So we are here: The last preview for the last game of the season. And isn’t it fitting that the team in focus is Bronxville, the Section 1 school we all thought would end its season in Syracuse.
The Broncos return to the Carrier Dome as the Class C state runner-up after last year’s 40-14 loss to Southwestern. They lost that game to and outstanding Southwestern team that had won back to back state championships, so they may have lost anyway. However, several of Bronxville’s most talented players were hampered with injuries by the time of the state final. RBs Brian Murray and Liam Berney were banged up and played just a handful of plays. Same goes for Dillon Mitchell, who did a lot of everything for the Broncos as a junior. Center Blair Law played but a nagging leg injury limited his movement greatly.
“It’s a different mood now,” coach Jeff Napolitano said. “We’re much more excited about what’s happened and much more confident because we’re healthier.”
Not to mention very, very good. Bronxville has earned its No. 1 state ranking and the right to enter tomorrow’s game as the favorite. The Section 1 champ appears to have all the necessary pieces to win, namely a powerful defense and two excellent and productive skill players (RB Christian Conway and QB Dillon Mitchell) operating behind a beefy and athletic line.
If I was Napolitano, my primary (and perhaps) only reason for apprehension would be the pass defense, which surrendered 324 yards last week to Saranac Lake. Unlike other Bronxville games, where opponents score their points and gain their yards at the end of a lopsided contest, Saranac Lake produced big passing plays early on. General Brown will probably try to take advantage of that since it only has four players on its roster over 225 pounds.
The Lions have a productive QB in Nick Frears, the coach’s son, who has passed for nearly 1,600 yards. Napolitano said Frears and the offense typically operates out of a pro set with split backs but it will alter formations.
“They’ll use trips formations,” Napolitano said. “They mix it up a little bit.”
On defense, General Brown will load up at the line of scrimmage and blitz often. It could force Mitchell to throw in order to alleviate some pressure.
Napolitano compared the defensive aggressiveness to Millbrook’s rugby-style offense.
“It’s a style of football that we’re not used to seeing in Section 1,” he said.
But even if Bronxville won’t always know what to expect, that isn’t always a bad thing. Last year, Napolitano said he, his staff and his players knew exactly what to expect from Southwestern so there were no tricks. They just questioned their ability to stop them. But now? “I think we have a little more certainty about what we’re going to do.”
PREDICTION: Bronxville 42, General Brown 14. When I ready Napolitano’s last quote, I think, “Me too.” These Broncos are too tough and talented to lose in their final game together. Time to go out on top and lay rightful claim to the label as the best team in program history.