For those of you who were at the County Center last winter and Mahopac High School last Saturday night, you saw the good and bad of John Yozzo-Scaperrotta’s unparalleled intensity, and not in that order. But there is no doubt that the emotion the Dobbs Ferry senior channels inside fueled him to the highlight of the season so far, a 92-yard jaunt to the end zone that left practically every member of the Bronxville defense in his wake. Some of them twice.
The 6-foot-2, 200-pound halfback/defensive end is the focus of today’s Friday football feature, which was one of my favorite to write. For a teenager, Yozzo-Scaperrotta is very real; his emotions are never far from the surface. You quickly find out that’s how it always is — and how it’s always been.
The lead to the story illustrates exactly that. At 18 months, he grew his first tooth…and it was gone in less than a week. The rambunctiousness never stopped.
Neither has his love for football. At 8, he was a water boy at Gould Park, where the field is named for his grandfather, John B. Yozzo, who helped found the Pop Warner program in Dobbs. But he arrived to games three hours early, hanging out and watching film with coach Skip Violante and his staff. Since, he’s developed into an “A” student and a three-sport star who plans to play lacrosse at Brown.
Dobbs Ferry coach Jim Moran referred to Yozzo-Scaperrotta as a “wild stallion,” an apt description if there ever was one. Thomas Fleming, who provides the skill to match his teammate’s muscle and hustle on the basketball court, said Yozzo-Scaperrotta is actually anything but an instigator…but he’s not someone you horse around with either.
“He’s not a bully or anything like that, but when you’re messing around you don’t want to get him mad,” Fleming said. “It’s nice to see him doing what he’s doing right now. We’ve seen it in lacrosse. We’ve seen it in basketball. This year, it’s coming out in football”
In truth, the Dobbs Ferry senior is simply the ultimate competitor. His intensity has helped fuel teammates since they first played football together as kids and it continues to fuel them now as they enter their first state playoffs.
“I’ve come through in some pretty clutch situations where my intensity has brought us to a whole different level,” Yozzo-Scaperrotta said. “Just like (Saturday) night. The adrenaline was flowing and no one could stop me.”
“When he makes a big play, they feed off it,” Moran said. “They’ve been playing football with each other since the fifth grade and he’s their spiritual leader. When he gets fired up, they get fired up.”
And Yozzo-Scaperrotta? Well, you know he gets fired up.
North Rockland (9-1) vs. Section 2’s Shenendehowa (10-0)
When: Saturday, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Dietz Stadium, Kingston
Key players: North Rockland — Tom Ginty (5-8, 170), Sr., RB; Nick Connell (5-11, 175), Jr., RB/LB; John Dapolito (5-11, 205), Jr., FB/LB. Shenendehowa — Teddy Van Galen (6-1, 170), Sr., QB/CB; Tony Fusco (5-10, 190), Sr., HB/CB; Marcelino Christie (5-10, 175), Jr., HB.
Key matchup: North Rockland front 7 vs. Fusco.
Outlook: North Rockland returns to the state playoffs for the first time in six years. For Shenendehowa, the wait has been even longer: Eight years. The year prior, the Plainsmen actually beat North Rockland 42-0 in the Class AA quarterfinals, but the programs have not met since. This team has been dominant in its own right, outscoring opponents 422-66 while posting five shutouts. The Red Raiders have faced more challenges, beating New Rochelle and John Jay-East Fishkill by 12 points combined in their last two games. Shen relies on an outside running game that features Fusco, who has 1,429 yards and 29 touchdowns rushing. North Rockland will rely on its ball control to keep Fusco off the field and a front seven led by emerging juniors Connell and Dapolito (pictured above left) to prevent big gains.
North Rockland coach Tom Lynch: “Shen has scored over 400 points while giving up 66. They have a great running attack and a quarterback with a very strong arm.”
With Fusco and Van Galen able to work the perimeter, North Rockland will rely on its ball-control style offense to support its defense by burning clock.
“We will have to control the ball to keep there offense off the field. We must stop their outside running game. They run alot of toss plays with different line action.”
Class A state quarterfinal
Poughkeepsie (10-0) vs. Section 9’s Cornwall (9-1)
When: Tonight, 7 p.m.
Where: Dietz Stadium, Kingston
Key players: Poughkeepsie — Josh Oliver (5-6, 157), Sr., QB; Brandon Weir (6-3, 225), Jr., OT/DE; Robert Johnson (6-0, 295), Sr., NG. Cornwall — Peter Catal, Sr., RB/LB; Matt Smith, So., QB/DB; Rashard Wroten, Jr., HB/DB.
Key matchup: Cornwall defensive backs vs. Poughkeepsie receivers.
Outlook: Poughkeepsie is clearly a big-play team. That means the Pioneers like to score quickly and aren’t accustomed to driving the field for touchdowns. The question is, can Cornwall, which is on its fifth trip to states since 2005, prevent big plays? If it can, Poughkeepsie will be out of its element. John Jay had success in this area, but only to an extent. In the end, Poughkeepsie played enough big plays to win. In this case, however, its defense will need to limit them as well. It had success against the Indians Sunday, and Cornwall presents a similar challenge. Smith, the quarterback, is mostly a passing threat, but he has weapons in Catal, Wroten and leading receiver Jimmy O’Rourke. So as much as Cornwall must stop Poughkeepsie, the Pioneers must stop Cornwall. This could be the weekend’s most competitive game.
