Stepinac tops Fordham Prep in CHSFL semifinal
WHITE PLAINS - Facing windy conditions and a muddy field, Stepinac quarterback Joe Collins had thrown for just 28 yards on 12 attempts before rolling right on the final play of the third quarter and seeing receiver Brian Boulhousa pointing toward the end zone.
Fordham Prep cornerback Connor Brown had jumped the curl route, so Boulhousa turned upfield instead. Collins hit him in stride down the visitors' sideline for a 65-yard touchdown, the winning points in yesterday's 21-14 victory in the CHSFL AA Division semifinals.
"I just let go of the ball and it was perfect," said Collins, a White Plains resident. "It felt great doing that. My last game on this field - it was amazing."
It was the second long touchdown catch for Boulhousa, a Yonkers resident who also caught a 45-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter off a reverse pass from Blake Rzemieniewski.
"The run wasn't working. Throwing short balls wasn't working. We decided to go long, and it worked out," Boulhousa said.
Stepinac (6-5) will try to win its second straight CHSFL championship when its faces Holy Trinity (6-5) Saturday at 1 p.m. at Mitchel Field in Uniondale. Stepinac had won just three CHSFL titles before this year - in 1955 , 95 & 2007.
"If we can go out and win the AA championship two years in a row, that would be an unbelievable thing for these kids to leave as their legacy," Stepinac coach Mike O'Donnell said.
Stepinac has beaten Fordham Prep four times in the last two seasons, including 20-13 at Stepinac's field on Oct. 4. In that game, the Crusaders led 13-0 through three quarters before Fordham Prep tied the score.
But yesterday the Rams (4-7) controlled the game early - there was only one play on Fordham Prep side of the field in the first quarter, which ended on a 2-yard touchdown run by Rams junior Bruce Grant (30 carries, 97 yards).
Stepinac got only one first down on its first three possessions, but after Fordham Prep fumbled a punt return, the Crusaders struck on the next play with the 45-yard trick play to Boulhousa. Grant, a White Plains resident, returned the ensuing kickoff 90 yards to put Fordham Prep back on top 14-7, but Stepinac, coming out in a no-huddle, tied the score four plays later on a 32-yard run by freshman fullback Caleb Gilligan-Evans.
The Rams moved the ball 61 yards on their first possession of the second half, but an illegal-procedure penalty negated a 26-yard touchdown run by quarterback Brendan McGlynn, and Fordham Prep turned the ball over on downs. Two plays later, Collins rolled right and found an improvising Boulhousa.
"They got the big pass play when they needed it, and we didn't," Rams coach Peter Gorynski said. "That's what it ultimately came down to."
A 30-yard punt return by Brown gave Fordham Prep the ball on the Stepinac 30 with 3:45 left, but the Rams were called for consecutive false-start penalties and wound up gaining just 1 yard. Fordham Prep got the ball back once more, at its own 41 with 41 seconds left, but the Crusaders allowed just 17 yards before time expired.
"In the beginning, it was hard keeping your ground in the mud," said Crusaders linebacker Ryan Hunt of Yonkers. "But we just kept fighting in the trenches and held it together, and in the fourth quarter, we really picked it up."
Reach Harold Gutmann at firstname.lastname@example.org