WHITE PLAINS - As the quarterback of Iona Prep, Tyrae Woodson-Samuels has an enormous amount of responsibility. Above all, though, is one rule that Woodson-Samuels realized last night.
Get Chris Alfano the ball.
Woodson-Samuels barely had looked in the direction of his all-state receiver in last weekend's scrimmage with New Canaan. But in the season opener last night, the duo was an unstoppable tandem, connecting on two first-quarter touchdowns as Iona Prep blew past Stepinac 35-20 in the seventh annual Joe Riverso Night Game.
Woodson-Samuels, a junior in his first varsity start, completed 13 of 20 passes for 325 yards and four touchdowns, and Alfano had seven receptions for 180 yards and two scores to earn MVP honors.
"I knew last week that I didn't get Chris the ball enough. That was my fault," Woodson-Samuels said. "You've got to have that go-to guy, and Chris is that go-to guy for me. All week in practice, we were focusing on doing that. He made me look really good tonight."
The official debut of Woodson-Samuels, a much-hyped prospect from Mount Vernon, was magnificent. He led Iona Prep (1-0) on scoring drives on its first two possessions, completing five of his first six passes.
Woodson-Samuels, who had been billed as more of a threat to run, launched a 43-yard strike to Alfano on his first pass, then made a pretty 28-yard touchdown throw on the run to Alfano in the back of the end zone to finish the drive.
"This is the first year that Tyrae and I have worked together, so it's going to take time," said Alfano, who had 1,011 yards receiving last season. "But after this, I think Ty and I are going to have a really good connection."
Stepinac (1-1) actually seized the momentum on the opening drive of the game.
Wide receiver Blake Rzemieniewski took the handoff from quarterback Joe Collins on an end-around, stopped and fired a pass to a wide-open Maurice Easterling for a 63-yard gain. That set up a 1-yard touchdown plunge by freshman Caleb Gilligan-Evans to give the Crusaders a 7-0 lead.
They were trailing 14-7 early in the second quarter before Easterling broke an 81-yard touchdown run. Easterling had 153 yards rushing and 122 receiving in the game, as well as eight tackles on defense.
Stepinac had a chance to reclaim the lead before the half but fumbled a snap on the Iona Prep 8-yard-line, where Nick Raimondi recovered for the Gaels. Iona Prep responded by driving down the field and scoring on Jeffrey Mack's 1-yard touchdown with 1:04 left in the half.
Iona Prep broke the game open in the fourth quarter. Woodson-Samuels underthrew a long pass to Luis Muniz, and Easterling jumped and tipped it. But Muniz somehow turned and swiped it out of the air and ran in for the 55-yard score.
Woodson-Samuels made it 35-14 with an 11-yard touchdown to Darlos James, putting the game out of reach.
Stepinac couldn't get its offense going, starting its first two possessions of the second half on its own 1- and 6-yard lines.
"It seemed like they kept making plays and we didn't," Stepinac coach Mike O'Donnell said. "Obviously they have too many weapons. I thought we played hard and proved we can play with them."