NYCHSFL Game of the Week #0: St. Anthony’s vs. Delbarton

St. Anthony’s (NY) vs. Delbarton (NJ)

When: Saturday September 2nd, 2023 @1pm

: Cy Donnelly Field on the campus of St. Anthony’s High School (275 Wolf Hill Road, South Huntington, NY 11747)

: Varsity Media (click for direct link)

Players to Watch (St. Anthony’s)

*Gary Merrill (Jr.; QB)–Recently revealed as the #2 overall lacrosse prospect in the class of
2025 by NLF, the first-year varsity player hailing from Blue Point will be asked to fill the cleats of
a living legend as he steps in as the successor to 2x All-Stater/2022 NYCHSFL Offensive POY
recipient, Dante Torres (3,320 passing yards; 504 rushing yards; 48 cumulative touchdowns)

*KJ Duff Jr. (Sr.; WR/TE)—Regarded as the #2 overall prospect in the Empire State/#306
nationally among the 2024 cohort, the 6’5, 207-pound Rutgers bound play-maker has put
together a human highlight reel during the first three years of his varsity career, featuring career-bests of 42 receptions for 995 yards and 12 touchdowns a season ago as an 11th grader…Named to both the All-League and All-State squad (3rd team in 2021, 2nd team in ‘22) in consecutive years, it is a no-brainer that he will see his name on the list again as a senior, as Duff Jr. Truly is one of the most explosive and unstoppable student-athletes that I have seen in my 20+ years as both a NYCHSFL fan/journalist!…Possessing “play on Sunday” potential, it is believed he will be asked to make the transition to TE for the Scarlet Knights and when he does, good luck to any opposing linebacker/Safety tasked with covering him! He is the consummate deep-ball threat no matter where he lines up!

*Alex Menghi (Sr.; TE)—Committed to Stony Brook University, Menghi is yet another weapon
in the passing game that brings both superior athleticism and killer size to the
gridiron….Regarded as the top scholastic TE in NY per Prep Red Zone in the class of 2024, the
6’4, 200+-pounder is a universal TE that seems just as enthusiast about blocking as he does
being on the receiving end of a long reception…While it would have been very easy to get lost
in the crowd as a junior due to being on a roster saturated with elite targets, he found a way to
still stand out, as he collected 22 receptions for 290 yards and 1 touchdown….Those numbers
will skyrocket in 2023 now that he is no longer battling 4-5 of his own blue chip teammates for

*Braden Mehm (Sr.; WR)—Emerging out of the shadows and taking his place in the limelight
will be the senior wide receiver hanging his hat in Massapequa….An under the radar guy who
because of the Friar depth and experience at WR was not afforded as much of a chance to
showcase himself, reports from off-season workouts/scrimmages are all saying that Mehm is a keeper and will be very much a significant contributor as STA restocks the cupboard out

*Billy Dowling (Jr.; OL)—Following in the footsteps of legends of yesteryear such as Alex
Fletcher, if there has been one common theme among the endless glory enjoyed by the Friars,
it is that there has always been a dominant OL figurately (or in this case literally) at the center
of it all!!!…The starting pivot as a sophomore on a state championship-winning team, it remains
unknown at this point whether or not the 6’1, 285-pounder will stay put at the position or
transition to OG. But no matter the specific role, he is going to thrive because his work ethic is
second to none and he knows how to finish his blocks with authority….No longer the young pup
learning from the veterans, as a junior, he has ascended into a leadership spot…A difference-
maker for one of, if not the most prolific offenses in all of New York State a season ago, his
protection enabled the Black & Gold to run up mind-blowing totals of 5,596 yards and 67

*CJ Novelli (Sr.; OL)—The only other incumbent starter in the trenches/along the offensive line,
Novelli played guard in 2022, but could slide over to OT as a senior…

*Matthew McGregor (Jr.; OL)—A mountain of a man at 6’3 and approximately 275 pounds, if
you want an indication of the agility and speed that the rising junior brings with him, consider
the fact that he also plays lacrosse and is quite good as a close defender….Rostering with the
big club as a sophomore in 2022, he will step into the line-up as a full-time starter this fall and is
without question primed to have a monster campaign…Seemingly attracting and pursuing
interest from the Ivy league, he spent much of his summer attending the various on-campus
training campus and has left a positive impression everywhere he has gone!…Prep Red Zone
hails him as their #6 in-state OL prospect from the 2025 class!

