Boys Varsity Football
By Toyloy Brown III ‘18
BRONX- Thanksgiving is a special holiday. It is the one day of the year that almost everyone in our country will eat an amazing meal, spend time with their family, and most importantly show their gratitude for all the things they have.
If you are part of the Cardinal Hayes family, Thanksgiving is all of those things plus a football tradition against our archrivals Mount St. Michael.
At 10:30 a.m. on Thanksgiving morning, a large crowd of the Hayes faithful traveled to the Wakefield section of the Bronx to support their Cardinals. That amazing encouragement went a long way because Cardinal Hayes (8-2) defeated Mount St. Michael (4-6) for the fifth consecutive time.
This Turkey Bowl win not only allowed the Cardinals to end their season victorious, but it also made Thanksgiving dinner taste even better for everyone in attendance once they were home from the 40-degree weather.
The first quarter was the only time where the score remained close. Hayes started the game with the ball and immediately found success with a long pass. Sophomore quarterback Sofian Massoud threw a 55-yard touchdown to senior receiver Elijah Jones. After a fake extra point, the Cardinals converted on a two-point conversion courtesy of senior running back Carlos Fernandez. On their second drive, the Cardinals found themselves in the end zone again after a 13-yard run by senior running back Nasier Salgado and a successful extra point.
Although the Cardinals had no issue with scoring, the same could be said for the Mountaineers. They managed to score two touchdowns by way of the read option and their ground game. After two successful two-point conversions, Mount St. Michael was up 16-15 at the end of the quarter.
With the Mountaineers ahead by one point, the Cardinals’ defense locked in and did not allow their opponent to score at any juncture throughout the entire game. The 29-0 run for the Cardinals was led by Sofian Massoud and senior wide receiver Lucas Nunez. They connected for three consecutive touchdowns.
Massoud played very efficiently and ended the game with five touchdowns, completed 11 of 17 passes, and 350 total passing yards. Nunez, the recipient on much of the offense, had touchdowns for 5-yards, 67-yards, and 84-yards respectively.
As previously mentioned, the Hayes’ defense was able to shut out Mount St. Michael’s offense for the last 36 minutes of the game. The undoubted, defensive leader for the Cardinals was senior defensive back Claude Watford. He seemed able to make every decisive tackle. These big plays ignited his teammates on defense to also play with high energy. Watford also caught two interceptions that occurred in the second and fourth quarter respectively.
Those pivotal turnovers continued the Cardinals defensive onslaught and led to the Mountaineers devastation.
The final touchdown came from junior receiver Angel Tamarez who made the final score 44-16 in favor of the Cardinals. The MVPs of the 75th Turkey Bowl were Sofian Massoud, Lucas Nunez, and Claude Watford.
After the game, Claude Watford talked about how important it was to win the Turkey Bowl especially as a senior.
“Being that we just lost the game to go to the ‘chip’, it was a big game going out with my brothers. For seniors, this is the last game we could have possibly played together. It was just big.”
Coach O’Neil also spoke about the importance of the Turkey Bowl win.
“Any opportunity you get to compete you have to take advantage of it. This is a Thanksgiving tradition that has been going on for 75 years. There are not many traditions going on in the world where you have the opportunity to play and the opportunity to compete.”
Claude also talked about if this win makes up for the loss in the playoffs versus Archbishop Stepinac.
“It doesn’t really make up for the loss, but it felt good to win in our last game. To end with a bang.”
Although the Cardinals may not have finished as far as they would’ve hoped in the playoffs, Coach O’Neil recognized how important it was for his seniors to win their final game of their high school careers.
“We talked to them the last two weeks about finishing the job. The senior class goes out as ‘AAA’ champions last year and ‘AAA’ semifinalists this year. They had a great career here and it is a little sad they didn’t finish off the last one, but everyone is still leaving with a ring. That’s still a good way to leave.”
Claude Watford was the most dominant defender on the field.
Coach O’Neil expanded on the role of the defense and the play of Claude Watford.
“When you defend a read option team you do not see throughout the year, you have to get used to it. They scored right away a couple points and then we settled down and we started doing the things we have been practicing all week. We did a great job. Claude is an exceptional, young man. He led our program and is a tremendous student which is always great to see. He’s got a big future in this game and some prestigious colleges coming to him.”
Finally, both coach and player described the season in one word.
Coach O’Neil said that it was “great season.”
Claude Watford described the season as “emotional.”
It is easy to understand how those two words are quite fitting to describe the 2017 football season. The emotions that came from both the Cardinals ups and their downs. The greatness of having only dropped two games in the entire season.
As I cover my final football game, I believe that a champion is not only defined by their win-loss record but how far they end up in the postseason.
I also believe a champion is defined by how hard the team worked and how much they cared about winning. After watching the last game of the season, it is easy for me to say that the 2017 Cardinal Hayes football team worked the hardest and cared the most.
Simply put - It was truly a great, emotional, and in my opinion championship season.
PHOTO CREDIT: Daniel Rivera '96