Archbishop Stepinac coach Mike O’Donnell calls Vinny Narog a playmaker, someone who has a propensity for coming through in pressure situations.
Games like Friday night’s CHSFL Class AAA clash against Kellenberg are why the senior from Ossining has earned that reputation.
Narog made two huge fourth-quarter plays – a 71-yard touchdown reception and a 45-yard end around that led to another score as Archbishop Stepinac defeated Kellenberg, 32-21, in a rematch of last year’s Class AA title game at Hofstra’s Shuart Stadium.
“Vinny’s been doing that for two years for us,” O’Donnell said. “He’s a very good wide receiver who has a knack for being able to run away from people and break tackles. He’s very strong… He kind of saved us.”
Narog had four receptions for 137 yards, none bigger than the first play of the fourth quarter when he caught a short pass from Dan Hoffer, broke a tackle and was off to the races for a touchdown one play after Kellenberg (0-3, 0-2 CHSFL AAA) tied the game at 14 on a 9-yard touchdown run by Josh Broschardt.
“I did the same thing last year, same exact team in the [Class AA] championship game,” said Narog, who had a 51-yard score against the Firebirds last year. “It’s a play I’m used to so I just keep my balance, make them miss the first tackle and get in open space where I’m a threat.”
Last year’s title game was an overwhelming victory for Stepinac, which went on to finish the season 12-0 for the first time in program history. However, Friday night the Firebirds gave the Crusaders all they could handle.
Led by quarterback Matt McDaniels, who was 12-of-17 for 98 yards and a touchdown and had 21 carries for 143 yards and a score, Kellenberg three times orchestrated 80-yard scoring drives.
The third was capped by a gutsy 6-yard lob into the end zone to Casey Fitzgerald on fourth-and-4 to give the Firebirds a 21-20 lead with 6:14 left in the fourth quarter.
Kellenberg, which was much improved following lopsided losses to Chaminade and Mount St. Michael to open the season, could taste revenge and it appeared Stepinac’s 14-game winning streak was in serious jeopardy.
But again Narog came through, this time gaining 45 yards on an end-around to the Kellenberg 3-yard line. Three players later, Mark White punched the ball in for a 3-yard touchdown to give Stepinac (3-0, 2-0) a 26-21 lead with 4:07 remaining.
“That’s a play we’ve had on the books since summer session and we haven’t used it yet so it was nice to break it out and get a chance to use it,” Narog said. “I quickly hit the hole and took off.”
Garfield Heslop’s second interception of the game helped set up White’s second touchdown, a 1-yard plunge with 50 seconds left that sealed Stepinac’s victory.
While Kellenberg had to go nearly the length of the field for each of its scored, Stepinac capitalized on miscues and turnovers to score its touchdowns with a short field.
“Mark can score any time he touches the ball,” O’Donnell said. “He’s a quick kid, very elusive. We expect a great year from him. We’re going to use him a lot of different ways.”
White, who again split time with Hoffer (6-of-11 for 156 yards and a touchdown), had 16 carries for 57 yards, most of which came with the game on the line.
“We made a lot of mistakes,” White said. “We didn’t get off the bus ready to play, but at the end the captains and seniors stepped up so we could get this win and get on to the next week.”
For now, though, Stepinac is enjoying being 3-0 in its first season back in the CHSFL’s upper echelon with a huge test in Week 4 against archrival Mount St. Michael in The Bronx.
“Obviously we’re happy with 3-0, but we’re not happy with the way we are 3-0,” O’Donnell said. “Defensively we’re not playing as well as we can play. We really have to get back to work because we have some really tough games coming up. If we’re not careful, we might not win another game all year.”
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