Like I’ve mentioned before, no program since Carmel in 1998 has won a Class AA championship other than New Rochelle and North Rockland. That’s 11 long seasons without another name on the big plaque, but could this year produce a new champion?
Both New Ro and North Rockland were hit hard by graduation. New Ro returns a nice collection of skill players, led by Jordan Lucas, Capri Corn (above) and the Cargill twins, but it will need to rebuild along the offensive and defensive lines while replacing Lewis Edney at quarterback. Those are no small tasks when improving programs like White Plains and Arlington are closing in. They are the most likely contenders to New Rochelle’s throne — and to North Rockland’s as Class AA’s No. 2 — but it will not be simple.
The champion —
New Rochelle: Several times over the last five years, I have covered New Rochelle’s opening game or a game soon after. As our old friend Kevin could tell you, many of my assessments have been critical. I leave September thinking that this is the year the Huguenots fall, only to have them prove me wrong come November. I expect the same to happen again. Maybe New Ro will look shaky on Sunday at North Rockland. Maybe, and I have kind of predicted this to happen, it even loses to White Plains. But in the end, a la Carmel a couple years ago, I think New Ro continues to improve under Lou DiRienzo and wins yet another championship. The talent is certainly there.
The contender —
White Plains: Of all the teams in the section, the Tigers might return the most championship-ready group. They reached the semis last year and are loaded with seniors who played key roles as juniors. You know all their names. But you also understand their challenge, and so do they. For White Plains to take another step of progress, it will need to beat New Rochelle. The problem the Tigers will likely face is the same that Carmel faced: They must beat them twice. At least they might. It will require an extraordinary season, good health and some luck. Right now, New Rochelle remains the pick, but it’s close.
The darkhorse —
Arlington: So the Admirals keep building and building under Dom DeMatteo, from 1-8 in 2007 to 6-3 in 2008 to 7-2 in 2009. They lost 21 of 22 starters, however, from last year, so why is it that every conversation about them leads to people raising their eyebrows about how good this team can be? Clearly, DeMatteo has built a sleeping giant into a contender. One day soon, Arlington will take the next step. But now?
The team that could be better than you think —
North Rockland: You may find the other Class AA giant a weird team to find in this spot. But I think the consensus is that North Rockland won’t win the championship and might not even contend this year. Every coach I speak to disagrees, saying something to the extent that “it’s still North Rockland.” Remember this about the Red Raiders, if they win their league, which I expect, their record could be 5-1. It would likely earn them a top-five seed and put them on a roll going into the postseason. From there on, the coaching staff and the program tradition could make North Rockland very dangerous.
Predicted order of finish:
1. White Plains
3. New Rochelle
4. North Rockland
7. Clarkstown North
New Rochelle over Arlington
White Plains over North Rockalnd
New Rochelle over White Plains