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Crusaders get ready for Turkey Bowl

Posted Wednesday, November 22, 2006 by Journal News

Wednesday, November 22, 2006
With results of games played on November 21, 2006


Stepinac, White Plains get set to go at it again
By Jake Thomases
The Journal News
Scouting report
Stepinac (3-7)
vs. White Plains (2-6)
When: Tomorrow, 10:30 a.m.
Where: Parker Stadium, White Plains
Key players: Stepinac 2 Rashaad Slowley (5-11, 180), Jr., HB; Joe Collins (5-10, 145), So., QB; Blake Rzemieniewski (5-10, 165), So., LB. White Plains 2 Matt Robles (5-6, 175), Sr., RB; Savaughn Greene (6-3, 190), Jr., TE; Paul Labarbara (6-2, 180), Sr., QB.
Key matchup: Slowley vs. White Plains' front seven.
When Stepinac has the ball: Stepinac's O-line is undersized, but Slowley is big enough to bust holes up the middle anyway. The Tigers can't allow themselves to get pushed off the ball.
When White Plains has the ball: Without one dominating runner, quarterback Labarbara will have the ball in his hands plenty. Tight end Greene is the main target.
Outlook: White Plains has won four straight in the annual contest. To make it five, it'll need to adjust to Stepinac's new power-I offense, which force-feeds Slowley between the tackles and dares tacklers to bring him down. "We've got to get 11 hats to the ball," Tigers coach Skip Stevens said. Sophomore quarterback Collins will see one-on-one coverage on his receivers as White Plains packs the line. Can he get the ball to Maurice Easterling more times than Labarbara finds his favorite receiver, Greene?

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(Original publication: November 22, 2006)

For as long as Mike O'Donnell remembers - 1977 is his best guess - Stepinac has run a wing-T offense. Circumstances prompted an abrupt change in philosophy this season. For the first time in nearly 30 years, White Plains will see a power-I scheme - a scheme that's gone all but extinct in Section 1 - when it meets its neighborhood rival in their annual Turkey Bowl.

That isn't as harsh a culture shock as it would have been in previous years. The inexperienced Tigers aren't as entrenched in varsity, much less this particular rivalry, as they have been historically. Neither are the Crusaders. The intensity on Thanksgiving morning will be as brand-new as the blocking patterns.

"They know the history and they've been around, but I don't think they're going to know the magnitude of the game until they get there on Thursday," White Plains coach Skip Stevens said. "It's going to be a big crowd; there's going to be a lot of excitement in the air."

Growing up in White Plains, it's hard not to be aware of the 37th Turkey Bowl showdown, which takes place this year at 10:30 a.m. at Parker Stadium. It's a chance for Stepinac (3-7) and White Plains (2-6) to leave disappointing seasons behind with a positive memory, to feel like their growing pains amounted to something. And, of course, to talk trash to their buddies when it's all over.

"All my friends live in White Plains," said Stepinac sophomore quarterback Joe Collins, who took a lot of heat from his friends for picking Stepinac over White Plains. "So now it's my chance for payback."

Collins is Exhibit A in the youth movement. He was called up from junior varsity at midseason and immediately led the 0-4 Crusaders to a three-game winning streak, going 15 for 20 for 375 yards with seven touchdowns and one interception in that time.

Although their ship hit the rocks again with three losses to close the season, two of those were rematches in which Stepinac played much closer - losing by five and one instead of 19 and 34 - than the first time around. White Plains, too, played more competitive football as the season wore on, a final-day stinker against Mahopac notwithstanding. In the four games prior, the Tigers went 2-2, losing by three points to Saunders and five to Scarsdale.

Not exactly banner-worthy for a school with good football tradition. But expectations were low after every offensive starter and all but three defensive starters - Matt Robles, George Don Pierre and Raymond Mitchell - graduated.

Stepinac didn't lose as many starters but is younger than White Plains. O'Donnell expects to start four sophomores and a freshman tomorrow. That freshman, Maurice Easterling, leads the team in receptions (13) and yards per carry (6.25).

"We know we're expecting to have a very good team next year," junior Rashaad Slowley said.

It's Slowley who ultimately determines the Crusaders' offensive fate. O'Donnell made the switch to the power-I in part because of his burly halfback. Slowley is most effective running straight ahead, which the I is designed for, instead of cutting through holes, which the wing-T is designed for. He's rushed for 1,167 yards.

"I'm still learning the terminology," O'Donnell said. "I can answer wing-T questions at the drop of a hat. Questions about the I, I have to think about."

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