My first stop Thursday was at MacCalman Field for Clarkstown South and Nyack, two teams I really hoped to see this preseason. Luckily, they were on the field at 2 today, giving me a chance to focus on them.
Here’s a quick take on both:
South comes off an excellent season in which it beat rival North twice and star Frank Tucek earned Rockland County player of the year honors. A bit of a declined would be expected this season, but I would think the opposite after today.
Immediately, I was impressed with South’s size. Outside of one long run, Nyack failed to move the ball much in three chances vs. South’s defense. Nyack has good size up front, but it was basically negated all afternoon. Linemen Ray Manfredi and Mark Annunziato were among those strong against the run.
“It’s all coaching,” said Annunziato, a three-year starter. “We’ve worked a lot on technique during practice. Our technique and quickness helps us against bigger guys.”
Nyack pretty much couldn’t break through against that front outside of a few counters on the outside. Now, it’ll be interesting to see how South can contain that type of speed on the outside with New Rochelle awaiting Week 1. But after a strong showing against Nyack, it’s a chance South will savor.
“I’m pumped about that,” Manfredi said. “It’s going to be a great challenge, but we’re ready for it.”
The Vikings were very sharp early on offense. QB Ryan McManus took advantage immediately, connecting on two quick passes to get down to the goal line. RB Thomas Lent punched one in.
Outside of an interception, McManus looked sharp all afternoon, working the ball to Matt Benedetto and Eric Margolis across the middle.
“When you get off to a good start in a scrimmage, it always makes you feel good,” McManus said.
Another bright spot was the play of Zach Johnson. He played at receiver on offense last year, but he’ll slide into Lent’s old spot in the backfield as Lent slides in for Tucek. Johnson ran for a couple scores and looked strong around the goal line when the offense worked in short yardage situations.
Now, if South looked sharp in a two-way scrimmage, obviously Nyack didn’t get the better of the play. The Indians failed to move the ball with much success.
There are a few reasons. First, Nyack played without senior Khalid Shabazz, the team’s best returning halfback. He is out for now and may not return, leaving a hole at a key position in the offense. Also, the Indians have spent camp preparing for Week 1 against Ossining, a Wing-T team. In this case, they faced a South team that focused on its passing game, which exposed a young secondary.
“We’re replacing all four guys in the secondary. That’s a major concern for us right now. We think we have the four guys to do it. Obviously, they have to prove it. Potential’s a scary word in football,” coach Mike Ramponi said.
Nyack definitely has talent. The most impressive young player I saw all day was sophomore Adonis Alcide, a fullback and linebacker who made terrific, eye-dropping plays on both sides of scrimmage. Alcide had several big hits, including one where he tracked down a ball carrier and knocked the ball loose just before it crossed the goal line. He also decleated a defensive player to spring a teammate for a touchdown in the hardest hit all day.
“We have seven sophomores on this team, which we’re excited about, and Adonis is probably the leader of that pack,” Ramponi said. “He’s a very, very physical kid. He’s one of the most physical that I’ve seen in a long time.”
Alcide will be a force in the middle, which looks like the strongest part of Nyack’s defense. Derwhon Bartley is a stable force at linebacker as well and Dashawn Rodriguez is strong at defensive end. They all held up well against the run for the most part.
Another name to remember for this season and the future is freshman Ralph Cruz. He didn’t have much of an opportunity today, but expect to see more from him. He was so dominant early this season at camp with the JV that Ramponi called him up. Cruz has already evoked some pretty lofty comparisons, so it will be fun to watch him develop.