Breaking Down Stepinac vs. White Plains
By Jordan Griffith | Tuesday, November 23
MSG Varsity reporter Jordan Griffith breaks down Stepinac and White Plains as they prepare for the Turkey Bowl.
BREAKING DOWN THE 2010 TURKEY BOWL
Time Off: Stepinac played, and won, the CHSFL AA Division championship on Saturday, leaving just four days to prepare for White Plains. The Crusaders are in still season form, but could be fatigued and suffer a hangover from the championship. White Plains won’t have played in 27 days by the time Turkey Bowl starts. While this is a long time to prepare for the game, the players could see some major drag after the long period of time between live games.
Weather: The weather is supposed to be seasonally warm, but there is a good chance for rain. This could slow both offenses down; Stepinac with Goodman’s ability to get outside, and White Plains’ passing attack which spreads the field vertically.
Momentum: Stepinac has momentum and confidence on its side. But if you think that it wouldn’t make every White Plains’ players season to upset Stepinac and ruin its undefeated season, you’re highly mistaken.
Check back before the game to see the MSG Varsity Staffs’ picks for Turkey Bowl and the State Championships.
Stepinac is enjoying its best season in school history. The Crusaders defeated CHFSL AAA runner-up Iona Prep in the first game on the season and haven’t looked back. Stepinac coach Mike O’Donnell said this is one of, if not the, most talented teams he’s had in his 30-year career.
“We’ve had some great teams and some great players here. But undefeated champions, man?” O’Donnell said. “Eric (Ogbogu) was great; our team a few years ago, when we won the championship, was great. But this team has two Division I seniors, two juniors who I think can play Division I, and a sophomore coming up who could maybe play Division I. When you have players like that on your team, it makes coaching a lot easier.
“The Turkey Bowl is always an emotional day because it’s the point when you can really say it’s over,” O’Donnell continued. “No, ‘Oh there is a bowl game or we play next week if we win.’ It’s over and done. It’s really special, whether we had a great season or not.”
“We know what this means to coach and the people of the school,” Stepinac senior lineman Joe Mattiaccio. “There’s a history here. We want to send everyone off right, to give our thanks.”
O’Donnell has coached at Stepinac for over 30 years. This is his 23rd year as head coach. Stepinac also has four coaches who played in the Turkey Bowl for Stepinac and one that played for White Plains.
Tyrell Goodman: Everything Stepinac does goes through “Rabbit.” The 6-foot-2 senior quarterback is the heart and soul of the Stepinac offense. If he has a big day, White Plains is in trouble.
“We’ve got to stop Rabbit. Well stop, don’t know if you can say that, but contain him. The kid is a heck of a football player.” — White Plains Head Coach Skip Stevens
Donnie Simmons: The senior tight end/defensive end is a monster. Look for him to make plays on both sides of the ball. Simmons is also from White Plains, giving him added incentive to grab the win.
“I know some of the guys from White Plains. They’re great people. But they know the same thing; once you get on the gridiron, it’s all business. They beat us last year. It’s time for payback.” — Donnie Simmons.
Joe Mattiaccio: White Plains plays big in the trenches and Mattiaccio will have to have a good game on offense and defense to keep the White Plains line in check.
Caleb Gilligan-Evans: Evans is only a junior but has already started in three Turkey Bowls. If he can open the holes up for Goodman and eat up chunks of yards on his own, Stepinac will be in great shape.
Defense versus the run: White Plains will pound the ball the entire game. If Stepinac’s defensive line and linebacker core can play tough up front, it will force White Plains to play outside of their game plan.
Opposing Coach’s Scouting Report:
“Stepinac is going to do exactly what they’ve done all year. They execute on offense so well and allow their players to make plays. They’ve got great players all around, but it starts and ends with Rabbit…Defensively they’re very solid all around. A lot of teams have tried to spread them out but they’ve shown they can handle it. They’re well coached and can adjust on the fly.” — White Plains coach Skip Stevens.
White Plains is coming off another strong season. The Tigers had their ups-and-downs, but what head coach Skip Stevens put together had White Plains in serious contention for a championship.
White Plains was undefeated going up against New Rochelle in what many felt would be the game of the season. But the Tigers were unable to get over the hump. They won their remaining games, grabbing the sixth seed in the Class AA playoffs, but lost in the first round to No. 3 seed Yorktown, which gave Section 1 champion New Rochelle a real scare.
This team is big and strong and can attack whoever it plays. White Plains has tremendous athletes and a solid group of seniors who have been around for awhile. Their younger players have some real talent as well as they start juniors at four of the five key offensive positions. This team can be dangerous and they seem hungry for a win.
“I’m really proud of what we’re accomplishing here as a program,” Stevens said. “We’ve got a great a great mix of seniors and juniors and we’re in a position to compete every year… The seniors want to end this season right and go out with a win and the younger guys are ready to come out and show what the future holds. This team is ready to go and make some noise.”
“It’s been an honor to have played here,” said senior quarterback Michael Trapp. “The White Plains tradition is really something special. This will probably be my last year playing football. There would be no better way then to go out with one last victory. It’d mean the world.”
Skip Stevens is in his sixth year at White Plains as head coach. He was an assistant coach before that. Current assistant coach Mark Santa-Donato was the head coach before Stevens for 13 years. With two exceptions, every coach in the White Plains’ football program has played in the Turkey Bowl.
Jaeshon Brooks, Khadrey Merot: Merot was the starting running back at the beginning of the year but was forced to sit out with injuries. Brooks did a great job stepping in and ended up leading the team in rushing. Merot is back and the two will be a good combo coming out of the backfield.
Michael Trapp: The senior quarterback doesn’t get many opportunities to shine with White Plains’ running offense, but when he does he can throw the ball well. As the season went on, Trapp got more and more opportunities to pass.
“They pound the ball and pound the ball and then Trapp comes up throwing and gets a big play. We can’t let that happen.” — Stepinac head coach Mike O’Donnell
Odaine Franklin, Mike Walker, Ryan Brooks: White Plains has a dynamic group of athletes. But these three can make or break the game. Franklin has been inconsistent on offense this year, but defensively he and Brooks fly up and make the hits from the secondary. People rarely seem to talk about Walker, but he’s been White Plains’ best deep threat all year. He runs routes well and always seems to be open. If Walker gets a chance to get the ball, it won’t be good for Stepinac.
Darrell Everett: Everett is one of the most electrifying backs in Section 1 and is good for at least three “wow, he’s good” moments a game. When the junior can get the ball with just a little open space, it’s could be a score. If he’s on his game, White Plains is in business.
Defensive line versus Tyrell Goodman: Goodman has dominated for Stepinac the entire year. If White Plains wants to win, it must contain Goodman and not let him get outside. As a few White Plains lineman said at practice, they’ll have to “Catch the Rabbit.”
Opposing Coach’s Scouting Report:
“They’re gonna punch you in the mouth. They’ve been doing it for 20 years and it works. White Plains will run the ball right at you, right down your throat. Stop it if you can. And just when you think you can, they take a shot down field… Defensively, they send a bunch of blitzes your way and try and confuse you. The coaches prepare well, and with 27 days off, who knows what they’ve put in.” — Stepinac coach Mike O’Donnell