Westchester/Putnam football performer of the year: Stepinac's Rashaad Slowley
By KEVIN DEVANEY JR.
THE JOURNAL NEWS
(Original publication: December 9, 2007)
Rashaad Slowley knelt down on one knee at the end of the Stepinac sideline, holding his hand over his eyes. You couldn't see that he was crying. But if you stood within 10 feet of him, you could just feel it.
Three plays into Slowley's highly anticipated senior football season, a severely sprained ankle had put the standout running back on the bench.
Slowley's injury against Iona Prep in Stepinac's season opener cost him three games. It cost his team a shot at an undefeated season, both overall and in the CHSFL AA Division. And it cost him any shot of retaining his title as the area's rushing leader.
Yet, in many ways, it's the biggest reason why he's this year's Journal News Westchester/Rockland football player of the year.
When Slowley returned three weeks later, he was a step slower. He wasn't in quite the same shape. He couldn't cut that well. Overall, though, he was a better player.
"It was the first time I was ever injured," Slowley said. "That time off taught me a lot. I couldn't take anything for granted. I used to think I could never get hurt. After that, I took every carry seriously. It's why my season was so productive."
The Mount Vernon native embarked on one of the greatest single seasons ever at Stepinac.
In 10 games, the 6-foot, 195-pounder rushed for 1,486 yards, which was third most in the Lower Hudson Valley, and an area-best 24 touchdowns. Slowley, who had run for 1,353 yards as a junior, caught four touchdown passes this season and recorded an eye-popping 170 points.
He led the Crusaders to nine straight victories, their first 10-win season in school history and their first CHSFL championship in 12 years.
Stepinac claimed the AA title by rallying from a 14-0 deficit in the semifinals to beat top-seeded Fordham Prep, then routing Christ the King in the final, 47-12.
Slowley rushed for 500 yards and seven touchdowns in three playoff games, and capped his brilliant season with a show-stopping send-off against rival White Plains on Thanksgiving Day. He rushed for 171 yards, highlighted by a sensational 76-yard touchdown run on the third play of the game, and threw for the go-ahead score.
"Everyone had to have a game plan to stop Rashaad," Stepinac coach Mike O'Donnell said, "or you're not going to be in the game."
Few teams could compete with the Crusaders for more than a half once Slowley returned. Without him, they struggled to find consistency. With him, they were the most feared offense in the league.
In the nine games after he returned, Stepinac won by an average of 30 points and scored 45 points or more six times.
But Slowley's best game came Oct. 20, a 29-14 win over Fordham Prep at Fordham's Jack Coffey Field. He not only rushed 26 times for 155 yards and two touchdowns, but also caught two passes for 100 yards and another score.
"I've sent out a game film to a few college coaches that had been recruiting me," Slowley said. "They said that was the type of game they were looking for out of me."
He followed that with a strong effort against Kellenberg, where he rushed for 215 yards and three touchdowns on just 11 carries and caught a 35-yard score.
Slowley has drawn serious Division I interest. But recently he's decided to focus on Football Championship Subdivision (I-AA) schools to ensure he'll fulfill his dream of playing running back in college, as well as having a chance to play immediately.
"Right now, I can't even believe what I've done," Slowley said. "To play less games and have better numbers is amazing. After the injury, I never thought I would do as well as I did.
"Everything fell into place. I think I needed that injury to help spark me. It changed my attitude and the way I look at every game."
Also named to the first team:
Quarterback: Ryan O'Neil, Iona Prep: O'Neil made the most of his one year as a starter. The 6-foot-2 senior put up jaw-dropping numbers, completing 188 of 290 passes for 2,227 yards with 20 touchdowns and just six interceptions. His best game was his last, passing for 328 yards and three touchdowns in a 23-20 CHSFL semifinal loss to eventual champion St. Anthony's.
Running back: Paris Walker, New Rochelle: There wasn't a more electric back in Section 1 than Walker. The senior led the Huguenots to their second straight Class AA sectional title, rushing for 1,100 yards and 12 touchdowns, averaging 8.9 yards per carry. Walker highlighted his season with a 235-yard rushing effort in a triple-overtime win over John Jay, and was MVP in the sectional final.
Running back: Jamel Lyde, Sleepy Hollow: The senior transfer from upstate far exceeded expectations. Lyde, 5-9, 170-pound speedster, rushed for 1,010 yards and 10 touchdowns, guiding the Headless Horsemen to a 7-2 season and a berth in the Section 1 Class B final. Lyde averaged 10.5 yards per carry and was also a standout cornerback on one of the conference's top defenses.
