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St. Anthony's LB a Hit

Anthony Leggio leads resurgent defense as Friars football hosts St. Joseph by-the-Sea in CHSFL AAA semifinal Saturday.

Anthony Leggio will forever have a place in St. Anthony’s football lore.

The Commack linebacker returned a fumble 61 yards for a touchdown, the highlight-reel moment that defined the 2011 CHSFL championship game.

Leggio was just a junior then. Now he’s back for an encore.

“Last year’s moment was great,” said Leggio, who has 80 tackles, six sacks and two forced fumbles this season. “I would love to relive it. That’s what I hope to do in two weeks.”

Top-seeded St. Anthony’s (7-2) hosts No. 4 St. Joseph by-the-Sea (8-1) in the CHSFL Class AAA semifinals Saturday at 5:30 p.m. The defense, led by the 5-foot-11, 208-pound Leggio, will be key.

St. Anthony’s is coming off a 42-0 quarterfinal win over Farrell, it’s second shutout of the season. It’s also the second straight stout performance by the defense, which gave up one long touchdown run in a 45-6 win over Xaverian to close out the regular season.

Leggio missed the first Farrell game due to injury and the Staten Island rival scored five touchdowns. With him back roaming the field for the playoff rematch, the Friars held Farrell to 133 yards offense. 

“I like the way he can run from sideline to sideline,” St. Anthony’s Coach Rich Reichert said. “Last year he was protected by our D line and he made a lot of plays. This year he’s getting blocked a lot more. It took him a while to understand he’s got to get off blocks to make plays. 

Defensive coordinator Joe Minucci served as scout team quarterback at practice Friday, which was quite a sight. But only the former Arena Football League defensive end could simulate the Vikings' double-wing offense. 

St. Joe’s plays up tempo, rarely punts, opts for onside kicks and goes for two rather than kick. Facing such an unorthodox foe demands discipline. And it calls for senior leaders to keep everyone focused.

Enter Leggio. 

“I try to keep it positive,” said Leggio, who is being recruited by Monmouth, Bentley, Stonehill, Bryant, Marist and Lehigh. “Even if things go bad or we let up a big play. Just turn the page and get back to St. Anthony’s defense.”

Leggio once shared the backfield with Anthony Anderson at Hauppauge Middle School. That team went 8-0. But as a freshman he moved from running back to linebacker.

Now Leggio is stuffing the run instead of breaking tackles. Now you know where the big-play ability comes from. And the Friars hope to see more of it over the final two weeks.

“He’s smart, he has good instincts,” Minucci said. “And he’s quick. But what helps him get to the ball and make plays is his instinct.”

Instinct helped Leggio deliver one championship in dramatic fashion. The road to another goes through Leggio and the Friars' defense. 

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