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Cassidy sees positives in CK’s 21-0 loss to Friars

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Christ the King football coach Mike Cassidy wanted to gauge where his team stood among the elite in the Catholic High School Football League. What better chance to measure where his team was than to do it against the crème de la crème.

While Cassidy and the Royals were not happy with losing 21-0 at St. Anthony’s in front of a Homecoming crowd of approximately 2,000 in South Huntington, L.I. Sunday, there was a lot of positives for the head coach to draw upon in the team’s hour and a half bus ride back to Middle Village.

“I thought we played well, we hung in there,” Cassidy said. “We’re going to be a better football team for this. When we get into the playoffs, we’re going to be battle tested.”

After losing a tough 18-15 game to Chaminade, another league powerhouse, Cassidy was pleased with how tough his Royals played against a Friars team not used to adversity. But he also knew that against St. Anthony’s (5-1, 5-0 CHSFL), his team had to play near flawless football to come out victorious.

And while Christ the King (3-3, 3-2 CHSFL) held the mistakes to a minimum, the Royals’ few turnovers turned out to be the difference in the game.

Two plays after Christ the King quarterback Jose Duverge’s intended pass for senior Craig Nelson was picked off by senior linebacker Mike Hatzidakis at the Friars 37, St. Anthony’s struck.

Junior quarterback Alex Conlon (8-for-13, 68 yards, one touchdown) flipped the ball to junior Jimmy Rennert in the backfield and Rennert in turn found Conlon streaking down the sideline. The old halfback option was good for a 48-yard touchdown pass as St. Anthony’s took a 7-0 lead with 11:04 left in the second quarter.

“I thought today was the first time we really played as a team,” said St. Anthony’s head coach Rich Reichert. “The defense forced some good turnovers and high school football is all about momentum. If we can create a couple of more opportunities for the offense, we should be in good shape.”

Led by a superb performance by senior running back Timmy Ducey, who garnered 50 of his 56 yards on 13 carries in the first half, Christ the King put together an impressive drive after the Friars touchdown. But Duverge, who broke free for a 34-yard gain earlier in the drive, fumbled on first-and-10 from the St. Anthony’s 33 as Chris Frank recovered for the Friars.

“We moved the ball, but we just got stopped at the wrong times. We couldn’t get that extra first down,” Ducey said. “But we’re improving game by game and I’m sure we’ll see them in the playoffs.”

Anchored by 5-foot-9 senior middle linebacker Rolando Garcia, who was spectacular for the Royals, the Christ the King defense held St. Anthony’s to just 26 yards on the ground in the first half, but it was the Friars who had the lead going into the break.

“When we turn over the ball, they do what they have to do to score. They converted on our turnovers,” Garcia said. “They’re just a mistake-free football team.”

Garcia, one of the league’s top linebackers, was a major reason the St. Anthony’s running game struggled, as he sidelined Friars big-play senior running back John Fiske with a possible concussion on the second play of the game.

“He’s tough. We knew because we scouted him, but he was just all over the field,” Reichert said of Garcia. “You just can’t knock him off his feet.”

After gaining 105 yards on the ground, Christ the King managed just 25 rushing yards in the second half and 52 total yards of offense. Led by Rennert and junior Jonathan Saez, St. Anthony’s improved on its rushing numbers with 127 second half yards.

Rennert (76 yards on six carries) set up St. Anthony’s second score with a 56-yard gain on first and 10 from the Friars 20. After Rennert’s 16-yard burst brought St. Anthony’s to the Christ the King 3, sophomore Matthew Hahn scored from one yard out to give St. Anthony’s a 14-0 lead with 11:54 left in the fourth quarter.

The Friars, who tacked on another touchdown when Conlon connected with senior wide receiver Mike Hartofilis with a 12-yard strike with 8:40 left in the game, managed to negate Christ the King’s speedy Nelson.

The Royals track standout had just 16 yards on nine carries and never got a chance to display his blinding speed on special teams, as St. Anthony’s kicker Philip Elia sent all but one kickoff through the back of the end zone for touchbacks and punter Dan Darrow alertly kept the ball away from Nelson, usually opting to boot the ball out of bounds.

“It didn’t make sense [to kick to Nelson],” Reichert said. “If he gets the ball, we knew we had problems.”

Christ the King returns to action Saturday at 1 p.m. when the Royals travel to Holy Trinity (5-1 CHSFL). Led by quarterback Anthony Cotrone, Trinity is coming off a come-from-behind 17-6 win over Stepinac Saturday.

Iona Prep 20, Holy Cross 7. The Knights got on the scoreboard first when Kavelle Gordon capped a nine play, 80-yard drive with a 21-yard touchdown run. But Iona Prep (4-1 CHSFL) took over in the second half.

After cutting Holy Cross’ lead to 7-6 before the break, the Gaels added one touchdown in the third quarter and another in the fourth. Doug Anderwkavich had two sacks and a fumble recovery for Holy Cross (2-4 CHSFL), which hosts Mount St. Michael (3-2, 3-2 CHSFL) at the Bayside Athletic Field Sunday at 1:30 p.m.

Reach Associate Sports Editor Dylan Butler by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 143.

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