has run for close to 3,000 yards and 42 touchdowns) versus an explosive, air it out as much possible aerial strike, the double-A title will be decided by whichever team has been able to make the necessary adjustments since they last played in week #5.

To the credit of our second-seeded Rams, in advance of their championship appearance, we already started to see them make the effort to become more balanced with their ball in their hands….Running for 75 of fewer yards in their first five games of the season, Fordham Prep has discovered something on the ground during the second half of the year, running for 90 in yards on a season-high 29 attempts in sixth week victory over Moore Catholic and keeping the trend going by surpassing century mark in three of their last four games.   Last week in the aforementioned semifinal win over the Terriers, the Pete Gorynski mentored Rams established season-bests for yards (219) and scores (3) on the ground….The ground game was so effective that Valecce was only asked to pass 12 times a week ago.  This power football strategy was unheard of from FP when the season started.  However, now that they have it working well, it gives the #1 ranked KMHS defense something else to think about.  No longer can Kellenberg focus solely on the pass.  They now must be prepared for anything and everything.

All of that above having been stated, it goes without saying that even with FP senior tailback, Justin Ancheta (681 yards, 4 TDs on the season), in the midst of a two-game 100+ yard streak, the Rams certainly are not about to abandon the most potent passing attack in all of the CHSFL….With Valecce (ranked 4th in NYS with 2,712 yards; 2nd in TD passes with 34) at the controls, the Rams offensive machine is averaging 271.2 yards per game in the air and scoring an average of approximately 34 (33.9) points per game…As the saying goes, you don’t fix what ain’t broke.  Hence, while Ancheta may be given a few extra carries to keep Kellenberg on their toes, there will still be quite a bit of gun slinging out of the Maroon jerseys….And when he does drop back to chuck, Valecce will have the luxury of choosing among a 1, 1A, and 1B repertoire of gifted pass catchers in the persons of fellow All-Stater, Loffredo (4th in NYS with 61 catches; 4th in TD receptions with 12; 10th in yardage with 834), Walsh (also tied for 4th in the Evil Empire with 12 TD grabs; 3rd in AA division with 694 yards; 5th in AA with 32 total catches), and McHale (7th in New York with 57 grabs; 11th in receiving yards with 834; 3rd in AA behind his teammates with seven touchdown snatches).  Goodkin (18 catches, 242 yards, 3 TDs) can also not be underestimated as a worthy target.

The undefeated top-seeds who call Uniondale home will counter by doing what they do best, run, run, run…By far the deepest team in the Catholic League in terms of potential playmakers out of the backfield, while it is Sluka (1,381 yards total, 19 touchdowns; both ranked #2 in AA) that gets the bulk of the press, the truth is that even without their once-in-a-lifetime junior quarterback, Kevin Hanifan’s program is not hurting for guys whom they can hand the rock off to…As noted above, this is a team that has put up just under 3,000 yards total with their legs.   You math majors probably have already figured out that this means that even if you pretended that Sluka was never born, KMHS would still have run for 1,552 yards and 23 touchdowns….HOLY DEPTH!!!!.

Providing that second wave of endless rushing prowess will be the likes of Frankie Roder (667 yards, 14 touchdowns), super sophomore Jordan DeLucia (who despite missing time with an injury still ran for 493 yards and four scores), Deakin, who when he is not taking away TDs in the defensive backfield is capable of putting a few on the board as a running back (144 yards, 2 scores on 32 carries), and Jimmy Musso (averaging over 10 yards per touch on his 10 carries; 108 yards)….Ryan Tyznar, who has not gotten many carries because of the ferociousness of the depth chart, scored in the first meeting between the two schools and could get his number called again this weekend.

Admittedly while his is still at the stage where he is more pure athlete than he is polished pocket passer, if you think that Sluka is a one-trick pony, then he is going to burn you and prove otherwise…..Because his feats with his feet have been so remarkable, it is easy to overlook the fact that the 11th grader from Roslyn still threw for nearly 1,000 yards (917), completed 61.5 percent of his attempts, and had a TD to INT ratio of 3:1, tossing nine touchdowns…Thus, if FP attempts to stack the box, don’t be surprised if we see a career day in the air out of the red-headed assassin…..If Sluka is forced to rely on his arm more this weekend, look for him to be on the same page with fellow junior, Matthew Mongelli, all afternoon…The #1 receiving option for the Firebirds, Mongelli caught 17 balls for 426 yards and four TDs to lead in all categories.

Defensively, the story is quite similar….For Kellenberg to put that last cherry on the perfect sundae (on Saturday), they will need to get another banner game out of Wilson, Olsen, and their D-line brethren…Reigning Player of the Week, senior Brendan Whitehead, is fresh off of career highs in sacks (2) and tackles (9), so he too carries immense momentum into his final appearance in the Blue & Gold….While ideally, the pressure applied would be so great that Valecce is unable to even get the ball out of hands.  However, when he does manage a successful release, the responsibility will fall on the pads of Kellenberg’s star DB, Aidan Fitzgerald, to set the example.   “Fitz” leads KMHS with five interceptions and 14 successful pass defenses.  He will need to save his best for last!

Fordham Prep, which in the past has had their title hopes derailed by shaky defense on the ground will turn to Gaspar (75 tackles), Lucas Petit (62 stops), another reigning POTW, Ian Devine (59 tackles), Goodkin (51 tackles), and Christian Dimitri (50 tackles) to form an impenetrable wall up front in the hopes of holding Kellenberg well below the 293.3 yards per game they are averaging heading into the main event.

Check back tomorrow for Matt’s AAA Championship Game Preview

Oct 302017
 

 

The following are the JV Playoff matchups for Saturday 11/4.  Games will

be played at higher seeds, Times TBA

 

AAA:

(1) Cardinal Hayes BYE

(2) Archbishop Stepinac BYE

(3) Iona Prep vs (6) Christ the King

(4) Chaminade vs (5) St. Anthony’s

AA:

(1) Moore Catholic BYE

(2) Xavier BYE

(3) Kellenberg vs (6) St. Francis Prep

(4) Fordham Prep vs (5) Holy Cross

Sep 272017
 

By Matt Diano:

Marquis Jimenez (Sr.); QB – Mount St. Michael Academy Mountaineers

The proverbial straw that stirs the Mountaineers offensive drink, even in the team’s two previous losses to AA title contenders Kellenberg Memorial (week #1) and Holy Cross (week #2), the senior signal caller from the Bronx left no doubt to the range of his immense talent…This past Saturday, his individual heroics would finally be rewarded a victory as MSMA improved to 1-2 behind a 44-26 win over 2016 Single-A Catholic Champions, Moore Catholic.

Barely missing the 100-yard rushing mark the previous weekend when he gained 91 on 15 carries (1 TD) in the aforementioned loss to Holy Cross, the 5’10, 150-pound 12th grader would not be denied of the milestone in week #3, averaging 11.2 yard per carry on only 10 touches to finish the game with 112 yards,   Two of these 10 carries were broken for touchdowns as Jimenez logged scoring runs of 10 and 47 yards.   His pair of TDs were two of the six overall recorded on the ground by the Mount as five rushers combined to gain 396 yards.

With another huge game coming up in week #4 against undefeated Fordham Prep, Jimenez, who will step onto the field averaging 6.6 yards per carry for the season (212 yards on 41 touches, 3 touchdowns), will have the opportunity to put Mount St. Michael’s back in the title picture…The Rams are coming off of a game that witnessed them surrender 311 yards and three scores on the ground.  Hence, they may be feeling vulnerable in the run-stopping aspect of the game.      

