Listen to the Iona Prep football teams players and coaches and it's clear that their team goes as far as junior Mario Biaggi III takes them.
"Once he's clicking, our team is unstoppable," junior running back Shaquille Townsend said. "When he's on point, we unstoppable. We have to keep him in that mindset and things will go well."
Saturday night against Archbishop Stepinac, Biaggi certainly had it going on offense and it made the difference as he led his team to an impressive 30-17 road win against Stepinac in front of a packed crowd in White Plains, N.Y.
Biaggi scored three touchdowns to lead No. 8 Iona (5-2) to a win in the first game played on No. 5 Stepinac's (5-2) new turf field.
HOW THE GAME WAS WON: The first play set the tone for Iona. The Gaels ran a double-reverse pass that ended with Justin Combs finding Omari Buster for an 80-yard touchdown pass that gave the Gaels a 6-0 lead.
"It was a great call by the coaches, this game was hyped and everything and we wanted to start off big and that's what we did," Biaggi said.
From there, the dynamic running attack of Biaggi and Townsend and a strong defensive effort led the way. Biaggi said the team saw an opening in Stepinac's defense that would allow them to run the ball so they went to work with a majority of running plays, rarely throwing the ball.
While Townsend had a team-high 124 rushing yards on 24 carries, Biaggi was the one who found the endzone as he scored three times. His four-yard score in the second gave Iona a 16-3 lead, he boosted it to 23-3 on a 30-yard run late in the third and he sealed the game with a one-yard score that made it 30-10 with 4:39 remaining.
On defense, Iona Prep picked off Stepinac quarterbacks Daniel Hoffer and Mark White a combined three times, with senior Daniel Fisher recording all three interceptions.
"We got them at the beginning and that was really important," Biaggi said. "Our defense was amazing and able to step up in big situations."
TURNING POINT: The first play of the game gave Iona all the momentum. It marked the first time this season Iona ran a pass play off a double reverse and it worked beautifully as Buster got behind the defense and hauled in the catch for the score.
Iona Prep coach Vic Quirolo said the play was called to get the kids loose and try to prevent them from being stiff early on and said it was critical that the Gaels jumped on Stepinac early.
"First play, got that touchdown, it shocked me," Townsend said. "We made it happen. I knew they were down from that, that hurt them and we just capitalized off that play and kept it going."
PLAYER OF THE GAME: Biaggi was the one who scored three times for Iona and he played a great game. He didn't throw very often but found the holes in the defense to get considerable yardage and found ways to get in the endzone. He also had no turnovers have being intercepted four times in a loss to Chaminade last week. He rushed 18 times for 84 yards.
"The quarterback position, what we do, is critical," Quirolo said. "When he's in rhythm, we are a lot better."
UP NEXT: Playoff seeds will be decided next week in the final week of the regular season. Iona Prep heads to St. Anthony's Saturday at 7 p.m. while Stepinac hosts Fordham Prep Friday at 7 p.m.