After back-to-back seasons of reaching the championship game, the Xaverian H.S., Bay Ridge, varsity football team set out from day one to capture this year’s CHSFL ‘A’ division title.
And following a victory in the title game on Nov. 21, the Clippers accomplished their season-long goal.
Xaverian, which finished in first place in the ‘A’ division with a 6-3 overall record and a 4-0 league record, earned a 31-14 victory over Cardinal Spellman, the Bronx, at Mitchel Field, Uniondale, L.I.
“We set out from the beginning of the year right in the weight room,” said Xaverian head coach Mike Jioia, who has guided his squad to the ‘A’ division championship game in each of his three seasons at the helm. “The only thing we were going to settle for was a championship. Thank God that everything happens for a reason.”
Two years ago, the Clippers fell to St. John the Baptist, West Islip, L.I., in the championship game, and they then fell one game short of a title last year against Fordham Prep, the Bronx. However, this year was the Clippers’ year.
“Overall I think it’s a big turnaround for our program,” said senior quarterback Phil DePaulis. “Losing two years in a row and now winning this one, I think it makes us look much better.”
DePaulis was named the Offensive Player of the Game.
“Our offense consists of a lot of big men up front, and we couldn’t have really done it without them,” he said. “They’ve been protecting me all season and definitely today too, same thing.”
The championship was the third matchup this season between Xaverian and Cardinal Spellman. In those games – in which the X-Men won all three – the Clippers outscored the Pilots by 100 points: 102-22.
Not only is that a testament to the team’s high-powered offense, but the stifling defense also played a key role for the team all season.
“Everybody played together,” said junior defensive lineman Michael Marinelli, named Defensive Player of the Game. “That award shouldn’t go to me; it should go to the whole defense. We all played absolutely out of our minds. It was awesome to see.”
For the Clippers, a total team effort helped them to get over the hump and hoist the championship trophy. Like all high school sports program, the Clippers will lose a group of seniors, but the next crop of talented student-athletes is ready to make the jump up to the varsity team.
But there will be plenty of time to worry about the next football season at the appropriate time. For now, the Xaverian program is still celebrating what was a hard-fought season that resulted in a return to the Promised Land.
“Coach Jioia deserves it; we deserve it; our parents and our fans deserve it,” Marinelli said. “And we’re going to make a run again next year. That would be even better.”
CK’s Run Falls Short
The Christ the King H.S., Middle Village, varsity football team came into the CHSFL ‘AA’ championship game with an undefeated 10-0 record.
The whole season, the Royals earned decisive wins over all of their opponents, except in the Week 6 matchup with Xavier H.S., Manhattan. Christ the King won the game, 21-15, but it was by far the closest of their games all season.
So as fate would have it, the Royals and Knights were pitted against each other on Nov. 21 at Mitchel Field, Uniondale, L.I., for the ‘AA’ division title game. The Knights were ranked second in the league at 9-1 – with their only loss at the hands of the Royals.
In what was an exciting back-and-forth ending to the season, it was the Xavier Knights that emerged when the dust settled with a 28-25 victory.
Second-year head coach Jason Brown’s squad opened the scoring on its first drive with a two-yard touchdown run by junior running back Siddiq Muhammad to give the Royals a 7-0 lead.
Xavier responded early in the second quarter on a two-yard touchdown run by senior running back Michael Chiarovano to tie the game, 7-7. But Christ the King immediately responded with a 10-play drive, capped off by a 15-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback David Navas to junior running back Aron Sanabria to put the Royals ahead, 13-7.
In its first drive after halftime, Xavier marched down the field with another two-yard touchdown run by Chiarovano to put the Knights up 14-13.
Pinned at their own five-yard line, the Royals then ripped off a 10-play, 95-yard scoring drive. Senior running back Ahmad Fernandez capped off the drive with a bruising 22-yard run right up the middle to give Christ the King a five-point lead, 19-14.
On Xavier’s next drive, Chiarovano scored his third touchdown from seven yards out to put the Knights back on top 20-19 with 7:04 remaining in the fourth quarter.
But this one was far from over. Navas connected with junior wide receiver Tosin OyeKanmi on a 40-yard pass, which then set up this same duo’s 20-yard touchdown connection, putting the Royals in front 25-20 with exactly four minutes to go.
When Royals’ senior linebacker Nicholas Calle intercepted Xavier senior quarterback Guiseppe Orlando’s pass, it seemed as though Christ the King’s undefeated season would become a reality – since Xavier had no timeouts remaining.
However, the unimaginable occurred. On a fourth down play, the Royals attempted to punt, but senior defensive back Jack Abbruzzese broke through line, blocked the punt and outran any would-be Royals’ tacklers for a game-changing touchdown.
With 1:06 left and behind by three, the Royals were down but not out. Navas brought the team within striking distance, even for a potential long game-tying field goal attempt, but Orlando intercepted a Navas pass at the goal line to end the game.
It was quite the run for the Royals this season, and though it did not end up how the team wanted, they still must be proud of what was a memorable year.
Contact Jim Mancari via email at email@example.com.