Article by Matt Diano
Week #0 (September 1st-2nd, 2023)
Aiden Alvia (Jr.); OLB – St. Francis Prep Terriers
A standout on what was an overall collective display of domination on both sides of the ball by the Terriers, the junior in the #31 jersey [Alvia] anchored a Terrier defensive unit that pitched a shutout (only opposing score was a fumble recovery + return) and surrendered a mind-blowing 10 yards of net offensive production in a 34-8 victory over Christ the King on Saturday afternoon!!
Tying his career-highs in both total tackles (7) and stops for negative yardage (2) as part of the overall “blue swarm”, there were two very distinct plays that represented the level at which the 5’9, 180-pound outside linebacker was operating….
With SFP holding a 3-0 edge early in the 2nd quarter, he flew into the backfield and stuffed the Royals’ running back for a 5-yard loss to set up 3rd & 15 on a series that later concluded with a punt!
Later in the 2nd, he’d log his signature and/or most important contribution of the weekend matinee when after senior teammate, Christopher Fell, got pressure up the middle and deflected a CTK punt attempt, it was Alvia being the one to pounce on the loose ball (after it evaded two other Terriers) in the end zone to turn a 6-0 lead into a 13-0 cushion with 2:00 remaining in the opening half!!
The conquest in the clash of Queens snapped a two-game losing streak in the rivalry (including a 44-8 defeat last fall) and enabled St. Francis Prep to get off to their first 1-0 start since the COVID shortened 2020 season (went 3-1)!
Rich Belin (Jr.); QB – Cardinal Hayes Cardinals
When your older brother is currently playing ball at an ACC school (Duke) and is a former all-time great at both the same high school program and position as you play, it is not very often that you get the respect that you deserve!!
On Friday night, junior signal caller, Rich Belin, did his family name proud and demanded those warranted “attaboys” as he was nothing short of spectacular in all aspects of the game in vaulting the Bronx based school to a banner 44-41 triumph over the #5 ranked team in Pennsylvania, Episcopal Academy (9-1 record in ‘22)!!!
At the front and center of the Cardinal youth movement a year ago, there was never any doubt that it was just a matter of time before the incumbent third-year varsity starter jumped levels and ascended into that upper echelon of Metro Catholic field generals!
Named as a NYCHSFL POTW for the second time in his scholastic career (first honor since the 2021 Turkey Bowl), Rich has the majority of his 11th grade campaign, as well as his entire senior year to equal and likely surpass the three Player of the Week accolades amassed by his older sibling [Henry]!!!
As locked and loaded as we have ever seen him, the all-purpose stud could do no wrong on September 1st, as he was lethal with both his arm and his legs, stockpiling 455 yards of total offense and having a direct hand in closing out four separate touchdown-yielding drives!!!
Re-writing his personal record book in both passing and rushing yardage, Belin connected on 15-of-24 aerial attempts for 301 yards (previous high of 279 vs. Chaminade on 10/2/222) and three TD hurls, while simultaneously finding the energy to tack on an additional 154 + 1 TD on 14 keepers!!
Accounting for three of his aforementioned four touchdowns during the initial 24-minute opening half, Belin got himself into the box score when already up 6-0, he hooked up with Reid Jones on a 20-yarder; and then dumped it off to Eli Garcia on a 2pt conversion to double the margin to 14-0 with under 4:00 to go in the 1st quarter!
Hayes’ now sitting on a 26-14 edge late in the 2nd, #3 tossed TD pass #2 to Cleveland Charlton, targeting the 6’5 senior wide-out on a 10-yard missile to make the score 32-14…
The two powerhouse schools trading TDs in the last 2:00 before the break, Belin followed up a huge completion to Jones by calling his own number on a 2-yard run across the line to send the teams to the locker room with C.H. enjoying a 38-21 cushion!
Going back to his favorite weapon of the night, the Belin/Jones exchange worked their magic again late in the 3rd quarter for the Cardinals’ final TD of the game, as they played pitch-and-catch on a 4-yarder to maintain the multi-score buffer (44-28)!..This proved to be the difference-maker as a rally from the host Churchmen saw them back into the conversation!!
