Cardinal Hayes is a win away from capturing the program’s first Catholic high school state football title after defeating Archbishop Stepinac 25-7 for the Catholic High School Football League’s AAA championship at Mitchel Field in Uniondale Nov. 16.
The Cardinals (7-4) will play Buffalo region champion Canisius (6-5) at 1 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 23, for the state title at Robert J. Stansky Memorial Complex in West Seneca.
Cardinal Hayes last competed for a state title in 2016 when it was edged by Canisius, 50-44. Canisius is appearing in its fourth state title game since 2014.
“Our goal was to make it to the state championship game,” Cardinal Hayes coach CJ O’Neil told CNY. “We have a shot to go to it and win it. Reaching your goal is what you’re looking to do every day as a football team.”
O’Neil credited the Hayes defense for its strong play against the run and sophomore quarterback Henry Belin for leading his club in the league championship game.
Trailing 7-0 in the first quarter, Zachary Mitchell scored for the Cardinals to tie the game 7-7. Cardinal Hayes added two second-quarter touchdowns, one on a pass from Belin to Kuno Mendez and the second on a Jalen Smith run, to take a 19-7 lead.
Tafari Blackstock scored in the fourth quarter to close the scoring for the Cardinals.
Moore Catholic 28, St. Joseph by-the-Sea 6 — Justin Lacks ran for 237 yards, two touchdowns and broke New York City’s all-time rushing record in the fourth quarter to lead Moore Catholic to the AA championship at Mitchel Field Nov. 16. Lacks finished his high school career with 5,468 rushing yards.
“It was a great win for our program, the second championship in four years,” Moore Catholic coach Nick Giannatasio told CNY. “We are graduating a great group of young men, who led the team to a 9-1 record.”
Moore Catholic trailed, 6-0, before scoring the game’s final 28 points. Cameron Holmes caught a 15-yard touchdown pass from Nick Heineman and returned an interception 37 yards for a touchdown.
Artie Padilla finished with eight tackles and two sacks to lead the Mavericks defense. Michael Peraino had eight tackles, and Matt Heineman contributed six tackles and a sack.
John F. Kennedy Catholic 39, Cardinal Spellman 33 — Clayton Proctor ran 12 yards for the winning touchdown in overtime for host Kennedy Catholic in the A title game Nov. 10.
Proctor had 280 rushing yards and four touchdowns on 35 carries, and completed 12 of 18 passes for 145 yards and a touchdown.
“His will to win was awesome and I was just hoping to put the ball in his hands one more time in OT, and sure enough he came through like he did so many times during the game,” Kennedy Catholic coach Dominick Tassone told CNY. “He put on a display of athleticism that not many people can do, and to do it under the bright lights while everyone is watching was amazing.”
Bobby Piesco had 11 carries for 70 yards, and caught two passes for 30 yards and one touchdown for the Gaels. Liam Muholland booted a 27-yard, game-tying field goal as time expired in regulation to force overtime.
“Liam has ice in his veins, to be able to come on and kick the field goal to save the season and not bat an eye was impressive,” Tassone said. “I told his parents even though he is a fantastic soccer player, he may have football in his future.”
Chris LoRusso led the Kennedy Catholic defense with 17 tackles, including five tackles for a loss. Aidan Bernal contributed 15 tackles and one sack, and Ikenna Ononaji and Piesco added 12 and 11 tackles, respectively. Ayden Sanchez had two sacks.