Wide receiver: James Bonsall, Rye: A pure and graceful athlete, Bonsall added a different dimension to the Class B state champions. In his first varsity season, the 6-1 senior caught 35 passes for 643 yards and 10 touchdowns. He caught a touchdown in all three state tournament games, including the game-tying score in the final. Bonsall was a stellar defensive back, intercepting four passes and returning one for a touchdown.
Wide receiver: Chris Alfano, Iona Prep: Alfano will go down as having one of the most productive seasons ever by a receiver in the area. The junior caught an area-high 59 passes for 1,011 yards and four touchdowns. He had nine receptions in a game three times, including a 191-yard, three-touchdown performance against St. Anthony's in the semifinals.
Offensive line: Greg Kutzin, Eastchester: The Eagles' turnaround season had a lot to do with the play of Kutzin. The senior guard paved the way for an offense that rushed for an area-best 317.2 yards per game, and guided Eastchester to a 9-1 record, capped by a bowl win over Somers. As a linebacker, Kutzin averaged just under 10 tackles a game.
Offensive line: Sean Paul, Dobbs Ferry: Don't be fooled by his 5-10, 175-pound frame. Paul was a superb blocker for the Class C state finalists, who racked up 3,658 yards on the ground in 12 games. Paul was just as good on defense. He registered a team-high 90 tackles as a middle linebacker for a defense that didn't allow a touchdown before the fourth quarter until the state final.
Offensive line: John Zoppo, John Jay: The 6-3, 280-pounder anchored one of Section 1's top offensive lines. Zoppo dominated up front, consistently pancaking the defender in front of him and getting 10 yards downfield to take on another. Zoppo guided the Indians to a 7-3 record and a berth in the Class AA semifinals.
Offensive line: Sam Fulmer, Rye: Before a season-ending injury in the playoffs, Fulmer was phenomenal on both sides of the ball. One of a handful of returning starters, the 6-2, 200-pound senior helped a young Rye team mature into state champions. Fulmer has flawless technique at guard, and swarmed to the ball at middle linebacker, recording 55 tackles in eight games before breaking his ankle.
Offensive line: Tom Bueti, Fox Lane: The 6-foot, 200-pound senior was a stabilizing force in a demanding offensive scheme. Bueti has amazing quickness off the ball and plays with an aggressiveness that few defenders can match. As a linebacker, Bueti had the ability to take over a game, as he did in Fox Lane's Class A semifinal win over Eastchester when he recorded 12 tackles.
Defensive line: Jajuan Perez, Ossining: Despite nagging ankle and knee injuries, Perez guided Ossining to its first sectional title in 12 years. The 6-4, 270-pound defensive end recorded 102 tackles and four sacks, highlighted by a jaw-dropping 25-tackle performance in an early-season win over Somers. He played his best in the postseason, totaling 41 tackles in five playoff games.
Defensive line: Jeffrey Perez, Iona Prep: The explosive 5-9, 255-pound senior nose guard was a nightmare matchup for opposing offensive lines. Perez single-handedly closed off the middle of the field, recording 61 tackles and 5.5 sacks. With his speed and ability to take on double-teams, his presence alone forced opponents to alter their offenses to go away from Perez.
Defensive line: Joe Silberzweig, Scarsdale: Silberzweig's talent and leadership helped turn the Raiders into contenders again in Class AA. The 6-1, 275-pounder has committed to the University of Pennsylvania after a stellar senior season. He recorded 60 tackles as a nose guard despite being double-teamed almost every game. Silberzweig was also named Most Valuable Lineman in the Senior All-Star Game.
Linebacker: Rob Lombardo, Somers: Few players developed as much from last season as Lombardo, who emerged as one of the most feared players in Section 1. The versatile 6-1, 220-pound junior registered 100 tackles and seven sacks and never had fewer than nine tackles in any game. As a fullback, Lombardo rushed for 1,276 yards and 19 touchdowns, highlighted by his 214-yard performance in a win over Fox Lane.
Linebacker: Frank Scattaretico, Dobbs Ferry: It might have taken until the playoffs but the senior standout finally got the recognition he deserved. The 5-10, 175-pounder starred on both sides of the ball. One of the area's hardest hitters, he had 53 tackles with two interceptions. He also rushed for 992 yards and 10 touchdowns, had 431 yards receiving with four scores, and had one defensive and three return touchdowns.
