Patch: St. Anthony’s Stat Man Shows Grit

November 20, 2010

St. Anthony's stat man Tom Langan.

St. Anthony's stat man Tom Langan.


Title: St. Anthony’s Stat Man Shows Grit; Friars football statistician Tom Langan roams the sideline despite losing leg to infection and diabetes.
Publication: www.Huntington.Patch.com
Author: Jason Molinet
Date: Nov. 20, 2010
Word Count: 960

You know Tom Langan. He’s the guy with an infectious smile, clip board in hand and numbers at his fingertips, navigating the pulsing sideline at St. Anthony’s football games as he keeps pace with what’s happening on the field.

He’s the team statistician, a volunteer job he’s done going back to two decades. And while Langan, 57, has missed games through the years, he has been as much a fixture in the Black and Gold as coach Rich Reichert himself. In fact, the two are cousins.

“I try to tell the kids, ‘You have so many dedicated people here you don’t really realize they are doing things for you behind the scenes,’” Reichert said. “This is really important to him. And he does a really good job for us.”

St. Anthony’s (10-0) plays Iona Prep (8-2) in the CHSFL Class AAA championship game Saturday at 4 p.m. at Mitchel Athletic Complex in Uniondale. It’s no surprise Langan will be there doing his duties for the Friars.

The remarkable part is that Langan is here at all.

The same day St. Anthony’s beat Iona Prep on Oct. 9, 2009, Langan’s left leg was amputated above the knee. It was the result of a freak infection gone wrong and a previously undiagnosed condition.

Reichert gave his cousin the game ball in the hospital. He stopped in every night after practice. And he’s been there for Langan ever since, through a long and evolving rehabilitation process.

His big step forward came during the home opener in September against Holy Cross. Langan made his return to the St. Anthony’s sideline, albeit with his clip board balanced on a walker.

“Tom was there all the time. And we counted on him all the time,” St. Anthony’s athletic director Don Buckley said. “So when he was out last season, it was obvious. Everyone was saying, ‘Where’s Tom?’”

Langan, who is still adjusting to using his titanium prosthesis, recently transferred from a rehab facility in Long Beach to an assisted living home in Medford. Each day is another closer to normalcy.

“I can get around,” said Langan, who is on disability after a career spent in retail. “I use the walker and I’m training with the cane right now. My goal is to walk without anything. It may take two years, but I’m going to do it.”

Today Langan’s life is packed away, boxed up in Reichert’s garage. He was an only child and never married. The football program is his family. Langan finds deeper meaning in everything now, especially on the sideline of a football game. It’s one small but significant step in the rehabilitation process.

“People say, ‘It’s a shame what happened to you,” Langan said. “I say, ‘It happened.’ You have to do your best to adjust. You do the best you can to get your life back.”

It’s not the first time. When Langan’s father died in 1964 – when Langan was all of 10 – Reichert’s dad took on the role of surrogate father figure. So the cousins spent a lot of time together and grew as close as brothers.

This is Reichert’s 24th season at the helm of the St. Anthony’s football program. Langan joined him on the sideline starting in 1991.

“Richie asked me,” Langan said. “He said, ‘Can you help me out? You’re good with numbers.’”

The closest he had been to a sports venue was as a vendor at Yankee Stadium growing up in the Bronx. But Langan took instantly to his statistician duties.

There were unexpected benefits. The winning was addictive. Being close to his cousin was great. He forged lasting relationships with the coaching staff. And the positive energy flowing from the teenaged players energized him.

“It keeps me young being around the teenagers,” Langan said. “The coaches treat me great. It’s like I’m part of the staff. I feel like I’m part of the St. Anthony’s family.”

That family has seen him though an ordeal.

When Langan discovered a pebble embedded in his left foot, he removed it with tweezers. It drew a little blood. He bandaged it up and didn’t think twice about it. That was August 2009.

But the wound became infected. Langan ignored it, expecting it would get better. Then the infection spread to the bone. Next thing Langan knew he was unable to get out of bed. He called his cousin.

“As soon as I saw his leg I knew he was in trouble,” said Reichert, a former Nassau County Police officer. “He almost died that night. It was really bad. Gangrene.”