 

Matt Sluka (Jr.); QB – Kellenberg Memorial Firebirds

Hailed in our season preview as possiblu the most gifted Firebird field general since All-State quarterback Bobby Seck, week after week, the 11th grader from Roslyn Heights is proving that the hype is warranted and most certainly deserved….

Entering week #3 having thrown for a pair of touchdowns and ran for a third, the two-time grade level team Most Valuable Player turned Kellenberg’s 47-10 victory over St. John the Baptist into his own personal combine workout, dazzling those in attendance at Mitchel Field with both precision passing and explosive runs in sending the Marianist School to their first 3-0 start in over 15 years.  

Utilizing all of his limbs to the maximum of his abilities, Sluka’s total production under center measured 339 yards, as he tossed for 188 on 6-for-11 passing and ran for an additional 151 on only 11 carries (13.7 average).    He would also have a hand in four of the Firebird’s seven total touchdowns, hurling a pair and running two others in all by himself.

Sluka’s first score of the night would also be the initial score of the game, as he would power his way in from 1 yard out to give Kellenberg the 6-0 advantage.  The flair of his contributions would only grow in magnitude as he closed out the opening 24 minutes by scrambling and then firing to hit Matt Mongelli on a 25-yard strike to make the score 27-10….Knowing that they had the always tough Cougars on the ropes at the onset of the second half, Sluka would pick up where he left off connecting with Jordan DeLucia on a 19-yard TD pass which all but officially put the “w” on ice for KMHS….Saving the best for last, Sluka’s fourth and final touchdown of the night came via one of the best highlights you will see all season.  Keeping the ball on a QB option, Sluka would dash 20 yards before being met by a SJB defender.  Left with no other choice, he would utilize a killer stiff arm and then cut back, going 10 yards in reverse, before finding a fresh hole and cruising 50 final yards down the opposite sideline to the house.   While the box score credits the red-headed assassin with a TD run of 55 yards, in truth, he easily ran close to 90 yards in order put that 6 on the scoreboard.

On an evening where he did just about everything else, Sluka also successfully converted 5 of 6 PAT attempts, meaning that between his rushing and kicking, he single-handedly out-scored the opponent, 17-10.          

 

Matt Kindya (Sr.); OL – Monsignor Farrell Lions

Kindya may have played his final game in the Maroon & Gold, as he suffered a most likely season-ending injury during the 4th quarter of their 21-17 comeback victory over Chaminade during week #3….However, as pained as we are to see him no longer be able to strap on the pads and do battle in the trenches, if there is a silver-lining, it is that if you had to have your senior season ended prematurely, it is doubtful that your final appearance could have been more impressive than the effort put forth by the 6’1, 225-pound leader of the offensive line. 

A captain, anchor and road-grader during every moment of the 2017 season, under his leadership and direction, the O-line has been so outstanding that the Farrell running attack has averaged 290 yards and 2.3 touchdowns per game behind their beastly blockers…First-year starting tailback, Vin Wagner (POTW honoree during week #1) has especially benefitted from running behind Kindya, surpassing 200 yards twice in three attempts to run for 634 of the Lions’ 868 yards thus far. 

Last Saturday, with Kindya playing the majority of the contest before going down with the previously cited ailment, the Lions were unstoppable on the ground, averaging 12+ yards per carry to gain an incredible 314 yards, including touchdowns runs of 52, 47, and 1 yard from Wagner and junior QB, Mike Regan…The 1-yarder by Regan (also had the 47-yarder) capped off a six minute, 80-yard game-winning drive to enable Farrell to prevail in the clash of unbeatens.

  

John Stroughn (Jr.); OL/DL – Holy Trinity Titans

A true ironman, if not for Stroughn elevating his game in the 4th quarter, it is very likely that the defending AA runners-up would have seen their 2017 record fall to 0-3….Starting and playing the entire game on both sides of the ball along the line, the 6’1, 235-pound junior provided all of the little intangibles that enabled the Hicksville based school to climb out of a 14-0 fourth quarter hole by rallying to score 15 unanswered points in the final eight minutes to defeat Xavier, 15-14. 

Lining up at guard when his team had the ball, Stroughn’s run-blocking would aide in yielding a season-high 82 yards of ground production.   He would also contain any pressure that the Knights attempted to apply up the middle, giving senior quarterback, Joseph Hall, the necessary time to step into his throws and hit Armani Cruz for a pair of homerun passes for scores to cut the deficit to 14-12. 

Well aware that any further scoring by Xavier might put the game out of hand, Stroughn would energize the Titan defense, making nine tackles (2 TFL), notching a sack, and putting so much pressure (2 hurries) on the opposing quarterback that Xavier failed to complete a single pass in four tries.  By holding their visitors from Manhattan scoreless during the last 12 minutes of play, the defense set the stage for the offense to steal the “w” and break Holy Trinity (1-2) into the win column. 

 

Greg Campisi (Jr.); QB – St. Anthony’s Friars

Fresh off of suffering the first loss as a starter of his varsity career to Stepinac in the second weekend of the 2017 season, Campisi was not always perfect (he threw two interceptions) in his most recent outing last Saturday.   However, like a true leader and money-performer, he was lights out when he needed to be, throwing for one score and running for the game-winner to lead the Friars to a 14-7 win over Iona Prep in the marquee game of week #3. 

A defensive battle where penalties seemed to play a part in derailing multiple drives for both teams, Campisi would complete 16 of his 24 pass attempts for 150 yards….A consummate dual-threat signal caller, the future Harvard lacrosse player also took off with his legs seven times to gain an additional 27 yards….While these numbers may not seem overwhelming at first sight, we caution you to look not at the quantity and instead focus on the quality of his production. 

With this team trailing 7-0 at the time, the junior field general capitalized off of a huge INT return by STA linebacker, Tynan Hillery, hitting star wide-out, Heron Maurisseau-O’Neal with a 10-yard bullet to even the score seven seconds into the 2nd quarter.

Well aware of the stakes and how this game would undoubtedly factor into playoff seeding, both defenses dug deep, keeping the game deadlocked for the next 33 minutes…But alas, someone needed to step up and embrace the hero role and that person was Campisi, who on the final drive of the game made at least three or four plays that preserved the eventual winning march. 

Taking over possession at their own 28 yard line with approximately eight minutes remaining, Campisi’s first game-changing display came a little more than two minutes into the drive when he connected again with Heron Maurisseau-O’Neal on a 38-yard pass to put the Friars in business at the Gaels’ 22-yard line….Three unsuccessful plays that resulted in STA moving seven yards in the wrong direction would set the stage for the greatest of Campisi’s works.   Facing 4th-and-17, Head Coach Rich Reichert elected to pass up a 46-yard field goal attempt and instead put the game in the hands of his 11th grade quarterback.  His faith and confidence was rewarded two-fold as Campisi kept the drive going when he scrambled, cut back, and found a hole, picking up the needed yardage and more to set up a 1st and goal….Having gone above and beyond to move the chains on that priceless and clutch run, it was only fitting that a few snaps later, it was Campisi that posted the game-winner, calling his own number on a QB keeper to plunge the ball across the line from a single yard out.

Through three weeks, Campisi is completing 68.5 percent (50-for-73) of his passes for 523 yards and three touchdowns.   He has added an additional 174 yards and three scores on 28 carries with his legs.

Having already played Stepinac and Iona Prep in back-to-back weeks, St. Anthony’s continues this monster part of their schedule when they faceoff with undefeated Monsignor Farrell under the lights Friday Night on September 29th.  

 

Sonny Badyna (Jr.); QB – St. Peter’s Eagles

In the AAA season preview, we posed the question, “is there life after Bobby Wing for the Eagles?”  The answer is an emphatic yes and a big reason for it is the quick emergence and development of their junior quarterback from Brooklyn, Badyna. 

