Richard Harbus for News
Mount St. Michael's Michael McEnany gets pulled down from behind by Stepinac's Austin Taps in first half of Crusaders' 14-12 win.
Austin Taps says he likes to get muddy, and the Stepinac senior tight end/defensive end looked twice as dirty as his teammates as he walked off the field following the Crusaders' 14-12 win over Mount St. Michael Academy Saturday in the Bronx.
There was a reason the white in Taps' uniform was barely visible - he dominated the game.
Just minutes after recording the game-ending sack - to go with an interception and a touchdown - Taps tried giving credit to the rest of the Mountaineers' defense and said he was just in the right place at the right time.
But he deserved more credit than that, according to his coach.
"We expect him to make plays for us," Mike O'Donnell said. "I don't know why no one's offered him a scholarship yet."
In addition to Taps' stellar play, the Crusaders' lightning-fast start was another reason for their win.
"Our kids, they go to Long Island and play Chaminade, they don't understand what that means," said O'Donnell. "Mount, they understand. They got excited in practice. I think it showed in the beginning of the game."
Taking the opening kickoff, it took Stepinac less than three minutes to score. At the 9:21 mark, fullback Caleb Gilligan-Evans powered in for a 3-yard touchdown run.
With 3:26 left in the first, quarterback Daniel Hoffer hit Taps on an 18-yard fade route in the end zone, putting the Crusaders up 14-0 (Przemyslaw Popek hit both PATs).
With 26 seconds left in the quarter, Taps made a one-handed grab to snare an interception.
In the second half, the Mountaineers answered by scoring two TDs - an 8-yard run by Najae Brown and a 1-yard rush by Kenneth Acquah - but failed to convert either two-point attempt.
Down 14-12 on their own 29-yard line and out of timeouts with 20 seconds left, the Mountaineers were preparing for a Hail Mary. But the prayer was not answered as Taps - who else? - sacked Brown to end the game.
It was the 16th straight win for Stepinac (4-0), which moved up to the AAA level this year and has won each of its four games on the road.
Despite the Mountaineers falling to 1-2, O'Donnell said the victory was significant because of the quality of the opponent.
"There were a lot of years when we didn't beat Mount," O'Donnell said.