Yesterday was busy but fun. It’s one thing to have “football” back, but practices and preseason prognostications are just that. Thursday was when it started to feel real. You get an opportunity to see how teams plan to move on and move forward with another team chasing them.
My scrimmage tour continues today with stops at Ossining and Lakeland, meaning I’ll have thoughts about Ossining, Suffern, Fox Lane, Lakeland, Yorktown, Poughkeepsie, and Sleepy Hollow. That’s eight seven more teams, only two of which I’ve seen so far. It should help shed some light on Class A in particular considering all but two teams are in A.
After my trip to Somers yesterday afternoon, I saw three of the top-ranked teams in AA, had a brief look at the defending A champ and caught a prolonged look at one of the most intriguing small schools in 2011. So here’s a look at what I found out at White Plains:
LOCATION: Highlands School, White Plains
TEAMS: White Plains, North Rockland, Mahopac, Woodlands, Harrison, Truman
White Plains — The host played Thursday without several of its top offensive players, most notably its starting running backs. Jaeshon Brooks and Darrell Everett were on the sideline in street clothes, taking some punch out of the Tigers’ attack. They were further handicapped, for the lack of a better term, by their adjustment to a no-huddle, fast-paced offense. Skip Stevens told me there were mistakes early on with snap counts and false starts, but that’s no surprise. Anyone who saw John Jay break in its offense five or six years ago saw the same inconsistencies early in the season.
Even without Brooks and Everett, and with new QB Jeff Avery and his line trying to get acclimated, you realize just how much talent White Plains possesses. The Tigers still feature Super 11 senior Odaine Franklyn, who, Stevens said, will play anything from FB to WR to TE to OLB to DE to DB. He can play just about everything but QB. Mike Scotman isn’t too far behind. He’ll start in the middle on defense but will move around on O, playing some RB and WR. TE Luis Ribiero is an athletic force on both sides of the ball. So, too, is speedster Ryan Brooks. They all stick out based on their dynamism alone. In fact, when I showed up midway through White Plains’ scrimmage with Mahopac, a player burst around right tackle and chased the QB with a head of steam, forcing him into a bad throw and an interception. At that size and speed, I need immediately it was Franklyn, even with him wearing the wrong number.
There’s no hiding the fact that this should be the year that White Plains takes the next step. Will it beat New Rochelle? That remains to be seen. At this point, it seems unlikely, considering how much New Ro has dominated in the last decade. But the Tigers clearly have the physical talent to move toward that upper echelon and separate themselves from the rest of the playoff pack. Other than an inexperienced offensive line, they are loaded.
North Rockland — Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to see the Red Raiders in a serious scrimmage. I watched them briefly against Harrison, but neither team played its first teamers. I did talk briefly with head coach Tom Lynch and Joe Casarella, who was in the house observing. Lynch wasn’t sure how what he saw will translate to the season. His team is still in search of a definitive answer at QB and hopes to see better play out of its offensive line. Casarella liked the organization he saw out of the offense, which showed flashes early in its scrimmage against Woodlands.
Lynch continued to sing the praises of John Dapolito, the FB/LB who I detailed on the first day of practice. It sounds like little outside of an injury can stop him from becoming a star.
I should get a better look at the Red Raiders tomorrow. Lynch said they will play the Clarkstown South scrimmage more like a real game.
Mahopac — The Indians were the opposite of North Rockland. They seemed to play as if their were jobs on the line, which, of course, their are. With only one starter back, C/DE Dan Neilis, Mahopac has a lot to figure out. The team definitely showed improvement throughout the day. Last year seems like ages ago, but other coaches told me the Indians will break through the uncertainty and find success as the season progresses because of the work of its coaching staff.
Although his father didn’t quite commit to it with me this week, the new QB is definitely Patrick Donahoe. He took every snap I watched and seemed like a playmaker. Donahoe can run, and he threw well on the run when chased out of the pocket by pass rushers (which was often). Mahopac moved the ball effectively through the air, and it led me to think the Indians will pass far more this season than they did last year.
I caught up with coach Tom Donahoe briefly afterward. He said he couldn’t really evaluate the team or reveal players who locked up spots until reviewing tape. “We have a lot of work left to do, but we improved as the day went on, which is good,” he said.
Woodlands — I’m beginning to be intrigued by Woodlands. You at least have to admit that Mike Meade and his staff have done whatever they could to give their new team a chance to compete in Class C come Week 1. The Falcons have practiced, played 7 on 7 or scrimmaged the following Section 1 teams since the spring: New Rochelle, Iona Prep, Rye, Harrison, North Rockland, White Plains and Mahopac, among others. Westlake, Hackley, Bronxville and more await on Saturday. They have dodged nobody, even though yesterday the roster went just 15 deep.
Meade said he expects 30 or 32 players on the team before all is said and done. Several were out yesterday because they had injuries or had missed a day of practice and were ineligible to participate. Regardless of who is in uniform, Week 1 vs. Blind Brook should look like a cinch compared to Woodlands’ various scrimmages, and that’s not intended as an insult to Blind Brook. The Falcons have simply scrimmaged some of the top football programs in the state, let alone the area.
In the scrimmage I focused on Woodlands, it played rough-and-tumble against White Plains’ first defense. RB Malcolm Downey has been the player Meade raved about and he showed no reason to think otherwise. Downey propelled himself into the middle of White Plains’ defense with abandon, picking up positive yards the majority of the time. Falcons QB Justin Riccio even burned the Tiger defense for a touchdown pass. A teammate later intercepted an Avery pass when Woodlands played against White Plains’ first offense.
It all led me to believe that Woodlands is a potential playoff team in Class C. After Bronxville, Dobbs Ferry and perhaps Hastings, there seems to be an available spot or two for the taking. The Falcons may be prepared to take it.
Harrison — I wish I had more to report in detail about Harrison, but I didn’t have a chance to speak with Art Troilo. The Huskies bolted shortly after I watched them scrimmage North Rockland, which consisted mostly of reserves.
The buzz from other coaches was that Harrison was the best team there. They weren’t sure why Troilo had belabored his team’s No. 1 ranking or its losses to graduation. “They’re going to be good” was the consensus.
I heard praise for the usuals: QB Vin Nicita and T/DT Charlie Crendendino, who appears fully recovered from last year’s knee injury. It also sounds like Harrison will continue to possess a strong running game despite the graduation of Tanner Knox, Steve Ricciardi and Alex Acompora.
Hopefully, I’ll get to see more of Harrison on Saturday at Clarkstown South. We’ll see.