By Joseph Staszewski
As David Navas’ pass settled into Alex Miranda’s hand in the right side of the end zone on fourth down, it was more than just a winning touchdown in Christ the King’s eyes. It was a sign that the program was ready to take the next step, as well as a reflection of its current roster’s maturity.
The play allowed the Royals to rally for a 27-20 season opening victory over Fordham Prep at Jack Coffey Field last Friday night. But it was more than just one win, as they set their sights on claiming a CHSFL Class AA crown.
“Previous years we never did this,” Miranda said. “We never kept on fighting. We usually either gave up or got upset. At this point, we kept fighting, fighting until we were able to get the W.”
The Royals took a 19-12 lead on the final play of the third quarter when Justin Terry ripped the ball out of Thomas Natkin’s hands and returned it 30 yards for a score. Fordham Prep refused to die, as quarterback Matt Valecce tossed his third touchdown pass of the game and a two-point conversion to Rory Allen to give the Rams a 20-19 advantage with 8:19 to play in the game.
Christ the King kept its composure. Navas led an eight-play, 53-yard drive for a score with 3:40 to go before the Royals defense held. That drive ended with him on 4th and 6 lofting a pass over the defenders’ heads right into the hands of Miranda. Navas knew he had it the whole way.
“I told [Miranda] on the play, in that huddle, hitch and go and it’s yours,” he said.
Navas completed 10 of 14 passes for 110 yards and rushed for 46 more. Giovanni Paul Downie ran for an 11-yard touchdown on the Royals’ opening drive and Ahmad Fernandez added a 2-yard scoring scamper to make it 13-6 CK with 9:57 to play in the third quarter.
Valecce completed 18 of 27 passes for 215 yards for the Rams, but much of it was under duress. The Christ the King defensive line shut down the Rams’ running game and kept Valecce moving around the pocket all night. Johnathan Coste led the way with three sacks.
“Our defensive line is one of the top in the league, if not the best in the league,” Navas said.
Christ the King has that kind of confidence on both sides of the ball this year, after a winning season and its first Class AA playoff berth since 2010 last season. They showed it was more than talk and picked up right where they left off without reverting back to old ways.
“Usually our upperclassmen would just tuck their tails and just fold it,” Royals coach Jason Brown said. “Now we have a different breed of kid. They believe in themselves. There were a lot of mistakes out there, but I’m more proud of the fact they fought back.”