Football honors

Mount St. Michael two-way star Gary Acquah led the Mountaineers to the CHSFL ‘AA’ title. Photo by Damion Reid

Mount St. Michael had a season to remember.

The Mountaineers overcame a slow start and fought through the grief of teammate Kyle Rembert’s death from carbon monoxide poisoning before the playoffs. The year culminated with a 28-22 win over heated rival Cardinal Hayes on Thanksgiving for the CHSFL Class AA title.

It was a disappointing end to a fine season for a senior-laden Hayes squad. Fordham Prep and Xavier, which was one of the CHSFL AA’s hottest teams this season, also played a thriller on Thanksgiving. The Knights pulled out a 35-27 overtime victory.

Over in the PSAL, Clinton made the quarterfinals for the second straight year and South Bronx won the Cup Division title. It was a down year for perennial power John F. Kennedy, which recently fired head coach Alex Vega. Truman had a fine year by making the Bowl division semifinals.

All-Bronx/Manhattan football Player of the Year: Gary Acquah, Mount St. Michael

The 6-2, 235-pound senior had a lot on his broad shoulders this season. Mount coach Mario Valentini would say after each game his team would go only as far as Acquah would take them.

It was quite a ride.

The two-way star at fullback and linebacker helped Mount rebound from a 1-5 start and win the CHSFL ‘AA’ championship with an emotional Thanksgiving Day win over rival Cardinal Hayes. Acquah, an all-league selection, had two touchdowns and added two sacks on the final drive to seal the win. The bruising back and physical tackler rushed for 830 yards and 12 touchdowns on 171 carries and was adept at gaining the extra yard once his legs got moving.

Acquah, who is getting Division I looks, made his greatest contribution as the team’s emotional leader. He was a rock his teammates could rally around when teammate Kyle Rembert died before the Mountaineers’ first playoff game.

All-Bronx/Manhattan football Coach of the Year: Mario Valentini, Mount St. Michael

This season may have been Valentini’s finest coaching job during his long run at The Bronx school. He had a young and inexperienced team that grew and developed with each game and battled through a string of difficult losses, starting the season 1-5.

Valentini’s firm hand didn’t allow his players to quit or get down on themselves. They rallied to win their final four games and the school’s first CHSFL ‘AA’ title with a Turkey Bowl victory over Cardinal Hayes.

He also helped the team through the grieving process after the unexpected death of junior Kyle Rembert from carbon monoxide poisoning. Valentini was able to keep his team focused on the task at hand while allowing them to feed off the emotion of dedicating the season to Rembert.

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