Frairs Football: Mount St. Michael Stuns The Friars

September 22, 2007 by  

Friars Football Week 3 2007
Title: Stopped Cold: Mount St. Michael Stuns The Friars
Publication: Frairs
Author: Jason Molinet
Date: 9-22-07
Word Count: 1237

As Mount St. Michael senior quarterback Jayson Holt took a knee for the final time and the game clock drained to zero Saturday afternoon, the cow bells rang ear-splittingly loud and the Mountaineers bench spilled onto the field.

Yes, it’s only Week 3 of the high school football season. But Mount St. Michael Academy had just accomplished what CHSFL mates had attempted 64 times before without success: beat St. Anthony’s.

The Friars entered the day with the weight of some astonishing winning streaks and a No. 22 national ranking on their collective shoulders. The burden to continue what previous teams had accomplished ultimately proved too much. St. Anthony’s reached a tipping point in the rain and the mud in the Bronx.

Mount St. Michael took advantage of big plays to score three first quarter touchdowns and cruise to a 22-12 victory over the Friars in a rematch of last season’s CHSFL Class AAA title game.

James Brady and his talented teammates engineered plenty of magical escapes en route to an 11-0 season a year ago. No one could attest to that more than Mount and Holt. It was Holt who saw a potential game-tying extra point blocked in the final minutes to let St. Anthony’s walk away with a 21-20 win in the title game last November.

No such luck for the Friars on Saturday at McGovern Field. The Friars (2-1 overall, 1-1 CHSFL) were held to 38 yards offense in the opening half and turned the ball over twice. Hardly the output you’d expect from a nationally-ranked team.


Friars coach Rich Reichert warned his players all week. He saw a perfect storm of events brewing that made Mount St. Michael a dangerous team on the schedule. If his message seemed prescient, another decision didn’t turn out so well. That’s hindsight.

While Reichert issued an “I told you so” following the post-game prayer, he admitted to reporters moments later that he probably shouldn’t have started James Brady. The All-Long Island quarterback didn’t practice all week after injuring his left foot in the first half of last Friday’s win over Iona Prep.

The 6-1, 215-pound senior could barely walk a week earlier. He looked just fine warming up in the rain in the Bronx. The only tell-tale sign of something amiss was his heavily taped ankle — until game time.

Brady’s mobility was clearly limited. The muddy field didn’t help. And the Mount defense decided matters by owning the point of attack. No sequence illustrated the point more than the opening play of a St. Anthony’s possession with 5:29 left in the first quarter.

The Friars already trailed 15-0 on a pair of lightning strikes by the Mountaineers on offense. Now the defense made its presence felt. Brady pulled back from center and stepped left. Just as quickly he stumbled and lost the ball. In rushed Mount junior linebacker Thomas Cardona, who picked up the ball and raced 41 yards to the end zone with a fumble recovery for a touchdown.


It was a stunning situation that no Friars team had seen in recent memory. Mount St. Michael (2-1 overall, 2-0 CHSFL) led 22-0 barely seven minutes into the game. Forget the 64-game league winning streak. Throw out the 23-game winning streak, tied for the second longest in Suffolk football history. And that USA Today ranking? Gone.

What St. Anthony’s needed was simply to respond. The Friars picked themselves off the mat and Brady directed a promising response on the ensuing drive. J.B. Andreassi’s kickoff return set up the offense. Then Brady moved the Friars 45 yards on nine plays.

Missing in the backfield was junior running back Chris Carberry. He was initially diagnosed with a broken right wrist and bones in his hand last week. But an X-Ray came up negative and he was cleared to play on Friday. Even still, coaches opted not to play Carberry against Mount.

Senior William Ruggiero carried the load instead. The 6-foot, 195-pound bull of a back got St. Anthony’s on the board with 18 seconds left in the first quarter. He ran three straight times from the Mount 10-yard line, capping off a third-and-goal from the 1 with a driving run. Ruggiero, who finished with 40 yards on 13 carries, hit a wall at the goal line, but spun right and landed in the end zone.