Linebacker: Steven Amaro, Sleepy Hollow: In terms of pure linebackers, they don't get much better than Amaro. The 6-2, 225-pound senior emerged as arguably the best at the position this season, averaging nearly 10 tackles per game in a deep and physical defensive unit. Amaro, a potential I-AA recruit who had 14 tackles in the Section 1 final loss to Rye, was excellent in pursuit and was a punishing hitter.
Linebacker: James Brundage, Ossining: As talented as this Ossining team was, it was Brundage who put it over the top in Class A. The junior emerged as a star on both sides of the ball. A midseason ankle injury cut into his time on defense, but he managed 20 tackles in his final four games. He finished the season with 1,205 yards rushing and 15 touchdowns on a 209 carries for the sectional champs.
Defensive back: Trevor Saunders, Dobbs Ferry: A third-year starter as safety and a two-time all-star, Saunders turned in his finest season on both sides of the ball. The senior had six interceptions, including four in a Class C state quarterfinal win over Tri-Valley, and 59 tackles. At quarterback, he threw for 848 yards and 10 touchdowns, and rushed for 525 yards and six scores.
Defensive back: Chris Bocklet, John Jay: Before he sprained his ankle in midseason, Bocklet was among the most dependable defensive backs in the section. His intellect and instincts made him special, both as a safety and a quarterback. Bocklet, who is one of the nation's top-ranked senior lacrosse recruits and will play that sport at Virginia, completed 62 percent of his passes for 1,669 yards and 16 touchdowns and rushed for 652 yards and six scores.
Defensive back: Markell Rice, New Rochelle: The most versatile and dynamic player in the area was a difference-maker on defense. Opponents rarely threw in his direction and paid when they did. Rice, a senior safety, intercepted three passes, two of which came in the playoffs, and averaged nearly seven tackles per game. On offense, Rice had more than 800 yards of total offense and nine touchdowns.
Defensive back: David Mandelbaum, Edgemont: While it seemed all the veterans around were going down with injuries, Mandelbaum kept himself in one piece and quietly had a fantastic season. The senior finished the year with an area-best seven interceptions with 62 tackles in nine games. In his first season at quarterback, he rushed for 1,056 yards and threw for 1,062 with 19 total touchdowns.
Kicker: JK Filauro, John Jay: A two-time Journal News Westchester/Putnam all-star, Filauro had the strongest legs, proven by both his kicking and running. He was 8 for 11 on field goal attempts and was 23 for 27 on extra points. Filauro was the ideal pass-catching back for the spread offense, gaining 712 total yards and five touchdowns, and was also a standout defensive back and kick returner.
Punter: Jayson Holt, Mount St. Michael: There might not have been a more valuable player to their team in the area than Holt. He guided the Mounties to the CHSFL AAA Division final for the second straight season. He was a quality punter, averaging 30 yards per attempt, but was a far better option quarterback. He ran for more than 1,300 yards and 16 touchdowns in 12 games this season, and threw for more than 500 yards and five scores.
Kick returner: Maurice Easterling, Stepinac: The sophomore phenom enjoyed a breakout season. The only two-way starter for the CHSFL AA championship Crusaders, Easterling combined for 1,276 yards of offense, including 25 receptions and 20 touchdowns. The Yonkers native averaged 28.3 yards on kickoff returns, including a 92-yard score.
Coach of the year
Dino Garr, Rye: In guiding the Garnets to two state championships in three years, Garr enters an elite group of coaching greats. And Garr did it despite losing 21 seniors and lacking experience on the offensive line. He's reached the state final four times in five seasons, and won 224 games in 32 years. Rye's run as five-time defending Class B sectional champs shows no no sign of slowing down.
