Leading off today:
Mike Libert tracks the New York City high school football scene for the New York State Sportswriters Association. Here's Mike's weekly rundown of where the top teams stand at the moment:
Erasmus Hall (11-2)
Last Week: #2
Recap: The Dutchmen were flawless on Wednesday in the PSAL City Division championship game as four different Erasmus players ran for TD's, including senior QB Jordan Armstead who punctuated the game with a third quarter score as E-Hall finished the season not giving up a point in the final 24 quarters of play, defeating Tottenville for the title 27-0.
Next Season: While Armstead will graduate the cupboard is far from bare as Vincent Cajano looked to be a star in the making at the QB position and he'll be a sophomore next season, and with RB's Yaseen Murden and Rodsheen Ayer coming back as well, along with stud DE Jahzion Harris who is considered one of the top defensive recruits in the country in the 2021 class the expectation is more titles ahead for the Dutchmen.
2) Cardinal Hayes (8-5)
Last Week: #3
Recap: After falling in the CHSAA Class AAA State Championship Game 25-24 to Canisius on a last second TD up in Buffalo the Cardinals rallied back behind a pair of TD throws from QB Henry Belin to defeat Mount St. Michael on Thanksgiving Day 38-0 in the latest installment of their annual holiday contest.
Next Season: The future is promising for Hayes to stay among the best in NYC as Belin will be a junior come next season while his favorite target in WR Kuno Mendez. You can expect to see Zachary Mitchell take a bigger load at the RB spot next year, and while they will have to replace a good amount of the offensive and defensive lines the depth seems to be there to make yet another title winning run.
3) Tottenville (11-2)
Last Week: #1
Recap: Going into Wednesday's PSAL City Division title game against Erasmus Hall with a perfect league record and a win over the Dutchmen during the regular season gave Tottenville a lot of confidence coming in, but 2 early turnovers led to 14 quick points for Erasmus with the Pirates never getting back in the game, falling a game short of the championship losing 27-0.
Next Season: There will be a bit of a rebuild for Tottenville as RB Roland Dempster who was one of NYC's best this season is graduating, as is stud LB A.J. Roberts who led the defense. They do return their signal caller under center in Anthony Pucciarelli which will help. Jason Salcedo should take over at the RB spot, and with three of the offensive linemen returning a good core should help keep the Pirates solid.
4) Christ the King (7-3)
Last Week: #4
Recap: There were certainly expectations to get to the NYCHSFL Class AAA title game this season but a 43-6 loss to Archbishop Stepinac in the semifinals meant they were a little bit short of what their goals were coming into the season. They did show a lot of promise on both sides of the ball meaning the future is definitely bright for the Royals.
Next Season: Noah Bodden will come back for his senior season as the signal caller and CTK leader with one of his favorite targets in WR Stanley Oxford also due back for another year. Add in the fact that one of the top defensive players in the league in DL Chris King will again be creating a lot of havoc for the opposition as he will be a senior in a years time and Christ the King has a lot of reason to be excited about the 2020 season.
5) Curtis (9-3)
Last Week: #5
Recap: After beginning the year with 7 straight PSAL victories the schedule got tougher and the Warriors found themselves struggling down the stretch as they lost to their rivals from Tottenville in a heartbreaker, while also falling twice to Erasmus Hall including a 25-0 loss in the PSAL City Division semifinals.
Next Season: While Gennaro Basciano will graduate meaning Curtis will be looking for a new QB come the 2020 season there is a lot of other skill position players returning led by star. RB Sam Martin who will only be a junior next year, as will Maurice Hinton his RB mate in the backfield. Add in WR Alpha Linton coming back and the explosiveness should again be on display in 2020 from a talented Warriors group.
6) Abraham Lincoln (7-5)
Last Week: #6
Recap: Offensively the Railsplitters showed that they could hang with almost anyone as they were one of the few teams who could hang TD for TD with the very best in the PSAL. They struggled though on the defensive side to match up as was the case in Lincoln's 45-24 defeat to Tottenville in the PSAL City Division semifinals to end their season.
Next Season: Lincoln will need to replace RB Israel Abanikanda as he runs off to Pittsburgh where he should be an immediate force in the ACC though strong armed QB Jahzair Hubbard will come back to lead the Railsplitters, as will stud WR Quincy McDuffie meaning if the defensive weapons can be found another really strong PSAL season in 2020 could be on the way.