Throwing for an average of 281.5 yards and one touchdown apiece in each of his first two games of the season (both hard fought losses to current undefeated teams—Stepinac/Farrell), as if it had not already happened, week #3 would be the definitive coming out party for #12, as he posted his best statistical game despite playing without two of his preferred targets (Chris Ledlum and Shakim Douglas; both scratched late because of injuries) in a 34-19 non-league victory over Poly Prep.

Seeing his team leading only 7-2 at the half, Badyna may have only been playing in his third varsity game, but he performed like a cool, collected, and polished veteran during the final 24 minutes of play, launching three second half touchdown passes to clinch the first win of 2017 for the boys from Staten Island. 

Following a 30-yard field goal make by Poly Prep to cut the deficit to just two points (7-5), Badyna wasted little time in regaining the momentum, targeting John Martello multiple times, including a 16-yard TD strike that culminated the drive in the final 10 seconds of the third quarter to increase the Eagles’ advantage to 14-5.

Points would be flying up on the board in the fourth quarter as the two programs combined to score five touchdowns….Of the three touchdowns scored by St. Peter’s, two were direct lines from Badyna to Frank DiMattina, as the duo hooked up for a 55-yard missile for the first score of the quarter to make the score 21-5, and then continued their own personal arms race when no more than 90 seconds later, they responded to an 80-yard Blue Devil TD by again playing pitch/catch for another TD to reestablish a comfortable 15-point advantage (27-12).

On the day, Badyna completed 13 of his 21 attempts for 249 yards (144 to DiMattina) for the aforementioned three touchdowns….For the year, his growing stat line presently reads as follows: 54-for-96 (56.2 percent completion rate) for 812 yards and five touchdowns…These numbers currently have him ranked 3rd overall in NYS for total passing yards and 4th for average per game (270.7). 

While it appears that the learning curve does not/never did exist for him, Badyna will continue to get tested as the Eagles will square off in week #4 against defending AAA titlists, Cardinal Hayes…Already safely on the radar, if Badyna plays as well against the Cardinals as he did against Poly Prep, his stock may just explode out of the atmosphere and into a new dimension.   

Sep 132017
 

CARDINAL SPELLMAN

Last Season

Record: 5-5/Lost in the A Title Game, 32-22, to Moore Catholic

2017 Overview

Bridesmaids in each of the past two years, if there was ever a team that was due to go all the way, it might be Head Coach, William Cawley’s Pilots.

The only program to knock off last year’s titlists Moore Catholic, in a Division A league game in 2016, now that the Mavericks have been promoted to Double AA status, the path is finally clear for the team from the Bronx to finally get over that final hurdle and be the last ones standing in November.

Spellman will have to overcome the graduation of their All-Catholic tailback, Rodney N’Guessan (672 yards, eight touchdowns), as well as last year’s junior signal caller, Jordi Mota (not listed on the 2017 roster), but should otherwise be in very good shape offensively thanks to the likes of Noah Stewart, Darrell Okpo, Justin Medina, Steven Manfredi, and Luke Greco.

The trio of Stewart, Okpo, and Medina give the Pilots three incredible running options for a scheme that in year’s past has relied heavy on the ground attack….Last season, Stewart finished second on the team in total production on the ground, running for 397 yards and three touchdowns on just 65 carries (average of 6.1/touch)…Okpo gave those in attendance at last year’s “A” title game a preview of the fireworks he can bring to the table, breaking away for a 25-yard TD run on his only carry of the contest.  For the season, he gained 102 yards and scored three times on only 19 handoffs….Considering the company he keeps, a scary notion is that Medina may actually be the most explosive of the threesome.  Last year, he only logged three carries, but averaged over 30 yards per to finish the season with 92 yards on the ground and one TD.

On the rare occasions when it becomes necessary to deviate from the ground game and go aerial, Manfredi and Greco will unquestionably be the two brightest targets.   Ranked 1st and 2nd on the team in 2016 in all major receiving categories, Manfredi’s stat line read as follows: 10 catches, 109 yards, including a long of 40 that he posted in the league final; Greco proved to be the perfect complementary piece, grabbing seven balls for 150 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

Along with many of the names already cited, anchoring the defensive line specifically and the entire defense in general will be senior, Michael Booth…A 270-pound beast in the middle of the line, as a junior, Booth finished 3rd on the team with 57 tackles.  He added a sack and a forced fumble to his resume….Adding strength and experience to the D-line will be fellow senior, Christopher Vitale…Excelling last season at DE, Vitale concluded his 11th grade season with 31 tackles and even turned defense into offense, returning a fumble recovery for a touchdown against Xaverian.

Stepping in to fill the shoes of All-Catholic selection, Eric Berrios, as the commander of the linebacking corps will be Stewart.   A true two-way superstar, when he was not doing his part in lighting up the scoreboard, he was quite influential in helping Spellman post a solid 17.4 points against average in league games in 2016.   Stewart wrapped up his junior season with 45 tackles made, two sacks, and a remarkable four fumble recoveries.

Medina, who will in all likelihood take on more of a key role in the offensive game-plan, was already a standout on “D” in 2016, making a team-leading six interceptions and posting 45 tackles from the defensive backfield…As the centerfielder and most experienced student-athlete in the secondary, there is no doubt he will be setting the example for the rest of the DBs.

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Kennedy Catholic

Last Season

Record: 4-4/Lost in the A Semifinals to Moore Catholic, 36-23

2017 Overview

Semifinalists in each of the past two years, the Gaels continue to creep closer and closer to championship weekend with each passing year.   In 2015, they lost 41-3 to eventual champion, Xaverian; last season, the margin of defeat shrunk considerably, as they dropped a very competitive 36-23 contest to titlists, Moore Catholic….At the pattern that their progression seems to following, It will not be long until we see the Somers, NY based team playing for all the marbles….Whether their moment is now or down the stretch will depend on how well they are able to cope with and reinvent themselves following the graduation of signal caller, David Keogh (the 2016 CHSFL “A” Division Offensive Player of the Year).

The field general and catalyst for much of what the Gaels were able to do last season on the offensive side of the ball (averaged nearly 30 points per game; scored no fewer than 20 in all eight appearances), when the All-Catholic QB walked across that stage at commencement, he took with him an average of 231 passing yards and 71 rushing yards per game.  He not only threw for 14 touchdowns, he also ran for a team-leading nine scores…In other words, this is no ordinary loss.

Consistent to what we have said throughout our three league previews, when it comes to such an integral part of the game-plan, as Keogh was to the offense, it is unrealistic and impossible to think that you can fill those shoes in less than one year’s time.   Thus, for KC to take that next step in the journey post-Keogh, it will be necessary for a multitude of the experienced players to all take their respective games to the next level….The good news though is that when we take a gander at their returning roster, we see the talent necessary to climb that proverbial mountain and have a program-defining season.

Looking to carry, both proverbially and quite literally much of the slack in 2017 will be senior tailback, Greg Brann…The #2 RB on the Gaels last season, the 5’11, 170-pounder had a great predecessor to learn from in the person of 2016 All-Catholic selection, James Weider Jr. (315 rushing yards, 4 touchdowns; 22 catches for 610 yards and five additional TDs).   If Brann (25 carries, 103 yards, three touchdowns; 8 grabs for 153 yards, and two scores as a junior) has anything resembling the swan song that Weider enjoyed a year ago, it will be invaluable to Kennedy Catholic and might just be the answer to Coach Tassone’s prayers.