Reichert rushed his cousin to St. Catherine of Siena Medical Center in Smithtown. Langan was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, which only exacerbated the injury. And his leg would have to go. Surgery was scheduled just 24 hours later.

“When you wake up you see what’s not there any more,” Langan said, “it’s a shock.”

All that seems like a lifetime ago. Langan has been to five games this season. He was on the sideline when Reichert won his 200th game last week. The title game will make six. He has a job to do.

“This gives me an incentive to do something,” Langan said. “It gets me outdoors. I’m seeing people again. I’m more determined. You have to push yourself to do it.”

Sometimes it’s easy to overlook the courage of the everyday.

“He’s a true inspiration,” Buckley said. “He’s done so well with his rehab, most of the kids don’t even realize there’s anything wrong. He doesn’t draw attention to himself. He’s a guy behind the scenes.”

On the same turf where athletes push themselves to the limit for the glory of sport, so is the humble stat guy. He’s simply learning to stand tall and walk once more.

Patch: 2010 CHSFL Preview

September 3, 2010

Patch: 2010 CHSFL Preview

Patch: 2010 CHSFL Preview

Title: Long Island Football: 2010 CHSFL Preview; St. Anthony’s still the CHSFL team to beat
Publication: www.Huntington.Patch.com
Author: Jason Molinet
Date: Sept. 3, 2010
Word Count: 1,009

There’s little doubt that the Catholic football league is the toughest and most talent-rich in New York state. There’s also no contesting that one school sits atop the heap.

St. Anthony’s High School in South Huntington is a Long Island football dynasty with all the trappings of royalty. Coach Rich Reichert has one of the biggest and most experienced staffs you’ll find on a high school field. The 80-man roster is as deep as any college program’s. And the Friars play on a lighted, turf field before packed crowds approaching 2,500, and with TV and radio crews regularly stalking the sidelines.

Little wonder the Friars, despite graduating several key players from last season’s 10-1 CHSFL Class AAA championship, are the top seed and favorites once again. Success breeds success.

Behind the play of QB Tom Schreiber, the Friars won eight games in a row to end the 2009 season. He engineered a pair of fourth-quarter touchdown drives to lift St. Anthony’s past previously unbeaten Holy Trinity, 28-21, in the title game. It marked the eighth league championship in the last nine seasons.

How will the 2010 CHSFL season play out? Holy Trinity, Chaminade and Holy Cross will vie for the title while the Friars break in a new QB. Regardless, the path to the championship still runs through South Huntington and St. Anthony’s. That because Reichert doesn’t rebuild, he reloads. Here’s a look at the CHSFL:

2010 Seeds

1. St. Anthony’s
2. Holy Trinity
3. Chaminade
4. Holy Cross
5. Iona Prep
6. Xaverian
7. St. Joseph Sea
8. Farrell
9. Mount St. Michael
10. Fordham Prep
11. Kellenberg
12. St. Francis Prep
13. Stepinac
14. Cardinal Hayes
15. Xavier
16. St. John the Baptist
17. St. Peter’s
18. Spellman
19. Bishop Ford
20. Christ the King

Team Watch

St. Anthony’s: The Friars will look to reach the CHSFL Class AAA title game for the 12th straight season with a new QB but the same unbeatable attitude. The difference maker for the Friars is up front, where their defensive and offensive linemen play on one side of the ball and have the heft to dominate.

Holy Trinity: Can the Titans fill the void left by the graduation of all-everything RB / LB Anthony Brunetti? The four-year star served as the sparkplug for Holy Trinity’s run to the CHSFL Class AAA title game a year ago. If Holy Trinity lets QB Chris Laviano air it out, then look out.

Chaminade: The 2009 season ended with Holy Trinity returning a blocked field goal for a touchdown with 18 seconds left in a 28-24 playoff loss. You can bet second-year coach Stephen Boyd, a former Pro Bowl linebacker, will have the Flyers playing inspired defense. Chaminade will be in every game.

Holy Cross: A semifinalist a year ago, Knights have top wideout Devon Cajuste (921 yards, 7 TDs) back. Holy Cross gave St. Anthony’s a scare in the regular season but bowed out with an injury-riddled lineup in a 28-7 playoff loss to the Friars. This cast will be motivated for more.

