Scrimmage report? Are we there already? Well, not quite. But, for now, the scrimmages that constituted the final day of New Rochelle’s Champions Camp will have to do.
I had some help Friday thanks to colleague Dan DeFrancesco. We had a chance to catch up with just about every coach, so here’s a thought or two about each team outside of Iona Prep, which did not participate. (CHSFL rules prohibit teams from scrimmaging 11-on-11 during the offseason.)
The Huguenots knocked helmets with Tuckahoe, John Jay and Carmel on Friday. Their defense, as expected, was sharp despite the fact Joe Clarke (ankle) was out. The secondary will be tremendous, led by Jason Ceneus, Wijante Holden and Terrence Holden. It allowed a long touchdown pass over the top to John Jay, but New Ro’s speed was evident.
As always, the team’s success will be determined by the success of its offense. From what I saw (primarily against John Jay), it is a work in progress. A couple dropped passes and an errant throw or two really disrupted New Ro’s rhythm, but there’s no doubt sophomore Jon Forrest has the potential to be a star. He’s really grown in the last year and is a powerful runner. He should fill the fullback role nicely.
It turns out the Joe Clarke scare was just that – a scare. The tight end/linebacker/punter suffered an ankle sprain playing basketball Tuesday night. He was diagnosed Friday morning and was pronounced healthy enough to play last night. The New Ro staff thought better of it and kept him out, but Clarke told me he’ll return to football activity next week.
The Indians were not thrilled with their effort against New Rochelle, even though the game basically ended in a draw and they played it without big lineman Etnik Rraci and a potential two-way breakout star Tommy Beck (a lacrosse player who didn’t play football as a junior). If New Rochelle had stuffed them, that would be one thing, Jimmy Clark said. But the wounds were self-inflicted, occurring often before the point of contact.
“We were pretty sloppy today. We were putting the ball on the ground too often,” Clark said. “We can’t execute our offense when we put the ball on the ground. I was definitely upset about that. I know it’s August, but you have to be able to snap the ball, catch the ball and hand the ball off. We weren’t doing that today.”
In somewhat of a role reversal, Jack Lambert threw a deep TD pass to Tyler Keech, who is usually the one in charge of downfield throws. That was John Jay’s only offense against New Ro, but the Indians bounced back strong against Scarsdale. Outside of a telegraphed pass by Lambert that was intercepted, John Jay moved the ball effortlessly. Two guys who stood out were receiver Anthony Scapperotti (pictured left) and running back Andrew Duffy.
It’s also worth noting that the sometimes maligned defense performed well against both New Ro and Scarsdale. New Ro didn’t break any big plays outside of a Khalil Edney (pictured above) scramble.
“We have very high expectations. We see huge potential in this team,” Keech said. “We have so many kids who are talented. To not perform at the highest of our ability is a little disappointing, but I know we can get back to where we should be.”
Expectations have soared for Harrison, which has, by nearly every account, been a champion of the summer. Those were tempered a bit the last two days. QB Vin Nicita was stepped on Wednesday night on the last play against New Rochelle and sat out the last two days. On Friday he sported a boot on his right foot but said he would be fine by next week. The Huskies also played Friday without several other starters, including both offensive tackles.
The result were uneven performances against Woodlands and Mount Vernon.
“Up until Wednesday I thought we were really on our way,” Art Troilo said. “(Thursday) I thought we were OK and (Friday) I thought we weren’t. I don’t know if we were beat up or what. We just didn’t bounce back from Wednesday’s scrimmage vs. New Rochelle.”
Troilo said he used the camp as an opportunity to give both starters and subs significant reps. That will change going forward now that roles have been defined.
Despite the way the week ended, Harrison feels much more confident about its team than it did at this point last season.
“I think going into last year there were a lot of questions about who was going to play where. Maybe because of injury, but also because we didn’t know who was going to fill those spots,” senior lineman Charlie Crendendino said. “This year, any questions we have are because there are too many good players. It’s a great thing to have that problem to worry about.”
Croton-Harmon won the last two Class B championships and reached last year’s state final. Talk of the Tigers’ demise has been grossly exaggerated, according to coach John Catano.
Although his team graduated star quarterback Jesse Mainiero and three all-section linemen, it returns two starting linemen (Alex Bowser and Matt Gennarelli), a tight end (Peter Miller) and a host of skill players led by senior Nick Grous, not to mention the speedy Brian Soares, Alex Starr and Trevor Wolstencroft.
The Tigers biggest issues are replacing Mainiero at QB (Ben Gelfan is up from the JV) and replacing the size and experience of all-section linemen Kyle Ricciardi, John Brennan and Dennis O’Connell.
“I think everybody’s flushing the toilet on us,” Catano said. “It’s not like I don’t think we’re going to win a game. We’re going to be good, just like we have been.”
