Cardinal Hayes High School
By Toyloy Brown III ‘18
WHITE PLAINS- A week before Cardinal Hayes (4-1) faced Archbishop Stepinac (5-1), they had just lost their first game of the 2017 season against St. Anthony’s 31-12. That bitter defeat taught the Cardinals that no win is guaranteed.
Entering this Saturday’s game away from the South Bronx, the Cardinals understood that losing two games in a row was not an option with just two weeks remaining for the start of the 'AAA' playoffs.
Cardinals Hayes’ first loss gave them a taste of adversity that will prepare them for tougher games in the future. The Cardinals first opportunity for a bounce-back win came this Saturday at 1:30 P.M. in a CHSFL rematch of the ‘AAA’ championship game.
With the opening possession, the Cardinals started the game and came out extremely strong. After a 40-yard run by quarterback Sofian Massoud ‘20, wide receiver Lucas Núñez ‘18 was handed the ball and found himself in the end zone for 13-yard rushing touchdown. In the following drive for the Cardinals, they received the ball close to their own 1-yard line in what seemed to be a very tough spot to begin a drive. On the first play, Massoud delivered a 10-yard pass that turned it a 97-yard explosive reception for Núñez that ended a few yards from the end zone.
Massoud finished the job with a 3-yard touchdown to give the Cardinals a two-score lead. The first quarter concluded with Hayes up 14-0.
The Crusaders scored for the first time two minutes and 30 seconds into the second quarter. That temporarily uplifted Stepinac supporters. However, immediately after, wide receiver Elijah Jones ‘18 caught a 50-yard touchdown to give Hayes a 21-7 lead.
After another failed offensive drive by the Crusaders, the Cardinals possessed the ball. Unfortunately, an interception was thrown early and Stepinac had the ball 6 yards from the end zone. With such great field position, Archbishop Stepinac scored to bring them within one touchdown.
Before the end of the half, the Cardinals managed to put together another successful drive that ended with a 13-yard passing touchdown to Núñez. Hayes ended the first half up 27-14.
The Cardinals displayed absolute dominance once the third quarter came around and Jones really found his groove. In that quarter, Jones had an 80-yard run on the first play for a touchdown, caught a 60-yard pass for a touchdown, and caught an interception on our own 15-yard line. That interception led to a drive completed with a 50-yard touchdown for Lucas Núñez.
At the same time the Cardinals were ‘lighting up’ the Crusaders, they were also locking them down on defense. Archbishop Stepinac was held to zero points in the quarter, while Cardinals scored 26 points unanswered.
In the final quarter, Stepinac managed to score one final time with seven minutes left in the game. By this time, the Cardinals were going to come out on top and stayed in cruise control for the remainder of the game.
The final score was Cardinal Hayes 47 to Archbishop Stepinac 21.
After the game, I talked to Elijah Jones about his great game and how he started to play extremely well in the third quarter.
“Definitely, you know we planned for this and I just had to bring the best out of me because I knew it would be a tough game. We played with fire as a unit and I tried to help lead as much as I could and we came out with a great win.”
In regards to beating the Crusaders in their homecoming game, Jones called it a “statement win.”
We also talked about how losing at St. Anthony’s may have influenced such a blowout victory that occurred today.
“It’s always great to bounce back. You define teams by how they act when they are down. So, when you are down and out you either fold or you step up and say hey we got to keep driving.”
Afterwards, I also spoke with Coach O’Neil about what it means to dominate such a highly-ranked team in New York State.
“They’re a great team. I think we needed what happened to us last week because this is a tough league: the CHSFL. Week in and week out you have to come loaded and prepared.”
We then discussed what the loss versus St. Anthony’s did for the team and how it showed today.
“Last week St. Anthony’s walked ready to take us out and we didn’t respond well. This week the boys came out more mentally prepared for it. You know what, that’s character. There are ups and downs in life and the great thing about this football game is that it teaches you how to respond in negative times. When you’re down you got to get back up quick.”
The final thing we talked about was how meaningful it is to beat Stepinac for the first time since winning against them last year in the championship.
“Anytime you play a team that is ranked No. 1 in the state, you got to come and bring it. The kids really did a great job today and there was a really awe-inspiring thing about it. They came, took on the challenge, and they succeeded. I just love seeing that from young men growing up.”
The bounce-back win displayed by the head coach and the entire Cardinals team is something that should carry deep in the playoffs to help them become back-to-back city champs.
For now, they can proudly hold the Dubois Trophy with a lot of pride and now they can go into their annual Homecoming game against Monsignor Farrell ready to continue their momentum.