Kellenberg falls to Stepinac in CHSFL AA final
Stepinac was unlike any No. 5 seed Kellenberg had ever seen: undefeated, undaunted and, Saturday at the CHSFL AA championship game at Mitchel Athletic Complex, unstoppable.
Stepinac, which got the five seed because it played the football regular season in the lower AA division to No. 2 Kellenberg's AAA ranking, defeated the Firebirds, 41-7, behind a well-balanced offensive onslaught and a defense that allowed Kellenberg to get no closer than the 26-yard line until late in the fourth quarter.
Stepinac was led by Caleb Gilligan-Evans, whose scoring runs of 3 and 5 yards in the first quarter ignited the charge and Tyrell Goodman, who added a 1-yard touchdown run and scoring passes of 1 and 51 yards to help put the game away.
"They're a better team," Kellenberg coach Kevin Hanifan said simply. "We've played in AAA for two years in a row . . . Our kids will [now] know what the level of play is like and we'll try to come back and improve."
The Crusaders (11-0) led 28-0 at the half and were aided by five Kellenberg fumbles, two which they recovered. Midway through the third, Brian Byrnes recovered a fumble at his own 26-yard line and returned it 73 yards to the Kellenberg 1 after Austin Taps jarred the ball loose on Nick Fiore's QB keep. Lance Ladson ran it in on the next play to give Stepinac a 41-0 advantage.
Fiore's 13-yard scoring pass to Gary Cioffi to the right corner of the end zone with 1:34 left to play provided the final margin. Kellenberg finished the season 5-6.
"We just ran into a buzz saw," Hanifan said. "They're a very good football team. They pushed us around. When you're playing a championship game against a 10-0 team, you can't afford to make mistakes."
Still, "I'm proud of my guys," he said. Stepinac, which defeated Iona Prep earlier in the year - a team which took on St. Anthony's in the AAA final later that afternoon - was no slouch. "There's nothing wrong with losing in a championship game.