Over the past three years, the Monsignor Farrell High School sports program has been an athletics dynasty. With multiple sports championships over the last few years, it has put some of Farrell’s best athletes on the map.
Monsignor Farrell has never really been known for its baseball program. The Lions have never been labeled as awful or as phenomenal. The last five years have absolutely turned that reputation around. Coach Bob Mulligan has done a fine job with his team winning a ton of games with his boys. They have made it to the championship round in four of the last five seasons. In 2013, the Lions finished the regular season 11-10. This record put them in a hole, seeding them low for the CHSAA baseball playoffs. Farrell’s journey wound up coming short in the championship round against St. Raymond’s High School.
The 2015 Monsignor Farrell Lions did not excel during the regular season, going 13-8. Knowing they would not have such a strong team, they were forced to call up sophomores such as Jerry Huntzinger, Hayden Gumb, Vin Vitacco, Nick Lepre and Vin Zapulla. Hayden Gumb lead the CHSAA in hits with 35 and hit .365. During the Lions opening playoff series, they lost game 1, putting their backs against the wall. The Lions took games 2 & 3 advancing them to the next round of double elimination baseball. They went on to upset top-seeded St. Joseph by the Sea High School and lose to Salesian the next day.
This put them on the brink of elimination, matching them against the number 2 seeded Xaverian Clippers. Sophomore Nick Lepre was put to test in his first ever varsity playoff start. Lepre did not disappoint, shutting out the defending champion Clippers. The Lions then defeated Archbishop Molloy High School and Monsignor McClancy High School pushing them into the championship round in which they needed to defeat Salesian (who already knocked off Farrell once) two times.
After Salesian jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the second inning, the game looked to be over. Even after some fight, with the game was 5-3 in the 7th inning with 2 outs, the magical run looked to be over. A 2 out, 2 strike infield single by Gary Otten rejuvenated Monsignor Farrell. Mike Matarazzo reached on an error leading to senior Captain Tom Medina’s “second chance”. Medina was a key role player as a sophomore on the 2013 squad who lost in the championship round.
Tom Medina drove in both Otten and Matarazzo tying up the game at 5. A bases loaded jam in the 10th inning had Farrell against the wall one last time. Center fielder Rob Regina gunned down the runner at the plate on a fly ball sending the game to more extra innings. Finally in the 12th inning, the Lions put up 7 runs capping off a comeback for the ages, winning game one, 12-5.
The next night, Monsignor Farrell was finally on top. They won the CHSAA baseball championship 4-2. Sophomore Vin Zapulla stepped up by pitching a complete game finishing the story book ending. This was the Lions first ever baseball championship win. The Big-3 of sophomore arms the Lions had in Lepre, Vitacco and Zapulla combined for all but four innings in the postseason on the mound. When having the chance to sit down with senior Tom Medina who hit .387 driving in 9 runs in the playoffs, he had a lot to say. When asking him about the playoff run, Medina said “Losing as a sophomore was the worst feeling in the world. I was willing to do whatever it took to win in my final year. I saw the ball great and was able to go the other way all postseason long, it was a great feeling.” Medina won the MVP award of the CHSAA playoffs. Coach Mike Hanrahan did a fine job in 2015 winning a JV CHSAA championship.
The 2016 Monsignor Farrell Lions were returning almost all of their starters. They were loaded up with the same pitching staff and ready to repeat as city champions. They went 8-1 in league play, highly seeding them. The “Big-3” of pitchers dominated once again. Mike Matarazzo, Gary Otten and Rob Regina all flourished in their senior seasons. Mike Matarazzo was the Lions best power hitter, while Otten and Regina both hit for great averages. Juniors Jerry Huntzinger, Nick Lepre, and Vin Vitacco really stepped up in their 2016 campaigns. The trio of Juniors went on to sign letters of intent to play division one baseball later on in the summer well before their senior campaign. Lepre will be attending Wagner, Vitacco will be attending Rider, and Huntzinger will be attending Seton Hall University. Unfortunately for the Lions, all of this firepower was not enough to capture back-to-back city titles. They would go on to lose the championship game to Iona Prep on a walk off single.
In 2017, The Monsignor Farrell baseball team was officially labeled a powerhouse. With all of the experience it’s seniors had, they were geared up and ready to make a run at a title. They were being mentored by a former player, a guy who had been apart of the first ever Farrell city championship. Tom Medina came back to help out the program and chase another ring. The team was lead offensively by Vin Vitacco and Jerry Huntzinger. The division one products were a combo of 2-3 in the lineup. The boys from Oakwood would wind up finishing the regular season 18-0. The “Three Headed Monster” of Lepre, Vitacco and Zapulla, combined for 15 wins during the regular season. Eight players on the team hit over .330 throughout the season. The Lions dominated throughout the playoffs, matching up against the defending champion Iona Gaels, the team who broke their hearts in the previous championship.
Farrell was out for revenge. The Gaels took down Farrell during game one, ending their perfect season. The near perfect season was on the line the next night. It was win or go home for both squads. Farrell’s ace Vin Vitacco had the ball. After the Lions had an early 2-0 lead, Vitacco battled the whole game and escaped a few jams. Vitacco got out of a bases loaded jam in the 5th inning keeping the game 2-1. He also helped his case with his bat driving in a run and roping a triple. Senior Brandon Xhunga who was known for his fantastic defensive play all season long, came up tremendously in the 6th inning. His base hit drove in a run, giving starting pitcher Vin Vitacco insurance. The Lions were victorious once again, winning 3-1. They finished the season 24-1, the best record in Monsignor Farrell baseball history.
