2023 NYCHSFL AAA GOTW #1 Preview

Article by Matt Diano

Archbishop Stepinac vs. Monsignor Farrell

When: Friday September 8, 2023 @7pm

Where: Alumni Stadium on the campus of Monsignor Farrell HS (2900 Amboy Rd, Staten Island, NY 10306)

Watch: LocalLive


Players to Watch (Archbishop Stepinac)

*Will Currid (Sr.; QB)–Back for his fourth year on the Crusader varsity (3rd as the starting signal caller), the 2022 All-Catholic/3rd-Team All-State selection entered his swan song having tossed for 4,595 yards and 40 touchdowns during that span (including 3,294 and 28 TDs a season ago)….During week #0, he had his ups and downs, connecting on 20-of-35 for 267 yards and 2 scoring hurls; but also threw a pair of interceptions!

*Jordan Osbourne (Sr.; RB)–One half of an explosive tailback duo, as a junior in 2022, Osbourne topped all AS running backs in both yardage (651) and TD runs (8)….Tacking on an additional 133 yards and two more scores via 10 receptions, he is an all-purpose performer that can beat you in a variety of ways…In the week #0 loss In Tennessee, he never quite found his groove, being limited to 6 yards on just two attempts!

*Lorenzo Robinson (Sr.; RB)–Osbourne’s backfield mate, Robinson plays second-fiddle to no man in terms of his dangerous he can be on any given night.  In fact, he was one of the bright spots for the Crusaders in the out-of-state loss last weekend, as he registered a solid 122 yards of total production, carrying the ball 8 times for 75 yards, while also making 4 grabs for another 47 yards!….As a junior, he tied Osbourne for the team-lead with 8 ground scores in the midst of cumulative gains of 559 yards on 97 handoffs!  He too is a weapon out of the backfield, as evident by his 14 reception/143 yard/2TD resume last fall!

*Jahi Gary (Sr.; WR)–A massive target (6’5) in the passing game, he plays larger than his status, as despite finding himself in the company of a senior-laden groups of WRs last year, he still managed to stand out, finishing in the top-4 of every receiving category—-catches (34; 4th), yards (539; 3rd), & touchdowns (6; 2nd)….Surprising to no one, in week #0, he picked up right where he left off, hauling in 5 balls for 98 yards and 1 touchdown to commence his senior campaign!

*Zaire Spellman (Jr.; WR)–Showing early indication of being on the verge of a breakout season, the 11th grade wide-out needed just one night to surpass all of his 2022 totals, as he posted a team-best 7 snatches (for 64 yards) in the loss to Baylor last weekend….As a sophomore he went for 6 & 43; so his emergence is invaluable!!!….Spellman is also dynamic as a kick/punt returner, possessing “take it to the house” potential every time he is deep!

*Ryan Diaz (Sr.; OL)–One of two anchors of an offensive line that paved the way for the Crusaders to rack up 4,825 yards and 49 touchdowns a season ago, Diaz will is among the best OG in NYS!

*D.J. Williams (Jr.; OT)–The blind-sided protector, standing 6’4 and tipping the scales at just under three bills (294), the 11th-grader is a force on the OL and will do his part and then some to make life easier on the skill positions in 2023….He spent his summer hitting up multiple NCAA DI training camps, meaning that as good as he was in 2022, he is even stronger and more polished in 2023!

*Eddie Palumbo (Sr.; LB)–As a junior last year, he’d rank 2nd on the team with 93 total stops (4 TFL) while adding 2 sacks, 3 QB hurries, a pair of interceptions, and forcing three fumbles…In the first game of his 12th grade season, he remained as active as ever, accruing 7 tackles!

*Deonte Douglas (Sr.; S/DB)–Committed to the University of New Hampshire, the 2022 All-Catholic/5th-Team All-State recipient is just one of several cannot miss prospects that comprises perhaps the deepest secondaries in all of the Evil Empire….Extraordinary in every facet of the game, he at or near the top of just about every statistical category common for DBs—Tackles (82; 3rd), interceptions (3; 1st), pass defenses (10; 3rd)….In the loss to Baylor, he was the busiest guy on the field, as he was credited with 16 total stops (9 solo) and broke up two passes!!

*Samuel Madu (Sr.; CB)–The headliner of the Crusader defense, Madu is a 3-star recruit per 247Sports and is headed to the Big-10 Conference to play for the Gophers of the University of Minnesota…..The lockdown cornerback that every team prays to have, his stat line would be considerably more gaudy if not for the fact that opponents have had the good sense to avoid throwing in his direction….Still, as an 11th grader last fall, he managed to collect 39 stops and disrupt 11 passes!…During week #0, Madu got off to a fast start in his ball-hawking duties, as he was responsible for 3 PDs to go along with 7 tackles!