Proving they are “for real” by virtue of their heroics during week #0, Belin and Cardinals will look to take the next step towards climbing back to the “AAA” mountaintop for the first time since 2019!
Jack McKillop (Jr.); RB/S – Fordham Prep Rams
Serving as main understudy for 2022 All-Catholic selection, Charlie English, a season ago, the time came for the 5’7, 160-pounder out of Edgemont [McKillop] to embrace the role of “leading man” this past Friday night as he was the catalyst in propelling the Rams to a 31-21 victory over returning AA-1 runners-up, Mount St. Michael Academy, to kick off the 2023 NYCHSFL season!!
Carrying the pigskin on just 31 occasions for a net gain of 170 yards and one score during the entirety of his sophomore campaign, it took the gentleman in the #22 jersey all of a few hours to triple his touchdown count, as well as set the tone for the kind of damage you should expect to see him week-in and week-out!!
Shattering his previous career high of 67 yards (set in October 22 vs. St. Peter’s), the 11th grader exploded for an average of 8.2/per carry under the Friday night lights against the Mountaineers, accruing a total of 115 yards on 14 carries, including three hand-offs that landed him in the end zone!!
The Maroon & White finding themselves trailing 7-0 late in the 1st quarter, McKillop struck for the first of his trifecta when he took a draw up the middle and then cut down the host sideline to trek 32 yards to the house to square the contest at 7-7 with 2:17 to go in the opening stanza….
Down 21-17 with a little over 5:00 remaining in the 3Q, McKillop again was the man to issue the response, as punched it in from 3-yards out to put FP up 24-21 with 4:56 showing on the clock…Just snaps earlier, it was his 35-yard dash that put Fordham Prep on the doorstep!
The hat trick was completed in the most emphatic of demeanors, when facing a 4th & 10 on the opposing 43-yard line, the perennial honor student (3.8 GPA) iced the victory when he darted straight up the gut and did not stop until he found paydirt to create a 10pt margin with a modest 3:38 remaining in duration (4th quarter)!
An ironman whose duties are never truly done until the final horn, he added six stops on defense from the safety position to fall one short (7 vs. SJB November 5th, 2022) of tying his personal best!
Josiah Patrick (Jr.); QB – Holy Trinity Titans
If you were to tell us in advance that the star of the day for the two-time defending AA-1 Metro Catholic champs was going to come to come from the QB position; we surely would have taken you at your word!….But there would have been an assumption that you were referring to multi-year incumbent, Rocco Rainone, who took all but 23 snaps last season for the Green & White juggernaut!
But the beauty of football (and sports in general) is that games are played for a reason and the occasional pleasant surprise tends to write its own story!
And for interim Head Coach/school Athletic Director, Chris Hardardt, the welcomed astonishment came courtesy of his 6’2, 175-pound, junior back-up [Patrick] in HT’s 23-13 rally victory last Saturday…
Throwing his first passes since the 2021 season after seeing spot action as a freshman on the varsity [11-of-14, 151 yards, 4 TD hurls] per MaxPreps, it was the #13 jersey rising to prominence in enabling the Hicksville based program to escape a 13-3 first quarter hole by igniting for 20 unanswered points in the 2nd through 4th quarters to triumph over 2022 Rhode Island State titlists, La Salle Academy, in hostile territory!
Never exceeding 56 yards in the air in any of his outings as a frosh two years ago, Patrick absolutely made a strong argument as to why he ought to be given more future reps with the 1st string, as he had himself a coming out party, setting new PBs in just about every passing/rushing category imaginable, as he boasted a 62.5% completion percentage, connecting on 5-of-8 attempts for 119 yards, while also using to run for 31 additional yards. He’d notch one TD apiece in each manner to directly impact two of the Titan’s three total touchdowns…
Commencing the revival/turning point of the contest in the 2nd quarter, Patrick cut the deficit to 13-10 when he unleashed a spot-on bomb over the shoulder of fellow 11th grader, Chase Cruz, with the latter cruising the rest of the way (approximately 20 yards) down the visiting sideline to cement the 54-yard TD hook-up!!
Holy Trinity now up 16-13, it was Patrick closing out the comeback with the same style that he sparked it, as he raced 15 yards to the promised land in the 4th quarter for the clincher!!
