CHSFL AAA: St. Anthony's 14, Stepinac 0

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- After suffocating the Archbishop Stepinac football team in the Catholic High School Football League Class "AAA" title game Friday night, St. Anthony's senior defensive back Tim Stackpole shared the secret to his team's dominating defensive performance.

"Our coaches scout all day, every day, they're there until like 12 o'clock at night," Stackpole said. "I told you, we know every single play they were going to run. Every single time, every play."

It'd be hard to argue that point.

In perhaps their most impressive defensive performance of the season, the top-seeded Friars won their third straight title and 10th in 11 years with a 14-0 shutout of second-seeded Stepinac on Friday night at Mitchel Field in Uniondale, N.Y.

Defensive lineman Pat McHugh was named the MVP of the game while St. Anthony's (10-0) also completed its second straight undefeated season.

"Defensively we know that there was no one who could score," Stackpole said. "We really don’t think anyone could score on us to be honest with you. But we've had a couple of injuries but we really don’t think anyone can score on us."

Minus the first and last drives of the game, St. Anthony's contained Stepinac on each of its drives. The Crusaders (8-3) couldn't find a rhythm running or passing the ball and struggled to put together quality drives. They only were able to get the ball into the red zone on their final drive, when Stepinac stopped them at the five-yard line on fourth down.

The defining moment of the game came in the third quarter, of course provided by St. Anthony's defense. After failing to convert on fourth down, the Friars turned over the ball to the Crusaders at midfield while leading 7-0. On 2nd-and-1 at St. Anthony's 41-yard line, Stepinac ran a double reverse with Vincent Narog trying to get around the left edge.

After Narog secured the first down, Stackpole met him and put his head on the ball, popping it straight into the arms of junior linebacker Anthony Leggio. He took the ball and ran down the right sideline 61 yards untouched for the momentum-changing score that gave St. Anthony's a 14-0 lead with 3:09 left in the third quarter.

"We block all the time, in practice this week and it just worked in the game," Leggio said. "I knew I wasn't going to be caught."

St. Anthony's defense even helped lead to the squad's only offensive touchdown on the night. On the first drive, Stackpole intercepted a pass in the end zone on fourth down to end what had been a promising drive by Stepinac.

On the ensuing drive, Anthony Anderson, who rushed 16 times for 44 yards, scored from one yard out to give the Friars a 7-0 lead in the second quarter. Anthony Duggan led the Friars offense with 67 yards on 13 carries while Stepinac quarterback Mark White led all players with 102 total yards of offense.

"That was huge because it settled everything down," St. Anthony's coach Rich Reichert said of the interception. "We came out a little nervous on defense and that was the first time we didn't take the ball. We wanted to have the ball in the second half to open up."

All year long, there had been talks of vulnerability with this St. Anthony's team. The offense stalled at times, it barely survived several games against tough competition and even changed quarterbacks at the end of the season.

Yet, games would come and go, and the Friars would find a way to win, continuing their dominance of the league. And on this night, they were buoyed by their defense.

"We knew it was going to be a close game and we just put it on our defense this year," Reichert said. "It was their time to carry a team and they did."