*Preston Carey (So.; DL)—The phenom is back for a second straight season starting in the
middle of the STA defense….Coveted by just about any/every power-5 school in the country,
Carey made history in 2022 when he became the first freshman (to our knowledge) to be
promoted to the varsity…And we see why he chosen for that distinction as despite battling
against opposing OLs older and further along in their physical development, he more than held
his own, compiling 65 stops (7 TFL) and 4 sacks!…With all of the scouts in attendance watching
him closely again in 2023, have the popcorn buttered, because he is going to treat us all to a
show now that he has that year of experience under his belt…He was good as a 9th grader; but
greatness will ensue during the next three falls!

*Sam Cook (Sr.; DE)—Racking up 35 total tackles and causing a fumble as a junior DE for St.
Anthony’s in 2022, the slightly undersized DL has gotten bigger and with the added muscle will
be an even bigger obstacle with which to have to contend…The combination of Carey in the
middle and Cook on the end is going to create mass chaos as the heat is going to be coming in
every direction from this Friar “D”!

*Dante Vardaro (Sr.; LB)—Injured late in the 2022 season or else his stat line would have been
even more staggering, the 5-star pole on the lacrosse team that is on his way to the University
of Pennsylvania was extraordinary when he was able to be on the field as a junior, as he
collected 40 total tackles, 2 sacks, and intercepted a pair of passes in his direction…The
coaching staff did not list him among the starters, so there could be issues that we are not
aware of; but if he is healthy and playing, he is going to be a factor!

*Ajani Valerio (Sr.; DB)—The definitive leader in the St. Anthony’s defensive backfield, as an
11th grader, Valerio was good enough to warrant solid reps despite being a young gun on a unit
of predominantly seniors….Banking 18 tackles and 1 pick in his appearances last fall, his chance
to be a star comes in his swan song, as he is the person most likely to be given those #1 on #1

*Luke Aasheim (Sr.; DB)—A commit to High Point University for lacrosse, after acting as a
reserve in 2022, Aasheim will be a main component in the coaching staff’s attempt at replacing
the entirety of a starting secondary that rose to the occasion in a big way during the 2022
postseason…A natural athlete who has every trait and tool you could ask for, as he logs
additional field time, we expect Aasheim to transform into an extremely consistent and
imposing performer!

Players to Watch (Delbarton)

*Christian Zebrowski (Sr; QB)—-Better known for his ability to hurl fastballs during his career as
a member of the Green Wave athletic community, the Middlebury College baseball commit will
be doing a different kind of pitch-and-catch this fall, as he steps in the role of QB1 after serving
as the primary back-up as a 10th grader….In limited action, he demonstrated solid accuracy,
connecting on 5 of 9 attempts for 93 yards and 1 TD toss; is also capable of using his legs, as he
averaged close to 8 yards per carry on a handful of attempts (plus an additional TD run)

*Ryan Trafford (Sr; RB)—Regarded as the best and most credentialed athlete on the field for
Delby, the U.S. Naval Academy recruit (lacrosse) is back for what is sure to be a decorated swan song!!! A workhorse in the backfield as a junior, Trafford swept every major rushing category for the team, gaining 907 yards and scoring 12 touchdowns on 151 carries.

*Philip Folmar (Jr; WR)—Possessing high 4.4/low 4.5 speed, Folmar was a breakout star as a sophomore in 2022 for Delbarton, as he blew away his peers in emerging as the numero uno target in the passing game….Invited to attended camp/prospect days at several power-5
schools this summer, Folmar is going to challenge any/every defensive back that draws him as their assignment….Last season, he was credited with 27 snatches for 287 yards and 4 TD receptions…He will likely also serve as the main man on special teams as a kick/punt returner!!