If what we expect comes to fruition and Brann does have a monster senior season, there is little doubt that a BIG reason for it will have been the exceptional play of fellow 12th grader, Ed Longest…A returning All-Catholic honoree, the 265-pound mammoth of a man is potentially the biggest competition to Spellman’s Booth in the race for top-lineman distinction….Running behind Longest last year, the Gael’s collected over 1,000 yards and scored 17 touchdowns….The terrifying notion with regard to Longest is that he is probably at his best when he is dominating on the other side of the ball.   As a defender, Longest swept all major categories common to linemen, collecting 68 tackles (39 more than anyone else), 17 TFL, and 3.5 sacks.   He also both forced and recovered a fumble.

Another student-athlete that demands you focus on him (on both sides of the ball) is senior WR/DB Shane Dalrymple….A player who Coach Tassone spoke highly of prior to the start of last season, Dalrymple did not disappoint in his junior season, finishing tied for third on the team with 18 catches, and ranking 4th in receiving yardage with 257.  His pair of touchdown snatches created a four-way tie for 2nd place honors on the team (behind only Wieder)….Dalrymple will assume a much more substantial role on the defense this season, as he joins John Dirago (4 tackles) in headlining the secondary….Brann (15 tackles; 6 TFL), who is listed on the roster at LB, played defensive back in 2016 and could always return to patrol his former territory in obvious passing situations.

If Brann does remain at linebacker, he just adds to what could already be the strength of the defense….Anchored by juniors, Cole Esposito (21 stops, 1.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries) and Wyatt Rumpf  (17 tackles, 1 sack), the last thing this corps needed was another potential play-maker.   However, whether they needed one or not, they are getting one and his name is Ayden Sanchez.  A varsity player as a freshman in 2016, Sanchez was so good in camp last offseason that he drew the praise of his head coach and earned a mention in last year’s season preview.  While his stat line may have been modest, his natural ability is not.   With a year of experience under his belt, Sanchez is primed for a breakout season as a 10th grader, much like Esposito and Rumpf the year prior….Brandon Gibson, who also entered last season as a highly touted two-way sophomore, seemed to focus more on “O” last year, but could just as easily become a key contributor on “D”.

While it is a name with which we are not as familiar, the word on the street is that senior, Alec Ogando, has game-changing potential as both a receiver and a special teamer/kick returner.

A week #2 showdown between the Gaels and Xaverian will provide insight as to the title winning possibilities for KC in 2017.

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Nazareth Regional

Last Season

Record: 0-8-1/Did Not Qualify for the A playoffs

 

2017 Overview

A team that you cannot measure in terms of wins and losses, Nazareth Regional may be in the midst of a winless streak, but that does not mean that progress is not being made.   If there was ever a squad that has embraced and trusted the process, it is the Kingsmen.

While on paper, going 0-8-1 may seem like a lost season, the truth is that if you look at some of the losses, you see that Nazareth Regional was very much in a position to win many of those games.  Never was this truer than in their 14-8 loss to eventual league champs, Moore Catholic.   If you can stay within a single score of the best of the best, you must be on the right track.   An additional two losses (both to St. Dom’s) were also one score games…What this tells you is that if even one thing happens a little differently, that zero in the win column could just as easily been replaced by a crooked number.

Much like season, Nazareth remains an extremely young program, with nearly 65 percent (18 of 28) of their student-athletes all returning next year and more than 1/4 coming back beyond that….2017 may not be the year where NR wins the crown.   But that is not what is of ultimate importance, instead of focusing on what is current, the best course of action is to take into consideration how experienced and polished a team they will bring to the table in the coming years.  It may happen this year or next year; but it will not be long before you begin to see a major surge from the cellar to the penthouse out of the Kingsmen.

Offensively, Nazareth brings back several of the names and faces that were spotlighted in the 2016 season preview….Manny Johnson, Kevin Fleetwood, and speedster extraordinaire, Justin McDuffie (Last year’s CHSAA City Freshman 55-meter sprint champion) are all viable options out of the backfield….Sanub Sinclair and Korey Armstrong will be the ones to watch out wide.

On the other side of the ball, Michael Gray and Brenton Wynter bring necessary size, skill, and experience to the defensive line….Both were featured players a season ago in their junior and sophomore years respectively.

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 St. Dominic’s

Last Season

Record: 4-6/Did Not Qualify for A playoffs

2017 Overview

It will be a family affair in Oyster Bay this season led by a pair of Rooneys and duo of Ford’s.

Just missing the 2016 postseason by one spot (finished 5th; needed to take top-4 to qualify), the Bayhawks, in their third Catholic League season since returning from a 25-year absence in 2015, will be on a mission to not only qualify for the playoffs, but also do some damage once they are there.

Subscribers to the old school offensive philosophy that preaches a smash-mouth, run-run-run type of scheme, Dom’s is fortunate in that they have four tailbacks whom that they fully trust to get the job done….Headlining the group is the first of our two Rooney’s, senior, Thomas…The third leading rusher on the team in 2016 with 285 yards on 66 carries, the elder Rooney tied for tops on the team with three ground scores….Supplementing the running arsenal will be fellow 12th graders, Robby Rossiter and Colin Brennan, as well as junior, Dylan Hein (who could also be incorporated into the offensive arsenal as a WR)…Among this trio of assisting parties to Rooney, only Rossiter had a varsity carry last season, touching the ball 18 times for 93 yards and scoring once…Mike Poncet, who is listed on the roster as a receiver, also has experience as a ball carrier, rushing 13 times for 18 yards during his junior campaign.

Stepping under center and directing the show will be the other member of the Rooney clan, junior, Jack…A varsity player in 2016, the younger Rooney was not credited as having taken a snap at QB during his sophomore season.  Hence, in many ways, he will be enduring a baptism under fire those first few weeks of the 2017 season.  However, once he has that much needed field time under his belt, WATCH OUT!

In addition to Poncet, whose three catches for 51 yards and one TD ranked him among the team leaders in every category last year, at [Jack] Rooney’s disposal will be his namesake, who scored touchdowns in each of his two receptions in 2016, and both of the Fords, Senior, Brian, and sophomore, William…Neither had a catch a season ago, but both possess the soft hands and hunger for the ball that one needs to thrive as an effective pass catching target.

Looking to assert their will on both sides of the line of scrimmage will be two-way linemen, Jack Doherty and Ahmir Lyles….Lyles ended 2016 second on the team in total tackles with 39 stops and tacked on a sack to complete his junior curriculum vitae….280-pound junior OT/DT Charles Blyman, sophomore pivot/end, Frank Fackovec, and senior OT/DE, Aaron Gutierrez, all impressed during camp and should make up a very strong supporting cast.

Brian Ford (32 tackles, 2 INTs), Rossiter (17 stops, 2 fumble recoveries) and Brennan among others gives the Bayhawks a very formidable group of linebackers.

Poncet (35 tackles, team-leading two interceptions) and both Rooney boys (Tommy made 27 tackles, had 2 pass defenses, and an interception; Jack posted 22 stops, 2 fumble recoveries, and had a pick of his own) will patrol the secondary with a ball-hawk ferocity.

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Xaverian

Last Season

Record: 5-4/Lost in the A Semifinals, 28-20, to Cardinal Spellman

2017 Overview

Having their three finals streak snapped last season when they lost in the semifinals to Cardinal Spellman (who they had swept during the regular season), the Clippers are a program that you just know will always be in the running for the top prize in the A division.

