As a means to look ahead to the 2011 season, I’ve decided we’ll spend each morning this week ranking the best games of the upcoming Section 1 football season.
Obviously, some spirited banter between a few of our loyal readers prompted the idea, and I thought it would provide an opportunity to preview what lies ahead this fall.
We’ll focus on one week per day, starting now with Week 1. If you need to take a peek at each’s team’s schedule, you can find it here. The first game is Week 1, the second is Week 2 and so on.
My breakdown of the top five games from Week 1 is below. The criteria: 1. Potential quality of teams in matchup. 2. Overall importance. 3. Public interest. And I considered them in that order, with No. 1 and 2 being of utmost importance.
Please feel free to add your own opinion about what I’m right, why I’m wrong or why you would have ranked them differently.
(Apologies in advance to our Catholic and private school readers. Your complete schedules are not listed online.)
The best from Week 1 —
1. Bronxville at Dobbs Ferry: I know our readership tends to favor the Class AA and A teams in its discussion, but I can’t believe no one mentioned this matchup. It’s a likely preview of the Class C championship and will feature the defending state champs against the former undisputed small-school kings as they look to regain control behind new coach Jim Moran. Consider the players who are gone and who are returning, I can’t find a Week 1 game more intriguing than this one. For those who think Bronxville will waltz, remember: Dobbs graduated only TWO seniors from last year’s team. The Eagles return almost all of their talent.
2. Rye at Somers: Two of the best coaches in Section 1 history will reintroduce themselves in this rematch of last year’s Class A quarterfinal. By that point, Rye arrived off an emotional win over Harrison but as a depleted team. Somers, a team that struggled early in the season, had peaked. It was Tony DeMatteo who got the better of Dino Garr that day, but the two 200-game winners will take very different teams into this season opener. Unlike years past, they won’t have a handful of weeks to work on getting better against lesser opponents. There are few warmups under the new scheduling system, and this is a prime example.
3. Clarkstown North at North Rockland: Many will believe last year was a fluke. North grabbed a hold of Rockland dominance and carried the mantle to the Class AA semis. Now, the Rams will earn an early chance to maintain that control against North Rockland, which will enter the season with a fair amount of lingering uncertainty after a sub-.500 2010. North lost a large percentage of its key players but so did the Red Raiders. Despite their struggles, Terrell Smith, Mike Lonergan, Gavin Maher and co. were centerpieces of that team.
4. John Jay-East Fishkill at Carmel: This game has garnered its share of early buzz, but both teams will begin the season as a mystery. Like the Yorktown-Clarkstown North-Scarsdale trio that emerged last season, there will be a few new teams we’ll consider contenders in Class AA before long. Consider John Jay and Carmel as potential candidates, just don’t consider them locks to be there in the end. Not yet at least. That’s why I listed this game fourth behind the top 3.
5. Ossining at John Jay: Another example of teams that are potential playoff contenders. But like John Jay-Carmel, there are no guarantees. Ossining struggled last season but returns highly-touted QB Brian Connolly. John Jay thrived but lost the men that made its offense (Hime Rraci) and defense (Lucas Myer) tick. Will the Indians remain a serious challenger? Can Ossining return to that status? One thing’s certain: We’ll say “yea” for one team after Week 1 and “nay” to the other.
Mahopac at Ketcham: How will both teams adjust after graduating so many key pieces? Can Mahopac come close to duplicating its 2010, Class AA finalist form? Is Ketcham’s young QB ready to help the Indians compete?
Eastchester at Scarsdale: Fun matchup, but ultimately the game does not count for anything other than bragging rites.
Sleepy Hollow at Pelham: There has already been plenty of chatter from both sides about this one, but in Section 1’s new system the higher power-rated teams carry more intrigue for the time being. Quite simply, they are more likely to end up in the playoffs when all is said and done.
Poughkeepsie at Spring Valley: The Tigers have steadily improved under coach Andrew Delva, but fellow Carmel alum Ken Barger has built his Pioneers into championship contenders year after year. Will this finally be Poughkeepsie’s turn? Who knows? But it will certainly enter Week 1 as the favorite.
Edgemont at Nanuet: Croton-Harmon is the Class B champ. It begins the season as a strong favorite. We know someone will emerge to contend, a la Westlake in 2010. Can these teams be among those emerging?