Stepinac gets swagger back with win over Holy Cross
Last Updated: 4:52 AM, October 16, 2011
Posted: 12:47 AM, October 16, 2011
The Archbishop Stepinac players heard the warnings all week about what can happen to teams after falling to St. Anthony’s.
"Coach (Mike O’Donnell]) eally stressed after a team loses to St. Anthony’s they keep losing,” junior quarterback Mark White said. “They have a losing streak.”
The hangover, if there was any, lasted for nearly a half.
A long Vincent Narog touchdown before the break, a fumble recovery and the play of White got Stepinac back to its old self. The Crusaders defense shut out Holy Cross in the second half on its way to an important 34-14 win in a CHSFL Class AAA game at SUNY Purchase on Saturday afternoon.
It was their first win over Holy Cross in more than 20 years. The Queens school has lost three straight, starting with a defeat at the hands of the Friars.
“We tried to get our swagger back today,” O’Donnell said. “The last few weeks we haven’t played great on offense or defense.”
A judgment call on the Knights opening drive of the third quarter swung the momentum in Stepinac’s favor for good. Yianni Gavalas (14-of-25, 129 yards) completed a pass to Lawrence Laventure. As he was being tackled, the senior reached for an extra yard and the ball popped loose. Ryan Wasylenko pounced on what was ruled a fumble on the Crusaders 44.
“I didn’t even look,” Wasylenko said. “I saw the ball pop out and I jumped on it.”
Holy Cross coach Tom Pugh felt Laventure was down and the official hesitated to make a call near the Stepinac sideline. He wished it was more decisive. O’Donnell believed it was a fumble, but called it a tough call. White would engineer an eight-play drive that ended with his own 6-yard touchdown run to put Stepinac 21-14 with 5:25 left in the third quarter.
He compiled 125 yards of total offense – 80 on the ground — and added a 4-yard touchdown run. Junior quarterback Daniel Hoffer completed 7-of-13 passes for 177 yards and two scores, including a 29-yard strike to Narog late in the fourth.
Caleb Gilligan-Evans rushed for 116 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries behind a massive offensive line. Austin Taps had two sacks and Garfield Heslop added one for a defense that saw St. Anthony’s punt just once the week before.
“We just road on our defense's’ back,” White said. “The defense showed up. In the second half the offense did what we needed to do.”
Stepinac (5-1, 4-1), ranked No. 4 in the CHSFL by The Post, found itself trailing 14-7 after Shyheim Wingate (11 carries, 93 yards) scored his second touchdown of the game from 5 yards out with 3:04 left in the second quarter. On the next play from scrimmage, Narog took a bubble screen 75 yards up the left sideline for a score to tie the game at 14 at the half.
“That got our momentum back,” Wasylenko said.
Stepinac had fumbled the ball three times, but No. 7 Holy Cross (3-3, 2-3) turned just one into points because of penalties. Holy Cross played without running back Brandon Pelzer (concussion) and receiver/linebacker Jordan Francklin (bruised knee cap) and lost defensive end Tim LaVelle in the second quarter to a knee injury.
“It was not that we didn’t drive,” Pugh said. “We got penalties. “
Stepinac will not have to drive ito ts game next week, but walk out of its locker room door. Construction on its new field is expected to be complete for a game against rival Iona Prep 7 p.m. Saturday night. A win would go a long way to securing the No. 2 seed in the Class AAA playoffs along with some bragging rights.
“It’s great to be coming home to play them,” White said. “We are going to have a huge crowd.”