Returning bar none, the single biggest offensive weapon in the league in the person of junior Roberto Auguste, come crunch time when the cream tends to rise to the top, Xaverian is going to be a mighty tough out…Last season, the 5’11, 180-pound halfback, was just one of just three sophomores to earn All-Catholic distinction following a campaign that witnessed him run for 833 yards (2nd best overall in the “A” division) and score five times with his legs on 150 carries (5.6/carry average).   Highlighted by a 193 yard performance in late September against Kennedy Catholic, on four separate weekends, Auguste reached and surpassed the 100-yard milestone on the ground…If his talents as a pure runner were not enough to make him an irreplaceable and cherished asset, it is worth noting that he led the school in all major receiving categories too, making 11 grabs for 140 yards, and one TD….Offering a second option out of the backfield could be junior, Mike Garzone.  Overshadowed a bit by older teammates in 2016, when Garzone was handed the ball, he displayed a knack for producing, averaging just under six yards (94 yards on 16 carries) and scoring a pair of touchdowns…Emmanuel Olagunju, who is a wide receiver by trade, should also not be forgotten as a play-maker with his legs.   As a freshman in 2016, he touched the ball 17 times and matched Garzone’s totals in yardage and TDs scored.

Even though the smart money suggests that the Clippers are going to ride their stud junior like the thoroughbred that he is, it never hurts to have a capable passing attack just in case….As cited above, Auguste was the leading receiver on last year’s squad.   Just below him though in the rankings were two more student-athletes who return in 2017, junior WR Jason Perlstein and senior TE, Timothy McCabe…The former made eight catches for 70 yards last season, while the latter posted totals of eight snatches for 117 yards…Combined, Auguste, Perlstein, and McCabe represent more than 50 percent of all successful pass completions and more than 60 percent of receiving yards.

Auguste (28 tackles; 1 INT), Perlstein (28 tackles, 1 interception), and Olagunju (18 tackles, team-leading two picks) will be doing double duty as the featured acts in the defensive backfield.

Joseph Randazzo, leads all returning players in tackles, making 39 stops from his linebacker position…He, along with 2016 under the radar players such as Joseph Leone (7 tackles), Robert Baldrian (7 tackles), Isaac Womack (5 stops), and Daniel Dasaro (2 tackles as a freshman) will be a part of the cohort tasked with locking down the run game and trying to generate a pass rush.

Circle September 30th and November 3rd on your calendars; these are the dates of the two match-ups between the Clippers and their archrivals, Cardinal Spellman…History tells us that more times than not, either a berth in the title game or the brass ring itself usually comes down to the winner of this always epic clash.

Sep 122017
 

Matts Preview of the 10 Team AA Division:

Fordham Prep

Last Season

Record: 5-5/Lost in the AA Quarterfinals to Iona Prep, 41-0

2017 Overview

While no one man is bigger than the team itself, from a sentimental standpoint, we would be remiss if we did not acknowledge that in recognition of all he has done during his three-year varsity career, a part of us would like to see senior quarterback, Matt Valecce, finish his career on top.

An individual who has pretty much rewritten the Catholic record book in all major passing categories, every time the Boston College bound signal caller steps foot on the field, he moves a few rungs higher on the state ladder…Currently sitting in eighth place for total passing yards (6,694) and tied for 11th in TD passes thrown (71), if the future Eagle simply matches his production from years past, he will conclude his high school career ranked in the top-5 of both categories…With nothing left to achieve on the individual/personal level, all that is necessary to put a cherry on top of his storied four-year journey would be the double-A crown…Should the Rams succeed in conquering the AA division, it would be the storybook ending that the 6’4 field general rightfully deserves.

Aiding Valecce in attempting to deliver the Rams to the promised land is two of his favorite targets from a season ago, WR Will Loffredo, and TE Liam McHale….Loffredo, like Valecce (2nd Team), was an All-State selection (3rd) in 2016 had a dream season as an 11th grader, grabbing 73 balls for 1,239 yards and 13 touchdowns…McHale was not too shabby himself, ending his junior campaign ranked 4th on the team with 18 catches for 316 yards and six TDs….These two student-athlete, along with fellow 12th grader, Joseph Drago (13 snatches yielding 106 yards with one score) will be determined to keep one of the league’s most prolific offenses (averaged just under 25 points per game in 2016) running like a well oiled machine.

Running behind returning All-Catholic lineman, Joseph Petti, the Rams will also seek to get a little more out of a running attack that a year ago gained less than 1,000 yards.   Drago’s 166 yards is tops among returning backs, followed by Justin Ancheta, who ran for 113 yards as a junior…If FP can establish a respectable running game, it will force opposing defenses to bring their safeties up in the box, which will further open up the bread-and-butter high octane passing game.

A caveat to all of the aforementioned is that as good as the offense will be again in 2017, if history has taught us anything, it is that come playoff time, defense rules the roost…”D” has been the side of the ball that has given the Rams trouble in recent seasons.   No matter how many points they are able to generate on a weekly basis, if they fail to get stronger on defense, all of the Offensive firepower in the world will be squandered.

 

Fortunately for FP and Head Coach, Pete Gorynksi, they return some mighty tough and experienced customers in the persons of Eddy Madden, Ian Devine, George Gaspar, Lucas Petit, and Jack Goodkin….Madden (team leader with 60 tackles), Devine (38 tackles, 4 sacks), and Gaspar (38 tackles) will anchor the front seven, while Petit (18 stops) and Goodkin (16 tackles, 1 sack) will be the proverbial ball hawks in the secondary….In speaking with News12 Varsity, Coach Gorynksi, also shined a light on a few other defensive backs who he feels will have big seasons—-Carson Brown, Zach Wallace, and Ryan Gilchrist.

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Holy Cross

Last Season

Record: 3-7/Lost in the AAA quarterfinals to Monsignor Farrell, 31-13

2017 Overview

Making the move down from Triple-A to Double-A can be a little humbling initially, but in the long run it has the potential to be the best thing for the best interests of a program.  Never was this notion more precise than in the case of Iona Prep a season ago.  Not only did the Gaels make the most of their lone season in AA, winning the crown, they also were able to instill a confidence into their players that has carried over into 2017 and has them very optimistic about their chances of making it two titles in two divisions.

Is Holy Cross the 2017 version of IP?  While it is considerably too soon to answer that question, what we can say is that without a shadow of a doubt, the physical athleticism and talent is present for them to make a statement in their new division….At first glance, one cannot help but notice that strong ground attack that the Crusaders will be sure to bring with them this season…Returning two of their top-3 rushing options from 2016—Justin Felder and Tyler Hallerdin—there is very good reason to believe that when they have the ball in their possession, the Flushing based program will be able to chew up clock and move the chains consistently.  Felder, who was named to the All-Catholic squad as a junior, led all Crusaders in rushing yards and touchdowns last year with totals of 905 and nine respectively.  On three different occasions, he posted 100+ yard games, including a 203 yard explosion versus Cardinal Hayes….Hallerdin, who was often times the #3 option, also had a fine junior campaign, averaging 5.6 yards per carry to finish the year with 302 yards and one TD….Chance Ward, who saw action as a sophomore fullback in the last game of the 2016 season, could further complement the ground attack.  When we last saw him, he was running for 55 yards on six carries on Thanksgiving.  If he can take that momentum he created for himself and continue to build off of it, there is no question he can become a not so secret weapon.

Defensively, the Crusaders will not be short on potential playmakers, with Corey Allen (50 tackles, 1 sack, 2 pass defenses), Myles Taitt-Cooper (28 tackles, six PDs, and a forced fumble), Michael Taylor (35 tackles, 3 sacks, 5 QB hurries), the aforementioned Ward (27 tackles), and Lincoln Jerome (19 stops, 1 sack) all gaining valuable experience last year.