QB: Jordan Eck, Sr., Rye
RB: Calvin McCoy, Sr., Fordham Prep
RB: Colin Reno, Sr., Scarsdale
RB: Kyle Ramalho, Jr., Rye
WR: Preston Soeprasetyo, Sr., Carmel
WR: Dorian Dorsey, Sr., Fox Lane
OL: Derek Sable, Sr., Harrison
OL: Ryan Spillane, Sr., John Jay
OL: Brandon Brailsford, Sr., Dobbs Ferry
OL: Michael Gayle, Sr., Mount Vernon
OL: Adee Dubray, Sr., Ossining
DL: Devonte Brailsford, So., Dobbs Ferry
DL: Rich Royster, Sr., Ossining
DL: Wesley Wilson, Sr., Rye Country Day
LB: Sam Freihofner, Sr., Scarsdale
LB: Matt Paskalides, Sr., Edgemont
LB: Ryan Hunt, Jr., Stepinac
LB: Chris Murray, Sr. Bronxville
DB: Matt Higbie, Sr., Dobbs Ferry
DB: Christian Federico, Sr., Ossining
DB: Malcolm Campbell, Sr., New Rochelle
DB: Michael Connely, Sr., Mount Vernon
K: Sebastian Saunders, Sr., Rye
P: Mike Mathews, Sr., Fox Lane
KR: Justin Autera, Jr., Mahopac
Honorable mention: Sal Arena, Sr., Rye Neck; Michael Asiedu, Sr., Gorton; Rodney Benjamin, Sr., Mount Vernon; Glen Bernardi, Sr., Somers; George Brereton, Sr., Mahopac; Trent Bronner, Sr., Sleepy Hollow; Liam Byrne, Sr., Eastchester; Brett Cabriele, Jr., Yorktown; Tashieum Carney, Sr., New Rochelle; Andrew Carr-Harris, Sr., Pleasantville; Levi Cohen, Jr., Byram Hills; Pat Considine, Sr., Putnam Valley; John Costano, Sr., Eastchester; Jihad Crosby, Sr., Gorton; Jesse DeBiase, Sr., Westlake; Claudio Delli Carpini, Jr., Harrison; Chris Cellante, Sr., Sleepy Hollow; Matt Deiana, So., Somers; Mike DelBianco, Sr., Mahopac; Joe Denti, Sr., Harrison; Lawrence DeSimone, Sr., Fordham Prep; Matt DiFabio, Sr., Pleasantville; Mike Didomizio, Sr., Panas; Jelani Doemann, Sr., Hackley; Dan Essien, Sr., Iona Prep; Taj Everly, Sr., Woodlands; John Froats, Sr., Yorktown; Will Gauthier, Hen Hud; Sal Guerriero, Sr., Tuckahoe; Dylan Haas, Jr., Somers; Kevin Hennelly, Sr., Mahopac; Nick Huber, Sr., Yorktown; Roy King, Sr., Mamaroneck; Toryn Landrine, Sr., New Rochelle; Cristian Illescas, Jr., Fox Lane; John Kiechle, Sr., Carmel; Dan Killoran, Sr., New Rochelle; Peter LaMacchia, Sr., Fordham Prep; Joe LaRocca, Jr., Eastchester; Nick Mainiero, Jr., Croton-Harmon; Anthony Mateo, Sr., Stepinac; Joe Melendez, Sr., Tuckahoe; Nick McKoy, Jr., RCDS; Jonny McGhee, So., New Rochelle; Kevin McPartland, Sr., Brewster; Kevin McQuade, Sr., Rye Neck; Garth Muratori, Sr., Briarcliff; Ray Mitchell, Sr., White Plains; Justin Myers, Sr., Irvington; Padraig O'Connor, Sr., Pelham; Derek O'Dell, So., Haldane; Hugh O'Gorman, Sr., Putnam Valley; Matt Paskalides, Sr., Edgemont; Rob Percacciolo, Sr., Haldane; Robert Pope, Jr., Mount Vernon; Blake Rzemieniewski, Jr., Stepinac; Ryan Shilling, So., Carmel; Justin Segal, Jr., Harrison; Matt Semenza, Sr., Lakeland; Ian Solomon, Jr., New Rochelle; Joe Spadafino, Sr., Byram Hills; John Swertfager, Sr., John Jay; Sir Aaron Taylor, Sr., Lincoln Hall; Connor Tompkins, Sr., Sleepy Hollow; Ossining; Charlie Vetrano, Sr., Pelham; John Voge, Sr., RCDS; Samad Wagstaff, Sr., New Rochelle; Chris Watkins, Jr., Carmel; James Whalen, Sr., John Jay; Spencer White, Sr., Sleepy Hollow; Robbie Williams, Sr., Harrison.
The Journal News all-star football team was selected with assistance from the following coaches: Dan Ricci, Ossining; Chris Wagner, Dobbs Ferry; John Naughton, Byram Hills; Bill Broggy, Fox Lane; Jimmy Clark, John Jay.
Reach Kevin Devaney Jr. at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his Varsity Insider blog at varsityinsider.lohudblogs.com