Mount St. Michael: Thanks to a No. 9 seed and easy schedule, look for the Mountaineers to play their way into the Top 8 and a spot in the CHSFL Class AAA playoffs. Veteran coach Mario Valentini gets his team to play and Mount finished strong in 2009 with a AA title. Multitalented QB Jaylen Amaker leads the offense. Think sleeper.

Player Watch

Devon Cajuste, Holy Cross, WR: The 6-4, 211-pound senior was unstoppable a year ago as an NYSSWA first-team All-State pick. He led the CHSFL in receiving with 921 yards and 7 TDs on 40 catches, good for 23 yards a reception. Committed to Stanford.

Isaiah Kearney, Xaverian, RB: After a standout freshman year in which he averaged 8.2 yards per carry and rushed for 774 yards and 6 TDs, all of Brooklyn is buzzing over Kearney. The sophomore back is sprinter fast and a true game breaker.

Chris Laviano, Holy Trinity, QB: MaxPreps calls him a Top 100 recruit. This 6-1, 180-pound sophomore will be the focal point now that 2,000-yard rusher Anthony Brunetti is gone. He threw for 1,122 yards and 8 TDs in 2009. He’s got a big arm and a heady sense of the game. Poised for a breakout year.

Tyler McLees, St. Anthony’s, LB: The 6-0, 210-pound senior led the league with 121 tackles a year ago and added 4 sacks. The son of former Carey coach Matt McLees (himself a linebacker at Southern Connecticut), he’ll be a leader on defense.

Charlie Raffa, St. Anthony’s, QB: An Under Amour All-American in lacrosse, the 5-10, 185-pound Raffa has great instincts. And like his predecessors, he can beat you with his arm or legs. Committed to Maryland for lacrosse.

Game Watch

Farrell at Kellenberg, Sept. 18: This is as important a game as Kellenberg will play all season. If the No. 11 Firebirds hope to qualify for the CHSFL Class AAA playoffs, then a win against No. 8 Farrell is a good place to start.

Holy Cross at Holy Trinity, Oct. 16: Holy smokes! A pair of CHSFL Class AAA semifinalists from a year ago collide. Buckle up. This one should be fun to watch.

Chaminade at Holy Trinity, Oct. 9: These Nassau rivals have met in the playoffs two of the last three seasons. It’s always close and heated. The winner of this game could be in the driver’s seat for a home playoff game.

St. Anthony’s at Chaminade, Oct. 16: This rivalry defines the two schools. While Chaminade hasn’t been a factor of late, there’s no one the Friars would rather beat. But it’s the middle of a tough stretch in the schedule for St. Anthony’s. Expect a physical and emotional game.

St. Anthony’s at Holy Trinity, Oct. 23: A rematch of the 2009 CHSFL Class AAA title game. St. Anthony’s has ripped the Titans in recent seasons (outscoring them 201-62 since 2005), bringing Holy Trinity back to Earth after sky-high expectations. This one will be for playoff seeding.

2009 Standings

CHSFL Class AAA-AA

TEAM W L PF PA
Holy Trinity 10 1 339 149
St. Anthony’s 10 1 398 165
St. Joseph Sea 7 2 357 240
Holy Cross 7 3 299 201
Fordham Prep 4 7 203 299
Iona Prep 4 6 248 293
Chaminade 4 6 174 198
Xaverian 4 6 173 238
Mount St. Michael 5 5 195 273
Farrell 4 6 139 184
Kellenberg 2 8 141 278
St. Francis Prep 2 8 192 276

 

2009 Playoff Results

CHSFL Class AAA

Quarterfinals
St. Anthony’s 49, Xaverian 7
Holy Trinity 28, Chaminade 24
Holy Cross 32, Fordham Prep 14
Iona Prep 40, St. Joseph Sea 29

 

Semifinals
St. Anthony’s 28, Holy Cross 7
Holy Trinity 27, Iona Prep 18

 

Championship
St. Anthony’s 28, Holy Trinity 21
CHSFL Class AA-A

 

TEAMS W L PF PA
Stepinac 8 3 287 144
Cardinal Hayes 8 2 299 216
Xavier 7 4 265 155
St. John the Baptist 4 6 173 223
St. Peter’s 5 4 199 149
Bishop Ford 3 7 154 240
Spellman 1 7 80 291
Christ the King 1 8 147 292

 

