Iona Prep Right at Home With First State Football Title  

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Iona Prep scored 21 unanswered points in the second half to capture its first Catholic high school state football championship with a 38-22 victory over St. Francis of the Buffalo region.

The Gaels finished the season with 11 consecutive victories and an 11-1 record, losing only its season opener against New Jersey’s Don Bosco Prep. The state championship season followed a 2020-2021 school year where the Catholic High School Football League played a shortened spring season and no state championship game was played due to the Covid pandemic.

The state title was won on Prep’s home field in New Rochelle Nov. 27.

“The current seniors wanted to finish what last year's seniors started and that was winning a state championship,” Iona Prep coach Joe Spagnolo told CNY. “All of the class of 2021 alums came back for the game to support the boys. It was an awesome event to be a part of. 

“Our boys overcame so much adversity and never made excuses. I am extremely proud of their drive and never give-up attitude. I hope these characteristics remain with the boys into adulthood.” 

Iona Prep led 17-9 in the third quarter before scoring 21 consecutive points to take a 38-9 lead in the final quarter. Justin Joly scored twice and Colin O’Garro once during the second half -half for the Gaels.

Quarterback Ajani Sheppard completed 15 of 21 passes for 124 yards and two touchdowns, and finished with 12 carries for 70 yards and a touchdown for Iona Prep. Zyian Moultrie-Goddard led the defense with 12 tackles and one fumble recovery, and Jayson Vavrica added 11 tackles and one sack.

“It was a very physical football game,” Spagnolo said. “St. Francis was one of the best teams we played this year. Our depth wore them down in the fourth quarter as they played more boys both ways.”

Iona Prep advanced to its first state championship game by defeating Msgr. Farrell, 49-15, for the Catholic High School Football League AAA Championship in Uniondale Nov. 20. Sheppard, who threw for three touchdowns and ran for two more, was named the Catholic High School Football League AAA Championship game’s offensive most valuable player.

Sheppard completed 17 of 22 passes for 220 yards and ran for 75 yards on 10 carries.

Joly caught five passes for 73 yards and one touchdown, and had seven carries for 76 yards and a touchdown. Michael Senatore, Mike Ryan and  O’Garro each scored a touchdown for the Gaels.

Iona Prep’s defense stopped Msgr. Farrell’s running game and had three quarterback sacks. Moultrie-Goddard was named the game’s defensive most valuable player.

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