St. Anthony’s is making its annual trip to Mitchel Athletic Complex for the CHSFL Class AAA title game after beating St. Joseph by the Sea, 35-8, in the semifinals Saturday in South Huntington.
But while the Friars are making their 15th consecutive appearance in the championship game, the road there wasn’t quite as smoothly paved this time.
St. Anthony’s opened the season with back-to-back losses, falling to Bergen Catholic and Iona Prep. Adversity is common for most teams, but not mighty St. Anthony’s.
“After that second loss, Coach [Rich] Reichert talked to us and told us we weren’t going to lose another game,” senior running back Anthony Anderson said. “We all bought into that, came to practice every day and worked hard. Now we have a chance to win another championship.”
The top-seeded Friars turned the corner and have won eight straight games since and will take on rival Chaminade in the title game next Saturday at 4 p.m. The third-seeded Flyers defeated No. 2 Iona Prep, 41-16, in the other semifinal in New Rochelle.
St. Anthony’s beat Chaminade, 24-23, in Week 4.
“It’s going to be a great game,” Reichert said. “They’re playing really good football right now… It’s great for Long Island football.”
A big reason why St. Anthony’s is back in the title game has been its diverse rushing attack. And for the second straight week, the Friars dangerous backfield is healthy.
“We have a special backfield,” sophomore running back Jordan Gowins said. “We have athletes and any one of us can make big plays at any time.”
That was evident Saturday as Gowins rushed for a pair of touchdowns, Anderson had a 1-yard score and rushed for 105 yards and Brendan Femiano added a 12-yard TD. Quarterback Greg Galligan also had a 21-yard touchdown on the Friars third play from scrimmage.
“That’s really what we’re all about,” Reichert said. “We’re not about one guy getting 500 yards. It’s about sharing the ball and blocking for each other. They have to buy in and hopefully they buy in this week.”
Led by Jared Katz and John Puckhaber, the St. Anthony’s defense shut down St. Joseph by the Sea’s double wing offense. Numerous times the run-heavy Vikings were forced into third-and-long situations.
“It’s all about first down with them,” Reichert said. “You can’t let them dictate 2nd-and-5. I think we did a really good job with that.”
Femiano gave St. Anthony’s (8-2), No. 13 in the Tri-State by MSG Varsity, a 14-0 lead with a 12-yard touchdown with 5:31 left in the second quarter. A 51-yard pass from Galligan to Anthony Duggan helped set up Gowins’ 4-yard TD with 47.4 seconds remaining in the second quarter to give the Friars a 21-0 halftime lead.
Anderson broke free for a 65-yard run before being pulled down at the 1, but the senior co-captain pushed into the end zone to extend St. Anthony’s lead to 28-0 with 8:35 left in the third quarter. Gowins added a 23-yard TD on the first play of the fourth quarter to cap the scoring for St. Anthony’s.
“This is my first time,” Gowins said of reaching the title game. “It feels good.”
Nick King had a 5-yard touchdown with 3:43 left in the fourth quarter for the lone touchdown for St. Joseph by the Sea (8-2), which reached the Class AAA semifinals for the first time in program history.
As for St. Anthony’s, it’s yet another trip to the final where the Friars are looking to win a fourth straight title and 11th in 12 years.
“It’s really special,” Anderson said. “Last year was a great feeling hoisting that trophy up and this year I wanted to come back as a senior with the rest of my seniors to do it again.”