The solution seemed so simple. New York State section IX football scheduler Chris Mayo needed opponents within a reasonable driving distance. Why not look to the CHSFL? It's a metropolitan area league that, top to bottom, might be the best in the northeast?
“There was a perceived notion among many of the section IX coaches that, since the CHSFL schools get many of their student athletes from a regional area, that competitiveness and safety were a concern,” Mayo told ESPNNewYork.com.
But there has been a thaw, recently, in the thinking of some in section IX, which enabled Mayo, and section IX Representatives Jim Osborne and Marsh Canosa to seize an opportunity. The result was a football tripleheader on Saturday, September 10, at Middletown High School’s superb facility in Middletown, N.Y.
The matchups will feature Manhattan’s Xavier against Pine Bush at noon, then the marquee matchup at 4 p.m. between Brooklyn’s Xaverian and 2005 New York State champion Monroe-Woodbury, followed by White Plain's Stepinac versus host Middletown at 8 p.m.
Since it will be on the weekend of the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, the theme will be to honor those who were killed in the attack, with emphasis on those connected with the leagues and participating schools. “A lot of firemen and policemen in our area lost their lives in the attack,” Mayo added, ”What a great opportunity to honor them.” Mayo also hopes the tripleheader is well attended by college scouts.
For Xavier and Xaverian, who each do not have a home field, it represents an opportunity to play in perhaps the best high school football facility in the metropolitan area and likely New York State. Xaverian’s football practices are often on the back of baseball diamonds, with home games a half hour drive away at Kings Bay. “We’re really excited about this game and tournament,” said Xaverian Athletic Director Jeff O’Brien. “We know we’re playing a very good football team and you have to play the big boys to improve.”
Xavier’s daily practices feature 150 players boarding three buses and travelling through the Battery Tunnel before running pass routes at a Brooklyn field. Knights Head Coach Chris Stevens feels “it’s nice to get out and play other schools in the state, especially since we [the CHSFL] don’t participate in the New York State playoffs.”
Mayo has had such trouble balancing the class AA and A schedules for the last decade-plus that he had Monroe-Woodbury going out to such places as Union-Endicott and Saratoga for games.
Monroe-Woodbury Head Coach Pat D’Aliso, whose team made the New York State title game at Syracuse’s Carrier Dome from 2005 to 2009, including the ’05 championship, said this tournament is “a whole bunch of things coming together.” He echoed the sentiments of Xaverian’s Jeff O’Brien that “playing great competition always makes you better.”
Monroe-Woodbury rolled through section IX again last season, winning its games by an average of 44-10, with many of those contests well decided by halftime. By playing Xaverian, ranked third in the CHSFL coach’s preseason poll (behind St. Anthony’s and Iona Prep), D’Aliso feels his team will be better prepared for the sectional and state playoffs.
Middletown’s field was completed three years ago at a cost of about $6 million. It has already hosted regional and state competitions in lacrosse and soccer.
If this tournament is a success, the organizers hope to extend the relationship with the CHSFL and have a similar tournament honoring the 9/11 victims in 2012, perhaps at Brooklyn’s Aviator complex or Nassau County’s Mitchel Field or at Hofstra.