Xaverian silenced the critics.
This Clippers had to listen for three seasons about how they can’t beat the Catholic High School Football League’s elite teams. Xaverian responded by not just beating last-year’s runner up Iona Prep, but dominating the Gaels in all three phases of the game for a convincing 37–6 win Sunday afternoon in New Rochelle.
It was the Bay Ridge team’s first-ever win against a team seeded in the top three in the league’s coaches ranks.
“It’s an arrival for them,” Xaverian coach Joe DeSiena said of his seniors. “I think they feel this was a major hump that they had to get over.”
The Clippers, ranked No. 5 in the league by The Post, blocked two punts, intercepted three passes and even had a touchdown on a fumble in the end zone negated by a holding penalty. Xaverian built a 24–0 lead at halftime, but nearly saw the second-ranked Gaels (3-1, 2-1) get within one score in the third quarter.
Justin Combs replaced the ineffective Mario Biaggi and threw a 56-yard touchdown pass to Chris Cooper. Iona then drove the ball to the Xaverian 4, but Combs and Omari Buster mishandled the exchange. Rocky Iannocone grabbed it in mid-air and ran it back 98 yards for a score to give Xaverian (3-1, 2-0) a 30–8 lead late in the third quarter.
Combs, who played the first series before starting the second half, completed 11-of-16 passes for 212 yards and also ran for a score.
“I just had a free shot — I was going to hit the quarterback,” Iannocone said. “The next minute it was a toss and I was running up field. Next minute, I know it was in my hand and I just ran.”
It ensured all of Xaverian’s hard work in the first half didn’t go for naught after losing its last three meetings to the Gaels by a combined score of 109–54. Quarterback Zach Kearney got a big individual day started by taking the first play from scrimmage 80 yards up the right sideline for a score. Michael Guzman added a 35-yard field goal to help make it 10–0 after one quarter.
Sean Binckes blocked a punt two plays later and Tushaun Plummer was walking into the end zone with his hand held high on a reverse from the 13. Kearney put the exclamation point on things by blocking a punt, picking it up and running it in 15 yards for a touchdown. He completed 6-of-12 passes for 97 yards and carried the ball 11 times for 138 yards. Remo Rivera picked off Combs twice and Ryan Gordon had one interception.
“I slept on it,” Kearney said. “I dreamed about it. It was all week. Practice makes perfect. That’s what we did today.”
Their effort in practice was something Xaverian lamented after a 15–13 loss to Holy Cross in Week 2. It came after the Clippers, who have yet to play a home game, called a win over Monroe-Woodbury the best in program history. The loss to Cross refocused them in practice, leading to routs of Sea and then Iona, which felt it didn’t have a good week leading to the game.
“We weren’t ready,” Iona coach Vic Quirolo said. “Their attitude was go through the motions and turn it on on Sunday. We needed that. We needed to lose.”
Mayby, but not more than the Clippers needed the win.
Xaverian needed to finally take down one of the league’s perennial powers. DeSiena said he reminded his team that Iona greats like Jeff Mack and Tyrae Woodson-Samuels, who had beaten them in the past, were no longer wearing maroon and gold.
“This was a game,” DeSiena said. “They came in with every intention of making a statement.”