Cardinal Hayes High School
By Matthew Valle ‘21
BRONX - In the shadow of the legendary Yankee Stadium, the stage was set. Tough and fierce are two words that can be used to describe another chapter in the rekindled rivalry between Cardinal Hayes (7-2) and Archbishop Stepinac (8-2).
After Saturday’s contest you can add one more to it: heartbreaking.
The 13-12 defeat in the CHSFL “AAA” semifinals at the hands of the Crusaders certainly was not in the Cardinals' plans. Cardinal Hayes was coming off of a historic win over St. Peter’s 50-14, which was capped by WR Elijah Jones' five touchdowns. The team was looking to continue from the positive mark their previous game.
Hayes and Stepinac matched up in the CHSFL “AAA” semifinals. Winner would then face first place St. Anthony (9-1) in the CHSFL “AAA” finals.
Both team’s defense continued to make stops until the Cardinals answered first with a TD run by Nasier Salgado ’18. A botched PAT attempt would result in a 6-0 lead in the first quarter.
Stepinac would promptly respond in the following quarter with a Nicosia touchdown pass to Alex Thomas. They would also have a PAT mishap of their own leaving the score knotted at 6-6
With the game deadlocked, no one in attendance at Rooftop Park really knew who was gaining an advantage.The Cardinals and Crusaders continued to battle it out leading into halftime, but failed to put additional points on the scoreboard.
Hayes suffered severely as they faced numerous penalties, giving Stepinac a slight advantage. Hayes penalties’ converted into a loss of 40 or more total yards.
Both teams continued to battle it out till Stepinac took the advantage by scoring a 22 yard rushing TD making the score 13-6, following a successful PAT.
Following the Cardinals’ defense stop, the Hayes’ offense steamrolled for a touchdown making the score 13-12, following another unsuccessful PAT.
The Hayes crowd rallied behind the team giving them the extra motivation they needed to make this critical stop late in the fourth quarter.With the defense getting that crucial stop, everyone in attendance could have potentially witnessed a game-winning drive led by the talented receiving core of Elijah Jones and Lucas Nuñez, and their QB Sofian Massoud.
The energy and excitement rallied the Cardinals into the end zone where they faced an angry Stepinac defense and crowd. With the Cardinals facing a fourth down, they elected to go for the TD with under a minute left in the final quarter.
Fans were in shock that they decided to go for the TD and not the easy field goal which would have given Hayes a 15-13 lead.With pressure coming, Hayes made a careless pass into heavy coverage causing them to turnover the ball and giving Stepinac the ball with under 40 seconds left.
Stepinac took a few kneels, officially ending the Hayes football season against the Crusaders who came away with a momentous 13-13 victory.
Although Hayes will still play another game at the annual “Turkey Bowl” against Mount Saint Michael, Hayes will bid farewell to their senior players who gave it their all to lose by only one point at the end.
We all know that Cardinal Hayes will only get better from here. We see key players leave, but welcome in new talent to the team.
Under the leadership of Coach O’Neil and his entire coaching staff, our football team is in great shape and condition for the 2018 season. This lost isn’t the end of the football team, but only the beginning.