It was a season of surprises, outstanding running backs and hard-hitting linebackers. Port Richmond won its first city championship in football while Fort Hamilton nearly took home its third crown in four years. Xaverian bounced back from a winless season to challenge some of the finest the Catholic league has to offer.
Xavier running back Seamus Kelly put forth one of the more memorable seasons in recent memory, scoring 47 touchdowns. PR’s back Torian Phillips tied a PSAL final record by finding pay dirt four times.
We had the biggest PSAL playoff upset since this format was adopted, as No. 15 Beach Channel shocked No. 2 Curtis, ending the Warriors reign as defending champions. Yet, it was still No. 1 holding the trophy.
All that and more is here in our all-city football honors:
ALL-CITY PLAYER OF THE YEAR:
Torian Phillips, Port Richmond
Watching Phillips sashay through opposing defenses almost looked effortless, the 5-foot-10 slot back sprinting past one defender, side-stepping another, stiff-arming a third. He never seemed to be exerting himself; it looked so natural.
“It’s one of the hardest things to do — block for the kid,” tight end Sean Johnson said. “You don’t know where he’s going to go. You see him go into a pile, squirm out of somewhere and he’s gone.”
Phillips was dangerous whenever the ball came his way — on screen passes, stretch plays and draws. He capped an unforgettable senior season by tearing apart a sound Fort Hamilton defense to the tune of 206 rushing yards and four touchdowns, tying the record set by Lincoln’s Clive Harding in 1981. He scored 34 touchdowns, compiled 1,586 total yards and even had 20 receptions.
“He’s as good as they come,” PR Coach Lou Vesce said.
ALL-CITY COACH OF THE YEAR:
Lou Vesce, Port Richmond
It took Vesce three years as a head coach and 10 as an assistant to finally win the city championship. To anyone who would listen, he deflected all the praise, talked about the leadership qualities in his stars — players like Torian Phillips, Jeremy Ramos and Zamel Johnson.
But guess where they learned that maturity from?
Vesce was class all the way, rarely running up the score, always finding time for his players, from the last man on the bench to Phillips, his MVP. A Brooklyn guy, he understood what the first city championship in Port Richmond history meant. How many losses and careers were spent in search of that trophy. He shared the moment with alumni, family and friends. But without him, even if he wouldn’t admit it, the memorable season wouldn’t have been possible.
ALL-CITY FIRST TEAM OFFENSE
QB Najee Tyler, Xaverian: Tyler always seemed to put on a show. Whether he was showing off that massive right arm, using his legs or refusing to go down. There was no single individual more responsible for the Clippers’ rapid turnaround — from 0-10 to 6-4 — than the 6-foot-6 signal-caller. Tyler and Xaverian, after all, gave CHSFL Class AAA champion Iona Prep its greatest test in the semifinals, falling by just 15 points.
RB Steven Rene, Canarsie: We can already see the explosive back shredding opposing defenses next year. Rene is a threat any time he touches the ball on a handoff, kick or punt return or reception. Canarsie may be losing a lot, but the most important thing — Rene — is back. That alone makes them a contender.
RB Ayo Isijola, Sheepshead Bay: There may not be a better raw athlete in all of New York City — in any sport — than the Nigerian-born Isijola. Everyone in the high school sports community knows about his track exploits — he was part of the Sharks’ 4 x 100 national champion relay team last spring — but running a straightaway sprint is far less difficult than reading defenses, picking a hole and waiting for it to open. Whatever school lands him is in for a pleasant surprise.
RB Bobby Dougherty, St. Francis Prep: He may have earned himself a scholarship of some kind this fall. Picking up for the struggling Tristan Akong, Dougherty became the alpha back with a tendency to make big plays.
RB Seamus Kelly, Xavier: You didn’t think we were gonna forget about Famous Seamus, did you? Mr. 47 touchdowns, 30 two-point conversions and 2,681 rushing yards? If we hadn’t followed it so closely, his senior season would’ve been too ridiculous to believe. Actually, it still is. You won’t see another like him for a while.
RB Bruce Grant, Fordham Prep: All anybody wanted to talk about leading up to the Turkey Bowl was Seamus Kelly. They left raving about Grant after he piled up 288 yards rushing and three touchdowns. The city’s leading CHSFL Class AAA rusher with 1,521 yards isn’t going anywhere either — he’s only a junior. Look out for him next year.
WR Zamel Johnson, Port Richmond: It was easy to forget about Johnson when dealing with Port Richmond. It, after all, had the PSAL’s best running back (Torian Phillips) and quarterback (Jeremy Ramos). The opposition did that at times, too — and paid for it dearly. Johnson was the Red Raiders’ game-breaker, catching 11 touchdown passes and compiling 788 yards receiving.
WR Gerald Mistretta, Xaverian: He may not have been the fastest or the tallest wideout, but Mistretta always found openings at the most opportune times. His future is likely as a defensive back, yet his ability to catch the football and make big plays should not be dismissed.
OL Fernando Diaz, Cardinal Hayes: Diaz ended his high school career by ending a 27-year string of Turkey Bowl losses to Mount St. Michael. The 6-foot-2, 287-pound lineman said he would remember that moment the rest of his life. The people who followed the affable senior at Hayes feel the same way about the Pittsburgh-bound left tackle. Another like him won’t come along again anytime soon.
OL Oday Aboushi, Xaverian: When a New York City football player decommits from a program like Boston College because he can go higher, that’s saying something. There was no more intimidating presence anywhere than the 6-foot-6, 310-pound dominator. Plus, he did it on both sides of the ball.