Seniors Chris Taliercio and Jerry Huntzinger exploded offensively during the Lions postseason run. Both of these guys drove in over 8 runs. When asking Jerry Huntzinger how it felt to win, his response was no surprise. The gritty catcher said, “This season was great. Winning not one, but two championships in my career feels phenomenal. Last season’s loss was on my mind every day. It feels very good getting revenge on a great Iona team, I’m proud of these guys.” Expect John Kelly, John DiMartino and John LaPointe to have build off the success of their junior seasons and have great senior seasons next year.
The Monsignor Farrell basketball program is historically known for its consistency. They usually have a talented group of players. In the last two seasons, the Lions have showed pure dominance.
The 2016 Farrell Lions basketball team has its ups and downs. They were lead by seniors Nick Corbett (Jaques award winner) and Joe Zieris (Zaborowski award winner.) Both of these players were Staten Island Advance All-Stars in not only their Junior season but their Senior campaign as well. These two anchored them into the SIHSL playoffs as the number 1 seed.
After a rough patch of games towards the end of the season, Nick Corbett turned over a new leaf come playoff time. In the quarterfinals, Corbett lit up New Dorp for 35 points. In the semifinals, Corbett put up 26 points on Susan Wagner advancing to the championship game against Curtis. Farrell was put to test early after going down 15-2 to start the game. The Lions battled and fought the whole game. Late in the second half, Joe Zieris went down with a knee injury. This took the Lions second leading scorer out of the contest. He had 8 points with a ton of time left in the game. Nick Corbett rose to the occasion. The senior guard brought the Lions all the way back hitting shot after shot taking over the game. After a Malik Martin go ahead bucket with just 12 seconds remaining, Farrell looked to have the life taken out of them.
After a time out, Branden Abrams threw a beautiful pass to Center Joe Acri under the basket. Acri put the ball up while being contested by two defenders and layed it in. The unsung hero sent the game to overtime. From the start of overtime to the finish, it was the Nick Corbett show. He lead the Lions to a 67-60 victory, scoring 45 points. He scored 29 of the Lions final 31 points in one of the single greatest performances in Staten Island basketball history.
I got a chance to ask Nick some questions. When asked what his approach was after being down so much early and what it felt to win, Nick responded, “Honestly, I had the same approach the whole entire game. It didn’t matter if we were winning or losing, I was going to play my game either way. I’m just glad that my game helped us win the Island. As for winning the island it was amazing. It was what I wanted my whole entire career at Farrell and I’m sure my team was just as happy and I was glad to share it with them.” To see Nick Corbett’s playoff highlights, check out below:
The Lions were not finished after this. They went on to the CHSAA playoffs. Joe Zieris’ knee was not at full strength. Zieris being the leader he is, fought through the pain and battled every whistle. Nick Igneri’s big 3 point field goal to take the lead against Monsignor Scanlan sent the Lions to the title game. Nick Corbett was back at it again propelling Monsignor Farrell to a CHSAA “A” title win for the first time in school history. He scored 25 points in the victory and was named MVP of the CHSAA playoffs. The defense of Joe Acri, James Delahanty, and Andrew Ballou was key in both of the Lions playoff runs. James Delahanty went on to play basketball at the College of Staten Island, Andrew Ballou went on to Farmingdale College and Nick Corbett went on to play his basketball at Molloy College.
The 2017 Lions basketball squad had four key pieces returning from the 2016 season. Branden Abrams, Steven DeCarlo, Nick Igneri and Eric Klayman were all major role players from the past season. This season was theirs to shine. Eric Klayman stepped up big time in his senior season. He became Farrell’s leading scorer all season long. I spoke to Eric Klayman and asked him how he would be able to fill the shoes of the great Nick Corbett from a season ago. Klayman’s responded modestly “I don’t think there’s anyone who will fill Nick’s shoes for a long time. Nick bettered me in practice every day, he pushed me to get better and helped me have some success this season.”
The Lions had success in the regular season finishing 21-7. They did not repeat as SIHSL champions falling short to the St. Peter’s Eagles in which Eric Klayman had a game high 30 points. Come CHSAA playoff time, the Lions were ready to repeat. Nick Igneri was poised for the playoffs saying, “Coach Dunn does a great job preparing us for big games, we had been there before, we knew we could do something special.” The Lions had deja vu when Igneri hit a go ahead three ball to beat Nazareth in the CHSAA semifinals.
Will Edwards did not play as much as he had hoped all season long. In the CHSAA title game, he got his chance. Edwards did not fail to seize the moment. He sparked the Lions off the bench with 14 points and 7 rebounds leading Farrell to its second city championship in two seasons. The Lions were not done celebrating just yet. They went on to win the school’s first ever state championship over Chaminade High School. Eric Klayman received honors of Advance All-Star after the season ended.
Coach Dan Fisher did a fine job with the school’s freshman team winning the CHSAA “A” title. In Coach Jay Zieris’ inaugural season as the Lions JV head coach, he propelled them to a city championship victory as well. This was the first time in school history all three levels of basketball had won the city.
Monsignor Farrell High School is now known as a juggernaut. Winning six championships in 3 years is an amazing feat. Baseball took home two and basketball took home four. With the great coaching throughout the sports programs and the talented players, Monsignor Farrell will be great for a long time coming.