*Michael Van Raaphorst (Sr; WR)—His future at the college level likely to occur on the
hardwood (DI basketball prospect), the senior out of Chatham brings elite size to the WR corps,
as he stands 6’4 and weighs in at over 200 pounds…A combination of measurables and
athleticism, we could see him being sneaky lethal as a #2 option in the aerial attack…
*Austen Kivler (Sr; WR)—Adding to the depth at the wide-out position is another senior that
has garnered college interest in the person of the 6’0, 195-pounder…Holding offers from the
likes of Fordham and Marist, the multi-sport student-athlete (also on the Track team) accrued
12 receptions for 96 yards and one score as an 11th grader; but should see his contribution
increase as a senior!

*Ryan Cregan (Sr; OL)—A physically imposing, if not terrifying individual at first sight, the 6’6,
290-pounder is verbally committed to Villanova after helping to anchor an offensive line that
paved the way for the Green Wave to generate 2,126 yards (1,188 on the ground) and 27
touchdowns (18 rushing) of production last season…Big #79 is impossible to overlook, both in
stature and in the quality of his performance!! He is going to move some bodies around on
every snap!!

*Jake Macce (Sr; OL)—Small only in comparison to his aforementioned teammate/linemate
[Cregan], the 6’5, 275-pounder from Annandale is another incumbent that brings power to the
OL….Holding offers from the likes of Navy, Columbia, William & Mary, Bryant, ODU, Holy Cross,
Fordham, Maine, Lehigh, Temple, Cornell, and several other combinations of FCS/FBS
colleges/universities, Macce is a bulldozer and will beat on you for 48 minutes with pleasure!

*Johnny Riley (Sr; LB)—Announcing his commitment to Dartmouth earlier this month, the 6’3,
210-pound linebacker out of Morristown is a stud by every definition of the word!!!…As a
junior, Riley topped all Delby defenders with 57 total stops…He’d add an INT to round out his

*Dallas Hurley (Sr; LB)—Offered by the likes of the U.S. Naval Academy, USMA, Cornell,
Georgetown, etc., the three-year starting MIKE LB is himself a tackling machine, as he finished
just slightly below Riley with 52 stops in 2022….A play-maker in the opposing backfield, where
he really did make [Green] waves was in regards to TFLs and sacks, posting 6 and 2 respectively
in each category!

*Kyle Checchio (Jr; LB)—Coming into his own and announcing himself as a future leader of the
“D”, the 5’11, 195-pound OLB from Warren exceeded all expectations as an underclassman in
2022, posting a program-best 2 interceptions to complement the 37 tackles and 1 sack he
recorded as a 10th grader!…

*Connor Martin (Sr; DL)—Standing 6’4 and mean, the UPenn verbal commit Is the
catalyst/leader of the defensive line following a banner year last fall that witnessed him top all
personnel with 8 TFLs and 3 fumble recoveries, tie for the team-high in sacks (2), while collecting 47 stop tackles…An NJSIAA State Qualifier as a wrestler to boot, the tougher/rougher
the environment, the more this kid is in his element!

*Tyler DaSilva (Sr; DB)—Announcing his pledge to play his college ball at Johns Hopkins
University on Aug. 10th, the senior commander of the last line of defense turned in a brilliant
junior season in 2022, concluding the season with 44 total stops and an interception!!!

*Will McGinty (Sr; DB)—Bringing more senior poise to the secondary, the 5’10 Madison
resident was credited with 35 stops a season ago!

*Austin Quandt (Sr; DB)—The last piece of the puzzle in the “no fly zone”, the senior racked up
18 tackles as an 11th grader and will be even more involved/active in his final months as a Green
Wave student-athlete!!


A tale of two programs that had vastly different seasons last fall, the host Friars are fresh off of
hoisting NYSCHSFL league hardware for the first time since 2013 as well as seizing their first
New York Catholic State crown in program history….

