With all the laughs and shouts of "Ohh," it sounded as if the Chaminade bench was watching a highlight reel.
In a way, they were.
"He's so good, man," defensive lineman Thomas Garry said to himself, shaking his head as he paced the sideline, seemingly in awe and disbelief. "He's just so good!"
He was teammate Tom Zenker. The wide receiver had just made a spectacular catch to haul in another deep pass, converting a third-and-long that essentially sealed the win.
Behind Zenker and quarterback Sean Cerrone, No. 3 Chaminade thumped second-seeded Iona Prep, 41-16, Saturday in a CHSFL AAA semifinal. The Flyers avenged last season's quarterfinals loss to the Gaels and will take on St. Anthony's in the final Saturday at Mitchel Athletic Complex.
Facing a third-and-12 from its own 12, and holding a 17-point lead in the fourth quarter, conventional thinking would have suggested Chaminade go conservative. Uh-uh. Not with the 6-4 Zenker dominating. Not with Cerrone having the hot hand -- despite cold fingers.
The wideout, on a go route, made a lunging over-the-shoulder catch up the right sideline for 38 yards with 7:11 remaining. The conversion allowed Chaminade (9-1) to drain the clock, and Cerrone eventually capped the drive with a 3-yard touchdown to . . . guess who?
"It's such a great advantage having that guy," Cerrone said of Zenker. "If he's downfield, I just look to see if he's got a step, and I'm going there. He always comes down with it."
Cerrone completed 10 of 13 passes for 204 yards and four touchdowns, and Zenker, a senior, had 151 yards and a career-high three touchdowns on six catches.
"Sean just keeps his poise and knows where to put the ball," said Zenker, whose 51-yard TD on a streak route gave the Flyers a 13-3 lead at the end of the first quarter. "I thought we had some chances on the outside, so we were aggressive. Iona's offense is really good, so we wanted to keep the pressure on."
They did. After quarterback Mario Biaggi's 27-yard TD run pulled the Gaels (8-2) within 34-16 with 3:12 left, the Flyers recovered an onside kick and Rob Speranza's 31-yard TD scamper created the final margin.
Speranza (122 yards) had scored on a 60-yard run with 9:39 left in the first to give Chaminade a 6-0 lead it didn't relinquish. Tight end Michael Walsh also had an 18-yard TD catch.
While the highflying Flyers lit it up, their defense stumped an Iona Prep offense that entered averaging 43 points during a six-game winning streak. The performance earned "two thumbs up" from Cerrone.
"We practiced for the up-tempo and came in prepared for their no-huddle," said defensive lineman Brendan O'Callaghan, whose sack set up a third-and-12 pass that Matthew Isnardi intercepted late in the third quarter. "We were aggressive in shooting the gaps," O'Callaghan said. "We didn't want them getting anything."
Chaminade forced three turnovers on downs, including two goal-line stands, and blocked a field goal.
"This win is huge for us and the whole Chaminade community," said coach Stephen Boyd, whose Flyers last won a CHSFL title in 1998. "The defense was great and just about everything was working on offense. It was a complete effort. I don't know what you can say about these guys."
They were good. They were just so good.