By Joseph Staszewski
Injuries placed Michael Chiarovano into the spotlight early in the season for Xavier. The Maspeth native moved from fullback and the team’s second or third rushing option to the Knights’ premier back. He made his ascent even clearer with a dominant performance in one of Xavier’s biggest games of the season.
Chiarovano, a junior, carried the ball 40 times for 224 yards and three touchdowns as the Knights held off rival Fordham Prep 35-34 in overtime of the annual Turkey Bowl game on Thanksgiving Day at Fordham University’s Jack Coffey Field. The two schools have played annually since 1886. Chiarovano, who was named the game’s MVP, scored from 11 yards out in the extra session to provide the winning score in this year’s chapter of the game.
“I was just going for the first down,” he said. “I was just going for the three yards and it opened and I was just running.”
Xavier (6-7) had to rely heavily on him after its top three tailbacks broke their legs during the season and he was more than up to carrying the extra load. Chiarovano is listed at 5-foot-7 and 170 pounds, but he runs more like 205 pounds, according to Xavier coach Chris Stevens. The Xavier offensive line also dominated the entire game to give him plenty of running room.
“A couple of the plays I could see holes 10 yards wide,” Chiarovano said.
He has a knack for getting the tough yards and even bringing a few defensive players with him if need be. He rushed for touchdowns of 1 and 4 yards in the first quarter and burst through defense for an 18-yard gain to set up another score in the third against Fordham Prep (11-3).
“He’s the toughest runner we have, so when it is close, you better give it to him because he fights for the extra yard,” Stevens said. “He is a physical kid, very hard to tackle.”
After all Chiarovano did, he still had to watch from the sidelines to see if his team was going to seal the victory. Xavier needed to stuff Fordham’s two-point conversion run in overtime or it might not have been such a happy Thanksgiving. Chiarovano couldn’t wait to celebrate.
“I couldn’t breathe,” he said. “It was crazy. My heart was pounding. I was three yards on the field by the time the play was over.”
Without Chirovano, there likely isn’t any joy or a happy end to a season that included a trip to the CHSFL Class AA semifinals. He kept Xavier going after injuries decimated its backfield, just like he never stops running on the field.
“I know from the whole season he is going to make a hit and he isn’t going to go down the first time,” Stevens said. “You better be ready with a second guy because he is going to keep running.”