OK, so it’s time to shift the conversation around here. What better way to execute that then with a new Top 10 ranking to prime the pump on the upcoming football season.
Here’s a look at where the teams all finished last season. Now forget it completely — it’s a whole new year.
• As always, your thoughts are appreciated. Let’s hear who was left off the list that deserves to be on it and why.
1. Iona Prep — No team returns as much talent as the Gaels, who have their QB, RB, WR all back, as well as a batch of returning stars on defense and along both lines. Their biggest concern will be replacing offensive coordinator D.J. Williams, who moved down south and will no longer call the plays for what has been, in recent years, the area’s most potent offense.
2. New Rochelle — The Huguenots probably had just their second “down” season since 2003 and they still finished just a play or two from a sixth straight championship. They’ll try and start a new streak with a host of skill players back. Their team speed will be paramount, particularly in the defensive backfield. On offense, QB Khalil Edney could continue to ring in a new era after a strong junior year. His presence and a greater number of returning linemen give New Ro the early edge over last year’s champ.
3. North Rockland — The Red Raiders progressed so quickly last season under new coach Tom Lynch. In the process, they reestablished themselves as a Class AA powerhouse. They return a pair of stars in John Dapolito and Nick Connell and will be strong in the backfield and at linebacker. The greatest area of concern is up front. North Rockland will have to mature quickly in the trenches to repeat.
4. Stepinac — The Crusaders lost five Division I players to graduation, including player of the year Austin Taps. They return more than you think, especially on the offensive and defensive lines. The key will be how Ryan Burnett, Justin Thomas, Tarik Stovall and the rest of their skill players adjust to bigger roles and whether or not the defense can stop teams like St. Anthony’s, Iona Prep and Xaverian from putting up big numbers.
5. Harrison — Art Troilo told me this week this team has great balance between its junior and senior classes. It’s reminiscent of the championship teams in 1998-99, 2001-02 and 2005-06, he said, and could even include contributions from a freshman and some sophomores. The backfield is loaded with Mike Amicucci, Jake Marino and Robert Waldman all there around Vin Nicita. Troilo said his biggest fear is the kicking game. In a way, that’s a pretty good sign.
6. John Jay — The two-headed monster of Tyler Keech and Jack Lambert will be one of the section’s best stories. At Carmel camp last month, they two shifted between QB and receiver seamlessly. Keech is more of a thrower and Lambert is more of a runner, but they do enough of each to keep defenses honest, especially behind a good line led by Etnik Rraci and Jason Valvano. So, the concern will be clear: Can the Indians stop people? They’re going to score.
7. Arlington — The Admirals won’t have Parker Howard to hand the ball to this season, but they should have a balanced attack. Right now, Dominick DeMatteo is shuttling between two quarterbacks, but one of his biggest concerns is the depth up front. The starting unit is pretty good. Arlington will be able to say the same thing if that group stays healthy.
8. Poughkeepsie — The Pioneers had so much talent last season. Much of it is gone, but the electric D’Andre Smith should be an excellent replacement for Section 1’s reigning MVP, Josh Oliver. Returning star Brandon Weir will have to lead an inexperienced group up front to clear space for Smith and co. to run.
9. Clarkstown South — The Viking offense relied heavily on three players last year. Two are back in Thomas Lent and QB Ryan McManus, and, with a year of maturation, that should offset the loss of Rockland player of the year Frank Tucek. What’s of greater concern is their strength up front and how they’ll adjust to a much more grueling schedule. South caught people napping last year, but that won’t happen again.
10. Somers — There’s a handful of Class A teams that can compete for a championship this year and could join — or surpass — Somers in the rankings. For now, let’s focus on what the Tuskers have back, namely an elite backfield of Stefano Bicknese and Joe Lombardo, who give opponents decidedly different looks. But who will they run behind? Big Joe Hanley and Chris Groton are among the key linemen who are gone. Yorktown, Rye and Ossining could nip at the heels of teams on this list before long.
Here are the class-by-class rankings with a quick comment on each:
Class AA — Right now, I’d give the top two and edge. Everything else is uncertain, but expect a couple contenders to emerge.
1. New Rochelle
2. North Rockland
4. Clarkstown South
5. John Jay-East Fishkill
Class A — Watch out for Yorktown. Dropping down to A and returning the Nick Mariano
toChristian Dedvukaj could be quite the formula for success.
2. John Jay
Class B — Lourdes gets the edge because it has so much back, but Croton will be there in the end. Nanuet could easily join 3-5 on the list.
1. Our Lady of Lourdes
Class C/D — No team returns the majority of its talent other than Tuckahoe. For now, the defending state champ earn the edge out of respect, but it’s a wide open race in Class C.
1. Dobbs Ferry
Catholics/Privates — It’ll be up to Rye Country Day to reload after last year’s historic seasons.
1. Iona Prep
3. Rye Country Day
4. Sacred Heart