By John Schiano
It’s subject to debate whether the Catholic High School Football League has the best large-school division in New York, but there’s no doubt for now that the outfit has a new No. 1 team.
Iona Prep, which entered the weekend ranked seventh in the MaxPreps.com New York State ratings, handed No. 5 St. Anthony's a convincing 41-21 loss Saturday to climb to the top of the CHSFL heap for the time being and perhaps longer.
Senior running back Jeff Mack rushed 27 times for 157 yards and three touchdowns, and Gregory Gadson and Nick Biagioni each registered two sacks to send the Friars (6-2) to their first two-loss season since 1999. St. Anthony's, playing its fourth straight road game and third straight against an opponent ranked in the New York State Sportswriters Association’s top 25, is 88-8 since the start of the 2000 season and 150-21 since 1993.
Iona Prep (7-0) and St. Anthony's could meet again in the CHSFL playoffs, but the Gaels would at least feel like they belong if there's a rematch. Iona Prep’s last three seasons have ended with losses to the Friars, including by a 23-20 margin a year ago.
"It means a lot," Mack told The Journal News. "We needed this win so much. It's such a confidence builder."
Junior quarterback Tyrae Woodson-Samuels, questionable earlier in the week after suffering a head injury last week in a victory against Holy Trinity, finished with 164 yards and two touchdowns on the ground and 111 yards and another score through the air.
The Gaels scored on six of eight possessions against St. Anthony’s, which was without senior running back Atiq Lucas, who broke his right leg a week earlier in a victory against Chaminade.
Linebacker Morris Hilton’s fumble recovery set up a five-play, 80-yard drive to give Iona Prep a 21-13 lead before the half.
"We definitely didn't have enough speed on the field and that's on us. We couldn't stop them all day," St. Anthony's coach Rich Reichert said. "They're certainly the best team we've played."
Right Down to the Wire in Section III
The Syracuse area had three Class AA quarterfinals come down to late point-after attempts over the weekend.
Syracuse Henninger held on Saturday for a 24-22 victory over Cicero-North Syracuse, which failed on a two-point try – Ryan Lacey's throw to Thomas Padula didn't connect – that would have forced overtime.
With Henninger up by 24-16, C-NS blocked a Kihary Blue punt and drove to a 4-yard TD pass from Lacey to Austin Hyde for a TD with 20 seconds to go.
Henninger tailback Greg Spears ran 29 times for 158 yards and a TD to set up a rematch with Rome Free Academy. Henninger beat RFA in Week 7, 30-28.
On Friday, Rome Free Academy never led until the extra-point kick in overtime before beating MaxPreps.com No. 1 squad Syracuse CBA, 27-26. CBA opened the overtime period with a 14-yard TD run by Fajri Jackson, but the extra-point attempt was tipped at the line of scrimmage. RFA running back Kyle Kimball then scored on a 9-yard run, and Andy D'Amore kicked the point for the victory.
RFA had trailed, 20-13, but drove 72 yards to tie the game as Mark Capponi hit Marco Dominic on a 9-yard slant route with 1:14 left for the TD.
In Friday’s other nail-biter, West Genesee stuffed a two-point conversion run by Henry Bradley with :21 to go to secure a 27-26 win against Corcoran. Bradley rushed for 295 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the loss.
Whichever Section III team advances to the New York State Public High School Athletic Association’s quarterfinals in three weeks could be looking at a match-up against Binghamton, which hasn’t needed last-minute dramatics during its 8-0 start (with a 392-160 scoring margin) this fall.
The Patriots, minus three starters in the first quarter for disciplinary reasons, got 156 second-quarter yards and three TDs by Jamar Smith en route to a 57-31 pounding of Horseheads. Smith finished with 27 carries for 218 yards and had an 89-yard kickoff return in the fourth quarter wiped out by a penalty.
Greece Athena No Longer Under the Radar
Greece Athena opened its season with a 20-17 loss to Victor, keeping the Trojans out of the spotlight in a loaded Section 5 Class A field that includes those still-unbeaten Blue Devils, defending state champion Aquinas and a 6-1 Canandaigua team that has lost only to a Pennsylvania opponent.
But there can be no ignoring Athena now. A week after turning the ball over five times in a loss to Aquinas, McQuaid saw its season end with two turnovers in its own half of the field (three overall) and a 35-7 loss to the Trojans.
