Archbishop Stepinac’s first CHSFL ‘AAA’ title game took a bad turn when a play it relied on all year backfired.
Trailing by a touchdown in the third quarter against St. Anthony’s at Mitchel Field on Long Island, the Crusaders were faced with a 1st-and-10 on the St. Anthony’s 39. Then, something went wrong.
Stepinac turned to Vincent Narog on a double reverse like it had all season. Narog had scored a 75-yard touchdown on the same play against Xaverian in the ‘AAA’ semifinals, and he’s had a lot of success on that play throughout the year.
This time however, they weren’t as fortunate.
Archbishop Stepinac ccoach Mike Donnell saw a reliable play go wrong in his clubs first CHSFL 'AAA' title game.
Narog got the ball, but was then leveled by St. Anthony’s defensive back Tim Stackpole, who knew the play was coming when he saw Narog go in motion. Narog was brought to the ground and he fumbled the football. It bounced off of Stackpole’s helmet and was picked up by Anthony Leggio, who ran it in for a 61-yard touchdown with 3:09 to play in the third quarter, sealing St. Anthony’s 14-0 win.
“I guess they were keying on it,” Narog said. “They were reading me the whole game and they checked on it and knew it was coming. They made a great play. I tried to get inside the block but they filled the hole pretty quickly and were ready for it. He put a great hit on me and his helmet was on the ball.”
Another miscue on offense by the Crusaders led to St. Anthony’s first touchdown of the game. Daniel Hoffer’s intended pass into the end zone for Narog was intercepted by Stackpole in the first quarter. The Friars got on the board 17 plays later in the second when Anthony Anderson dived over the pile from the 1-yard line to give the Friars a 7-0 lead.
Stepinac remained in striking distance but never was able to drive past St. Anthony’s stellar defense.
“The fumble was a big momentum changer,” quarterback Mark White said. “We knew we had to step up the next time we got the ball and the coaches called great plays but we just came up short. We just ran out of time.”
White finished with 106 total yards. He had 82 rushing yards on 21 carries and went 3-for-6 with 24 passing yards. He split time at signal-caller with Hoffer. The Crusaders, who have been turnover prone all season, drove down the Frairs 6-yard line in the game's closing minutes, but could not get in the end zone.
Though they came up short, it was a successful season for Stepinac and one the Crusaders hope to build upon in the future.
“It’s a tough loss,” Stepinac coach Mike O’Donnell coach. “The kids played their hearts out. We had a lot of success with the reverse play, but the kid got a real good hit on Vinny. That was a back breaker for us. The kids gave all they had today and I’m proud of them.”
Though they were on the losing end, Stepinac knows it stood toe to toe with the class of the league.
“Their ‘D’ was great against us tonight,” O’Donnell said. “But White did a great job tonight and all our kids worked hard all off season to stay healthy. We fought until the end.”