Friars Football: Friars Atone With Title No. 7

November 18, 2007

Friars Football championship 2007

Title: Lucky 7: Friars Atone With Title No. 7 In Thriller Over Mount
Publication: Frairs
Author: Jason Molinet
Date: 11-18-07
Word Count: 563

Just as he had done so many times this season, senior quarterback James Brady held onto the ball until he could no longer. Then he sprung the trap — at the expense of his own body.

With Mount St. Michael Academy defenders closing in Sunday night, Brady waited until the last possible second and then pitched the ball to his left and into the hands of junior running back Nicholas Mercurio. Brady paid a price, taking a physical wallop. But so did Mount St. Michael.

The aggressive Mountaineers defense suddenly found itself outflanked. Mercurio blew through a seam untouched and didn’t stop until he reached the end zone 39 yards later.

His breakaway touchdown with 4:37 left in the CHSFL Class AAA championship game set off an eruption of euphoria on the St. Anthony’s sideline. And the ensuing two-point run by Atiq Lucas put the final touches on a rousing 26-20 come-from-behind victory. No. 7 Mount St. Michael made one last drive inside the Friars’ 20 in the final minute, but quarterback Jayson Holt was stopped 1-yard shy of a first down at the 16 with 46 seconds left, allowing the St. Anthony’s faithful to exhale.

Mission accomplished. Top-seeded St. Anthony’s (10-1) stunned the Mountaineers (5-6) in the title game for the second straight season to capture the program’s seventh straight CHSFL crown and 10th overall.

And to think, many naysayers piled on when the Mountaineers handed St. Anthony’s a 22-12 loss in the Bronx Week 3. The defeat snapped the Friars’ 64-game league winning streak. But these Friars shook off the setback and kept the dynasty alive and thriving as they celebrated on the turf at Hofstra’s Shuart Stadium.

While Brady was masterful orchestrating the offense, it was emerging junior Atiq Lucas who delivered once again. He rushed for 42 yards on nine carries, added three catches for 53 yards, scored on a lightning 25-yard end around and added a two-point conversion.

Another gifted back, senior William Ruggiero, pieced together a workmanlike effort. He managed 39 yards on seven carries and scored on runs of 2 and 9 yards. Mercurio finished with 61 yards on five attempts. That diversity and depth, along with a hard-nosed offensive line, paved the way to success.

The defense surrendered 194 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries to the elusive Holt, but St. Anthony’s did just enough to negate his stirring effort. The D came up with two fourth-quarter fumbles and stopped the Mountaineers twice inside the red zone in the final minutes.

With the teams deadlocked at 12, Mount senior running back Isiah Moody took the opening kickoff of the second half 97 yards up the right sideline. Holt hit Thomas Cardona on a pass into the end zone for the two-point conversion and a 20-12 Mountaineers lead.

A big return on the ensuing kickoff by J.B. Andreassi set up the Friars at their own 48. Brady marched St. Anthony’s the rest of the way, capped by Lucas’ mad dash for a 25-yard score to close the gap to 20-18. Brady’s two-point pass was broken up, and so the Friars still trailed into the fourth quarter.

But the defense, led by Scott Vallone, turned up the heat. Vallone recovered a Holt fumble at the Mount 39 with 4:50 left. Mercurio took the next play to the house. And the St. Anthony’s legacy of gridiron greatness continues.


With Rutgers coach Greg Schiano looking on from the St. Anthony’s sideline, his prized recruit put together a memorable performance in his final game in a Friars uniform. Defensive tackle Scott Vallone corralled Mount St. Michael quarterback Jayson Holt on fourth-and-9 from the St. Anthony’s 22-yard line. It took two St. Anthony’s teammates to finish off Holt, but the Mount quarterback eventually went down 3 yards shy of the first down. Credit Vallone, who also recovered a critical fourth-quarter fumble, recorded two sacks and finished with nine tackles. That’s championship football. Schaino must have been proud.


The St. Anthony’s defense turned away Mount St. Michael in the red zone twice in the final 10 minutes. With The Friars trailing 20-18 with 9:16 left, junior defensive end Rafiq Wallace crashed through the line and slammed into Mount St. Michael quarterback Jayson Holt, knocking the ball free. Junior linebacker Paul Alessandri recovered the fumble at the Friars’ 13. Not only did it keep the Mountaineers off the scoreboard, it gave the Friars momentum going into the final minutes.


TEAM………………………1…..2…..3…..4 — FINAL
Mount St. Michael…….6…..6…..8…..0 — 20
St. Anthony’s…………….6…..6…..6…..8 — 26
SA — Ruggiero 2 run (kick failed)
MSM — Holt 4 run (run failed)
MSM — Holt 15 run (run failed)
SA — Ruggiero 9 run (run failed)
MSM — Moody 97 kickoff (Cardona from Holt)
SA — Lucas 25 run (pass failed)
SA — Mercurio 39 run (Lucas run)

Friars Football: Championship Preview

November 12, 2007

Friars Football Features 2007

Title: Monday Morning Quarterback / Championship Preview
Publication: Frairs
Author: Jason Molinet
Date: 11-12-07
Word Count: 519

Rematches don’t get much more exciting. Throw out the records in this one. They certainly didn’t matter the last time St. Anthony’s and Mount St. Michael Academy football teams faced off Week 3.

Remember? The Friars took a national ranking and a 64-game CHSFL winning streak dating to 1998 into the Bronx. And Mount struck for three first-quarter touchdowns en route to a 22-12 win in the rain and mud.

Their respective seasons diverged from there. St. Anthony’s (9-1) rebounded while the Mountaineers (5-5) struggled. And yet, fittingly, here they are in the CHSFL Class AAA title game.

