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Stepinac’s Williams too much for St. Anthony’s in AAA final

St. Anthony's Sean Bryan (5) runs the ball

St. Anthony's Sean Bryan (5) runs the ball during the CHSFL Class AA finals against Archbishop at Mitchel Athletic Complex on Saturday, Nov. 18, 2017. Credit: Richard T. Slattery

The kid they call “Trill” gave Stepinac the thrill of victory and St. Anthony’s the agony of defeat.

The Crusaders’ Atrilleon “Trill” Williams accounted for 183 yards of total offense and four touchdowns as second-seeded Stepinac defeated No. 1 St. Anthony’s, 47-22, in the CHSFL AAA championship game at Mitchel Athletic Complex on Saturday.

Rich Reichert has been the St. Anthony’s coach for 31 seasons. He’s coached and watched some of the best players in the CHSFL’s history. So where does Williams rank?

“He’s right up there,” Reichert said. “He’s a playmaker. We tried to keep the ball away from him, but on the punt return [for a touchdown], he catches on one side, and goes to the other. He catches the ball well. He had two picks; the kid is a tremendous, tremendous football player. That’s why he’s going to Syracuse.”

St. Anthony’s (9-2) jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter thanks to an electrifying 75-yard punt return by Makhai Murphy, and an 8-yard touchdown run from Sean Bryan.

“We were energetic and rolling,” offensive tackle Christopher Wright said. “Everything seemed to be right at that point, but that obviously wasn’t the case.”

Stepinac (9-2) rallied with a 19-point second quarter — which included a spectacular 56-yard scoring run by Williams — and led 19-14 at the half.

“We lost the momentum,” Reichert said, “and we never seemed to get it back.”

The Friars tried a fake punt early in the third quarter on a fourth-and-6 from its own 31-yard line, but punter Jeremy Miller was stopped a yard short. Stepinac did not score with the short field, but after St. Anthony’s went three-and-out, Williams returned the ensuing punt 73 yards to give the Crusaders a 25-14 lead with 7:01 left in the third quarter.

“We just felt we needed more possessions,” said Reichert about the fake punt. “We weren’t going to stop them. We were looking for a little spark.”

It never came for St. Anthony’s, which lost at Stepinac, 38-19, in Week 2 on Sept. 15. The Friars then rolled off eight straight wins leading up to Saturday’s final. They were in search of their first crown since 2013. Stepinac has reached four straight AAA finals and has won three times (2017, 2015, 2014).

Williams later returned an interception 39 yards for another touchdown, and capped off his incredible night with a 7-yard touchdown reception for Stepinac.

“He’s a heckuva player; you just can’t deny it” said Friars quarterback Greg Campisi. “I threw two picks to him. He’s going to tear it up at Syracuse because he’s some athlete.”

Still, Reichert only had positives after a difficult loss.

“I’m going to tell them they won the regular season and won the division and it’s really, really hard to do that,” Reichert said. “You win nine games in this league? We played hard. We just never seemed to get anything going in the second half. They were a little better than we were.”

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