*Garrison Heslop (Jr.; DB)–Rostering with the big club as a sophomore, Heslop has become of one of the quickest rising prospects in the region during the past year, as he presently holds D1 offers from the likes of Syracuse, Purdue, Minnesota, and Stony Brook among others….At 6’2, 160, he has good size, and the breadth of his athleticism can never be called into question…Heslop made 7 stops and broke up a pass in the week #0 loss!

*Kadear Dembele (Jr.; DT)– A transfer from West Haven (CT), Stepinac is hoping that the 11th grader can fill the cleats of graduated superstar, Wayne Coleman, in terms of bringing constant pressure up the middle….Dembele tenure as a Crusader is off to a promising beginning, as he registered 8 total stops (6 solo), including one tackle for negative yardage in his debut!

*Marco Graci (Sr.; PK/Punter)–Named 3rd-Team All-State as an 11th grader, Graci is as close as automatic as they come, as he converted 42 of 43 PATs a season ago…An all-purpose specialist, he will continue to also handle the punting duties!


Players to Watch (Monsignor Farrell)

*Cristian Pinto (Sr; QB)—-A mainstay running the Lions’ offense the previous two seasons, Pinto was responsible for 1,764 yards and 12 touchdowns as a junior, as he connected on just under 60% of his attempts (125-of-210) for 1,541 yards, while rushing on 31 occasions for an additional 223 yards and 3 more scores….A POTW selection in week #0 to get his senior season off to a banner start, his poise and maturity was on full display, as he led the Maroon & Gold down the field for a game-winning drive in the final 2:00 of the 4th quarter to upend Rhode Island powerhouse, Bishop Hendricken….He ended the afternoon 7-for-10 in the air (70 yards), adding 65 yards with his legs, with one key scoring play coming by way of each method!

*Nafis Muhammad (Jr; RB)—-The transfer from Tottenville will be asked to assume the unenviable role of serving as the successor to a legend such as Messiah Burch in the backfield… Muhammad fared quite well in his Farrell debut, as the 5’6, 170-pound Staten Island resident averaged a solid 4yrds per carry, ending last weekend with 60 on 15 attempts!  

*Nicholas Souffin (Sr; WR/DB)—-An All-Catholic honoree last season as a wide-out, Souffin is without question the most valuable player for the Lions for the simple fact that he is a consummate playmaker on both sides of the ball….Leading the program in both receiving yards (738) and TD grabs (4), while finishing 2nd in total catches (43) a year ago, he found himself at the right place at the right time in week #0, as he was on the back-end of a 7-yard hook-up that ultimately served as the game-winner for MF….As noted above, he is never quiet on “D” either, as he followed up a 31 tackle/5 PD display as an 11th grader by notching 3 stops and 1 PD in his 12th grade appearance!…Souffrin has a knack for the monster play on special teams to boot, as he had a KOR return for a TD in 2022!

*John Vergona (Sr; OL)—The first of three incumbent offensive lineman that did the grunt work for a balanced Lions’ attack that recorded 1,631 yards in the sky and an additional 1,596 on land en route to 27 total touchdowns (18 rushing)…. 

*Brady Quinn (Sr; OL)— Standing 6’0 and weighing 250, Quinn is not the biggest lineman in the league, but he knows how to fight and will be an asset for yet another season in the trenches!…If you want proof of how adept he is at winning his individual match-ups, consider that in week #0, he was credited with 3(!!!) pancake blocks!!

*William Aguirre (Jr; OL)—When you call yourself “Big Bill” on social media, you need to deliver and thus far, the junior has done just that!!!….Standing 6’2 and just missing the 300-pound milestone (297), Aguirre is physically the largest presence on the OL and he has the skill set to match his measurables!!

*Yasire DeJesus (Sr; DL)—Named to both the All-Catholic and the All-State (2nd Team) squads a season ago, the standout 220-pound DL showed himself to be the alpha of the Farrell defense last year, posting team-highs in TFLs (10) and sacks (4)…Taking up permanent residency in the opposing backfield being second nature to him, his 62 total stops as a junior was #2 on the totem poll!!…He wasted no time in showing that he might be even better in 2023, as he 3 of his 7 stops resulted in negative yardage and he harassed the opposing field general to the tune of 2 QB hurries in the win over Hendricken last weekend!

