Friars Football: Friars Pull Away From Iona Prep

September 14, 2007 by  

Friars Football Week 2 2007

Title: Costly Win: Friars Pull Away from Iona Prep But Injuries Mount
Publication: Frairs
Author: Jason Molinet
Date: 9-14-07
Word Count: 1129

Three hours before kickoff and the entire St. Anthony’s defense sat in the back of the school auditorium as coordinator George McLaren went over schemes. Senior tackle Scott Vallone intently listened in from the front row, leaning on the railing as if straining to capture every syllable.

“It’s about how you line up,” McLaren said. “If you line up right, then you’ll do very well.

“They’re gonna come up with something we haven’t seen. A couple of years ago, it was a double pass. Expect the unexpected.”

What really troubled McLaren and the entire St. Anthony’s staff was the fact that they had just three days of practice to prepare for CHSFL rival New Rochelle-Iona Prep. When the teams met a year ago, the result was a closer-than-expected 20-14 win that wasn’t decided until the final moments.

Shutting down Iona Prep’s dynamic offense was the singular concern in the hours before kickoff. As McLaren pointed out, they were about to line up against a unit that might show as many as 13 different formations.

“There’s a lot of questions,” McLaren said. “If you are thinking about it too much, then you won’t be playing fast. You can’t play fast if you don’t line up right.”

By the end of the rain-soaked Friday night at Cy Donnelly Field in South Huntington, McLaren could breathe easy. The defense acquitted itself just fine. The Friars intercepted three passes, including one for a score, to help St. Anthony’s pull away from Iona Prep, 31-21.


No, there was no let-down from the Friars defense. But that didn’t mean the night was a complete success. To the contrary, the league opener proved costly.

There was no worse sight than junior running back Chris Carberry standing stone-faced on the sideline in the fourth quarter, his right forearm immobilized with a splint and ace bandage. The initial diagnosis: broken right hand.

Backfield mate James Brady also suffered a painful injury late in the first half. The All-Long Island senior quarterback sat out the final 2:53 getting treatment for a sprained left ankle. His loss was felt almost immediately.

Backup Richard Cocchi drove St. Anthony’s to the Iona Prep 4-yard line before fumbling away the snap with 43 seconds left and the Friars leading 14-7. That missed opportunity would haunt the Friars until late in the game.

Brady returned for the third quarter, but he was reduced to gimpy signal caller in rainy conditions. He could hardly plant to throw and lost elusiveness running the ball. Suddenly, the St. Anthony’s offense that piled up 39 points and 420 yards in a rout of St. Joe’s just one week earlier slowed to a sputter.

FAST STARTThe game began in much the same way last week’s ended — with St. Anthony’s firing on all cylinders.

Brady drove the Friars 56 yards on seven plays to open the game, capped by an 8-yard scoring strike to Jack Kensil in the right corner of the end zone. Rich Grennen’s point after kick made it 7-0.

Then came the first of two interceptions by senior safety Dan Basil. He stopped one Iona Prep drive at the goal line with 5:34 left in the first quarter, picking off Ryan O’Neil and returning it the length of the field for a touchdown.

Wait. A block-in-the-back penalty wiped out the return — and the score.

The ball-hawking Basil got another chance two series later. This time Basil took O’Neil’s errant pass and galloped 25 yards for the score. Nicholas Ferrara’s kick extended the St. Anthony’s lead to 14-0 with 11:51 left in the half.


That’s when things began to unwind for St. Anthony’s. Brady’s pitch to no one with 7:12 left was scooped up by Iona Prep linebacker Morris Hilton, who raced 42 yards with the fumble and didn’t stop until he reached the end zone.

The play was one of three first-half fumbles for the Friars.

And when Iona Prep took the opening kickoff of the second half and then drove 80 yards — highlighted by a 26-yard pass by O’Neil on third-and-10 from midfield — the Gaels sent chill through the stadium. O’Neil’s 5-yard touchdown pass to wideout Tim Murray two plays later tied the teams at 14.

St. Anthony’s has won six straight CHSFL titles and 66 consecutive league games. The Friars took a 23-game winning streak and No. 22 national ranking into the game. You don’t build that kind of resume without learning to overcome.


Gimpy or not, Brady returned to the rain-slick field. All the while, concerned voices from the sideline yelled at Brady to walk rather than run between plays. His ankle didn’t need any more trauma.

Brady ignored the advice. The Friars responded to Iona Prep’s first offensive score with a 65-yard march, mostly thanks to the hard-running Carberry. Senior William Ruggiero broke a 35-yard run to the Iona 29 and Carberry did the rest, carrying four straight times for 17 yards.

On third and 2, junior Atiq Lucas took an end around 10 yards to the Iona 2. Carberry plowed into the end zone on the next play, a 2-yard burst up the middle with 6:48 left in the third. Grennen’s kick made it 21-14.

Another Friars drive stalled at the Iona Prep 29 late in the third when Carberry was stuffed for a 1-yard loss on fourth-and-1. Was this when the gifted young back was lost — possibly until the playoffs?

The St. Anthony’s defense came to the rescue. Senior linebacker Kevin Waite jumped in front of a receiver in the flat along the Iona Prep sideline and picked off O’Neil with 9:50 left in the game. He returned the interception 59 yards to the Gaels’ 11, stealing away momentum.

Junior Nicholas Mercurio put the game away on the next play, jetting through the open right side for an 11-yard touchdown run and 28-14 edge.

Brady powered the Friars’ last scoring drive. He made several gritty runs into the heart of the defense, setting up a 27-yard field goal by Grennen with 4:41 left to extend the lead to 31-14.

Brady finished the night 8 of 13 for 95 yards and a score while running for 52 tough yards on nine carries. Carberry had 63 yards on 16 carries. Who knows if either will be on the field when St. Anthony’s hits the road for its next contest in the Bronx on Saturday against CHSFL power Mount St. Michael.

The game is a rematch of last season’s Class AAA title game, a 21-20 thriller won by the Friars. No doubt Brady will do everything possible to be in uniform. Carberry’s injury, however, is much more limiting.

It should serve notice to an entire program. Winning a seventh straight CHSFL title will be anything but easy.


Senior safety Dan Basil recorded a pair of first-half interceptions against Iona Prep. The first pick — at the goal line — stopped one promising Iona Prep drive. The second was returned 25 yards for a touchdown to push the Friars’ lead to 14-0 just 9 seconds into the second quarter.


Senior linebacker Kevin Waite took the air out of Iona Prep by returning an interception 59 yards to the Gaels’ 11-yard line with 9:50 left and St. Anthony’s clinging to a 21-14 edge. Junior running back Nicholas Mercurio scored on the next play. Game over.


TEAM……………………1…..2…..3…..4 — FINAL
Iona Prep………………..0…..7…..7…..7 — 21
St. Anthony’s…………..7…..7…..7…10 — 31
SA — Kensil 8 pass from Brady (Grennen kick)
SA — Basil 25 interception return (Ferrara kick)
IP — Hilton 42 fumble recovery (Mottola kick)
IP — Murray 5 pass from O’Neil (Beckett kick)
SA — Carberry 2 run (Grennen kick)
SA — Mercurio 11 run (Ferrara kick)
SA — FG 27 Grennen
IP — Dunkley 94 kickoff return (Beckett kick)


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