2023 NYCHSFL AA-2 GOTW #1 Preview

Kennedy Catholic vs. Xaverian

When: Friday September 8, 2023 @7pm

Where: Kennedy Catholic HS (54 NY-138, Somers, NY 10589)

Watch: LocalLive (Click to View)


Players to Watch (Kennedy Catholic)

*Carmine Calandrello (Sr; QB)—-With the transfer of last year’s Fab freshman, KJ Dillon, back to his home district, it means that an opportunity has been created for a worthy senior who has bided his time….Serving as the primary back-up signal caller as an 11th grader in 2022, the 5’8, 170-pounder hailing from Ossining connected on 4-of-11 throw attempts for 32 yards….

*Israel Centeno-Johnson (Sr; RB/DB)—The seasoned veteran who has been a mainstay, but complementary piece at the earlier stages of his scholastic career, the Stamford, CT resident will finally have the green light to be the star in 2023, as Centeno-Johnson will be a pillar on both sides of the ball….Slated to begin the season on offense at tailback, the #1 jersey was limited to four appearances last year, but still managed to accumulate 214 yards and a pair of TDs on just 25 carries (8.6/per).  Of equal importance is that if we rewind to 2021 when he topped all-Gaels with 17 receptions, we see that his greatest weapon might be his ability to take the pressure off of a new QB by acting as a reliable safety valve as a pass-catcher out of the backfield….Defensively, he’ll bring leadership to the secondary!

*Luke Stephan (Sr; WR/DB)—2023 graduation decimating the receiving corps in Somers, the 6’2, 165-pounder out of Briarcliff Manor will be asked to assume the role of #1 target in the passing game after making 10 combined catches for 48 yards in 2021 and 2022….Stephan will also embrace double the workload, as he too will be occupying the “no fly zone” on defense!

*Rich Ponzini (Jr.; Two-Way Lineman)—The first of two behemoths that return as starters on the OL, the 295-pounder will continue to be the road grader he was last season when KC was able to chew up 2,805 yards of territory and score 25 touchdowns…..The junior from Carmel will also be the bedrock of the DL, as he is back following a solid sophomore year that witnessed him collect 27 tackles and 1 sack!

*Ronan Sullivan (So,; OL)—A future NYCHSFL LOY candidate in our opinion, the talents of the Yorktown Heights resident were so glaring that as a freshman, he secured starting duties….Currently weighting around 240 pounds, as he further grows into his body and gains more experience, there is no telling how much of a game-changer he will develop into during the remaining years of his career as a Gael!  

*Anthony Bucello (Sr.; Two-Way Lineman)—-What of the emerging breakout stars of the fall for KC might be their undersized two-way lineman, Bucello, who now goes from not being listed as a regular starter on either side of the ball to being an every down performer…..Defensively in 2022, he made a strong showing of himself, recording 20 total stops and a sack!  

*Rob Cross (Sr.; LB)—The bona fide alpha/leader of the defense as a whole, Cross is the first half of a linebacking tandem that are battle-tested and proven competitors….3rd on the team last season with 63 total stops (tops among returning personnel), he added a sack, and two interceptions to round out brilliant junior vitae!

*Llogan Raynor (Sr.; LB)—The partner in crime and punishment to Cross, the resident of Peekskill is not one to be toyed with either…In his 11th grade campaign, Raynor racked up 45 tackles and a QB bag!  


Players to Watch (Xaverian)

*Freddy Scuteri (Sr.; RB)–Returning starting running back who will be asked to literally and figuratively carry much of the proverbial weight as the team breaks in a new signal caller during the early stages of the 2023 season

*Spiros Drossos (Sr.; WR)—A 2022 All-Catholic selection at the wide-out position, the Brooklyn native is the biggest playmaker on the Clipper offense and if they can get the ball to him in space, watch out!

