Cardinal Hayes, Iona Prep Playing at MetLife Stadium
By DAN PIETRAFESA
Cardinal Hayes and Iona Preparatory will represent the archdiocese in the Battle for the Bridge matching Catholic high school football teams from New York and New Jersey at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., Saturday, Sept. 14.
The lineup has St. Anthony’s of Huntington vs. Delbarton of Morristown, N.J., at 11 a.m.; Iona Prep vs. Pope John of Sparta Township, N.J., at 2 p.m.; and Cardinal Hayes vs. St. Joseph’s of Montvale, N.J., at 5 p.m.
The six teams will meet at MetLife at 6 p.m. Friday, Sept. 13, for Mass and dinner.
“It’s tremendously exciting,” Cardinal Hayes coach CJ O’Neil told CNY of the MetLife weekend.
Cardinal Hayes is coming off a 54-26 victory in its season opener Sept. 7 over Kellenberg, the two-time defending Catholic High School Football League of Metropolitan New York AA champions.
Cardinal Hayes has reached the league AAA championship game in three of the last four seasons, winning the title in 2016.
St. Joseph’s is a defending state champion and was ranked seventh in the preseason USA Today Sports East poll.
“They’re an extremely excellent program and an extremely good team,” O’Neil said. “We’ve seen them on film. They play a physical brand of football, and coach Augie Hoffmann is an excellent football coach.
“We feel we’re ready to step into that pool and compete. We’ll see how it goes.”
Iona Prep, which began the season with a 35-6 victory over Xavier Sept. 7, is playing the second of three non-league games to start the season before opening league play against two-time defending state champion and rival Archbishop Stepinac in White Plains.
The Gaels are coached by 1998 Iona Prep graduate and former quarterback Joseph Spagnolo.
“Bragging rights are nice, but with college reps keeping a close eye out for potential recruits, this is also a tremendous opportunity for all our players and teams to shine,” said Spagnolo in a statement about playing at MetLife. “Just to play on the same field where so many of our NFL heroes have played will be such a thrill.”
Iona Prep plays home games on Wellington T. Mara Field, dedicated in 2015 and named for the late New York Giants owner. Mara had four sons and nine grandsons attend Iona Prep. Giants president and CEO John Mara, Giants senior vice president of player personnel Chris Mara and Giants vice president of community relations Frank Mara are three of Wellington’s sons who attended Iona Prep.