After jumping out to a 16-point lead in the first quarter, Stepinac held on to defeat Iona Prep 16-14 to win the CHSFL AAA championship in front of more than 6,000 at Fordham University’s Jack Coffey Field. It is the first CHSFL title for the Crusaders since they split with St. Francis Prep in 1955.
SeniorDamarcus Millerhad two interceptions, including one that he returned 55 yards for a touchdown to give Stepinac (12-0) a 16-0 lead with 4:24 remaining in the first quarter. The Crusaders didn’t score again, but their defense held Iona Prep (9-3) late in the fourth. The game ended when juniorT.J. MorrisoninterceptedRobert Madison, who finished the game with three interceptions.
Stepinac advanced to play the winner of the Monsignor Martin Association championship, which, because of heavy recent snowfalls in Buffalo, will not be played until Nov. 29. The winner of the upstate Catholic-schools championship between Canisius and Bishop Timon-St. Jude will meet Stepinac in the inaugural Catholic state championship game at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 7 at Mitchel Field in Uniondale.
SeniorMalcolm Majorled Stepinac with 16 carries for 88 yards, including a 29-yard touchdown just 1:11 into the game. Major’s scamper was set up when Madison was forced to kick a loose ball out of the end zone after a bad snap on the very first play from scrimmage.
Madison finished the game 13 for 29 for 183 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions. SeniorDylan Mucci(pictured right) caught six passes for 124 yards and a touchdown and seniorBrian Thompsonhad four catches for 51 yards and a score.
With Miller, a starting outside linebacker, moved to cornerback and seniorGavin Heslop, a starting corner, moved to safety, Stepinac’s defense held Iona Prep starQaadir Sheppard— the area’s top recruit — to three catches for eight yards.
Miller was named the game’s defensive MVP. Stepinac senior quarterbackBrandon Colemanwas named the offensive MVP.