Despite bringing a weakened roster after a physical scrimmage against Harrison the night before, Saunders had a decent showing against some strong competition. Coach Mel Carrozza said the camp is all part of an effort to alter the mindset of the team.
“We want to change the culture, have a little bit of swagger,” Carrozza said. “We don’t want to accept losing; we want to believe we are a class team.”
Carrozza said he thinks players like Kristin Prenga (QB), Donald Lee (OL) and Nick Lugo (DL) can all help Saunders make that change. Even in a spread offense, returning all-section back Francisco Wilson-King will be the key figure on offense. He broke off a long touchdown run to open Saunders’ competitive scrimmage with Croton.
Saunders wasn’t the only team with low numbers. With only 15 players available, Scarsdale was far from full strength. Coach Andy Verboys said the team is mentally still recovering from the loss of outside linebacker Tyler Madoff.
Without a full roster, Verboys said the team was having a difficult time putting the pieces together.
“I told the guys, we looked better a month and a half ago,” Verboys said.
The Raiders will look to WR/DB Pat Clarke along with QB Andrew Verboys (pictured right) to help the team get back on track. Verboys had his moments Friday, but was chased early and often in what I saw against John Jay. Clarke made his presence felt on defense when he jumped a route and intercepted Lambert.
Scarsdale still managed to end camp on a good note, with a decent performance against New Rochelle to end the day. The Huguenots had reserves in at the skill positions but had several of their top linemen on the field.
Carmel was another team that made big strides during the day. Coach Todd Cayea wasn’t pleased with his team’s performance during its first scrimmage against Eastchester. He felt his team didn’t respond well to Eastchester’s physical play.
“We didn’t play with intensity,” Cayea said.
Cayea felt the Rams improved in their next scrimmage against New Rochelle.
Carmel also showed off new freshman quarterback Joey Rodriguez. Cayea, who has never started a freshman at QB since he was named coach in 1995, said he has been pleased with Rodriguez’s play but realizes that, as a freshman, he still has strides to make.
“Physically he is all there. He just needs to get there mentally,” Cayea said.
Harrison’s love for the option and hesitancy to throw well known, but Eastchester’s offense has a similar style. Like the Huskies, that may change a bit in 2012. QB Greg DiCarlo has looked very sharp. Combine that with a few question marks along the offensive line outside of stalwart A.J. Cesarini and coach Fred DiCarlo believes a little balance is necessary.
Of course, don’t expect the Eagles to kick off the season in the shotgun. DiCarlo, Jack Calvy and impressive newcomer Matt Marisco will still be the focal points and they will run. But the focus will be on developing the line.
The backs had room to run at times on Friday, especially in a successful scrimmage against Carmel. But that doesn’t mean questions were answered. DiCarlo said Champions Camp was part of an ongoing evaluation.
“We’re looking at our line,” Fred DiCarlo said. “Our backs, there are guys who can move in and out. I’m not that concerned there. I’m concerned up front. We did some good things here and we did some real bad things. I don’t think anybody walked out of here with a job. I think there’s still some competition here. From now until the beginning of the year, we have to get our line to gel.”
Now, a few quick thoughts on teams I had a brief look at on Friday:
You’ve read some of the names on here before. Justin Riccio looks very solid at QB. Ron Richards will be an excellent option for Riccio. And DeSean Downey is a force up front. He’s a great blend of size and speed, especially at the Class C level. But a name to watch on what proved to be a great day against the likes of Harrison and Mount Vernon? Tyrone Barber. The sophomore scored a pair of scintillating touchdown runs on back to back plays against Mount Vernon. He broke off an electric cut to deke a Mount Vernon defender between the hashes en route to the first score. The very next play Barber swept left and was never touched on a 40-yard score.
Woodlands could actually be the team to beat in Class C this year. It’s early, and Mike Meade’s teams (Roosevelt and Woodlands) have shown a propensity for looking sharp at Champions Camp because the players are so well drilled. But if this carries over into the season, the Falcons will be difficult to beat.
I had very little chance to catch Tuckahoe, other than a few plays against New Rochelle. But the Tigers are so good because they accept any challenge. Not many Class D teams in the state could even consider stepping on the same field as Class AA giants. This one will no doubt be better for it.
The story this week for Mount Vernon was how it would adjust installing the “Pistol” offense against real competition. Ric Wright told me Champions Camp was imperative; the Knights would never have been able to install the offense properly against themselves.
Obviously, it remains a work in progress. There were some missed snaps and ill-timed handoffs. But the offense should be a positive step for Mount Vernon, which has some outstanding athletes and a bull in fullback David Watkins. Expect the senior, who is now in his fifth year on varsity, to provide stability whenever the Knights encounter some rough patches.