OL Kevin Douglas, John F. Kennedy: The Knights are able to run the ball so effectively over the years because it always seems like they are tough up front. That was no different this year, led by the 6-foot-4 Douglas, a two-way star.
ALL-CITY FIRST TEAM DEFENSE
DL Nick Gentile, Tottenville: Opponents always knew which side Gentile was rushing from. If not, their quarterback often was found on his back. Queens All-Stars realized that in the Fugazzi Bowl after Gentile had two more sacks.
DL Andre Civil, Sheepshead Bay: Big and bad but humble, there probably wasn’t a better run-stuffing defensive lineman anywhere in the city. He’ll be taking his man-sized game to Rutgers next year.
DL Fred Dugard, St. Francis Prep: The MVP for the Long Island team of the CHSFL Senior Bowl, Dugard led the St. Francis Prep defense, one of the finer units around. He isn’t blessed with a ton of physical gifts — just a desire to make plays and never stop. That motor is probably still running, weeks after the season ended.
DL Dominique Easley, Curtis: We can see it now: Easley celebrating at Midwood Athletic Complex, hugging everyone and anyone he can find. He just had four sacks, scored two rushing touchdowns and forced two fumbles. So far-fetched? We thought not. If not for his injury, the Warriors’ season wouldn’t be known for that catastrophic loss to No. 15 Beach Channel, but perhaps for a second consecutive city championship. The man-child of a defensive end is that good.
LB Avery Wright, Curtis: There was a different sound when the Warriors took the field, a loud, crunching noise. Most of the time they were from Wright’s hits. His 63 tackles, five sacks and three fumble recoveries didn’t even tell the complete story of the imposing linebacker.
LB Travis Quarless, Holy Cross: The physical linebacker was a tremendous run-stuffer, one of the keys to Holy Cross’ stifling defense. He has yet to find a college, but whatever school Quarless lands at will be fortunate.
LB Reggie Francklin, Holy Cross: One word best describes the Hofstra-bound Francklin: beast. He was a terror for opposing offenses. Even defenses: He started lining up in the backfield for the Knights late in the season. The 6-foot, 224-pounder was just as difficult to tackle as to block.
DB Terrence Coon, Holy Cross: It’s unfortunate we had to pick a position to place the dynamic senior. He wasn’t necessarily better at cornerback — even if he did lead the league with nine interceptions — than running back, where he keyed the Holy Cross attack. They don’t make them any more well-rounded than Coon, who scored 14 touchdowns.
DB Brandon Reddish, Fort Hamilton: Week after week, there was this sophomore who kept making plays. The more Fort Hamilton won, the tougher he was to ignore. Then he went out and put on a show in the city championship, catching two long touchdown passes. Oh, and he was a shutdown cornerback, picking off seven passes on the season. Here’s a thought to Brooklyn coaches: Don’t throw the ball to his side next year. Seriously.
DB Kobie Hamm, Susan Wagner: Hamm always found his way to the ball, either making a tackle or picking off a pass, of which he did nine times. Wagner’s surprising run to the PSAL semifinals wouldn’t have been possible without him.
DB Stephen Obeng Agyapong, John F. Kennedy: He’s another player who will be taking the pipeline from Kennedy to Penn State next fall. Obeng was like the Knights’ center fielder this year, positioning himself in the middle of the field, then flying to a thrown pass or a running back carrying the ball. He was effective on offense, too, as part of JFK’s three-headed rushing tandem.
ALL-CITY FIRST TEAM SPECIAL TEAMS
KR Wilbert Lee, Boys & Girls: The Kangaroos may graduate almost every significant player on their roster, but not Lee, a dynamic running back/kick returner/wide receiver/linebacker. The impressively built 6-foot-3 sophomore is now the face of Boys & Girls football and Coach Barry O’Connor couldn’t be happier. Lee is a threat any time he touches the ball.
PK Connor Brown, Fordham Prep: How could you not love a kid who can score on a touchdown catch, then go and kickoff to the other team? Brown was Fordham’s go-to wide receiver, a pesky defensive back and also a fine kicker.
ALL-CITY SECOND TEAM OFFENSE
QB Jeremy Ramos, Port Richmond
RB Naykwan Johnson, Curtis
RB Anthony Sama, Susan Wagner
RB Tramaine Wilson, Tottenville
RB Andrew Armato, St. Joseph by the Sea
WR Onur Gurbuz, Bayside
WR Anthony Evangelista, Monsignor Farrell
WR Levon Williams, Fort Hamilton
OL Colin Ukeje, Port Richmond
OL Eric Ladson, Cardinal Hayes
OL Jon Annunziatta, Fordham Prep
ALL-CITY SECOND TEAM DEFENSE
DL Caraun Reid, Mount St. Michael
DL Leston Simpson, Campus Magnet
DL Jared Andrews, Sheepshead Bay
DL Antoine McGriff, Port Richmond
LB Gary Acquah, Mount St. Michael
LB Eric Smith, Canarsie
LB Ozzie Garcia, John F. Kennedy
LB Sidiq Soulemana, Clinton
DB David Nooks, Boys & Girls
DB James Ponpon, Curtis
DB Ted Clohessy, St. Joseph by the Sea
ALL-CITY SECOND TEAM SPECIAL TEAMS
KR Jonathan Achab Syms, Campus Magnet
PK Nick Copelli, St. Francis Prep
©2009 Community News Group
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