2009 Playoff Results

CHSFL Class AA

Quarterfinals
Mount St. Michael 21, Xavier 14
Cardinal Hayes 26, Kellenberg 24
St. Francis Prep 35, Stepinac 21
Farrell 41, St. John the Baptist 6

 

Semifinals
Mount St. Michael 28, St. Francis Prep 21
Cardinal Hayes 33, Farrell 7

 

Championship
Mount St. Michael 28, Cardinal Hayes 22
CHSFL Class A

Semifinals
St. Peter’s 27, Christ the King 20
Bishop Ford 38, Spellman 0
Championship
St. Peter’s 41, Bishop Ford 0

 

Long Island Sports Figures of the Decade

January 4, 2010

With the first decade of the 21st century in the books, Long Island Pulse magazine decided to look back at the most significant figures on the Long Island sports scene. There were high profile athletes such as Kings Park and Houston Astros baseball star Craig Biggio and Hofstra and New York Jets wideout Wayne Chrebet. Prime-time events such as golf’s US Open at Bethpage (2002 and ‘09) and Shinnecock Hills (2004) put the region in the spotlight. Great teams abounded, from Speedy Claxton-led Hofstra in men’s basketball (2000) to the Bratton brothers-fuelled Huntington boys lacrosse run (2005-07). 

But the people who made the greatest contributions to Long Island sports in the last decade were often coaches and administrators, people on the bench or away from the public view. Others championed causes, opened the way for new sports to flourish or built the foundation for great teams. Here is our Top 10:

10. Louis Acompora: The Northport High School freshman died on March 25, 2000 after being struck in the chest by a ball during a freshman lacrosse game. Acompora, 14, suffered commotio cordis, a rare form of cardiac arrest. He could have been revived had there been an automated external defibrillator. His parents made it their mission to raise awareness and their son lived on through the Louis Acompora Foundation. The Long Island sports community reacted almost immediately, putting defibrillators at high school sports events. On June 27, 2002, with father and driving force John Acompora on hand, Gov. George Pataki signed into law a bill requiring one portable defibrillator in each high school. Louis’ Law was the nation’s first.

9. Sarah Hughes: The figure skating prodigy from Great Neck burst onto the world consciousness with a remarkable gold-medal performance at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics. Then 17, Hughes jumped from fourth to first with a flawless long program and joined the ranks of local Olympic immortals Derrick Adkins and Al Oerter. Hughes has served as a spokesperson for breast cancer awareness and supported the outreach program Figure Skating Harlem. Younger sister Emily Hughes also developed into a figure skating star in her own right. Emily Hughes competed at the 2006 Olympics.  Sarah Hughes graduated from Yale in 2009.

8. Russ Cellan: The Freeport High School football coach turned a downtrodden program into one of Long Island’s best, developing talent and innovating along the way. The result was a feared program that played in six Nassau Conference I championship games this decade and won four. He popularized the spread offense on Long Island, coached NFL standouts D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Morlon Greenwood and led one of the great teams in state history, the 2003 Red Devils. Cellan closed the decade in November the way he began it in 2000, winning a Long Island Class I championship.    

7. Tim Cluess: The C.W. Post men’s basketball coach is a fierce competitor, a master tactician and a great teacher. He was a legendary high school coach, dominating the Catholic league at St. Mary’s. He went 262-87 in 14 seasons with the Gaels, winning a pair of state Class B Federation championships before tensions between he and the administration led him to leave in 2005. He coached current NBA player Danny Green. Cluess jumped to Suffolk CC-Brentwood and led it to the NJCAA Division III quarterfinals in 2006. Division II C.W. Post hired him weeks later.  Last year, Cluess guided a Long Island-heavy roster to a 30-1 season and the elite eight of the NCAA Division II tournament. He is very likely Long Island’s next big D-I prospect, a la Billy Donovan at Florida.

6. Jim McGowan: The longtime Bay Shore High School softball coach has dominated the game like no coach in any other sport. He is the winningest softball coach in state history and a pitching guru who has developed dominant windmillers throughout Long Island. This decade alone, Bay Shore won state Class A titles in 2000 and 2005 and five Suffolk titles from 2000-07. And the Marauders are in the hunt each season. They lost in the county championship series last spring. Beyond his work as a coach and an instructor, he’s been instrumental in building up the coaches association and championing the game. With former players now becoming coaches themselves, his influence will live on.  