The playoff history between St. Anthony’s and Mount St. Michael runs deep. But you have to dig deep to find it.

Yes, the programs faced off in the title game a year ago, a 21-20 thriller won by the Friars. That marked the first playoff meeting between the rivals in seven seasons.

But these teams have a past. This will be the 10th playoff showdown between the programs — all since 1987. St. Anthony’s leads the series 6-3, with four of those games each decided by a single point.

The only history that matters to the kids on the field are the last two years. Just take the signal callers. The Friars rallied behind James Brady (check out the feature on Brady here) to win the title last November. Jayson Holt, the Mountaineers’ quarterback and kicker, had an extra point blocked in the waning moments of that game.

Don’t think it wasn’t on his mind when the teams met earlier this season. Holt did as much as anyone to sink the Friars that day.

Meanwhile, Brady saw his fumble scooped up and returned for the decisive touchdown in his only loss as a starter. Don’t think that won’t be on his mind Sunday at Hofstra.

Who will write the next chapter in this intense rivalry?

Mount St. Michael vs. St. Anthony’s

WHEN: Sunday, 3:30 p.m.
WHERE: Hofstra’s Shuart Stadium
RECORDS: Mount St. Michael (5-5); St. Anthony’s (9-1)
THE SCOOP: Top-seeded St. Anthony’s held off No. 5 Iona Prep, 23-20, while No. 7 Mount St. Michael upset No. 6 Chaminade, 16-8, in CHSFL Class AAA semifinal action. It sets up a rematch of last season’s title game won by St. Anthony’s. It also pairs the Friars with the lone league mate to have beaten them over the span of 64 games. Mount St, Michael handed St. Anthony’s a 22-12 loss in Week 3. Stopping Mount senior quarterback Jayson Holt, an elusive runner, is the key for the Friars.


This marks the 10th playoff showdown between St. Anthony’s and Mount St. Michael Academy &mdash all since 1987. St. Anthony’s is 20-5 all-time against the Mountaineers. The Friars also hold a respectable 6-3 edge in the playoffs, with four of those games each decided by a single point. A look back:

•1987 quarterfinal: St. Anthony’s, 43-20

•1990 quarterfinal: St. Anthony’s, 21-20

•1992 quarterfinal: Mount St. Michael, 28-12

•1993 semifinal: St. Anthony’s, 21-20

•1995 semifinal: St. Anthony’s, 42-41

•1996 final: Mount St. Michael, 21-7

•1997 final: Mount St. Michael, 40-14

•1999 quarterfinal: St. Anthony’s, 28-11

•2006 final: St. Anthony’s, 21-20

Friars Football: Week 4 Preview

September 24, 2007

Friars Football Features 2007

Title: Monday Morning Quarterback / Week 4 Preview
Publication: Frairs
Author: Jason Molinet
Date: 9-24-07
Word Count: 501

There are lots of questions in the wake of Saturday’s dreary 22-12 loss to Mount St. Michael. You want to point fingers? The officials? The clock operator? The equipment guy in charge of the cleats? Who is that, anyway?

Yes, plenty of questions. None of them are valid. Big plays doomed St. Anthony’s. Not bad officiating (could they at least place the ball on the right yard line once?). Not that obscenely-fast scoreboard clock (time was kept on the field). Not shoes with better traction in the muck (Mount had no problem in the rain).

Two things became clear as the game wore on. One: Mount had athletes that were simply faster than the Friars’ fastest player. Two: The play-calling didn’t help. How different would the endgame had been had St. Anthony’s kicked extra points after each touchdown instead of going for two and failing?

The score would have been 22-14, and the Friars would have been down a single score. Leave the two-point play for the end, if you need to use it at all. Instead, St. Anthony’s trailed by two scores and that fact alone made any comeback attempt all the more daunting.

Mount St. Michael made the plays and deserved to win. But St. Anthony’s is the better squad. Remember that if these teams meet again. A lot went wrong for the Friars on Saturday. After 64 straight league wins, a slip-up seems like disaster. It’s not. Just learn from it and move on.

Farrell at St. Anthony’s

WHEN: Friday, 7 p.m.
WHERE: Cy Donnelly Field, South Huntington
RECORDS: Farrell (2-1); St. Anthony’s (2-1)
THE SCOOP: St. Anthony’s is coming off its first regular season CHSFL loss since 1998 and its first to a CHSFL foe since falling to Farrell, 24-23, in the 2000 title game. That’s a dynastic run. But this isn’t the time for reflection or the Friars could be in danger of losing two in a row for the first time since 1997. Farrell is driven to do more after a disasterous 1-9 season a year ago. The Lions are 2-1 and feature senior quarterback Michael Gentile, who stands 6-3 and is an effective passer from the shotgun. He has a sure target in Anthony Evangelista and solid running back in Marco Boshnack. After losing a 32-28 shootout with Mount St. Michael, Farrell rebounded with a win over a very good St. Joseph by the Sea, 26-21. The good news is St. Anthony’s has shown flashes of brilliance in the secondary. Farrell will have a tough time throwing the ball. And the Lions don’t appear to have a lock-down defense, either. Farrell has given up 67 points in three games. Those matchups make a St. Anthony’s rebound more likely.


St. Anthony’s and Farrell have met 36 times since 1979. The Friars own a 22-12-2 series edge. Here’s the last five meetings:
•2004: St. Anthony’s 21-7

•2004 CHSFL final: St. Anthony’s 17-14 2OT

•2005: St. Anthony’s 47-0

•2006: St. Anthony’s 32-16

•2006 CHSFL quarters: St. Anthony’s 39-22

Frairs Football: Mount St. Michael Stuns The Friars

September 22, 2007

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)