Umari Taylor warned his Holy Trinity teammates before their CHSFL AA football title game that Iona Prep would be different from any team the Titans had faced all season.
“I told them we would have to dominate because (Iona Prep is) not like the teams we’ve been playing,” Taylor said. “They’re just a very good defensive team. I tried to dominate, but there wasn’t very much I could do.”
The same goes for the entire Holy Trinity football team, which lost to third-seeded Iona Prep 35-14 in the CHSFL AA championship at Mitchel Athletic Complex on Saturday.
Iona Prep (8-3) entered the game with three straight shutouts, and did not allow a point on defense until there was 2:37 remaining in the game. Holy Trinity quarterback Matt Ragno hit a diving Steve Partland for a 3-yard touchdown pass that made it 28-14.
But as it had done all day, the Iona Prep offense utilized a big play. Senior running back Rodney Samson scored from 28 yards out with 1:42 left to put top-seeded Holy Trinity’s title hopes away. Samson had three second-half touchdowns and over 200 yards of offense.
“It was our offense not performing,” said Titans senior two-way lineman Nick Austin, who had a sack and two hurries. “It was their defense, really, that swung the tide in this game.”
Holy Trinity (9-2), which was looking for its first AA crown since 2008, did have some chances early. Taylor, a senior running back, scooted 85 yards on a kickoff return for a touchdown and Peter Zarba’s kick tied the score at 7 with 11:10 left in the second quarter.
Iona Prep answered as quarterback Mike Apostolopoulos found the wide open Ki’shyne Shipmon with an easy 31-yard touchdown on a Titans broken coverage to give Iona Prep a 13-7 lead. The Titans’ Jonathan Brown blocked the point after kick.
After both teams traded possessions, Holy Trinity appeared to tie the score when Ragno connected with William Corchado with a 67-yard scoring pass. However, the Titans were whistled for a holding penalty near midfield. Holy Trinity was flagged 10 times for 87 yards.
“Penalties broke our backs,” Titans coach Tony Mascia said. “They’re a quality team, and they outplayed us today, no doubt about it.”
Ragno was 15 of 22 passing for 121 yards and one touchdown. He did not throw an interception all season. Taylor had his long kickoff return for a score, but managed just 29 yards rushing on 19 attempts. Corchado had four catches for 28 yards, and two rushes for six yards. The Titans could only muster 71 yards on the ground against an aggressive, athletic Iona Prep defense.
“It was a successful season. It really was,” Mascia said. “We’ve been struggling the last 3, 4, 5 years. We came all the way back this year and these guys — I’m very proud of their efforts. ”