But Reichert, aware of the need to keep the game to a three-score affair, opted to go for two. Brady was swarmed and stopped short. The Friars would chase those points the rest of the day.


Brady accounted for negative 22 yards on six carries. But he found his groove through the air in the second half. He completed 10 of 19 passes for 147 yards with one touchdown and one interception on the day. Two drives showed his grit and determination.

Brady moved the Friars 52 yards to close the third quarter. He hit Danny Avila for 17 yards and then found Nicholas Mercurio open in the right flat two plays later. Mercurio took the short pass and broke several tackles en route to a 24-yard touchdown.

Again, Reichert went for two. Atiq Lucas was dumped for a loss. So the score remained 22-12. With two sure kickers on the roster in Rich Grennen and Nicholas Ferrara, the missed conversions seemed that much more agonizing and dictated a desperate finish. Instead of trailing by eight points, St. Anthony’s needed two scores to tie or win.

When St. Anthony’s got the ball back with 2:18 left in the game, a sense of urgency turned to hope when Brady connected with Jack Kensil for a 37-yard pass down to the Mount 33. The drive stalled at the 26 and Reichert, rather than go for it on fourth-and-3, sent Ferrara out to attempt a 43-yard field goal.

The reasoning was simple. Get the sure points and then attempt an onside kick and get the ball back. If the Friars went for it on fourth down and failed, the game was over. A Ferrara field goal would keep the comeback alive.

The rain had subsided by the third quarter. But the field was muddy after a steady two-hour downpour. Naysayers could have predicted what happened next. Ferrara slipped as he kicked the ball, pushing the attempt wide right and short.


The Friars defense ended the game the way it began, standing on the field, watching Mount celebrate. The hero was Holt. The stealthy quarterback burned St. Anthony’s on the game’s opening drive, converting on third-and-12 with a 29-yard pass. Isiah Moody scored two plays later on an 11-yard run. Holt’s kick made it 7-0 just 2:24 into the game.

Holt struck again with dagger-like precision on the next possession. He took a keeper 54 yards for the score, outrunning the entire Friars defense with 5:52 left. Then he made a fateful play that made all the difference.

Holt took a bad snap on the point after attempt and rolled right, buying time until Chris Merengueli found open space in the corner of the end zone. Holt zipped in a pass to complete the unconventional two-point play and put the Mountaineers ahead 15-0.

Fast-forward to the end.

“I know this sounds crazy,” Reichert told his players after the post-game prayer. “This is the best thing that could have happened. It’s only a regular-season football game. Now we’ll see what kind of character you are made of.”

There’s no let up in the schedule. Rival Staten Island-Farrell is up next at 7 p.m. Friday in South Huntington. That’s six days to get the season back on track.


With James Brady limited and fellow running back Chris Carberry out, senior running back William Ruggiero plowed through Mount St. Michael for tough yardage in the mud and rain. Ruggiero rushed for 40 yards on 13 carries and scored on a 1-yard run. He added 29 yards on two receptions.


Mount St. Michael quarterback Jayson Holt showed real patience in letting a hole materialize before taking off on a keeper with 5:52 left in the first quarter. He broke free down the right sideline and then cut back to the middle of the field, winding his way through the entire St. Anthony’s defense en route to a 54-yard touchdown run. The master of improv struck again on the point after attempt. Holt, also the kicker, picked up the bad snap and threw the ball for a two-point conversion and 15-0 lead.


TEAM……………………1…..2…..3…..4 — FINAL
St. Anthony’s…………..6…..0…..6…..0 — 12
Mount St. Michael…22…..0…..0…..0 — 22
MSM — Moody 11 run (Holt kick)
MSM — Holt 54 run (Merengueli pass from Holt)
MSM — Cardona 41 fumble recovery (Holt kick)
SA — Ruggiero 1 run (run failed)
SA — Mercurio 24 pass from Brady (run failed)


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