It is worth noting that in the two games they played against AA opponents last season, Holy Cross went 2-0, beating St. Francis Prep 28-0 and then following it up with a 20-14 overtime victory over double-A semifinalists, St. John the Baptist.

Holy Cross will kick off 2017 by facing off against last year’s Single-A champs, Moore Catholic…Considering this is a tale of one team moving down and the other jumping up, you have to applaud the schedule makers for having such an intriguing match-up during opening weekend.

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Holy Trinity

Last Season

Record: 9-2/Lost in the AA Title Game to Iona Prep, 35-14

2017 Overview

Looking at the Titan roster, one cannot help but take immediate notice of all the talent that was lost to graduation following the 2016 season….Gone is the Double-A Offensive Player of the Year/3rd Team All-State, Umari Taylor (1,938 yards rushing, 24 rushing touchdowns), 500+ yard rushers, William Corchado (564; 8 touchdowns) and Jared Williams (528; 8 TDs), the starting quarterback, Matt Ragno (60 percent completion percentage, 1,022 passing yards, 12 TDs/0 INTs), the #1 receiving option, Matt McCarthy (17 catches, 439 yards, 3 TDs), nine of the team’s top-10 tackler (including team leader, Alex Parciak’s 101 stops), and so on and so on…

For many squads, the very thought of having to rebuild can be a paralyzing fear.  The mere suggestion that in less than a year’s time, you could fall from the proverbial penthouse to the basement is enough to wake you up in cold sweats in the middle of the night….Lucky for Holy Trinity and Head Coach, Tony Mascia, they are not like most teams….Time and time again, whenever it appeared as if a “growth year” was about to occur, the Hicksville based program found a way to surprise and impress even their biggest doubters….For instance, this time last year, no one was predicting that Corchado and Williams combine to run for 1,000 yards and 16 collective touchdowns; few pundits probably thought that Taylor (who ran for less than 600 yards as a junior) would turn into an unstoppable force that more than tripled his 11th grade totals….You see, this is what makes Holy Trinity so special; they have this amazing habit of getting their upperclassmen to peak at the perfect times….For this reason, even though the cupboard may seem to be empty, our brains and history are telling us that it is only a matter of time before one or more of last year’s role players flips a switch and transforms into a prime-time performer.

Two candidates who seem the most likely to be the ones to break out are Shane Lescoe and Gabe Gelves….Attributed with just one carry for a 10-yard touchdown, Lescoe is exactly where Williams found himself at the onset of his senior season. In both cases, the student-athlete entered the season completely under the radar….Gelves is already a known commodity, but it is because of his stellar play on defense (50 tackles, 4 sacks).   Per Max Preps, he did not take a single handoff in 2016.  If this tidbit reminds of someone, it is probably because it matches the description of Corchado, who did not become a primary option in the running attack until his senior season.

Looking to make life a little easier for this pair of talented, but novice tailbacks will be two-way linemen, Tommy Fleming and John Stroughn who will both line-up at guard in the hopes of blowing up the middle of the field and giving their speedy running backs clear lanes to the end zone.

Defensively, Gelves, Fleming, and Stroughn will be prepared to limit the opponent’s running game while the onus of being the air traffic controller will fall onto the shoulders of Shawn Moore and Jordan Miller…Tied for the team lead (along with Corchado) in interceptions last season with two apiece, Moore made 21 tackles and had four passes defenses, whereas Miller had 19 and 1 break-up.

We will find out how steep the learning curve will be this season for all of the new faces in a quarterfinal playoff rematch of last year when the Titans face a much improved and ambitious Kellenberg squad in week #2 (September 17th).

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Kellenberg Memorial High School

Last Season

Record: 1-8; Lost in the AA quarterfinals to Holy Trinity, 36-29

2017 Overview

“NO EXCUSES”….That is how one member of the Firebird coaching staff described the mentality the Firebirds will incorporate as they hope to improve upon a very disappointing 1-8 season in 2016….Possessing possibly one of their most naturally gifted teams in years, this team is primed with thoroughbreds to go toe-to-toe with the top double-A programs, 2017 represents a dream vision that has been two years in the making on the lower levels.

Promoting nearly 30 student-athletes off of a squad that cruised to the JV AA title last season, the class of 2019 is being hailed as the finest that KMHS has had in quite some time….This group of special juniors is so off the charts athletically gifted that not only are they being counted on to deliver titles on the gridiron, but many of them will have a major say in the success of the Firebird Basketball, Lacrosse, & Baseball title pursuits as well.  To call them game-changers would be to understate how valuable they will be to the future of all Firebird sports in the coming years; they could be the rebirth of a culture and an attitude that the Blue & Gold hope will spread like a wildfire across the entire athletic department.

Front and center among this group of juniors is quarterback, Matthew Sluka…A red-headed assassin whose abilities were so undeniable last season that many felt he could easily have jumped straight to the varsity and contended for starting duties as a 10th grader, Sluka has the potential to be the best QB Kellenberg has had since 2000 2nd Team All-State selection Bobby Seck dazzled fans and came within minutes of a AAA title game birth….A dual-threat field general, Sluka ran for 18 scores last season and threw for an additional eight touchdowns.  In his two years playing for the JV Firebirds, he has been the recipient of the Most Valuable Player award both seasons at the annual athletic awards banquet.

Changing gears a bit, while no one can blame us for getting a little caught up in the hype train associated with the current juniors, it needs to be stated that the ‘Berg also features more than a few capable seniors too.

Tasked with giving a little more flash to a running attack that yielded only 636 yards last year will be Jimmy Musso…An individual who likely would have made a tremendous impression as a junior, Musso’s 11th grade season was derailed by injuries.  Therefore, having been cheated out of one of his years to shine, you know that the 5’9, 195-pounder from Baldwin is eager to make up for lost time…A rare sophomore call-up to the big club, Jordan Delucia will also turn some heads out in his rookie season on the varsity.  Delucia’s older brother, Jason, was a 2014 Honorable Mention All-State selection while playing for the Firebirds…Both Musso and Delucia 2.0 will have the luxury of running behind a very deep offensive line, led by seniors Brendan Whitehead, Brendan Higgins, and Pat Harinski.

Having graduated their top-4 receivers, the coaching staff was adamant that another key to success is going to be finding new faces to step up and fill the void out wide….Two of the names that have emerged as keepers are the junior tandem of Frankie Roder (who is a hybrid who will can also be used out of the backfield) and Matthew Mongelli, both of whom had solid camps that earned the praise of the Kellenberg staff…James Dieguez, who was one of the few juniors mentioned in last year’s preview, remains one of the most talented players on the roster. If Dieguez is in top form this season, there is no telling how much of a difference maker he can be.

Anchoring the defense will be a strong line starting with a couple of senior tackles in Elijah Eddy (did not play in 2016 due to transfer rule) and the aforementioned Brendan Whitehead.  Junior Daniel Wilson no stranger to varsity competition having been called up as a sophomore in basketball and lacrosse will be one of the defenses most athletic players and will likely rack up the tackles and sacks for the Firebirds this season from his defensive end position.

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Moore Catholic

Last Season

Record: 8-2/Claimed the A Division Crown with a 32-22 victory over Cardinal Spellman

2017 Overview

The authors of a storybook season a year ago, in their first year back on varsity since a hiatus at the end of the 2012, the Mavericks of Moore Catholic would shock everyone but themselves when they cruised to the Single-A division championship.

Boasting a roster that returned all but one key player from last year’s title team  a promotion to AA in 2017 was warranted….Hence, in many ways, despite carrying a “defending champion” label, the upcoming season will parallel last year in that the focus will again be on proving themselves.   And while the task at hand is certainly not a light one, if you look up and down the Mavs depth chart, you clearly see the tools that will enable the Staten Island school to again be in a position to make a statement.

