WHITE PLAINS – Although every offense has two options, run and pass, the Stepinac attack is almost three-pronged. The Crusaders pass, they run and they have a quarterback who can do both.
Well, normally they do. This week, senior star Tyquell Fields has been limited because of an ankle he sprained in the CHSFL AAA championship victory over Cardinal Hayes. He is expected to play in Saturday’s state final against St. Francis, the champ of the Buffalo-based Monsignor Martin Association, but Fields won’t be his typical, dual-threat self.
“It’s getting better, but I don’t think I’ll be 100 percent,” said Fields, who has Division I offers from Stony Brook and Delaware State. “I’ll still be ready to go.”
Fields finished last week’s win over Hayes and has been Stepinac’s most productive offensive player all season. He has completed 161 of 262 passes (61.5 percent) for 2,029 yards, 20 touchdowns and just four interceptions while rushing for 435 yards and five scores.
Fields is primarily a passer, but his mobility can be useful in avoiding pass rushers, not just on designed runs.
“We’ll probably go to a lot of a quick passing game and get the ball out fast on the perimeter,” Fields said. “There won’t be a lot of running from me.”
Fields threw two interceptions off the bench in last year’s 23-10 loss to Canisius in the inaugural CHSAA state championship game. He and his teammates expected an opportunity to atone for that loss in a rematch, but Canisius was upset by St. Francis in the Monsignor Martin Association final on Nov. 19 at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
St. Francis, which had lost to Canisius 64-34 on Oct. 2, stormed to a 42-7 victory in the rematch. The Crusaders have identified areas they hope to hold an advantage — depth, team speed — but their optimism has been muted after last year’s experience.
“I think we’re faster than they are, but it’s really hard to judge,” Stepinac coach Mike O’Donnell said. “Last year when we played Canisius, we watched film on them and we knew they were good, but I was surprised at how physical they were. They play hard up there. It’s a real smashmouth type of football in Buffalo.”
CHSAA state championship
Stepinac (11-0) vs. St. Francis (7-4)
When: Saturday at 1 p.m.
Where: Grand Island High School, Grand Island, N.Y.
Key players: Stepinac – T.J. Morrison (5-11, 175), Sr., WR/DB; Tyquell Fields (6-3, 180), Sr., QB; Daniel Negron (5-10, 210), Sr., LB. St. Francis – Jerry Hickson (6-2, 205), Jr., QB; Brandon Matz (5-9, 180), Sr., RB; Jerryd Taylor (6-3, 165), Sr., WR.
Outlook: After allowing 63 points in a loss to Canisius earlier this season, the St. Francis defense held the defending Catholic state champ to 98 total yards in the rematch. The Red Raiders’ only losses in-state this season came against Canisius, then No. 1 in the state, and Aquinas, which is now co-No. 1 with Stepinac. The offense revolves around the versatile Metz, a finalist for the Connolly Cup, the prize for Western New York’s player of the year, and Hickson, a 2,000-yard passer. This is Stepinac’s second straight trip to the CHSAA state final. Last year, the Crusaders lost the inaugural game 23-10 to Canisius.