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Posted Sunday, October 21, 2007 by Tim Philp


(Original publication: October 21, 2007)
NEW YORK - Minutes before kickoff, the Stepinac players sprinted to the middle of Jack Coffey Field at Fordham University and began yelling and slapping their pads as they counted jumping jacks, a taboo gesture Fordham Prep didn't take too kindly.

But while it's one thing for the Crusaders to do that against an undefeated Rams team on their home turf, it's another thing when they can go back it up.

Stepinac did in a big way last night. Rashaad Slowley scored three touchdowns, and the Crusaders' defense posted another commanding effort, to deal Fordham Prep a 29-14 defeat in a pivotal CHSFL AA Division showdown.

It was the 100th career victory for Stepinac coach Mike O'Donnell and the team's fourth straight, which pushed it into the top of a crowded AA standings with one week remaining in the regular season.

"We've been hearing all week that they were going to beat us," Slowley said. "They've been telling us that we had been beating up on lesser competition. Well, I guess they're lesser competition, too."

Slowley backed up his words with his best performance of the season.

The 6-foot senior running back gained 155 yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries. He also caught two passes for 100 yards, including a 90-yard touchdown pass from Joseph Collins early in the fourth quarter that put Stepinac ahead 22-7.

"We've been building up to this the last couple of weeks," said O'Donnell, whose team has outscored opponents 168-28 during its four-game winning streak. "We're peaking at the right time and we continue to get better as we go along. Our defense is the key to everything."

The unit completely shut down one of the league's best rushing attacks last night, holding Rams senior Calvin McCoy to 82 yards on 20 carries. Linebackers Ryan Hunt and Anthony Mateo each had seven tackles.

"We knew what we had to get done tonight," Hunt said. "This was the biggest game for us. We had a lot of swagger before the season and l think we lost some of it when we lost to Iona Prep and Holy Cross. But I think we're building it back up right now."

Junior safety Maurice Easterling had two interceptions and broke up what looked like a sure touchdown catch in the second quarter with a punishing hit. Easterling also rushed for 83 yards and a touchdown.

And Stepinac cornerback Brian Boulhosa did a solid job against Fordham Prep's Peter LaMacchia, who's arguably the area's best receiver, through the first three quarters.

"We have beaten them the last three times and I think that gave them incentive coming in," Fordham Prep coach Peter Gorynski said. "(Stepinac) did a phenomenal job. They outplayed us and they outcoached us."

Fordham Prep, ranked third in The Journal News Class AA poll, is still in position to claim the top seed in the AA playoffs but it needs to beat Holy Cross next Sunday.

The Rams' stake as the favorite to win the title, however, might now be transferred to Stepinac.

"This could be a blessing in disguise for us," Gorynski said. "This might wake us up and tells us that we are beatable and let us know we still have a lot of work to get done. It's good timing with the playoffs coming up."


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