Spencer Avalos’ retelling of the first tackle of last week’s game was voiced with a little bit of awe. His teammate, Darien Bica (pictured above), charged up to meet the first Hoosick Falls ball carrier with a notable purpose, especially for someone who hadn’t played football the previous 14 days.
“He hit the kid so hard his chin strip popped off all its buckles,” Avalos said. “I was like, whoa, that’s a hit. Darien’s back.”
Bica came back last week and earned defensive player of the game honors in Dobbs’ 13-12 state semifinal win at Dietz. He was hobbled by a severe ankle sprain that was injured in three places on the Eagles’ final touchdown in the Class C final against Bronxville.
Bica missed the next game and did very little at practice before playing Hoosick Falls. He also only played a few plays at guard before being replaced by converted halfback Matt Fata. But the Eagles really need Bica on defense, where he earned all-state honors as a junior. Now, the senior hopes the same practice plan will allow him to thrive tomorrow at the Carrier Dome.
When I visited Dobbs earlier this week, he was in street clothes. He won’t be Sunday. It’s a game Bica wouldn’t miss for anything.
“There’s no way I’m missing this game. It’s going to be my last game ever,” said Bica, who has committed to play lacrosse at Manhattan College. “I’m never going to play a football game ever again. To play in the Dome for my last game is going to be unbelievable.”
Bica said he’ll try to play some guard early. If he can’t, he’ll stick to defense, where he is the heart of what the Eagles do and, not surprisingly, their leading tackler.
Bica’s doctor told him the injury wouldn’t heal for two months but that he could play if he could withstand the pain. He couldn’t handle it initially last week, but returned to the field after missing a drive that ended in a Hoosick Falls TD.
Dobbs coach Jim Moran said Bica “literally shouldn’t even play,” but he wasn’t surprised his middle linebacker succeeded when he did.
“Some people are football players,” Moran said. “It doesn’t matter. He could not play for a year and show up and be our leading tackler. He just has a nose for the ball. When he’s out there, he’s making every single tackle.”
Scouting report —
Class C state championship
Dobbs Ferry (10-1) vs. Section 6’s Southwestern (11-1)
Where: Carrier Dome, Syracuse University
When: Sunday, 12 p.m.
Key players: Dobbs Ferry — Spencer Avalos (5-9, 175), Sr., QB/DB; Tim Soave (6-0, 225), So., FB/DL; Darien Bica (5-11, 185), Sr., G/LB; Eddie Ritch (5-10, 165); John Yozzo-Scaperrotta (6-2, 200), Sr., HB/DE. Southwestern — Jake Swan (5-11, 160), Sr., QB/WR/DB; Jake Pilling (5-11, 200), Jr., QB; Peter Trathen (6-2, 210), Jr., OL/LB; Tyler Uber (6-0, 215), Sr., RB/LB; Dan Petruccello (5-11, 190), Sr., RB/LB.
Key matchup: Dobbs Ferry front 7 vs. Swan’s versatility.
Outlook: Southwestern beat Croton-Harmon in 2008 and Bronxville in 2009 to win the Class C state championship but does not have the same big, brutish team that led the program to those wins. The Section 6 champ is undersized and actually lost a regular season game this year for the first time in four years. Last week, the Trojans were outgained 278-197 by Westerly but forced six turnovers to swing the momentum in their favor. Like Hoosick Falls last week, Southwestern runs a spread offense with its main objective being to get the ball to Swan, who plays anywhere from quarterback to running back to receiver. “They’re just looking for 20 different ways to get him the ball. He’s good,” Dobbs Ferry coach Jim Moran said. His Eagles have promoted more balance, with Soave, last week’s workhorse, rushing for 1,067 yards, and halfbacks Ritch and Yozzo-Scaperrotta combining for 1,490 yards. Avalos has also gained 1,000 yards combined rushing and passing. Defenses have focused on stopping the perimeter in recent weeks, but the Eagles have thrived with Soave running up the middle, even with converted halfbacks Matt Fata and Brian Gardner starting at the guards. “They’re a lot like us,” Avalos said. ” They’re not too big, but they have a lot of heart and they’re also won a lot of close games.”
Dobbs Ferry coach Jim Moran on Southwestern: “This team is in the gun, but they really run power football. It’s different. They’re more on the line of O’Neill than Hoosick Falls with philosophy. They’re a power team.”
The key player to stop is Swan, who plays just about everywhere on offense.
“It seems like every time they have the ball, they’re looking to get him the ball. They’re just looking for 20 different ways to get him the ball. He’s good.”
Dobbs Ferry senior Spencer Avalos on Southwestern: “It’s a bunch of stuff we’ve seen already so we’ve been able to put stuff in we’ve had the last couple weeks and focus on that.”
PREDICTION: Dobbs Ferry 20, Southwestern 17. As you know from above, the Eagles have some injury issues to deal with, but they have continued to thrive despite them. If Bica plays and Gardner and Fata continue to play well at the guards, Dobbs may just be too balanced to lose. Southwestern is obviously an excellent program, but this is not the team that challenged Croton and Bronxville in 2008 and 2009. The teams are similar in size. If that’s the case, I think Dobbs’ ability to call several players’ numbers will win out over the dynamic Swan. Southwestern will need other contributors to beat the Eagles.