Cristian Pinto (Sr.); QB – Monsignor Farrell Lions
Making his second career appearance on the POTW list (previously recognized in week #6 of the 2022 season), when you have gunslinged your way to 2,814 yards and 16 touchdowns, as well as an additional 432 yards and five scores on land over the course of two prior years under center, it is likely that you have filled up the stat sheet to a higher degree in the past.
But the clear and undeniable fact is that taking precedent over gaudy numbers is the ability of the man to rise when stakes are highest and be at his very best when his team needed him most; and in this regard, there was no finer performer for the Lions in their 23-20 comeback victory on the road last Saturday afternoon over Rhode Island dynasty/17x State champions, Bishop Hendricken!
The Maroon & Gold cohort trailing 20-14 in the final 2:00 of the 4th quarter, it was their senior field general using pressure to make diamonds, as he went a perfect 3-for-3 with his arm and used his other limbs (legs) to move the sticks two different times to orchestrate the eventual game-stealing series!!!
Capping off the 55-yard drive when he hit fellow 12th grader/returning All-Catholic WR, Nicholas Souffrin, on the money on a 7-yard strike at the pylon with :22 to go in regulation, Pinto evened the game at 20 apiece before placekicker, Chris DiGiacomo, drilled the PAT to give the Amboy Road posse the lead for the first time all afternoon!
The clutch TD chuck being the second of two scores recorded by Pinto on September 2nd, it was his 4-yard run on a keeper (facing 4th down) that tied the game at 7-7 with 8:47 to go in the 2nd quarter…While not his longest trek, the sneak up the middle was the highlight of a career-best effort rushing, as he ended the day with 65 yards on six carries to surpass the 11-carry/52-yard previous high he garnered September 17th, 2022 versus Holy Cross!!!
Predicted to finish 6th in the preseason polls, Farrell has now toppled the Hendricken Hawks in back-to-back seasons (31-27 in ‘22), but are eagerly looking forward to their week #1 date with AAA favorites, Archbishop Stepinac, as they try to silence the doubters and demonstrate that a second trip to Championship Saturday in the past three years is very much on the table!
Jeremiah Williams (Jr.); RB/KR – St. Peter’s Eagles
After watching the game tape of the Eagles’ 43-14 victory in the clash of S.I. over St. Joe’s by the Sea, there were two definitive impressions with which we were left…
#1….This is an immensely impressed St. Peter’s squad from the version that went 3-7 in 2022!
#2…You better not blink or else you might miss the young man in the #6 jersey [Williams] doing something miraculous and/or awe-inspiring!!!
Successfully making the conversion from one backfield [secondary] to the other [running back], the 6’1, 155-pound speeder was a human highlight reel to the very definition of the phrase, as he used his rocket legs to rack up 164 yards and a pair of touchdowns en route to helping his school snap a two-game losing streak in crosstown rivalry!
Single-handedly giving SP the immediate 7-0 edge less than 1:00 (0:47) into the 1st quarter, the first time that Williams touched the ball, it was apparent that it was going to be “one of those special days” as he’d scoop up the opening kickoff on his own 13 and jet 84 yards to the opposing 3-yard line to set up his own 1yrd TD run moments later!!!
He proverbially and literally did not slow down the rest of the afternoon, as it was his 17-handoff, 164-yard, 2TD exhibition on the ground that comprised the bulk of the remarkable 291 output amassed collectively by the visitors from Clinton Avenue!
The second of his cited two “6’s” occurred with just over 8:00 to go in the 3Q (Eagles up 27-7), when Williams capitalized off of a short/frenzied punt from SJS by taking the next two snaps a combined 25 yards (10yrd TD run) to further create separation on the scoreboard (34-7)!
Even when he was not the guy to punch the ball across the goal, his presence/authority was still visible, as it was a 73-yard pilgrimage from his own 20 to the opponents’ 7 that acted as a precursor to sophomore, Nicholas Gnerre, plunging in from 4 yards out later in the series to make the score 41-13 with 1:21 remaining in the third quarter!
Head Coach, Mark DeCristoforo, and staff will praying that their newest star stays hot as the program attempts to get off to their first 2-0 start since the 2016 season when they take the long road trip to Long Island to clash with the Cougars of St. John the Baptist on September 9th!-