On the contrary, the visitors from the Garden State are looking to improve upon a .500 record
(6-6) where they played the majority of their opponents close and advanced to the NJ Non-
Public State semis but struggled to close out winnable games!!

No matter the state of either school, if there is one thing that history has taught us, it is that
when St. Anthony’s and Delbarton go to battle, it is almost always an INSTANT CLASSIC where
the outcome is not settled until the waning moments of the 4th quarter!!!

An annual rivalry that was temporarily disrupted by COVID in 2020, from 2015 through 2019,
the Black & Gold of STA reigned supreme in four of five meetings….However, in the most recent
showdown, it was the Green Wave pitching a 20-0 shutout in 2021!!

Eerily, there are some significant commonalities/similarities how the line-ups may shake out….
Neither team hurting for playmakers on either side of the ball, both schools will be breaking in
new field generals/signal callers in 2023 that up to this point have made their bones in entirely
different sports!!….For STA, it was first-year varsity roster member/lacrosse standout, Gary
Merrill, winning a battle in camp for starting duties….On the opposite sideline, it is baseball
player, Christian Zebrowski, transitioning from understudy to protagonist as a senior!!

Both schools return the bulk of their offensive lines as six of the combined 10 starters in the
trenches are welcomed back, with juniors—Billy Dowling & Matthew McGregor
complementing 12th grader, CJ Novelli, for the Long Island based juggernaut, while the senior duo of Ryan Cregan & Jake Macce will be throwing around their weight and opposing
defenders are the pillars of pain for Delbarton!!

A clear edge belonging to St. Anthony’s at the WR position, Rutgers bound KJ Duff Jr., and
future Stony Brook Seawolf, Alex Menghi, combined for 64 receptions, 1,285 yards, and 13
touchdown grabs last season….Delbarton will try to counter with a gem of their own, as Philip
Folmar enjoyed a breakout sophomore season, hauling in 27 balls for 287 yards, and 4
touchdowns….Under the radar talents such as Braden Mehm (STA), Michael Van Raaphorst
(Delby), and Austen Kivler (Delby) have no intention of being silenced and could be difference-
makers if efforts are made to double-team/shutdown the established commodities!

The road warriors from New Jersey will enter with a definitive advantage at tailback, as Ryan
Trafford fell 93 yards short of the 1,000 mark as a junior, but will not be denied in his final year
donning the Green & White….We anticipate St. Anthony’s will turn to rookie Swiss Army Knife,
Christian Alfaro, to be the one to fill the cleats of their departed/graduated two-headed
monster compromised of Frank Ruta (1,008 yards, 13 TDs) & Darius Morant (694 yards, 6

On the defensive side of the gridiron, Delbarton possesses essential experience everywhere you
look, as 8 of the starting-11 will give it another go, with the persons of Johnny Riley, Dallas
Hurley, and Kyle Checchio acting as the key figures on one of the top LB units in all of NJ
(combined totals of 146 stops, 3 sacks, 3 INTs); UPenn bound, Connor Martin, setting the tone
for the DL; and Tyler DaSilva/Will McGuinty/ Austin Quandt (97 combined tackles) making life
miserable for opposing quarterbacks by locking down the secondary!

The strength of the St. Anthony’s “D” will be found in the DL tandem of super sophomore, PJ
Carey and Sam Cook, who bring the heat both up the middle and from the side, as they united
to amass 100 tackles and 4 sacks!!!

Before getting injured in the 2022 postseason, future UPenn Quaker, Dante Vardaro, was
wreaking havoc from his linebacker spot, making 40 stops, picking off a pair of passes, and
bagging the QB on two separate occasions!

Identical to their “Jersey Boy” foes, STA will rely on a senior-laden defensive backfield
consisting of Ajani Valerio and Luke Aasheim…”Freak” athlete, Kevin Moore, will be making his
varsity debut as a sophomore and pundits feel he has the skills to follow in the footsteps of
former Metro Catholic Defensive Player of the Year honorees— Makhai Murphy (2018) & Ian
Strong (2022)–as the next great Friar DB!