Stepinac beat Iona Prep today for the first time since 2010 and just the second time in their last 11 meetings. It was also the first playoff game between the rivals in 20 years.
Below is a look at how the Crusaders did it. I’ll have more stats and video interviews later tonight.
WHITE PLAINS Down a touchdown in the third quarter, Stepinac had four chances to score from inside the 4 and was stuffed. The moment struck Mike O’Donnell as all too familiar. Here were his Crusaders, stuck playing the role of the Washington Generals again.
“We went down there and didn’t get in—again,” the Stepinac coach said with emphasis.
For once, when the game hinged, it did so in favor of the Crusaders. The very next play Chris Jordan and Damarcus Miller combined on a safety with help from Osaze Perry-Porter. Stepinac scored on the ensuing drive and beat its primary torturers, Iona Prep, 10-7 in Saturday’s CHSFL AAA quarterfinals.
“A lot of people don’t think we can win the big game,” said junior quarterback Brandon Coleman, who threw for 127 yards and rushed for 63, including a touchdown. “Now, in the biggest game for these schools in 20 years, we got it.”
The fourth-seeded Crusaders (7-3) beat the Gaels for the first time since 2010 and just the second since 2002. They will travel to top-seeded St. Anthony’s this weekend in the semifinals on a date to be determined. They lost 31-14 to the Friars and dropped regular season home games to the league’s other two perennial contenders, Iona and defending champ Chaminade.
“I always say, we want to strive to be them,” O’Donnell said of Iona Prep after the teams’ first playoff meeting since 1993. “I think today we showed that we’re improving. We’re really happy.”
Stepinac actually trailed the Gaels 7-0 after junior Stephon Smith ran in from 16 yards. Riley Aviles hauled in a 50-yard third-down pass from Nick Kryza just a play earlier.
Two drives later, Stepinac reached the 2 on a 30-yard pass from Coleman to Garfield Heslop. The Crusaders went backward twice, threw incomplete and then saw Alex Raimondi and Eric DeSalvo drag down Malcolm Major at the 1.
The defense quickly made amends when Perry-Porter and Miller sandwiched Smith deep in the end zone on the next play.
“I felt like we just had to close up the middle,” said Perry-Porter, a senior, whose 16-yard catch on the ensuing drive set up Coleman’s go-ahead touchdown. “That’s exactly what we did.”
Stepinac drove 47 yards to take the lead after Iona Prep’s free kick. Down 10-8 entering the fourth quarter, the Gaels (4-6) had chances, but their success was limited after Kryza was knocked out of the game.
Smith rushed for 157 yards and three touchdowns when the Gaels beat Stepinac 40-14 on Oct. 19, but he was hobbled by a hyperextended knee. He had just 10 carries for nine yards and left the game for good late in the third quarter.
“They all got hurt,” Iona Prep coach Vic Quirolo said. “There’s no excuses. Stepinac played great. But from that standpoint, it made it difficult.”
First downs: Stepinac, 15-8
Rushing: Stepinac, 49/112; Iona, 24/55
Passing: Stepinac, 12/22 for 127 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT; Iona, 11/24, 112 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT
Fumbles (lost): Stepinac 1 (1)
Third-down conversions: Stepinac, 6/17; Iona 6/17
Fourth-down conversions: Stepinac, 3/4; Iona, 0/3
Field goals: Stepinac 0/1
Sacks: Iona, 2-1
Rushing (rushes/yards): Stepinac – Brandon Coleman 28/63; Tyquan Ennis 11/38; T.J. Morrison 1/5; Garfield Heslop 2/5; Malcolm Major 7/1. Iona Prep – Nick Kryza 9/32; Lyle Bennett 5/14; Stephon Smith 10/9.
Passing (comp/att/yards): Stepinac – Brandon Coleman 12/22/127, 0 TD, 1 INT. Iona – Nick Kryza 9/17/80, 0 TD, 1 INT; Lyle Bennett 2/6/32.
Receiving (rec/yards): Stepinac – Giancarlo Furio 4/66; Garfield Heslop 1/30; Osaze Perry-Porter 1/16; Malcolm Major 3/15; Joe Somereve 1/2; Jerry Thompson 2/
2. Iona Riley Aviles 2/55; Brian Thompson 4/36; Stephon Smith 2/21; Qaadir Sheppard 1/2; John Piccone 1/0; Christian Brown 1/-2.
Sacks: Stepinac – Brian Harris. Iona – Michael Sullivan; Sal Villano.
Forced fumbles: Iona – Sal Villano.
Recovered fumbles: Iona – James Chagula.
Interceptions: Stepinac – Narendra Itwaru. Iona – Alex Raimondi.
Postgame interviews with Stepinac’s Mike O’Donnell, Brandon Coleman, Osaze Perry-Porter and Brian Harris:
Seth Harrison’s video from the game: