NEWBURGH – At some point years ago, categorizing a performance as “same ol’ Stepinac” might’ve been a put down. No more. The Crusaders opened their season Friday night at Newburgh looking every bit as fast and ferocious as a year ago when they were CHSFL champs.
Playing without senior T.J. Morrison, one of the area’s top senior recruits, Stepinac breezed out to an early lead and throttled defending Section 9 champ Newburgh on its home turf, 31-0.
Senior Tyquell Fields threw two touchdowns and the defense smothered a Newburgh team that beat Henninger, another one of last year’s Class AA state playoff teams, 64-0 last week at the Carrier Dome. Stepinac allowed just 69 yards of offense, had five sacks and got an interception from Malik Crawford.
“I think this showed that we have young kids, but they’re ready to play,” said senior defensive end Malcolm Koonce, who had a sack.
Fields hit on his first seven passes to lead two straight scoring drives to start the game, including a 31-yarder to varsity newcomer DeVonte Reid. He later connected on a touchdown to Jesse Brown and Kobe Miranda ripped off a 52-yard touchdown run to seal it.
Player of the game: DeVonte Reid, Stepinac. In his first varsity game, Reid made an unmistakable introduction. The junior from Yonkers caught a 31-yard touchdown on the game’s opening possession and was electrifying all night, finishing with six catches for 94 yards.
“It meant a lot to me. I’m finally playing varsity. I grew up watching this school since I was in fifth grade. Now I’m finally here playing on the big stage and catching touchdowns from my teammates.”
Turning point: Trailing by two touchdowns midway through the second quarter, Newburgh turned to its passing game for a spark, but the Goldbacks never had a chance. The Stepinac defensive front couldn’t be blocked. Linemen Malcolm Koonce and David Melendez recorded confidence-rattling sacks and forced yet another Newburgh three-and-out. That pattern continued in the second half when the Crusaders held Newburgh to just 17 yards of offense.
Stat line: Fields started the game 7 for 7 and ended it 13 for 23 overall for 187 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions. … Kobe Miranda rushed for 91 yards, including a 52-yard touchdown where he deked two defenders at midfield. … Gene Brown had two of the five sacks and forced a fumble.
Quoteable: “It was like a wall of white out there,” Stepinac coach Mike O’Donnell said of the defense. “It seemed like we had 20 guys out there at times.”