Leading the way for a vaunted Mavericks running attack that compiled over 2,000 yards and scored 23 touchdowns a season ago will be super sophomore, Justin Lacks, and junior, Mausari Miller….If not for the desire to honor our senior classmen at the annual awards banquet, there is a good chance that Lacks would have been a runaway (no pun intended) choice for the Single-A Offensive Player of the Year.   More mature than the average 9th grader, every time he stepped on the field, Lacks provided further proof of why he was being hailed as a “complete package”.   A workhorse of sorts at times for MC, the bigger the moment, the more Lacks seemed to be able to elevate his game.  He would conclude his rookie campaign with a stat line that read as follows: 198 carries for 1,058 yards, and 14 touchdowns.  The last 138 yards and four TDs would come in last year’s title game, where he a unanimous choice for Offensive MVP….Miller, who is also regarded as the team’s best defensive player (as a middle linebacker) only touched the ball 66 times last season, but still managed to accumulate 347 yards and four scores.  His average of 5.3 yard/carry actually matched the number that Lacks posted.

Moore Catholic celebrated the A Championship last year and will look to have the same success in the AA this year

Lacks and Miller will be afforded the privilege of running behind the same beasts that paved the way for them last season, as John Ford, Ted Kushi, Deonte Jackson, Nashaun Defy, and Steven Harvey, are all back to blow open a plethora of holes…Weighing a combined total of 1,375 pounds (275 average), it does not get much bigger than the MC O-line.  In fact, forget the scholastic level, there are probably some mid-major colleges that would sell their soul to possess this type of size and strength up front.

While the ground game is definitely the bread-and-butter of the offensive scheme, when needed, the Mavericks are quite capable in the air too, as junior signal caller, Vincenzo Scarola, will be under center for the second straight year.   As a 10th grader, Scarola tossed for 832 yards and seven touchdowns…Joining him in headlining the aerial side of the offense will be his favorite target, Senior WR, Zachary Hampton….Having his number called three times more often than his closest teammate, Hampton made 31 grabs for 408 yards and three touchdowns in his junior campaign….Someone else to watch out wide is junior, Nicholas Melo.   Making only six catches in 2016, three of them would result in a touchdown.  Hence, when the ball finds its way into his hands, amazing things tend to ensue.

As mentioned above Miller (127 tackles, 3.5 sacks) will again captain the defense from his linebacker position….Joining him in making up a very deep LB corps will be Joe Esposito (79 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 INT), Chris Velasquez (39 tackles, team-leading 6 sacks, and 2 interceptions), and David Gonzalez (45 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 1 blocked FG).

Tommy Meyers (60 tackles, team-leading 4 picks), Jafar Sannie (40 tackles, 1 INT), and Hampton (18 tackles, 2 interceptions) will spotlight the secondary.

Clashing along the line of scrimmage will be Christian Illedge (59 tackles, 2 fumble recoveries), and the highly touted sophomores trio of Defy (33 tackles, 1.5 sacks), Kris Bryant (16 tackles, 1.5 sacks), and Nasir Harrison.

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Mount St. Michael Academy

Last Season

Record: 3-6/Did not Qualify for the AA Playoffs

2017 Overview

While it might be easy to point at the description “missed the playoffs” and call that a failed season, nothing could be further from the truth….Winning just one game in 2015, the Mountaineers tripled their total in the win column while four of their losses came in heartbreaking one possession fashion.  This year the Bronx based program will continue building their momentum and will be determined to continue moving forward along the progression line.

Stepping in to assume full-time field general responsibilities with be Marquis Jimenez…An All-Catholic player on the defensive side of the ball (defensive back) as a junior, if you want to know how lethal the 5’8, 155-pounder can be with the ball in his hands, just consider the remarkable numbers he compiled as a kick returner during his junior year…Averaging just under 27 yards per return, Jimenez had gains of 50 yard or more three times as a special team…And now that he will be taking over under center, you can expect for him to utilize his legs every chance he gets…Making just nine pass attempts (six of which he completed) as the back-up QB last year,  Jimenez may be unproven in this aspect of the position, but we believe he will surprise people and end up being a very solid dual-threat performer….When he does throw the ball, two young gentlemen who are prime candidates to be on the other end of the attempt are seniors, Elijah Percy and Keon Barran.   Among the wide-outs who are back this season for MSMA, Barran’s three catches for 73 yards represents the high mark.

Gone are the top-3 rushers off of last year’s squad, which puts pressure on the likes of Tim Brumell and Simari Smith, to implore a “next man up” philosophy….Finishing 4th and 5th on the team in ground gains as juniors, Brumell finished 2016 with 199 yards on just 21 carries (9.5/carry) and scored four touchdowns; Smith’s 40 touches yielded 183 yards.

Defensively, the Mountaineers will have some experience at key skill positions…Tyequan Smith (33 tackles, 2 INTS, 1 sack) along with Barran and Jimenez will instrumental in setting the example in the secondary.

Jacque Ward (22 tackles, 2 sacks) and Yasir Gibbs (15 tackles, 1.5 sacks, and a forced fumble) gained valuable field time at linebacker in 2016 and will assume bigger roles as seniors.

Giovanni Darrell (13 stops), Antonio Corrado, and Dominick Morety (1 Sack) are among the most productive returnees on the DL.

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St. Francis Prep

Last Season

Record: 0-9/Did not Qualify for the AA playoffs

2017 Overview

Powered by a nucleus that two years ago completely dominated the Junior Varsity level, when we look at the prospects/forecast that face the Terriers this season, the one thing we do not see is another winless season….In 2016, this group took some lumps, but the lessons they learned from those defeats will no doubt make them better off in the long run….We are calling for a season of redemption in 2017!

The foundation/backbone of the offense can be found in the person of the team’s returning rush leader, Chris Auricchio…As a junior fullback, he gained 320 yards and scored a pair of touchdowns.   His defining moment came in a hard-fought loss to St. Joe’s by the Sea where he ran for a career-high 112 yards…If SFP hopes to transform from terriers to proverbial pitbulls, more efforts like this one will be required of Auricchio.  100+ yard games must become the rule for the 200-pound power-back….In layman’s terms, the most efficient he is carrying the ball, the more valuable he will be in carrying his school.

On the other side of the ball, St. Francis Prep should be set up for a very good season…Playing a lot of juniors on “D” in 2016, five of the team’s six leading tacklers will be back for another season….Shepherding this unit will be a pair of returning All-Catholic honorees, Marc Anthony Dalce and Shawn Bendeck.  Combining to make 145 tackles (Bendeck ranked 1st with 74), this twosome will be trendsetters with their relentless pursuit of the ball.  Both listed on the roster as linebackers, it is more likely that Dalce will be utilized as the Rover, moving back and forth between LB and the secondary….Similar to Dalce, Matthew O’Donnell’s versatility will enable him to fill multiple roles depending on situation and necessity.  O’Donnell recorded 33 tackles as a junior.

Christopher Terrano (4th on the team a season ago with 36 stops) and Ben Ortiz (25 tackles, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble) will be the big dogs on the defensive line.

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St. Joe’s by the Sea

Last Season

Record: 5-4/Lost in the AA Quarterfinals, 45-31, to St. John the Baptist

2017 Overview

A program that has surrendered 35+ points in their two playoff losses in 2015 and 2016, the inability to play timely defense has derailed many a quality Vikings teams recently….However, returning more than half of their starting 11 on that side of the ball in 2017, might this be the year that Head Coach, Michael Corona and his boys get over that proverbial hump and make an extended run in the postseason?