7) Midwood (6-5)
Last Week: #7
Recap: When you lose as much as Midwood lost coming into this season then expectations aren't expected to be all that high. They weren't which is why Midwood exceeded what many predicted from them as RB/WR David Stephens did a bit of everything as they almost shocked Lincoln in the PSAL City Division quarterfinals before falling late 24-22 in a heartbreaker.
Next Season: The issue that the Hornets will have next season is that they lose Stephens to graduation as he accounted for nearly 75% of the Midwood scores. Losing him will sting though QB Zade Edwards really grew leaps and bounds throughout the year and he will return along with Junius Bowman who should become the feature RB come next September and the start of the new season.
8) JFK (8-3)
Last Week: #8
Recap: Playing against a schedule that was a bit lighter than many others at the top of our rankings because of how the PSAL power points system is structured, the Knights were able to really do a solid job beating everyone they were suppose to, doing a great job on the ground and rolling past teams until a 28-6 loss to Curtis in the PSAL City Division quarterfinals.
Next Season: JFK was a major ground and pound team this season relying heavily on Karamogo Sylla, who the Knights will lose to graduation, and Emmanuel Nkwocha, who will return and be a senior next season. His return should keep the Knights in the mix though the graduation of nearly all the other skill position players on JFK should mean a lot of new pieces will have to step up and take on much bigger roles.
9) Lehman (6-4)
Last Week: #9
Recap: Much like their Bronx rivals in JFK, Lehman was able to do what they were suppose to do against lesser competition but didn't find much success when they stepped up to play a higher caliber of opposition. In the PSAL City Division quarterfinals was where the Lions season ended as they fell to Erasmus Hall 32-0 to see their season come to a close.
Next Season: On top of the disappointing end to the season will be the graduation of QB Dante Nelson who was a duel threat who on many occasions both rushed and passed for over 100 yards in games. Xavier Ricketts will be back giving Lehman a solid ground attack at the RB position, and with a core of strong defensive weapons set to return the Lions if they find a signal caller could be a team to watch next year.
10) Susan Wagner (5-6)
Last Week: #10
Recap: It was not an easy year for Wagner as for a long stretch of the season the playoffs didn't really look like a realistic option. They closed out the regular season though with wins over New Dorp and Boys & Girls to sneak in before losing their PSAL City Division quarterfinal game to Tottenveill 46-21 to put an end to their year.
Next Season: Gone next season will be QB Joe Thorpe as he will graduate in June, as will the Falcons top two RB's in Christian Browne and James Morse. That will leave Wagner really looking for a lot of reinforcements if they want to get back to playing in the playoffs again come the 2020 season where the competition looks like it will be even more fierce.
1) James Madison (11-1)
Last Week: #3
Recap: After losing to New Utrecht during the regular season at home 28-20 it was the Golden Knights getting revenge on the Utes as with a pair of Mark Shepherd scores, and a final minute TD run from Alex McBurnie to put them ahead, it was Madison winning back to back PSAL Bowl Division titles by defeating New Utrecht on Saturday, 20-13.
Next Season: The question now is will James Madison make the move up to the PSAL City Division? That's still up in the air and with QB Rickoy Riley and the aforementioned Shepherd graduating there will be losses, but McBurnie will return, as will a key part of their secondary meaning that good times should still be ahead for the Golden Knights regardless of what division they end up in next season.
2) Moore Catholic (9-1)
Last Week: #2
Recap: While they may not have a lot of numbers to their team as the fielded a squad of just 35 players it was the talent that the Mavericks had that won out this season as they knocked off their Staten Island rivals St. Joseph by the Sea 28-6 a couple weeks back for the CHSFL AA-2 title.
Next Season: Winning it again come next season will be a tougher road to haul as they lose one of NYC's best RB's even in Justin Lacks as he was one of the more dominant runners going for over 3,000 yards in his H.S. career. QB Nick Heineman will be lost to graduation, as well as star LB Artie Padilla meaning if Moore wants to remain atop the CHSFL they will need to regroup and reload come the start of next season.
3) New Utrecht (11-1)
Last Week: #1
Recap: Going into the PSAL Bowl Division title game 11-0 it was the Utes dreaming of a perfect season with a matchup in the championship against defending champs James Madison the only thing in their way. New Utrecht led 13-12 late, but with a Madison score with under 2 minutes to play the Utes would ultimately fall 20-13 in a well played, but heartbreaking defeat to end the year.
Next Season: New Utrecht used a two QB system and while Jordan Moran will graduate the Utes will bring back Isaiah Wright for his