Xaverian coach Mike Jioia wasn’t going to dwell on the negative after a season-ending loss in the Catholic High School Football League Class A tile game.
Sure there were four turnovers and a inopportune penalty that killed a key drive late in 34–14 loss to host Fordham Prep last Friday night at Jack Coffey Field, but that didn’t matter to him after the team’s otherwise outstanding postseason.
In Jioia’s mind, it was exceptional that Xaverian was even playing for a championship after a regular season hobbled by injuries. The Clippers won four straight games, including a semifinal victory over Cardinal Spellman, on its way to the final.
Xaverian (6–4) had just 16 players for its game against Kennedy Catholic on Oct. 11, and at one point had 10 starters, most of which played both ways, out with injury.
“I told them about the resiliency they have,” Jioia said. “The highs and lows that we had. They went on a four-game winning streak just to get to this game, which was remarkable at this point in the season from all the injuries we went through.”
His team had a chance to beat Fordham Prep, but saw the momentum swing on a 61-yard punt return for a touchdown by Michael Bronzo with 8:24 to go in the third quarter. It helped give the Rams a 20–7 lead. Bronzo also had two interceptions and recovered a fumble for Fordham (9–2).
“It kind of deflated us, but the kids again came back” Jioia said. “We were able to move the ball very well.”
The Clippers answered right back when Garrett Murman made the catch of the game for a 17-yard touchdown connection with Phil DePaulis on the ensuing drive. Murman snatched the ball over the head of Fordham Prep defender Nick Kumar in the end zone to make it 20–7.
On Fordham’s next drive, Zack Salvato intercepted Rams freshman quarterback Matthew Valecce, but made nothing of it. Bronzo halted another Clippers drive with an interception of his own after an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty turned third-and-three from the Fordham 32 to third-and-18 for Xaverian.
The Clippers didn’t have an answer for Valecce and the Rams aerial attack. He completed 17 of 24 passes for 240 yards and three touchdowns. Brandon Peterson, who has been the team’s workhorse all season, carried the ball 22 times for 162 yards, including a 44-yard touchdown run in the first quarter or Xaverian. The junior was proud of the way his club finished out the season and never sulked in the face of adversity.
“We had our ups and downs throughout the season, but everybody kept coming to practice and doing what they got to do,” Peterson said. “It just worked out.”