SENDING THEIR MENTOR OUT WITH THE CROWN!!!
Congratulations to the top-seeded Mountaineers of Mount St. Michael Academy, who claimed the fifth NYCHSFL title in program history (1st since 2009) this morning behind a 34-3 victory over #2 Xaverian in the first leg of the Metro Catholic Championship triple-header on the campus of Fordham University!
While not technically their final appearance of the 2023 campaign (they still have the annual Turkey Bowl showdown with Cardinal Hayes on Thanksgiving), the triumph on Coffey field served a two-fold purpose, as it not only erased the painful memories of the heartbreaking 29-22 loss suffered in the 2022 title contest at the hands of Xavier; but also had the added benefit of ensuing that 40-year Head Coach/pillar of the school, Mario Valentini’s final season on the sidelines was brought to a deserved and proper conclusion!!!
The Offense not quite clicking at the onset of the game (Punt, turnover on downs, fumble, punt on their first four possessions), the Bronx-based cohort actually found themselves in a 3-0 hole with 1:18 remaining in the opening quarter, but then found their groove in a major way, as they struck for touchdowns on three consecutive possessions in the 2nd quarter to turn the deficit into a 19-3 advantage at the break!!
Getting on the scoreboard a little more than 4:00 into the second stanza, it was Junior RB, Carl Shaw cashing in for the first of his three overall touchdowns on the ground when he punched the pigskin across the line from a single yard out to make the score 7-3 (Daithi O’Connor drilled the PAT) with 7:54 to go in the half….Shaw’s short TD trek was set up by significant plays on each side of the ball, as it was a Nico Bustamante diving interception (Zaire Caldwell applying pressure) on a 3rd & 9 that gave the Mount the ball on the enemy 33 before a 22-yard completion between reigning AA-2 Offensive Player of the Year, Marc “Ferrari” Pearson Jr, and Travis Agoanya moved the ball to the 8….
After an induced three & out by the MSMA defense put the ball back in the hands of Pearson Jr., on his on 47, it was back-to-back passes to Agoanya (29 yards) and Nelson Perez (18 yards) that hammered home a second successful drive as it was the latter of the two wideouts [Perez] matching a snatch on his own 10 and then shedding a tackler to go the rest of the way for the “6” to increase the lead to 13-3 (missed PAT) with 5:42 showing before the intermission…
Lockdown defense continued to translate into eventual offense as run stuffs by Caldwell (to create a 2nd & 14) and Shaw (to establish a 4th & 4th) led to a turnover on downs (incomplete pass) with 3:36 remaining in the opening 24 minutes of action)!
Rather than being content to sit on their cushion, the Mountaineers kept their foot on the gas pedal, as a long run by Tyler Bobe enabled the squad to cross midfield and then it was Perez on the back end of a 38-yard hook-up to pave the way for Shaw’s 2nd score of the matinee (4-yarder)…
Momentum clearly on their side when the contest resumed after halftime, the situation went from “good” to “ideal” during the 3rd quarter for the “Murdoch Avenue Monsters”, as an 18-yard dart to Perez put the ball on the Xaverian 36 and then Otoo hauled in a 32-yard screen pass as catalyst’s towards Shaw’s 4-yard TD (hat trick for the day; 14th overall ground touchdown this fall by the #7 jersey) to further create separation, 27-3 (Otoo converted the 2-point try to the corner), with exactly 2:00 to go…
Less than 1:00 later (1:07 remaining), the collective defensive onslaught finally was rewarded with points of their own, as it as D’Angelo Cabrera doing it all, as in response to a pass-catch by Clipper Junior WR, Chris Conti, the Mountaineer senior DB [Cabrera] ripped the ball out, scooped it up, and then turned on the jets to return bank a 35-yard fumble recovery as the icing on the cake for the Blue & Gold brotherhood!!
The final tally not indicative of how well the Xaverian defense played in their own right for the majority of their title-game outing, in defeat, strong performances were turned on by the likes of senior Mike LB, Michael Blackwell (Sack on MSMA’s first possession of the game to force a punt; produced a turnover on downs on the Mount’s second possession by stuffing a run on 4th &1),Jaiden Cadotte/Andrew Owens (teamed up to force and/or recover a fumble), and reigning POTW, Finbar McGuinness (pass rush that caused Pearson to make an errant throw to bring up 4th down and force a punt early in 2Q)….
In fact, much like Mount St. Michael’s first points of the day, it was the “D” for the Clippers that put the offense in the driver’s seat as Cadotte’s punch to generate the loose ball, complemented by Owens pouncing on it at the opposing 29 was the key sequence that later yielded XN’s only points on a 29-yard drill shot off the leg of senior kicker, Julian Hasson!!!
To the surprise of no one, Shaw’s three-score display & Cabrera’s defensive touchdown made both student-athletes worthy recipients of the Offensive and Defensive Most Valuable Player awards!!