5. Boomer Esiason: You know him today as a TV commentator and radio host. But the former East Islip standout and NFL quarterback is an iconic Long Island sports figure. Sure, he played in a Super Bowl and starred for the New York Jets. But he’s emerged as an even more influential force off the field. The Manhasset resident started the Boomer Esiason Foundation after his son, Gunnar, was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis in 1993. BEF generated $6.4 million in 2008. Meanwhile, Esiason turned his twin passions – football and fundraising to fight CF – to promote Long Island football. There’s no event quite like the Outback Steakhouse Empire Challenge, an all-star football game played each June at Hofstra before big crowds and regional TV. The Empire Challenge only strengthened the sport, giving Long Island coaches an opportunity to grow while helping the development of youth and high school programs in need. For example, austerity-plagued Roosevelt High School received game helmets and uniforms. By the way, graduating seniors got a first-class showcase event.

4. Don Buckley: The longtime athletic director at St. Anthony’s High School helped build the Catholic power into one of the nation’s premier sports programs. Sports Illustrated recognized the school as the best in the state from 2005-09. The football program won eight CHSFL titles in the decade and boys basketball captured a state Federation crown. Girls soccer has been a powerhouse and boys soccer finished ranked second in the nation in 2008. But the former track coach’s true love is running and the Friars have a boys and girls program with several hundred participants. Yet Buckley’s influence goes well beyond Huntington Station. Buckley has served as president of the CHSAA and the state Federation, forging a reputation as a key figure in New York high school sports.

3. Cathy Gallagher: The long-time executive director of Section XI was a pioneer in women’s sports and a strong voice in New York state high school athletics. She retired from Section XI, Suffolk County’s governing body for high school sports, in 2003 after 21 years at the helm. Gallagher first taught at Smithtown and Cold Spring Harbor. She officiated girls basketball, volleyball, softball and field hockey. Her career path became clear in 1972, thanks to the landmark legislation known as Title IX, which leveled the playing field for women and promoted a nationwide explosion in sports participation. At Section XI, she implemented scheduling of games, brought content online, oversaw the addition of numerous sports from girls lacrosse to girls golf, helped streamline procedure and educated schools on safety issues. Gallagher helped usher in the Long Island football championships and transform high school sports in the process. Ed Cinelli succeeded Gallagher and deserves mention. So does Todd Heimer in Nassau. But Gallagher was a ground-breaking administrator for three decades.

2. Jim Fiore: He’s presided over the rapid rise of Stony Brook University athletics. The Long Beach native took over as Stony Brook’s athletic director in August 2003. In the years since, Fiore has overhauled staff, upgraded facilities and set the Seawolves on a path toward Division I competitiveness. Football was non-scholarship when he arrived. Now it’s the only Division I program on Long Island. Under his watch, men’s and women’s lacrosse, baseball, softball and men’s soccer each qualified for the NCAA Tournament. Fiore also inked the first TV contact in school history, with MSG, in 2005. He helped secure $30 million in state funds for school facilities and opened the Goldstein Student-Athlete Development Center in 2006. With lacrosse primed for another NCAA run this spring, the Seawolves roar into the new decade as a force on the Long Island sports scene.

1. Charles Wang: From merely big-named Long Island businessman as co-founder of Computer Associates to iconic figure in the community, Charles Wang is Long Island Pulse magazine’s sports figure of the decade. As owner of the New York Islanders, Wang is unquestionably the biggest backer of Long Island sports. He became part-owner of the struggling NHL franchise in 2000 and added immediate stability, ending speculation of a move and opening his check book to bring in fresh talent. Wang assumed full ownership 2004. The Islanders reached the playoffs four times in the decade, beginning in 2002 after a seven-year drought. In 2001, Wang relocated an Arena Football League franchise to the Nassau Coliseum. The New York Dragons won three division titles and made the playoffs six times before the league folded in 2009. He’s been in contentious negotiations with Nassau County to build a new arena and redevelop the area around the Coliseum. If the Lighthouse project ever does move forward, Wang might go down as Long Island’s most influential power broker since Robert Moses.