*Louis Martinez (Sr; DL)—Further bolstering the defensive line will be fellow 12th grader, Martinez….Holding a scholarship offer to Wagner (as does DeJesus), Martinez was 4th among Lion defenders with 45 stops in 2022 (4 TFL), tied for 2nd in sacks (3), and was the only person to get more pressure on opposing QBs than DeJesus, winning the battle 6 to 5 in regards to recorded QB hurries…Last week, Martinez himself started his final year in the MF jersey on the best of notes, collecting 5 tackles, 1 sack, and 1 QB pressure!

*Seth Clarke (Jr; LB)—A super sophomore in 2022 turned junior juggernaut this season, the Jackson, NJ resident will be determined to add to a growing reputation that already yielded him 34 tackles, 3 sacks, 3 QB hurries, and an induced fumble a year ago….In the road victory over Hendricken, Clarke was non-stop heat, registering a pair of sacks, pouncing on a fumble, and making 5 tackles!

*Mikai Gamble (Sr; LB)—Named as one of the week’s top performers by SILive in recognition of his 9 stop (6 solo), 1 interception outing, the transfer from Hudson Catholic is already making an immediate impact in his new home!!…

*Gerald Sheehan (Jr; LB)—An individual that the coaching staff pinpointed as being someone who was going to make instant noise as a 1st-year varsity player, Sheehan lived up the hype in their week #0 triumph on the road, making 5 stops and adding a 9-yard sack!

*Will Andrade (So; RB/DB)—A younger version of Souffin, there is nothing that this 5’8, 165-pound sensational sophomore can do on the gridiron…..In his first game as a Lion, he brought the hostile crowd to their feet, returning a kickoff 90 yards to the promised land to ignite a 4th quarter rally….Offensively, he contributed 30 yards of production, rushing 3 times for 15 yards and catching a 15-yard dart….On “D”, made 5 stops and broke up a pass!

*Chris DiGiacomo (Sr; PK/Punter)—Named to the All-State 4th team, Farrell has their own ace in the hole in the person of the 200-pound senior specialist….Handling all boot related duties this season (after only being a par-time punter in ‘22), DiGiacomo is a master of dictating opposing starting field position, as he generated 15 touchbacks last season on kickoffs and buried the nemesis inside the 20 on one of 3 punt tries….As a point scorer, he was as reliable as the morning coffee, going a perfect 23-for-23 on PATs, and succeeding on 5 of 6 FG attempts with a long of 41!



A clash of two teams picked to finish in considerably vastly different spots in the postseason polls, the #1 Crusaders of Stepinac will be looking to shake off a loss on the road to Tennessee powerhouse, Baylor, while the Lions of Monsignor Farrell are still riding the wave of momentum that came by virtue of their 11th-hour heroics in upending the Bishop Hendricken dynasty!!!

Neither team lacking in potential game-changing personnel, both quarterbacks—Will Currid (Stepinac) and Cristian Pinto (Farrell) are multi-year starters with big game experience….Currid has the advantage in term of career statistics, but Pinto demonstrated that proverbial “cool as a cucumber” mentality that cannot be taught! 

Bringing back their top-2 running backs in the persons of Jordan Osbourne & Lorenzo Robinson (1,210 yards, 16 touchdowns rushing combined), the visitors from White Plains [Stepinac] should have a rather pronounced edge on the ground, but will have to contend with a very loaded host DL featuring the ferocious duo of Yasire DeJesus and Louis Martinez (107 stops, 7 sacks between themselves)!!!

Each school is blessed to a known commodity out wide, as All-League honoree—Nicholas Souffin, is fresh off catching a game-clinching TD pass last week, while Jahi Gary was quite good despite the disappointing collective outcome!!!….Whereas Farrell has not quite established that #2 option at the WR corps, if there is any + in the Stepinac column, it might be the emergence of Zaire Spellman, who topped all Crusaders last week with 7 grabs!

On the other side of the ball, we absolutely adore the murderer’s row last line of defense that Stepinac will parade out onto the field this weekend….With one guaranteed Power-5 college player (Samuel Madu) sitting at the head of the table, and another potentially future Big-10/ACC caliber gem, Garrison Hester, serving as a complement, there is so much firepower in the secondary just between these two…And we have not even factored in returning All-Stater, Deonte Douglas, who is the most credentialed of the brigade!…..Souffin ought not be slept on out of the Farrell last line of defense

Spearheaded by junior, Seth Clarke, the Farrell linebacking trio made up also of fresh faces—Gerald Sheehan and Mikai Gamble further solidify a destructive front-7…. 

With each school having their own respective All-State specialist, there is a big part of us that would not mind seeing the game come down to clutch kicks, as both Marco Graci (Step) & Chris DiGiacomo are money!!!

After being shown no respect by pundits, a win for Farrell this weekend will all but silence the doubters and confirm that moving forward, we need to perceive them as title challengers!!!!