Jayden Lambert was not the only player on Iona Prep to feel they belonged as a contender in the CHSFL ‘AAA’ division this season. Yet the results at the beginning of the season wasn’t the way the Gaels intended.
That all seems like ancient memories compared to what is happening in the present day. No. 5 seed Iona Prep continued to blaze up the scoreboard Saturday night with an impressive 52-20 victory over host Monsignor Farrell in a Class AAA quarterfinal football playoff game held at the Lions Den in Staten Island.
Lambert referenced Farrell as the turning point of the season after the Gaels suffered a heartbreaking defeat to the Lions, 29-28 in the final seconds October 14.
“Coach Spags [Joe Spagnolo] said after Farrell we need to start rolling right now and everything just clicked,” Lambert said. “We just started rolling. We feel like nobody can stop us.”
Lambert, the starting cornerback, stepped up to replace injured running back Ki’Shyne Shipmon with a game-high four touchdown runs. Derek Robertson picked apart a sound Farrell defense all night while competing a touchdown reception to Michael DeGasperis and John Ryan Freeman.
Iona Prep, who improved to 6-3 overall and is ranked No. 18 in the News 12 Varsity Tri-State Top 25 poll, travels to Huntington next week for a semifinal matchup against top seed St. Anthony’s. Confidence and hunger are just two qualities that the Gaels possesses in extending its winning streak to 3 games.
“I think the past few weeks everybody has been healthy and everybody is back in the groove,” DeGasperis said. “Derek has been killing it at quarterback. He can hit any receivers at any play. It’s really just easy to be a quarterback like that and everybody is clicking.”
Iona Prep scored quickly and often by scoring on all five of its possessions in the first half.
Iona has overcome key injuries at points this year and was without the loss of Shipmon, the senior running back who suffered a high ankle sprain during practice this week. Well enter junior varsity call up Frankie McFadden, who capped off the first offensive series for the Gaels with a 6-yard touchdown run midway through the opening quarter for a 7-0 lead.
Even when Vin Wagner scored on a 5-yard touchdown run to help the No. 4 seed Lions cut the score to 14-7 late in the first half, the Gaels always found an answer.
Robertson received great protection from his offensive line to locate wide receivers like DeGasperis, who shined with some acrobatic receptions to help the visitors churn up yardage. Lambert rushed for his second score on a 8-yard effort late in the second quarter and DeGasperis had a 3-yard touchdown catch with 24 seconds left to put Iona up by a commanding 31-7 lead at halftime.
The Iona Prep defense did its part to put to a halt a Farrell ground game lead by Vin Wagner that combined for almost 1,700 yards in the regular season. Freeman and Jon Orenzio each recovered a fumble as Monsignor Farrell (5-4) could not replicate the same success achieved in the regular season against the visitors.
Iona Prep, who lost 14-7 to St. Anthony’s in Week 2, does not mind traveling on the road to keep its postseason hopes alive.
“I think we’re all just coming together definitely. Coach Spags said embrace the hate, embrace the hostile environment,” DeGasperis said. “We lost a couple of games and we knew had to be on the road for the playoffs but we just embrace it. We love it. That’s all we could ask for right now.”