Blog originally posted at LI Pulse.com

Catholic Football Grudge Match

November 16, 2009

Rivals Holy Trinity and St. Anthony’s face off in the CHSFL title game

For years this high school rivalry was all yap and no bite. Holy Trinity talked a good game. But when it actually came time to face St. Anthony’s on the football field, the Titans couldn’t deliver.

Just take the last time these teams met. Holy Trinity blustered. And then the Friars busted the Titans in the chops. St. Anthony’s rolled to a 62-13 win. That was Week 3 of the 2008 season. St. Anthony’s leads the all-time series with the Titans 25-8 dating to 1974 and has won the last 15 meetings. Holy Trinity last beat the Friars, 28-13, in 1992.

That’s a lifetime – literally — for these players.

The rivalry picks up again at 7 p.m. Saturday at Mitchel Athletic Complex in Hempstead. It’s the most important game these teams have ever played. That’s because Holy Trinity and St. Anthony’s meet for the first time with the CHSFL Class AAA championship on the line.

For Holy Trinity, it’s the culmination of a dream season. The Titans are 10-0 and led by Anthony Brunetti. The senior running back / linebacker has one game remaining in his remarkable high school career. Brunetti has 2,254 yards — the sixth-highest total in Long Island history — on 291 carries and 26 touchdowns this season.

All Brunetti did was carry the ball 44 times for 232 yards and three touchdowns to power the Titans past defending champ Iona Prep, 27-18, in the semifinals. He’s motivated after an injury-plagued 2008.

So is his chief competitor for the Friars. St. Anthony’s senior quarterback Tom Schreiber went down in the quarterfinals of the playoffs a year ago as the Friars failed to win the league title for the first time in eight seasons.

Schreiber is back in a big way for the 9-1 Friars. He helped St. Anthony’s run past Holy Cross, 28-7, in the semis, breaking touchdown runs of 57 and 44 yards.

The stage is set for an epic grudge match. No more talking. Victory here brings more than bragging rights. It delivers a championship.

Blog originally posted at LI Pulse.com

Friars Football: CHSFL Players of the Year

January 17, 2008

Friars Football Features 2007

Title: CHSFL Players of the Year
Publication: Frairs Football.com
Author: Jason Molinet
Date: 1-17-08
Word Count: 259

Nearly two months after Scott Vallone hoisted the CHSFL championship trophy high over his head to the cheers of fans at Hofstra’s Shuart Stadium, the afterglow of that memorable football season is still shining bright. Vallone was one of three St. Anthony’s players named to the New York State Sports Writers Association All-State Class AA football team.

The NYSSWA All-State team, released this week, named Vallone, a senior defensive tackle, to the first-team defense. Vallone was one of just four Long Island standouts — and the lone representative of the CHSFL — selected to the 22-player first team. Senior center Austen Fletcher was named to the second team. Senior quarterback James Brady was placed on the fourth team.

It was just the latest honor for these decorated players.

The Rutgers-bound Vallone was named CHSFL Defensive Player of the Year and selected to Newsday’s All-Long Island football team after a season in which he registered 71 tackles (16 for a loss) in 10 games.

Brady, who recently committed to Georgetown, was tabbed CHSFL Offensive Player of the Year and named to Newsday’s All-Long Island team after completing 64 percent of his passes while throwing for nine touchdowns. He also rushed for eight scores in winning back-to-back titles.

Fletcher, who is still considering whether to play at Dartmouth or follow older brother Alex at Stanford, was a dominating force on the offensive line. He was also named to Newsday’s All-Long Island team.

A fourth player, senior safety and return man J.B. Andreassi, was selected Newsday second-team All-Long Island. He is headed to Dartmouth.

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 Football.com
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.

MVP

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.

KEY PLAY

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.

SCORING

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: James Brady

November 14, 2007

Friars Football Features 2007

Title: BRADY’S BUNCH: Senior quarterback is the cool leader of the Friars’ pack
Publication: Frairs Football.com
Author: Jason Molinet
Date: 11-14-07
Word Count: 780

James Brady clearly appreciates his place in the hierarchy of the high school food chain. The St. Anthony’s senior sports sunglasses in the school hallway as if trying to evade paparazzi. He donned a Superman sweatshirt on Halloween.

Swagger and cool simply radiate from the 6-1, 215-pound Brady. He’s nailed the quarterback persona. Think Joe Namath back in the day and you begin to understand how completely at home Brady is in his own skin.

