Sunday, December 2, 2007

Single-Wing Xavier (NY) wins the CHSFL 'A' title

NY Catholic High School Football League Honors
Jayson Holt, coach Mario Valentini lead way for Bronx/Manhattan All-Stars
Sunday, December 2nd 2007, 4:00 AM

Pace for News
Jayson Holt leads Mount Saint Michael back to CHSFL 'AAA' title game.

Pace for News
Mario Valentini helps young squad surprise CHSFL foes.

Chevrestt for News
Duke Fergerson

Several squads made it deep into the playoffs, but none ran farther or faster than Xavier, which won the CHSFL 'A' title with a single-wing attack that produced two 1,000-yard rushers. Mount Saint Michael reached the 'AAA' final for a second straight season. Fordham Prep battled its way into the 'AA' semifinals before falling, 19-14, to Stepinac. On the PSAL side, JFK and Wadleigh both made postseason runs before falling. Wadleigh lost to John Adams in the Cup Division final, and JFK lost to Canarsie in the playoff quarterfinals.

Jayson Holt, Mount Saint Michael
Jayson Holt was back for his third straight season as signal-caller for the Mountaineers, but he was lining up behind an all-new offensive line and handing off to a brand new halfback.

The inexperience showed in Mount's season-opening loss to Fordham Prep. It didn't seem like an out-of-nowhere upset, since the Rams were a solid team in their own right.

Still, Holt could have walked off the field thinking that his team lacked the talent to return to the heights it reached last year, when they reached the 'AAA' championship game and nearly knocked off St. Anthony's.

But after the loss and through the rest of the season, Holt showed the unquantifiable characteristics of a leader. He also flashed blazing speed, rushing for 12 touchdowns in the regular season.

The 5-10, 165-pound senior helped pull his young teammates through tough stretches of the regular season, displaying an indomitable work ethic and dispensing an occasional earful of encouragement.

"He knew it was gonna take some time, but he tried to be positive with the kids," Mount coach Mario Valentini said. "He showed them what it took to win with the way he worked."

Mario Valentini, Mount Saint Michael
Mount Saint Michael played a 3-4 regular season and showed itself to be a young, often inconsistent club. The Mountaineers played tight games against tough competition all season, gaining experience through an up-and-down campaign.

From his team's season-opening loss to Fordham Prep to its upset of St. Anthony's and tough losses to St. Joseph's-by-the-Sea, Chaminade and Holy Trinity, coach Mario Valentini saw progress.

Valentini's squad entered the CHSFL's 'AAA' playoffs with the seventh seed and needed to pull off back-to-back upsets to reach the championship game. Throughout the week of practice before Mount's playoff opener against second-seeded St. Joseph by-the-Sea, Valentini told his team how good they were, assuring them that they were ready for whatever the league had to offer.

"When you're inexperienced like we were, sometimes you have some growing pains," Valentini said. "We just talked to the kids about it being a new season and all the good plays we had during the year."

The positive reinforcement produced results as the Mountaineers reeled off road victories over St. Joseph and Chaminade (they had been beaten by both in the regular season). For a second straight season, Mount fell short in its bid to snap St. Anthony's reign over the 'AAA' division. Still, Valentini doesn't judge his team's season by its last game. "Sometimes," he said, "you take the measurement of a team by where it starts to where it ends."

Duke Fergerson and the Harlem Hellfighters
Duke Fergerson led the Harlem Hellfighters to the Cup Division championship game in just their third season in the PSAL. Based out of Wadleigh HS, the Hellfighters are composed of players from 13 Harlem-area schools.

Wadleigh finished the season 10-2 and fell to John Adams, 58-42, in a thrilling final last Sunday, but a game on Oct. 13 may have been more significant.

The team went to Staten Island to play McKee/SI Tech and found a racial slur scrawled on its bench. Fergerson, who played at San Diego State and for the Seattle Seahawks and Buffalo Bills from 1977-80, called police to investigate, then his players used it as game motivation. Led by quarterback Terrence Mooney, the Hellfighters earned a 44-36 victory.

Mooney, who finished the season with 1,091 passing yards and 12 touchdowns, is being recruited by Harvard, Fergerson said.
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Xavier Knight Coverage -- CHSFL 'A' Finals

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