While Victor and Canandaigua will use the sectional semifinals to renew a rivalry that was interrupted when the Blue Devils switched leagues this fall, Athena will next take on Aquinas, which has won 21 straight games and is seeking to become the first school with five NYSPHSAA football championships.
"Hey, I like it," senior tailback Dwayne Cunningham told the Democrat and Chronicle after picking up 134 yards on 19 carries and scoring on runs of 53 and 36 yards. “There’s no added pressure on us.”
More Weekend Football Heroes
* The most anticipated Section I game of the weekend turned into a “no contest” as Nanuet made three goal-line stands to frustrate Edgemont in Class B action, 35-0. Sean Carter ran 12 times for 233 yards and TDs covering 72, 90 and 28 yards.
* Justin Autera rushed 40 times for 240 yards and three TDs for Mahopac in a 28-27 upset of Ramapo in Class AA. Autera scored on a 5-yard run with 1:09 left to secure the victory.
* In Section II, Troy overpowered Glens Falls, 42-14, as Fred Fitch gained 196 yards on 17 carries and scored a pair of touchdowns. QB Zach Dolan galloped 79 yards for a score in the tuneup for Friday's game with Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake.
* Joe McMurry (35 carries, 246 yards) ran for two TDs and two two-point conversions as Hudson Falls beat Albany Academy, 36-6. Sophomore Dakota Drake, making his varsity debut, intercepted a pair of passes.
* Cohoes beat Broadalbin-Perth, 26-14, behind Steve Weaver's 197 yards and three TDs on 29 carries. Nathaniel Akey made seven catches for 138 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
* Fonda senior Josh Nethaway threw for 288 yards and four touchdowns in leading the Braves to a 47-28 victory over Cambridge. The win was Fonda's first over Cambridge in seven tries dating to 1968.
* In Section III, Dan Fruscella led Holland Patent to a 49-7 victory over Homer with 17 carries for 302 yards and five trips to the end zone.
* Marshall's Eddie Jackson became Section V's career leader in receiving yards (2,110), catching four balls for 126 yards as the Jurists escaped Pittsford in a Class AA quarterfinal, 18-15. Pittsford senior Chris Lopez rushed for 254 yards and one touchdown on 34 carries.
* Avon knocked Caledonia-Mumford out of the Class D tournament, 41-26, as QB Max Barrett rushed for 158 yards and three touchdowns on 19 carries. He also went 4-for-7 for 101 yards and two touchdowns.
* Attica won a sectional playoff game for only the second time in 30 years, scoring an 18-0 upset of East Rochester/Gananda in Class B. Junior QB Brandon Rolling and senior receiver Shawn Dupuis connected on touchdowns of nine and 19 yards, and Andy Ruddock rushed 37 times for 162 yards. ER/Gananda quarterback Neal Dotterer finished his career with 5,401 yards, a Section V record.
* Senior Tim Smith piled up 333 all-purpose yards and scored six touchdowns as Oakfield-Alabama advanced in Class C action with a 63-34 victory against Dansville. Smith rushed for 196 yards and scored four times on the ground, caught a 46-yard TD and had a 91-yard kickoff return for a score. Senior tailback Brad Riner added 178 yards and two TDs on 13 carries.
* In consolation-bracket action, Rush-Henrietta junior Clay Harris ran 33 times for 290 yards and half a dozen TDs, tying a school record, to rout Franklin, 48-6.
* In Section VI, Alex Neutz brought back the second-half kickoff 78 yards for a TD to lift Grand Island past Cheektowaga, 22-6.
* Buffalo McKinley edged South Park, 18-8, behind Kevin Chillis' 22 carries for 277 yards.
* On Long Island, a pair of 33-yard completions by Diashawn Miller set up the QB's 2-yard sneak with :29 left to give Elmont its first-ever win against Garden City, 18-13.
* In a key Section VIII Class B game, Roosevelt topped Locust Valley, 20-7, behind James McClenic's 21 carries for 142 yards and a three touchdowns.
* Senior Kris Guy had ran 15 times for 232 yards and scored three touchdowns to lead Clarke to a 34-24 win over Valley Stream North.
* Nick Barbuto rushed 33 times for 168 yards and three TDs for Seaford in a 18-6 victory over Manhasset for its 17th straight conference triumph.
John Schiano, who has written about high school sports in western and central New York for more than 25 years, covers New York for MaxPreps. He may be reached at email@example.com.