That’s not easy when you play the most high-profile position for the state’s foremost football factory. Style points don’t win games.

Quick feet and even faster thinking are required to run the St. Anthony’s spread option attack. Brady also has a cannon arm. He throws a picture-perfect deep ball.

These are all tools that help Brady get the job done. But what ultimately defines him on the field is the fierce determination he brings. He attacks defenses with little regard for his own body.

“I want the ball when it comes down to it,” said Brady, who was a promising baseball player on the Deer Park junior varsity as an eighth grader.

Brady is all but impossible for any one defender to corral. The St. Anthony’s senior is elusive enough to shake a linebacker and strong enough to bulldoze an opposing tackle. Little wonder Brady has played through an assortment of injuries in his two seasons as a starter.

“He’s a strong kid and he’s a player,” St. Anthony’s offensive coordinator Fred Gallagher said. “He understands the game and is a great leader.”

Little wonder the Friars are 9-1 and playing in the CHSFL Class AAA title game once again. Brady wouldn’t have it any other way. On a team 87 members deep, featuring several playmakers and college-bound talents, there is one indispensable standout.

He is a leader and an inspiration. During a season defined by injuries and illness to several key offensive stars — the Friars are currently without their top running back, wide receiver and guard — Brady has held the unit together. In Brady we trust is all the currency the Friars need.

“Being able to lead the team — it’s not something everyone can do,” Brady said. “I’ve been a quarterback since I was 11. I love every part of it.”

And yet Brady’s career exists in a bubble.

He is the guy who took over for Chris Eanuzel, who became the first CHSFL player to win the Hansen Award as Suffolk’s best player since 1986 and is regarded as the best quarterback in St. Anthony’s history.

All Brady did as a junior was go 10-0, completing 60 percent of his passes for 1,600 yards and 10 touchdowns while rushing for 500 yards and four more scores. He led the Friars to a 21-20 win over Mount St. Michael in the CHSFL title game, completing 14 of 21 passes for 276 yards and engineering a 99-yard scoring drive to seal the win.

He’s completed 56 percent of his passes for nearly 1,200 yards and 7 touchdowns while rushing for 500 yards and six scores this season. Even if Brady brings home a second championship with a win over Mount St. Michael — finishing his career 20-1 — there’s nothing he can do to supplant Eanuzel in program lore. That’s OK because Eanuzel taught him so much about the position.

It’s not just his place in school history that remains open for debate. But in possibly the deepest class of signal callers Long Island has ever seen, Brady is just one in a group of talents that includes: Central Florida-bound Rob Calabrese (East Islip) and Hofstra commitments Joe Sidaras (Floyd) and Stephen Probst (Farmingdale).

Good thing Brady isn’t concerned about legacies. “There’s always someone better than you out there,” Brady admitted.

For all his celebrity, Brady has an entourage of one. Center Austen Fletcher is Brady’s bodyguard on the field and shadow off it. Senior safety J.B. Andreassi, as intense as Brady is cool, occasionally makes it a trio.

They are hardly the Rat Pack. Their idea of fun is ordering the never-ending pasta bowl at the Massapequa Olive Garden.

Brady has also put recruiting on hold until after the season. That’s not a decision many coveted players would make. Brady has received heavy interest from Army, Georgetown, Lafayette and Princeton, and Big-12 force Missouri has been in the mix.

“It’s a big decision,” Brady said, weighing the possibility of going to a Division I program versus the lure of the Ivy League. “I’ve spent my entire career striving to play at the highest level possible. But an Ivy League degree would set me up for life.”

Whatever his ultimate destination, Brady will make his presence felt.

Friars Football: Championship Preview

November 12, 2007

Friars Football Features 2007

Title: Monday Morning Quarterback / Championship Preview
Publication: Frairs Football.com
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.

THE SERIES

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: Friars Hold Off Iona Prep Attack

November 9, 2007

Friars Football semifinal 2007 

Title: Gaels Force: Friars Hold Off Iona Prep Attack, Earn Title Shot
Publication: Frairs Football.com
Author: Jason Molinet
Date: 11-9-07
Word Count: 250

Iona Prep senior quarterback Ryan O’Neil and his reputation as the most prolific passer in the CHSFL didn’t mean much to a St. Anthony’s defense that manhandled him Week 2 and had rarely been beaten deep this season.

