Coach of the Year: Kevin Kelly, Christ the King
BY ZACHARY BRAZILLER
At their lowest point, Kelly kept the Royals optimistic. He did not beat them down when they lost six in a row to start the season and kept them on an even keel when the wins finally arrived. Most of all, he trusted his players and it led to an out-of-nowhere four-game winning streak that landed Christ the King in the city finals.
There was no better example than CK’s 22-21 overtime win over Kellenberg in the CHSFL ‘AA’ semifinals, when Kelly went for four do-or-die fourth downs, capped by the game-winning two-point conversion.
“He’s a great coach,” Quarterback Joe Nuss said. “He believes in his players. Every single year he believes in his players. He took a lot of chances and most of his chances paid off. He told us if we follow our assignments we’ll win games and he was right.”
Kelly got the most out of the injured and undersized Royals, a club whose lineup was dwarfed compared to the opposition every week. The ending, an anticlimactic 47-12 loss in the CHSFL ‘AA’ finals to Stepinac, wasn’t the deserved result, but without Kelly’s hard driving yet understanding ways, such a magical run may have never even begun.
“Even through the entire season, it never felt like it was over, even when we were struggling,” Kelly said. “We had to get that one win under our belt and once we did, it allowed us to build off of that. We were able to start rolling and get more confident in all aspects of our game.
“It was special,” he added. “Obviously, we wanted to finish with a title, but it doesn’t take away from the effort the guys gave throughout the season, getting into the championship game.”
Player of the Year: Joe Nuss, Christ the King
Nuss embodied the unexpected finish. A basketball player who additionally fell into football at Christ the King, Nuss struggled under center as a junior in Christ the King’s one-win season.
Despite putting up big numbers early, Nuss and the Royals lost their first six games this fall, too. At that point, however, they turned their season around, winning their final two league games and shocking No. 2 St. Francis Prep, 14-13, and No. 6 Kellenberg, 22-21 in overtime, to reach the CHSFL ‘AA’ finals.
Nuss was in the middle of it all. He scored a pair of touchdowns in the upset of the Terriers and threw the game-winning two-point conversion in the victory over Kellenberg. He finished the year with 1,706 yards passing and 20 touchdowns, 14 through the air and six on the ground.
“Joe understands what you got to do as a quarterback to be successful,” CK Coach Kevin Kelly said.
When the year began, Nuss’ greatest accomplishments had come on a basketball court. This, he said, trumps them all.
“It was a great experience,” he said. “The way we walked around school; everything was different. We felt like we were winners when we made it to the finals.”
Quarterback: Datalia Holness, Campus Magnet
(783 Yards Passing, 332 Yards Rushing, 13 TD, 2 INT)
The borough’s best PSAL quarterback the second year in a row and an outstanding safety, Holness led the Bulldogs to a near upset of Canarsie and their second consecutive Queens crown.
Coach’s Quote: He did it both ways and went beyond expectations. People don’t realize how hard this kid worked this year.
Running Back: Murphy White, August Martin
(649 Yards, 8 TD, 27 Tackles)
One of the reasons August Martin returned to the playoffs and enjoyed such a surprisingly solid season.
Coach’s Quote: He’s probably one of the hardest working kids I’ve ever seen. Very Fast, he fit very well into our system.
Wide Receiver: Tariq Tongue, Holy Cross
(19 Catches, 280 Yards, 3 TD) Maybe not the year he was looking for, but the 5-foot-9, 180-pound junior has quite a future ahead of him.
Coach’s Quote: He’s a big-time player. He’s got great hands.
Offensive Line: Rasean Roundtree, August Martin
The linchpin on each line for the Falcons, Roundtree keyed August Martin’s impressive 6-3 campaign.
Coach’s Quote: He was our best lineman offensively and defensively. A very strong kid.
Running Back: Daryl Whiting, Holy Cross
(1,018 yards rushing, 320 yards receiving, 13 TD)
Whiting broke out, making an impact out of the backfield on the ground as well as through the air.
Coach’s Quote: He took the burden of pressure on himself and performed with no problems. He had a lot to prove and he proved it.
Fullback: Martin Thomas, Campus Magnet
(209 yards rushing, 1 TD, 2 Sacks, 26 tackles).
Thomas emerged as the season progressed, finding a role in the running game and making a difference on the defensive line.
Coach’s Quote: He’s the real deal.
Wide Receiver: Elihu Barclay, Jamaica
(43 Receptions, 667 Yards, 8 TD)
Only a junior, Barclay, who also played corner, ignited Jamaica’s offense. Look for Barclay and junior quarterback Kamario Darby to be the borough’s top 1-2 punch next fall.
Offensive Line: David Toriola, St. Francis Prep
An all-league offensive tackle, Toriola is attracting interest from Hofstra and CW Post among others after such an effective senior season.
Coach’s Quote: He has very good feet for a big kid.
Running Back: Tristan Akong, St. Francis Prep
(1,137 Rushing Yards, 18 TD)
Nothing much the junior tailback didn’t do; he was a threat to take it to the house from anywhere on the field.
