The third time was the charm for Xaverian.
After falling in the Catholic High School Football League A Division championship game the previous two seasons, the top-seeded Clippers captured the elusive crown with 31–14 victory over No. 2 Cardinal at Mitchel Field on Nov. 21. It was a hard-earned feather in the cap for several outgoing seniors.
“There’s nothing like it,” said tight end Vincent Finizio. “I’m a senior, so I’m happy I got to experience this my senior year. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
A dominant first half laid the groundwork for Xaverian’s first championship win since 2006, when it won the “AA” crown.
The championship win was in the team’s crosshairs all season.
“We set out from the beginning of the year right in the weight room, and the only thing we were going to settle for was a championship,” Xaverian coach Mike Jioia said. “Thank God every thing works out for a reason.”
Xaverian’s first play from scrimmage was microcosm for the day.
The Clippers started the game with a little trickery — a flea flicker that allowed senior quarterback Phil DePaulis to drop back and heave the ball downfield to Finizio for a 68-yard touchdown. The squad had that one in its back pocket for days, the tight end said.
“That first play of the game we had planned all week,” Finizio said. “We knew it was going to be a big play, so we went over it a bunch of times. We were confident that we were going to score a touchdown.”
Xaverian solidified its lead when Spellman lined up for a punt from its 18-yard line at the end of the first quarter. Spellman’s punter bobbled the snap and managed just a 10-yard punt. Xaverian got the ball at the Spellman 28-yard line and found the end zone two plays later when senior Brandon Peterson drove in a direct snap from one yard out, giving the Clippers a 17–6 lead.
With five minutes left in the half, DePaulis found Peterson on a screen pass that he ran for a 73-yeard score, giving Xaverian a 24–6 lead.
It was part of a change in offensive philosophy after beating Spellman twice in the regular season by 36–8 and 35–0, Jiola said.
“We were a heavy, heavy run team, but we have kids that we feel can pass the ball, and we have some good receivers,” he said. “We decided to pass the ball a little more and spread them out.”
Xaverian’s defensive front forced a fumble on the first play of Spellman’s next drive. Junior Michael Marinelli — the game’s defensive most valuable player — recovered to loose ball and set the Clippers up at the Spellman 22-yard line. One play later, DePaulis (7 of 9, 184 yards) found Julius Arcaro open on the left flank for a 22-yard score and a 31–6 lead going into the break.
Evan after an undefeated season in its division, Xaverian will be staying in the A Division next year and defend its crown, according to Jioia. It will lose 18 seniors and will be moving 15 sophomores to the varsity squad. The outgoing players savored their last game as Clippers.
“This means everything,” Marinelli said. “Coach Jioia deserves it. We deserve it. Our parents and our fans deserve it and hopefully we can do it again next year.”