Stepinac blasts way to CHSFL title
UNIONDALE -- Stepinac's players were split on whether they had just completed the best CHSFL season in school history. Coach Mike O'Donnell wouldn't commit to it. Based on the results, though, it's hard to argue.
Stepinac's Tyrell Goodman hands the game ball to coach Mike O'Donnell following the Crusaders' 41-9 win over Kellenberg in the CHSFL AA-Division championship game.
With a 41-9 win over Kellenberg in the AA-division championship game, Stepinac completed its season-long massacre of the CHSFL. The 11-0 Crusaders beat their three playoff opponents by a combined 129-13, scoring more than 40 points each time.
With just Thursday's Turkey Bowl game with crosstown rival White Plains remaining, they have won a school-record 11 games, and no opponent has come within 16 points of them all season. Their super-fast defense has allowed all of 60 points.
"This group is definitely special," O'Donnell said.
They have a chance to cement their legacy in Thursday's season finale, the Turkey Bowl against White Plains.
"I don't know if it's the best team (in school history), but it's up there," senior linebacker Brian Byrnes said. "It's at the top. There've been a lot of good players. I hope so."
Tyrell Goodman won MVP honors despite a relatively quiet game from the dual-threat quarterback. He completed 10 of 14 passes for 102 yards and rushed for 88 yards on 19 carries. Another decent performance in the Turkey Bowl and Goodman will be remembered like the 2010 Crusaders -- maybe the best in program history.
"He's probably one of the best players I've ever coached," O'Donnell said. "Maybe the best player I've ever coached. I had Eric Ogbogu, who went to the NFL. So we've had a lot of really good players here at Stepinac. He just does everything. He's our catalyst. He makes us go, he makes everybody else go."
Nick Euvino caught six passes for 43 yards. Stepinac was without left guard Matthew Brown, who injured his knee in the first quarter and didn't return.
Caleb Gilligan-Evans (12 carries for 76 yards) got the Crusaders going on their second possession by rushing down near the goal line and then punching it in from 3 yards. He added a 5-yard score on the next drive.
A 3-yard run by Goodman in the second quarter made it 20-0. He then led an 11-play drive that ended with a 3-yard scoring pass to Justin Thomas with 20 seconds to go in the half.
Kellenberg (5-6) fumbled the kickoff, giving Stepinac a chance to add to its 28-0 lead before halftime. However, it had the first of two missed field goals.
A couple of quick strikes in the third quarter sucked the last life out of the Firebirds. On Stepinac's second offensive snap, Vincent Narog caught a 10-yard pass over the middle and ran 40 yards to paydirt.
Kellenberg then drove 53 yards into Crusader territory. But Austin Taps knocked the ball away from quarterback Nick Fiore (14 of 26 for 134 yards), and Byrnes scooped it up and returned it all the way to the 1-yard line. Lance Ladson punched it in on the next play for a 41-0 lead.
"It all started Aug. 26," Goodman said. "We all came out there willing to do what it takes to win a championship. Every week we came out -- we performed, we put on a show."
Many have long known that Stepinac was the best in AA. Now it's fair to ask if it is the best in all the CHSFL.
It beat Iona Prep, a AAA-division finalist, 23-6 in Week 1 of the regular season. Iona Prep's only other losses were to St. Anthony's.
"I think we'd be in the AAA championship," Byrnes said. "I don't know if we'd win because St. Anthony's is a great team but I know we'd put up a fight."