Tight End: Michael Hennessy, Christ the King
(25 Receptions, 406 Yards, 6 TD)
Quarterback Joe Nuss’ safety valve, Hennessy made acrobatic catches in the most opportune times.
Coach’s Quote: He was a kid we could line up at tight end and split out wide as a receiver.
Offensive Line: Dylan Gruszczynski, Holy Cross
A two-year starter, the 5-foot-11, 175-pound center was a sure thing on shotgun snaps, punts and field goals in addition to being a stabilizing factor in blocking schemes.
Coach’s Quote: He played very tough.
Kicker: Chris Gallagher, St. Francis Prep
(5-of-6 FG, 20-of-24 XP) The Terriers actually sought out the soccer varsity athlete last fall, but he decided to forego the opportunity. Not this time, adding a weapon most high school football teams in the area lack.
Coach’s Quote: He really started to come up and meet the ball well.
Defensive Lineman: Jamel Dolloway, Campus Magnet
(32 Tackles, 3 Sacks)
Campus Magnet’s unsung hero, the 6-foot, 315-pound two-way lineman was the reason quarterback Datalia Holness had time to throw and the Bulldogs’ running back by committee had so many holes to run through.
Coach’s Quote: On both sides of the ball, he was a terror. [Other teams] could not block him.
Defensive Lineman: Jason Munnerlyn, Bayside
(41 Tackles, 1 Sack)
A three-year starter, Munnerlyn was a bright spot in a down year. He lost weight in the off-season to gain athleticism and became a force.
Coach’s Quote: He is a big kid that demands double teams and creates many problems.
Linebacker: Ariel Medrano, John Adams
(119 Tackles, 8 Sacks)
The 6-foot, 220-pound middle linebacker led the Spartans in tackles and was second in the Cup Division.
Coach’s Quote: He’s an outstanding kid, hard-nosed, tough, and played both ways.
Defensive Back: James Kikel, St. Francis Prep
(90 tackles, 6 INT, 1 Fumble Recovery)
For the second straight year, he led St. Francis Prep in tackles and interceptions.
Coach’s Quote: He has great athletic instincts and is an excellent tackler.
Defensive Lineman: Antonio Carter, Holy Cross
The senior made a lasting impact in the Catholic League All-Star game with two tackles for losses and a sack.
Coach’s Quote: All of a sudden, everybody started getting interested in him [after that].
Linebacker: Thomas Greyer, August Martin
(109 Tackles, 3 Fumble Recoveries). The talented linebacker spearheaded an opportunistic
defense while also producing as a receiver
Coach’s Quote: He’s one of those guys that really understands the game. He had a nose for the football.
Linebacker: Travis Quarless, Holy Cross
(61 Tackles, 7 1/2 Sacks).
The 6-foot-2, 215-pound linebacker was a terror rushing the passer and because of that is drawing interest from a bevy of Division I programs.
Coach’s Quote: What makes him a great player is his acceleration. Like a car, he goes from zero to 60 [mph] in no time.
Defensive Back: David Lopez, Christ the King
(1,011 Yards, 9 TD, 29 Tackles, 3 INT) Lopez will be remembered as the starting running back for Christ the King, but his value was far more than carrying the football. The senior also saw time at wide receiver, cornerback, safety and backup linebacker.
Coach’s Quote: He was like our slash.
Defensive Lineman: Curtis Stembridge, St. Francis Prep
(30 Tackles, 5 Sacks)
A co captain, the 6-foot-1, 215-pound lineman made quite a transition from linebacker to defensive end, giving the Terriers the speedy pass-rusher they sorely lacked.
Coach’s Quote: He was quick and aggressive and gave us what we needed.
Linebacker: Reggie Francklin, Holy Cross
(95 tackles, 4 INT, 5 Sacks, 6 Fumble Recoveries)
In his second year as a starter, the 5-foot-11, 230-pound junior earned all-league honors.
Coach’s Quote: We’re looking for him to have another big year. He’s one of the mainstays.
Defensive Back: Danny Manetta, Christ the King
(49 Receptions, 813, Yards, 4 TD, 61 Tackles)
The CHSFL ‘AA’ league leader in receptions and yards receiving, Manetta was Christ the King’s third-down specialist, but also could beat the opposition deep. Furthermore, he was voted All-League as a shutdown corner.
Coach’s Quote: He pretty much caught everything thrown at him. He was also instrumental for us getting in and out of our coverage checks.
Defensive Back: Andrew Richards, August Martin
August Martin’s Mr. Everything. He played corner, outside linebacker, wide receiver and returned punts and kickoffs.
Coach’s Quote: He’s a playmaker. He was always around the ball.
Return Specialist: Terrence Coon, Holy Cross
(5 TD, 33 tackles)
Coon did it all for Holy Cross, making big plays in the return game and at strong safety, lining up at wide receiver and in the backfield.
Coach’s Quote: He’s a very instinctive kid.
Courier’s end of year Football Awards
Coach of the Year: Kevin Kelly, Christ the King