Royals roll to first ‘AA’ final in 12 years

By Joseph Staszewski

Christ the King’s greatest luxury was its ticket to the championship game.

The Royals depth of talent at running back was on full display in a 41-7 romp over Fordham Prep in the CHSFL Class AA football semifinals last Saturday at Franklin K. Lane. Christ the King reached the title game for the first time since it won consecutive crowns in 2002-03.

“We just keep rotating, moving the ball and scoring,” said junior running back Siddiq Muhammad.

Undefeated CK (11-0) split the rushing load between four main rushers and had three other kids carry the ball. Three found their way to the end zone, with Adrian Velez and Muhammad posting two scores each. Giovanni Paul-Downie added a touchdown run in the first drive of the game.

“It’s Running Back University,” said Velez, also a junior.

It was Muhammad’s relentless running in the second quarter that allowed the Royals to break free of Fordham Prep (7-3) after the teams played to a 7-7 stalemate after one quarter. He carried the ball 11 times for 156 yards, and his 30-yard scoring run up the middle put CK up for good at 14-7, just three plays into the second quarter.

“He can run outside, inside,” CK coach Jason Down said. “He’s physical and he is a hard tackle and he got us going.”

Christ the King grabbed full control of the game after recovering a fumble at the Rams 19-yard line on the nets play. Four plays later David Navas threw a 19-yard touchdown pass to Alex Miranda to make it 21-7 Royals with 8:50 to go in the first half, during a string of 34 unanswered points.

While the Royals offense was running all over the field its defense shut down Fordham Prep’s vaunted passing game. Lorenzo Worrell and Nicholas Hunter put pressure on Fordham signal caller Matt Valecce all game. Two promising Rams’ drives ended deep in CK territory.

Garfield Hall intercepted Valecce, with Fordham at the Royals’ 27-yard line and down 28-7 late in the second quarter. Christ the King also got a fourth down stop up at its 15-yard line in the fourth quarter. The Royals learned from their 27-20 season opening win at Fordham and made a conscious effort to keep receivers Will Loffredo and Rory Allen from getting open.

“We focus in on [Loffredo] and tried to take away the back shoulder throws,” Hall said.

The complete performance sends Christ the King to face Xavier in the championship game 2 p.m. Saturday at Mitchel Athletic Complex. CK won the regular season meeting between the two teams 21-15 Oct. 17.

It has been a steady climb back for CK over the last three years, reaching the ‘AA’ playoffs for the first time since 2010 last season. There were championship aspirations entering this year with members of a JV team that reached the “AAA” title game being added to a veteran core. Christ the King is now one win from fulfilling its goals. “I think we are going to win,” Muhammad said. “I know we are going to win.”

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