“This is the best day of my life.”
That was the exclamation from Chaminade wide receiver Thomas Zenker after catching his third touchdown in a surprisingly easy 41-16 victory over Iona Prep in the CHSFL AAA semifinals. The Flyers will face the St. Anthony’s-St. Joseph by the Sea winner in the championship at Mitchel Field next weekend.
“I was surprised at how wide open I was on a couple of those touchdowns,” Zenker said. “I don’t expect that usually, but credit (quarterback) Sean (Cerrone) and the other backs for carrying out great fakes.”
Zenker finished with 151 yards on six catches including a phenomenal diving grab late in the game. His first two touchdowns he didn’t have a defender within 20 yards of him.
“Those plays are designed to get him wide open,” Cerrone said. “It’s been like that all year for our offense. We look to hang half a hundred on teams every single week.”
Cerrone, a junior, had a career day with 204 yards on 10 of 12 passing. He tossed four touchdowns and also ran for 43 yards.
“We were really confident coming into today after we beat them the first time,” Cerrone said. “The whole team is putting a great effort in, and we just want to get better every game.”
The Flyers defense contained one of the more explosive offenses around in Iona. The Gaels put up 377 yards of offense, but Chaminade frustrated Iona with multiple defensive stops inside the five-yard line.
Iona was in the game in the first half trailing 13-10 in the second quarter when the Gaels tried a fake punt from their own 16-yard line on fourth-and-4. The Flyers stuffed the run and Cerrone hit Zenker one play later from 18 yards. The Gaels flew down the field quickly with its quick-strike offense, but Chaminade stopped Iona inside the 5-yard line on three straight plays. Then, the Flyers blocked a field goal to take a 20-10 lead into the break.
“Not getting any points there before the half was absolutely the moment of the game,” Iona Prep coach Vic Quirolo said. “That really set us back, it was really frustrating.”
Chaminade forced a three-and-out to start the half, and then put Iona completely on its heels with another touchdown. Cerrone set it up with a third down conversion before hitting Zenker for 29 yards. The Flyers converted eight third downs in the game, and Cerrone seemed to make all of them happen.
“He’s a great player,” Quirolo said of Cerrone. “He makes them go and he had an excellent game today, they’re just a great team.”
Chaminade’s running game was just as good as the air attack as Rob Speranza ran for 122 yards on 12 carries and two touchdowns including a 59-yard touchdown run to set the tone on the Flyers’ first drive.
Iona running back Shaquille Townsend rushed for over 400 yards in the last two meetings with Chaminade but was limited to just 76 yards on 18 carries in the loss. Gaels quarterback Mario Biaggi ran for 161 yards on 18 carries and two touchdowns. He added 124 yards through the air on 15 of 28 passing.
Chaminade will now try to win its first CHSFL championship since 1998.
“We’re definitely motivated by the fact that everyone thinks St. Anthony’s is so dominant,” Cerrone said. “But we’re going to prove that we can beat them and win this thing.”
Email John Malone at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @MSGV_Malone