CHSFL football: Stepinac holds off Fordham Prep
By BRIAN HEYMAN
THE JOURNAL NEWS
(Original publication: November 11, 2007)
NEW YORK - Maurice Easterling stretched the ball across the goal line and Stepinac had finally climbed out of its 14-point hole, taking a five-point edge with 1:38 left. But then Fordham Prep started throwing the ball down the field, racing the clock and the Crusaders for the ticket to the title game.
Rashaad Slowley had been running in the fast lane for much of the chilly afternoon at Jack Coffey Field on the Fordham University campus, rolling up 171 yards on 26 carries. But this sweaty finish was getting tough to watch for the big-time senior halfback from Mount Vernon.
"Oh man, anybody in their right mind would be nervous," Slowley said. "I was just sitting on the sideline and I couldn't look, but I had to look."
Fourth-and-10, 12 yards from the end zone, three seconds from the end of the game. This was it.
Lawrence DeSimone fired to Calvin McCoy in the right flat. But he was stopped at the 9 and tried to lateral it back. The ball fell to the ground, and Easterling ultimately fell on it.
"That was a good feeling," the sophomore from Yonkers said.
Because fourth-seeded Stepinac is indeed going to be fighting for the CHSFL AA title next Sunday after a 19-14 semifinal win yesterday, its seventh straight since Slowley returned from an ankle injury.
"We were in the Double-A championship in 2001 and lost it," coach Mike O'Donnell said. "It's few and far between that you get to games like this. So it's a great, great tribute to our program and the kids. Hopefully, we'll do well."
Stepinac hasn't claimed first prize since 1995. But in the final scheduled at Hofstra, the 8-2 Crusaders are going to be facing seventh-seeded Christ the King, a team that fell to Fordham Prep 45-13.
"We think we have a good shot of getting the title," Slowley said.
The 8-2 Rams were bent on getting another shot at the title all season after losing in the final last year.
Four turnovers and an injury suffered by senior fullback/linebacker Brian Seminario less than two minutes into the game helped derail the plan. coach Pete Gorynski said he believed it was a stinger.
It was in more ways than one.
"It forced me to leave about a third of my game plan on the table," Gorynski said. "Probably bigger than that was losing him on defense."
And yet his team was still riding its 14-13 halftime lead with less than four minutes remaining. Then McCoy, who rushed for 107 yards on 20 carries, fumbled at his own 41. Blake Rzemieniewski recovered - Stepinac ball, 3:14 left.
The fast-moving Easterling took it the final 12 yards.
"When Coach told me I needed to get the ball, I just wanted to run for the touchdown real hard, no matter what," he said.
Joe Collins rolled right for the 2-point pass, but he was tackled.
Seminario set up the day's first touchdown - an 8-yard sprint to the left corner by Peter Lamacchia - by intercepting a Collins throw on the second play of the game. Then DeSimone snuck in from the 1, and it was 14-0 Rams with 9:09 to go until the intermission.
But as O'Donnell said, "We didn't die." Easterling twisted through the middle for a 13-yard score to cap the next drive. Then Collins tossed a 13-yard strike to Slowley in the left side of the end zone. The Crusaders blew the PAT, but the momentum had swung.
"You've got to give credit to Stepinac," Gorynski said. "It's not so much that we let it slip away as they took the game away from us."