*Marco Wold (Sr.; Two-Way Lineman)—-Returning for his final season of ironman football will be the 220-pounder who makes is listed as a DE on the roster, but also happens to be an incumbent at LG on offense!

*Thomas Regan (Jr.; OL)—Cracking the varsity starting line-up as a 10th grader in 2022, Regan was at right tackle last fall, but a natural progression now that he is an upperclassman would be to move him to the left side….On a roster of fairly undersized student-athletes, his 6’3, 255-pound frame does attract attention!

*Chris Duffy (Sr.; MLB)—-Bar none the captain, trend-setter, and protagonist of the Clipper defense, the returning All-Catholic selection is equally adept at dropping into pass coverage as he is at getting into the backfield to stuff the run….You’ll hear his #22 called all day/night when Xaverian plays because he has no off switch to his game!

*Andrew Owens (Sr.; OLB)—-Another returning member of the LB corps, Owens plays bigger than the 175 pounds he is listed at on the roster….When watching film on him, he has a knack for flying to the ball and making stops…

*Timothy Hayes (Sr.; OLB)—Completing the trifecta of lethal linebackers is yet another 12th grader in the person of Hayes….If you want to know how dangerous he can be, consider that during the last week of the 2022 regular season, he demonstrated tremendous instinct and ball skills, undercutting a route for the interception before turning it for a pick-6….The kid makes things happen!!

*Tristan Gallagher (Sr.; CB)—-A trusted and experienced incumbent in the defensive backfield, Gallagher showed an immense propensity for being able to make open field tackles to contain big play attempts…At 6’0, 165, he possesses good size for CB 



With many of the pundits suggesting that Mount St. Michael and Holy Cross are a strong 1-2 punch atop the AA-2 standings, this match-up between the preseason #3 (Xaverian] and #4 [Kennedy Catholic] will act as a way of seeing whether or not that next tier is going to be able to offer much of a challenge to the front-runners above them!!

Both the Gaels and the Clippers did suffer some key losses due to either graduation or transfer, but it is important to remember that each comes from a championship-rich tradition, as the former [Kennedy Catholic] were back-to-back finalists in 2018/2019 (won the crown that second year), while the latter made four trips to title weekend from 2013-2017, hoisting the hardware in 2015!!!

The quarterback position being a bit of a mystery on both sidelines due to first-year starters taking the snaps, we are not expecting to see a healthy dose of ground attack during the match-up with Israel Centeno-Johnson doing the deed for the hosts from Somers, while the visitors from Brooklyn could use a bit of a committee, with returning starting TB, Freddy Scuteri, serving as a #1 option, but with the likes of perhaps an Antonio Hernandez (showed flashes in 2022) channeling a Percy Harvin mentality and making noise on like a jet sweep or reverse!

If there is ever a need to put the ball up in the air, Xaverian probably will enjoy the advantage in this respect thanks to the presence of 2022 All-Catholic receiver, Spiros Drossos, who is the only wide-out on either roster that brings much of a resume with him to the field on Friday night!

The action in the warzone/trenches might be something of a wash, as Rich Ponzini & Ronan Sullivan are more than capable o throwing people around on behalf of the Gaels; but the same holds true of Marco Wold and Thomas Regan for the Xaverian!!    

The strength of both defensive units will come courtesy of deep/loaded linebacking battalions with returning starters—Rob Cross & Llogan Raynor setting the tone for KC; while All-Catholic honoree, Chris Duffy, will be joined by Timothy Hayes & Andrew Owens in comprising a trident of difference-making, headline capturing standouts!  

All in all, we anticipate a pretty darn good game under the lights…There is not much of a gap in terms of talent discrepancy; which means that execution above all else is what will determine the victor!!   

If there is one caveat that we will toss out there, it might be that while Xaverian had the chance to exercise some of their demons and clean up the wrinkles in a week #0 loss to Long Island Lutheran, tonight will be the season debut for Kennedy Catholic; which might mean that they are going to have to overcome the normal season-opening jitters and faux pas!