Friars Football: Team Effort Stops St. Joe Sea

October 20, 2007 by  

Friars Football Week 7 2007

Title: Relentless: Total Team Effort Helps Stop St. Joe Sea
Publication: Frairs
Author: Jason Molinet
Date: 10-20-07
Word Count: 1054

As if the anticipation couldn’t get any more intense. Homecoming. A battle for first place. An offense that’s nearly impossible to wrap your brain around. That’s just some of what St. Anthony’s football players were wrestling with in the days leading up to the biggest game of the season.

The Friars remember Staten Island upstart St. Joseph by the Sea very well. They needed a late comeback to edge the Vikings 36-35 a year ago. Their double wing running game resembles a Russian nesting doll, one layer revealing another until the back with the ball pops free.

But with severe weather expected to move across Long Island Friday evening, the principals of both schools decided to postpone the CHSFL showdown for 24 hours.

It was a prudent move, either way. St. Joe Sea had just four days to prepare after pulling off a comeback win over Iona Prep on Sunday. The last thing the Friars wanted was to try and stop the Vikings’ shifty attack in a downpour. And then there was homecoming to think about.

The decision proved right for another reason. Lightning struck in the South Huntington neighborhood Friday night, knocking out power to the surrounding area, according to athletic director Don Buckley.

In the end, Saturday night offered up the perfect atmosphere. From the early-arriving Staten Island fans tailgating in the parking lot to the capacity crowd of 2,500 on hand to cheer the homecoming court as it lapped Cy Donnelly Field in balloon-festooned golf carts.

High school events don’t get much better. Especially if you are a Friars fan. St. Anthony’s delivered on the football field too. The Friars put together their finest defensive effort and senior quarterback James Brady put points on the board. The result was a decisive 17-0 Friars win.


After the defense forced St. Joe Sea (5-2 overall, 4-2 CHSFL) into a three-and-out on the game’s opening possession, the Friars took over at midfield. Brady completed two passes for 17 yards on the drive. But the Friars stalled at the Vikings’ 18-yard line when junior Nicholas Mercurio was dumped for a 1-yard loss on third down.

In trotted senior kicker Rich Grennen. Just minutes after presenting his mom with a bouquet — all seniors got a chance to greet their parents on the field before the game — Grennen booted a 35-yard field goal. St. Anthony’s led 3-0 with 4:44 left in the opening quarter.

The Friars moved the ball again two possessions later. This one was all Brady. He marched the offense 62 yards — much further if you count a pair of holding penalties — capped by a William Ruggiero 5-yard scoring run off the right side. Nicholas Ferrara added the point after to make it 10-0 with 7:30 left in the half.

Brady completed two passes for 65 yards on the drive, the latter a 33-yard strike to senior wideout Jack Kensil down to the Vikings’ 7. Brady also had a 25-yard scramble wiped out by penalty.

Brady finished the night completing 7 of 12 passes for 131 yards and rushing for 44 more on 12 attempts. He put the game away with 1:53 left in the third, plowing into the end zone on a 1-yard keeper for the final margin.


So much time, energy and anxiety went into planning to stop the St. Joe by the Sea offense. The concept is amazingly simple. Aside from the occasional deep pass meant to catch defenders off guard, the Vikings run the ball through a wedge up the middle.

Understanding how to halt the opposition is one thing. Actually stopping the Vikings’ double wing is another matter. The Vikings entered the showdown as the highest scoring team in the CHSFL AAA division, averaging 34.5 points a game.

The Friars’ beefy defensive front and active linebackers and safeties were seemingly tailor-made to stuff the run. St. Anthony’s (6-1, 5-1) flexed its collective muscle early, stopping hard-running Vikings senior Patrick Brennan for no gain on third-and-2 on the opening drive of the game.

One week after holding Holy Trinity’s Anthony Brunetti to under 100 yards for the first time, St. Anthony’s limited Brennan — the league’s second-leading rusher — to 94 yards on 23 carries.

St. Joseph by the Sea managed to rush for 199 yards, but couldn’t crack the end zone. Senior safety J.B. Andreassi recovered a fumble inside the Friars’ 10-yard line and the defense stopped another potential scoring threat on downs.

The Vikings fought another foe: The clock. Its run-based offense drained the clock. That’s just fine when you are nursing a lead. But not when you trail by multiple scores. St. Joe’s was able to score the final 20 points to beat Iona Prep in OT just six days earlier. But there was no rallying against the Friars.


It was a signature victory. And the players celebrated accordingly, drawing the ire of St. Anthony’s coach Rich Reichert after the postgame handshake. The Friars might have locked up the top seed in the CHSFL Class AAA playoffs with one week remaining in the regular season, but there is still too much football left to savor any sense of accomplishment.

But the Friars are clearly building toward another championship run. The offense has gotten more diverse by the week. Ruggiero (69 yards on 14 carries) has emerged as the main back. Yet the Friars don’t need to depend on him or Brady for big gainers. Mercurio and junior Atiq Lucas are home run threats running or catching the ball.

And the kicking game has been a real strength. Reichert can send out either Grennen or Ferrara to hit a field goals from virtually anywhere. Add to that Ferrara’s dual threat kicking off and at punter. He usually pins the opposition deep. There’s no doubt St. Anthony’s has consistently won the field position game this season.

Aside from a first quarter meltdown against Mount St. Michael, the defense has played superbly.

With one contest remaining until the playoffs, the Friars are playing their best football. Therein lies the danger. Rival Chaminade is next. The inconsistent Flyers have close wins over Holy Trinity and Mount St. Michael and blowout losses to St. Joe Sea and Farrell.

What Chaminade team shows up Friday at 7 p.m. in South Huntington is irrelevant. How St. Anthony’s responds is all that matters.


Give defensive coordinator George McLaren credit. The double wing offense St. Joesph by the Sea runs has given foes fits. The Friars have surrendered a combined 77 points in the last two showdowns with the Vikings. This one seemed destined to go to the team that scored last. But the Friars defense put together arguably its finest performance of the year. Yes, St. Joe’s did pile up 199 rushing yards. But the Vikings registered zero passing yards as the Friars recovered a fumble inside the 10-yard line and stopped another drive on downs.


James Brady shook off a holding penalty that pushed St. Anthony’s back to the St. Joe’s 40 and two plays later hit Jack Kensil between two defenders. The ball lodged in the wideout’s facemask until he tucked it away for a 33-yard gain down to the 7. William Ruggiero scored on a 5-yard run two plays later for a 10-0 lead with 7:30 left in the first half.


TEAM………………………1…..2…..3…..4 — FINAL
St. Joseph by the Sea…0…..0…..0…..0 — 0
St. Anthony’s…………….3…..7…..7…..0 — 17
SA — FG 35 Grennen
SA — Ruggiero 5 run (Ferrara kick)
SA — Brady 1 run (Grennen kick)


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