Class B state quarterfinal
Croton-Harmon (9-0) vs. Section 9’s Marlboro (9-1)
When: Tonight, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Mahopac High School
Key players: Croton-Harmon — Jesse Mainiero (6-0, 200), Sr., QB/S; John Brennan (6-4, 250), Sr., OT/DT; Kyle Ricciardi (6-2, 215), Sr., G/LB. Marlboro — Mike Schoonmaker (5-9, 150), Sr., QB; John Gallo (6-0, 170), Sr., DB; Mike Tamburri (5-10, 180), Sr., LB.
Key matchup: Croton’s defense vs. Schoonmaker.
Outlook: Marlboro had never before won a Section 9 title, going 0-8 in its previous appearances in championship games. By comparison, this is old hat for Croton, which is now in the state playoffs for the third time in four years. The Tigers return the majority of their starters from a team that beat Section 9’s New Paltz 27-0 last year in this same game. Their mission tonight will be to stop Schoonmaker, who led his team in rushing and passing (1,677 yards combined) and accounted for 24 touchdowns. Of course, he’s counterpart, Mainiero (pictured above right), continues to close in on 1,000 yards passing and rushing and will have the luxury of a bigger, stronger offensive line. He’ll just have to avoid giving up a big play to Gallo, who has forced 10 turnovers this season.
Croton-Harmon coach John Catano on Marlboro: “Their quarterback is extremely quick. He’s very dangerous.”
Catano said Marlboro runs a 4-3 defense but also employs some 5-2 fronts.
“They’re extremely aggressive. They have some talented backs, too. They’re also quick.”
Catano added that his team is bigger up front than Marlboro, especially on defense. His first-teamers have allowed just 54 points all season, with linemen Dennis O’Connell, John Brennan and Alex Bowser anchoring the front.
“We have some big boys in there. I think that’s what won us big games.”
Class C state quarterfinal
Dobbs Ferry (8-1) vs. Section 9’s O’Neill (8-2)
When: Saturday, 3 p.m.
Where: Dietz Stadium, Kingston
Key players: Dobbs Ferry — Spencer Avalos (5-9, 175), Sr., QB/DB; Tim Soave (6-0, 225), So., FB/DL; Darien Bica (5-11, 180), Sr., G/LB. O’Neill — Keegan West (5-7, 140), So., QB/S; Jerry Nasi (5-10, 180), Jr., RB/DB; Zach Trainor (5-10, 200), Jr., FB/LB.
Key matchup: O’Neill front 7 vs. Dobbs Ferry’s speed.
Outlook: O’Neill won just one game a year ago but is hardly unaccustomed to the state tournament. The Raiders won the Section 9 Class B title in 2009 and have benefitted this season from improved health. Dobbs has experienced a similar resurgence, reaching states for the eighth time but first since 2007. The Eagles feature a running game that is equal parts speed and power that produced three 100-yard rushers last week in a 38-14 win over defending state champ Bronxville. Their defensive focus will be on Nasi, who has rushed for 1,740 yards and 19 touchdowns. But O’Neill’s chances appear slim; no Class C team from Section 9 has beat a Section 1 representative since Highland topped Dover in 1996.
Dobbs Ferry coach Jim Moran on O’Neill: “They’re big up front and their offensive line is very good. They line up in I (formation), looking to jam it down your neck. They’re much bigger than us, no doubt about it.”
“Their defense is in a 4-3 and is very aggressive. … They look pretty good to me.”
Class D state quarterfinal
Haldane (8-1) vs. Section 9’s Chester (10-0)
When: Today, 4:30 p.m.
Where: Mahopac High School
Key players: Haldane — Bryant Dain (5-10, 200), Sr., RB/DE; Elias Lopez (6-0, 165), Sr., QB/S; Henry Heintzman (6-3, 210), Sr., TE/DL. Chester — Saxon Smith, Sr., RB; Anthony Ognibene, Sr., QB; Shawn Stover, Sr., OL/DL.
Key matchup: Haldane’s front vs. Smith.
Outlook: Chester is 0-5 in its previous state playoff appearances, while Haldane is 2-2, beating Section 9’s Millbrook in the 2000 state quarterfinals and Eldred in the same game in 2007. But Chester will present a different challenge in Smith, who now sits second on the all-time Section 9 list in single-season rushing (2,528) and third in single-game rushing (469) to go along with 36 touchdowns. He is small but explosive and will be Haldane’s chief focus. The Blue Devils are naturally more diverse, led by the power running of Dain and the duel threat of Lopez at quarterback. They also have more size than Chester and would benefit from winning the battle up front.
Haldane coach Jeff Sniffen on Chester: “Chester is a real good team with a nice balance of size and speed. Naturally, their running game is pretty explosive. Though their tailback obviously has a lot of our attention, their fullback is effective running the ball, and their quarterback can stretch the field when needed.”
“Defensively, they play very aggressively up front and have strong d-end play off the edge. Their secondary is small and quick. I know they’ve been exploited in a couple of games but seemed to correct a lot of their problems towards the end of the season.”
“Coach Stover runs a very solid program by keeping to the KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) philosophy. We will need to be at the top of our game to be successful.”