Raffa's four TD passes lead Friars to AAA title
Charlie Raffa hoisted the golden football trophy high up over his head and screamed with nothing short of unabashed delight while his team swarmed dizzily around him. About an hour before, a few dozen yards away, it was a different sort of feeling. Raffa slung the football - the regular, leather kind - and if he said anything, it was probably a prayer.
See, the St. Anthony's quarterback, the same one who threw one touchdown pass in the first six games of the season, had entrusted his team's legacy to his right arm. If the top-seeded Friars were going to do this - beat No. 2 Iona Prep in the AAA CHSFL championship game, complete the fourth undefeated season in team history and naysay the naysayers who called this a rebuilding year - they would have to do it in the air.
Second quarter: Raffa chucked it up and Brian Kensil used every inch of his 6-6 frame to leap over cornerback Justin Combs and corral the 12-yard TD pass by the fingertips. That helped St. Anthony's go up by 11 points on the way to its 41-23 victory over Iona Prep at Mitchel Athletic Complex in Uniondale Saturday. It's the Friars' ninth title in 10 years, the only aberration a loss to Iona Prep in 2008.
"The game plan was to get me [passing] more, because they kept trying to stop me on the run," Raffa said. "I threw it up there. I knew it was going to be one-on-one coverage and they tried to send a safety over to double [Kensil] up, but I called a go and before they got the second guy over, I just threw it up there and he grabbed it."
He did a lot of that.
Raffa finished 7-for-10 passing for 255 yards and four TDs, three to Kensil (five catches, 155 yards). This for a quarterback who coming in had completed only 39-for-57 for 635 yards and seven TDs on the year.
That he and the team even got this far was a testament to St. Anthony's stubborn refusal to roll over. The Friars (11-0) entered the season with only three returning starters and Raffa nursing a shoulder injury for the first half of the year.
"The undefeated part, I really didn't see that coming," coach Rich Reichert said. "We took it one week at a time and we got better and better as the year went on."
Raffa's improvement, in particular, came as a result of a vastly matured offensive line and Kensil, the spindly kid with the good hands.
Raffa's 51-yard pass to a wide-open Kensil over the middle opened the scoring for St. Anthony's and the Friars followed up about three minutes later with Mike Schillizzi's 2-yard dive over the left side for a score. With the Friars' up 13-9 in the second, Kensil had a 63-yard TD catch over the middle by breaking a heel-nipping tackle by diving defensive back Travon Malone.
Iona Prep (8-3) came back on Sidney Weston's 27-yard TD run off left guard with 1:14 left in the half, but Kensil's 12-yard TD catch put St. Anthony's up 27-16 and effectively killed the Gaels' momentum. Weston finished with 250 yards on 21 carries and all three Iona Prep TDs.
"Great catch, a great, great catch," Reichert said of Kensil's final TD. "Because they answered, and we answered again."
"I'm a tall guy, so coach said just throw it," Kensil said, adding that the thought of being undefeated "definitely gave us more of a push to get this win. We're not in reload mode, we're just back.
"We cemented our legacy."
A legacy that Saturday was built up in the air, high above the rest.