Once again, the 6-2, 170-pound O’Neil took a beating each time he dropped back to pass Friday night against the Friars. But he also beat them deep and nearly ended the Friars’ seven-year run on top. O’Neil completed 24 of 39 passes for 325 yards and three touchdowns — all to speedy junior wideout Chris Alfano.

The defense did just enough to stymie No. 5 Iona Prep, turning away the Gaels at the goal line in the second quarter and sacking O’Neil on fourth down with 58 seconds left as top-seeded St. Anthony’s pulled out a 23-20 win in a CHSFL Class AAA semifinal before a rain-soaked crowd of 800 at Cy Donnelly Field in South Huntington.

St. Anthony’s (9-1) will face the Chaminade-Mount St. Michael winner for the title next weekend at a date, site and time to be announced on Monday. The Friars are the six-time defending champions.

Credit St. Anthony’s senior quarterback James Brady for carrying the offense. The team piled up 243 yards on the ground, led by Brady. He ran for 111 yards on 19 carries and scored what proved to be the game-winner, a 25-yard burst with 11:50 left. Nicholas Ferrara’s point after attempt made it 23-14.

Brady also completed 5 of 13 passes for 112 yards.

MVP

The offensive line did its job, as usual. But what really made all the difference for the Friars was the relentless fashion in which James Brady, William Ruggiero and Atiq Lucas carried the ball. Each churned out second-effort carries that had to be deflating to the Iona Prep defense. Brady finished with 111 yards on 19 carries and a 25-yard touchdown run. Ruggiero plowed ahead for 94 yards on 11 carries and a 2-yard score. Lucas added 71 yards total offense, including 35 yards on three carries. He turned a counter into a twisting 23-yard touchdown, shaking off a myriad of defenders.

KEY PLAY

The Friars’ second-quarter goal-line stand probably saved the season. Iona Prep drove 63 yards — highlighted by a 28-yard strike from Ryan O’Neil to Tim Murray — to the St. Anthony’s 5-yard line. Jeffrey Mack carried the ball 4 more yards, setting up second-and-goal from the 1. Iona Prep tried to shove the ball down the throat of the Friars’ defense on each of the next three plays. The last, a blast off right tackle by Darlos James with 6:40 left, was stuffed by a wall of back and gold. Not only did James get stopped short, he was hurt on the play.

SCORING

TEAM………………………1…..2…..3…..4 — FINAL
Iona Prep………………….0…..7…..7…..6 — 20
St. Anthony’s…………….7…..3…..6…..7 — 23
SA — Lucas 23 run (Grennen kick)
IP — Alfano 10 pass from O’Neil (Beckett kick)
SA — FG 29 Ferrara
IP — Alfano 35 pass from O’Neil (Beckett kick)
SA — Ruggiero 2 run (kick failed)
SA — Brady 25 run (Ferrara kick)
IP — Alfano 62 pass from O’Neil (kick failed)

Friars Football: Semifinial Preview

November 5, 2007

Friars Football Features 2007

Title: Semifinial Preview
Publication: Frairs Football.com
Author: Jason Molinet
Date: 11-5-07
Word Count: 120

Iona Prep vs. St. Anthony’s

WHEN: Friday, 7 p.m.
WHERE: South Huntington
RECORDS: Iona Prep (5-4); St. Anthony’s (8-1)
THE SCOOP: St. Anthony’s shut out Xaverian 24-0 while Iona Prep downed Staten Island power Farrell, 38-8, to move on. These teams meet Week 2 with St. Anthony’s pulling away 31-21. Ryan O’Neil will attempt to air it out against a stingy Friars defense. St. Anthony’s has two great safeties and a string of three straight shutouts.

Mount St. Michael vs. Chaminade

WHEN: Saturday, 1 p.m.
WHERE: Mineola
RECORDS: Mount St. Michael (4-5); Chaminade (5-4)
THE SCOOP: Chaminade advanced with a thrilling 19-14 win over Holy Trinity while Mount St. Michael upset Staten Island upstart St. Joseph by the Sea, 22-14. Chaminade pulled the upset of Week 7 with a last-second 15-14

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