Hayes’ Successful Season Even Without the Dream Ending
For any follower of the Catholic High School Football League (CHSFL), it is easy to define Cardinal Hayes’ success by their improved winning percentage. Their .800 winning percentage is an improvement from their previous winning percentage of .615. The Cardinals started the 2017 season by blowing out their first three opponents with a point differential of 13, 25, and 36 points. A standout player in those first three games of the season is wide receiver Elijah Jones. In Cardinal Hayes’s home opener against Iona Prep, Jones had a spectacular game scoring four touchdowns to lead Hayes to a 35-22 victory. After the Cardinal’s terrific three-game start of the season, Hayes suffered their first defeat at SUNY Maritime, where the Cardinals lost 12-31 against the St. Anthony’s Friars. Going into halftime, the Cardinals were up 7-6, but the Friars recovered and outscored Hayes 24-6 in the final 24 minutes of the game.
The Cardinals’ defeat revealed that the team cannot rest solely on their abilities and dedicate themselves to playing passionately and cohesively in order to have a successful season. This early wake-up call may have been the catalyst for a four-game winning streak that occurred immediately after their first loss. The next challenge the Cardinals faced was defeating the Archbishop Stepinac Crusaders. Last season, the Cardinals defeated the Crusaders to win the CHSFL championship. In this regular season matchup, the Crusaders would be playing in front of their supporters at home. Hayes prevailed, winning 47-21, with a great performance from the Cardinals’ defense. This win against Stepinac proved that the Cardinals were going to be a force to reckon with come playoff time.
After three more consecutive wins, the Cardinals faced the Crusaders for the second time this season. Their performance in this game decided the fate of their playoff season. Archbishop Stepinac handed Cardinal Hayes their second loss of the season and knocked them out of the playoffs. This 13-12 win for the Crusaders devastated many of the Cardinal players—especially seniors. That may have been a tough pill to swallow, but there was still one more game left that offered the opportunity for the team to leave a lasting impression.
The final game that the Cardinals played was against the Mount Saint Michael Mountaineers in the 75th annual Turkey Bowl. The Cardinals’ offense and defense dominated the Mountaineers in the second half, holding their opponent to zero points and scoring 29 points in the process. Cardinal Hayes ended with 44 points and Mount Saint Michael finished with 16 points.
Cardinal Hayes ended with 44 points and Mount Saint Michael finished with 16 points. After the game, Head Coach Charles “C.J.” O’Neil had some encouraging words for the players at the end of the season and for those seniors who played their last high school game.
“We talked to them the last two weeks about finishing the job. The senior class goes out AAA champions last year and AAA semifinalist 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. The 2017 Cardinal Hayes football season may not have been the expected result that one, but everyone is still leaving with a ring. That’s still a good way to leave.”
For Cardinal Hayes fans and supporters, the Cardinals played exceptionally well and proved why they were last year’s champions. The season may not have had the ending that everyone hoped for, but their overall season was still successful.