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NY POST- FOLLOW THE LEADER

Posted Sunday, November 21, 2010 by NYPOST.COM

Follow the leader: Gilligan-Evans sparks Stepinac to 'AA' title

Last Updated: 7:24 AM, November 21, 2010

Posted: 9:04 PM, November 20, 2010

Comments: 0

Playing for Archbishop Stepinac makes Caleb Gilligan-Evans' role a little different than it might be on other teams. The Crusaders are littered with talent on offense, including versatile playing-making quarterback Tyrell Goodman.

“It’s hard playing on a team like this when you’re someone like Caleb,” Stepinac coach Mike O’Donnell said. “We move the ball around to so many different people. If somebody else had Caleb they would probably run him 30 times a game.”

The junior was quite happy with 81 yards and two touchdowns on 12 carries that set the tone early for a dominant 41-7 win over Kellenberg in the CHSFL Class AA title game at Mitchel Athletic Complex Saturday afternoon. Gilligan-Evans, who Goodman called a "man-child," bulldozed his way to touchdowns of 3 and 5 yards in the first quarter to put his team up 14-0.

Archbishop Stepinac celebrates its CHSFL Class AA title.
JOSEPH STASZEWSKI
Archbishop Stepinac celebrates its CHSFL Class AA title.
 

“It’s all worth it to end up like this,” the 6-foot-1, 235-pound Gilligan-Evans said. “It doesn’t matter 10 carries or 30 carries.”

The win erases two years of disappointment for the Crusaders, who last won the ‘AA’ championship in 2007. They lost to Holy Trinity in the ‘AA’ title game in 2008 and were upset by St. Francis Prep a year ago in the quarterfinals.

They ran over opponents this season, winning games by a margin of 426-66. It brings up the question of would Stepinac like a chance to prove itself against unbeaten ‘AAA’ champion St. Anthony’s? The Friars beat Iona Prep, which Stepinac defeated in Week 1, in the final.

“We would,” Goodman said when asked about wanting to play St. Anthony’s “Whatever league we are in, that is the league we are going to do what we got to do in. We don’t care who is coming for us, Iona, St. Anthony’s. It don’t matter. Whoever comes out in front of us we are going to play.”

The senior, behind a stout offensive line and a defense led by classmate Brian Brynes, took the lead from Gilligan-Evans, whose second touchdown was set up by a Jeff Clack fumble recovery. It was the first of five fumbles by Kellenberg (5-6).

“We wanted this for so long,” Goodman, the game’s MVP, said. “It’s our senior year. Me, Donnie [Simmons], we all came out here wanting that championship. We were hungry for it.”

Goodman completed 10-of-14 passes for 102 yards and carried the ball 19 timed for 88 more. He had a 3-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter, found Justin Thomas from 3 yards out for a score and ran in the 2-point conversion to increase the Stepinac lead to 28-0 at the half. He added a 51-yard touchdown pass to Vincent Narog early in the third quarter.

“When you play a championship game against a 10-0 team, you can’t make mistakes,” Kellenberg coach Kevin Hanifan said. “We fumbled the ball and went for it on fourth down twice and we didn’t get it.”

Running back Evan Calvo shouldered the load for the Firebirds, carrying the ball 30 times for 128 yards. They drove deep into Stepinac territory only to see Byrnes scoop up a Nick Fiore fumble and run it back 71 yards to the three. Lance Ladson punched it in with 5:50 left in the third to make it 41-0 for Stepinac.

“I’m happy and I’m a little upset,” Byrnes said. “I was totally tired. I didn’t know what was happening. The sad part was I didn’t make it for the touchdown.”

He can take solace that the victory was a historic one for the Crusaders. It was the first time a Stepinac team has gone 11-0 in 65 years. The squad can do one better with a Thanksgiving Day victory over White Plains.

“We can celebrate tonight, but tomorrow it’s right back to work,” Gilligan-Evans said. “It’s a big game. We got to finish up strong. “

jstaszewski@nypost.com



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