The Staten Island school will be especially deep at linebacker where all four of their starters—-John Buscini, Mike Caprioni, Rob Tarantola, and Anthony Robles—bring senior leadership and toughness….Tarantola is a returning All-Catholic honoree who tied for the team lead last season with 56 stops and had a nose for the ball, recovering three fumbles…Robles spent so much time in the opposing backfield in 2016 that the U.S. Post Office declared him a permanent resident.  The stoutest of the foursome, the 6’1, 235-pounder led the Vikings in both sacks (2.5) and tackles for a loss (7); his 43 total stops was good enough for 5th….Caprioni contributed 48 tackles as an 11th grader…Buscini rounds out the group with 36 tackles.

Playing in a division that last year featured two of the state’s top-5 ranked passing quarterbacks, if you are going to win in AA, you must have a secondary that you can trust…With a pair of returning starters at the CB and FS positions, Corona has reason to feel confident about the unit’s ability to keep opposing signal callers in check… Patrick Byrnes (22 tackles, 3 TFL) will counted on to be that shutdown caliber corner, while fellow 12th grader, Gary Wegener (35 tackles; 1INT), continues in the role of “center fielder”.

Bringing the beef along the DL will be a pair of 300-pounder juniors, Michael Falco and Louis Nieves.  On size alone, these two beasts are going to present match-ups problems with opposing guards trying to open holes.

Speaking of size, what the offense may lack in polished returning players (they graduated their starting QB, top-2 running backs, and four of their top-5 WRs), they hope to account for with height.  Among their two primary wide-outs (Chris Simermeyer and Matt Mitchell) and three tight ends (Francesco Arlia, Mick Ruvolo, and Dominick Buser), Sea will have five targets that measure 6’2 or taller.   This advantage will come in handy for first-year starting QB, Chris Vigilante, as he will know that when in doubt, throw a jump ball and let his skyscraper teammates go up and get it.

Seldom used as a junior last year, Ryan Scelzi, will be the man out of the backfield this season for SJS…Buscini, who averaged four yards per carry in limited touches last season, could also be utilized in this capacity.

Joe’s By the Sea’s experienced defense will get the chance to prove themselves right out of the gate when they play Forhdam Prep in week #1…When they played last season, the Rams won 35-21.

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St. John the Baptist

Last Season

Record: 4-6/Lost in the AA Semifinals to Holy Trinity, 28-7

2017 Overview

Like their fellow Long Islanders, Holy Trinity, if there is one characteristic about the Cougars of St. John the Baptist, it is that they are the consummate “reload, not rebuild” type of program….Whenever key losses to graduation occur and the skeptics are circling the wagons talking about a down year, the Ralph Carusillo guided school seems to dig deep and still find a way to be among the AA division’s top contenders….Runners-up in 2012 and 2014, and semifinalists in each of the past two seasons, there is a pattern of success and until proven otherwise, we dare not write off SJB.

Offensively, the always run-heavy Cougars will have to overcome the loss of over 2,000 yards and 23 touchdowns brought about by the graduation of their top-2 running backs, Sean Cavanagh and Christian Legagneur.  However, despite the departure of such immense production, SJB is actually sitting quite pretty in the backfield thanks in large part to Daniel Parker…The third option as a junior, the 160-pound Brentwood resident averaged a team-high 8.5 yards per carry, racking up 630 yards and scoring a pair of touchdowns….Parker’s fellow 12th grader, Michael Palermo (41 yards on 14 carries) will be a significant candidate to step into that #2 RB role.

Replacing Will Shaw (who did not return to the team this season) under center will be junior, Nicholas Delcore….Delcore possesses above average speed and should fit the game-plan like a glove…Delcore’s ability to call his own number could prove to be a difference maker as it will force opposing defenses to spy him, potentially leaving gaps open for either of the two running back to exploit.

Two-way lineman, Jack Standwill will anchor both lines and will be the man chiefly responsible for being the team’s top road grader.

A program that really emphasize the old school, iron-man football approach, you will see several of these same name playing key positions on the other side of the ball as well…Palermo’s 29 tackles out of the defensive backfield last season is a high among returning players.

However, a few of the names that have yet to be mentioned but need to be because of the impact they are sure to make this season are: Nigel Jarvis and Thomas Force…Members of the supporting cast as juniors, more will be demanded of them in their final season wearing the red and black.   Jarvis made 12 tackles in 2016, while Force was credited with eight stops.

Baptist will kick off 2017 by hitting the road to tangle with fellow 2016 semifinal, Xavier, during week #1.

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Xavier

Last Season

Record: 3-7/Lost in the AA Semifinals to Iona Prep, 28-0

2017 Overview

A ball-control team that beats you beats you by wearing you down with consistent four or five yard gains on every handoff, the Knights may not be flashy, but most years they are incredibly efficient and effective….If toughness is what you look for in a student-athlete, then this is the team for you; they know who they are and what they do well and more times than not are masters at forcing the opposition to play their game.

Double-A League Champions two years ago, 2016 was a bit of a recovery year.   However, even in a season where the win column may not have been as impressive as past years, Xavier still found a way to leave an undeniable mark….Heavy underdogs against Christ the King in the first round of the playoffs, the Knights did what they seem to always do when the stakes are highest; they rose to the challenge and emerged with the biggest upset of the 2016 season, sending the odds-on title favorites home prematurely.  While they did bow out the following week in the semifinals, this one victory alone proved that when you play a Chris Stevens coached team, you best come prepared to battle because they are going to give you everything they have.   Whether they are 10-0 or 0-10, they are ALWAYS dangerous!

Like the team that preceded them in this preview [SJB], Xavier’s offense is geared first and foremost around the ground attack (only attempted 58 passes in2016)….Utilizing a single-wing scheme, they are magicians in cleats, coming at you from all angles and using a little misdirection to keep you guessing.

Graduating their four top rushers from 2016, the only thing that will change this year are the names and faces…Their faith in the system they incorporate is so strong and ingrained in them that transitions for them seem to go smoother than is the case for most other teams.

While it is true that in a given season, 10-15 different guys could get the call into action, three names that we are hearing could make the biggest contributions are seniors Frank Corrado and Jonathan Geruso, as well as 11th grader, Demetrios Demetriades…From this trio, only Geruso (5 touches for -3 yards) enters the season with a varsity carry on his resume.

As strong-willed as you think they are with the ball in their possession, they are doubly fierce when it comes to the defensive side of the ball.   They are a program that gets offended when you gain a single yard against them…But alas, the “D” too has been hit rather hard and will be relying on a new batch of personnel to step in and pick up the slack….Two positions where they do have proven entities is in the defensive backfield and in the middle of the defensive line…Playing center field will be Anthony Cimino who had 51 tackles and an INT last season in the secondary…Derek Orbe, will be a menace at DT for the second straight year.  As a junior, the 220-pound lineman posted 48 stops, nine of which were tackles for a loss (2nd on the team in the category)….With these two gentlemen setting the tone, we know it will not be long before the rest of the D-unit resembles the traditional shutdown squads of the past.

Sep 072017
 

Manuel Munoz’s Arrangements

Friday September 8th

Wake
4PM-8PM
Yannantuono Burr Davis Sharpe Funeral Home
584 Gramatan Ave
Mt. Vernon, NY 10552

Saturday September 9th

Service
10 AM
Yannantuono Burr Davis Sharpe Funeral Home
584 Gramatan Ave
Mt. Vernon, NY 10552
*Immediately following the service we will proceed to Woodlawn Cemetery for the Burial
Please pray for Manny and his family at this time