Grayson Cherubino counted down the minutes, hours and days since his St. Anthony’s team ended the 2016 football season.
There was a buzz during practice this week for the anticipated rematch after Cardinal Hayes ended the Friars dreams of winning a CHSFL ‘AAA’ title in the semifinals last November. St. Anthony’s had long memories, but the only way to respond was taking care of business on the road again.
St. Anthony’s defense starred on Saturday with three interceptions and five sacks to help cool down the Cardinal Hayes offense in a 31-12 victory held at SUNY Maritime in the Bronx.
“We have been thinking of that since last November. We’ve been working the whole offseason and waiting for this game right here,” Cherubino said. “I’m just glad we came out and executed.”
The Friars defense clamped down a high-powered Cardinals offense that has scored 30 or more points in three games and compiled 50 in a win over St. Peter’s last week. The Bucknell-bound Cherubino had two sacks and linebacker Ryan Vahey had two interceptions as the Friars contained Cardinals quarterback Sofian Massoud and their dangerous playmakers to just 12 points.
Sean Bryan rushed for three touchdowns as St. Anthony’s (4-1), ranked No. 24 in the News 12 Varsity Tri-State rankings, once again proved itself as road warriors with its third win away from South Huntington.
“We had this good feeling coming for a long time. We knew everything had to come together at some point and this was the perfect night to do it,” Cherubino said. “On a big stage like this it was awesome.”
St. Anthony’s clearly settled down after an up and down first half. A number of penalties and chances to put points on the board almost went by the wayside until Bryan scored on an 8-yard touchdown run with 2:06 left in the first half to put the visitors up 7-6.
Cardinal Hayes recovered an onside kick to begin the second half, but it wasn’t long before the Friars defense forced another big turnover.
Nicholas Lopez tackled Massoud inside the Friars 19-yard line as the ball popped forward in the air. Vahey took the interception down the left sideline untouched and even though he dropped the ball at the 5-yard line, teammate Makhai Murphy recovered for the touchdown for a 14-6 lead.
Elijah Jones caught his second touchdown of the day on a 27-yard pass for the Cardinals to cut the deficit to 17-12 on the first play of the fourth quarter. The defending ‘AAA’ champions though couldn’t overcome a stout defensive line of Cherubino, Nick Greer, Anthony DePaul and Tyler Perez from causing havoc in the backfield.
Joel Atuahene was stopped short on a fourth-and-two conversion attempt by the Cardinals inside the Friars 29-yard line in the middle of the fourth quarter. Junior quarterback Greg Campisi, Bryan, Julian Chung and others continued to churn out rushing yardage on the next series that ended with Bryan going untouched on a 17-yard touchdown to make it a 24-12 lead.
Bryan added his third touchdown with 5:41 remaining to cement Cardinal Hayes (3-1) its first loss of the season and things to work on in the going into next Saturday’s title game rematch in White Plains against Archbishop Stepinac.
“St. Anthony’s is a great program. They have had a lot of success over the years and we had success against them, but that was last year’s team. This is a whole new ballgame,” Cardinals coach C.J. O’Neil said. “We need a lot of guys to grow up and take leadership responsibilities. Hopefully we continue to get better. We need to have better practices and compete on this level.”
Vahey says the team has responded positively after losing on the road to Stepinac in Week 2 and is glad his Friars return home for the next two weeks against Christ the King and Chaminade.
"This team has just matured so much. We had three road games the beginning of the year. Unfortunately we dropped one, but now we ‘re coming back and stepping up,” Vahey said. This [game] was huge. I love playing at Cy Donnelly Field and all of our fans coming out.”