My final stop today was at Putnam Valley High School where on the turf, two teams of Tigers and a team of Blue Devils got a final tune-up before the regular season.
• The Tigers are in year two of coach Matt Mello’s option system. They ran a lot of wishbone and wing-T tonight, with the offense revolving around junior fullback Rick Kilmer. The big guy makes the whole offense go because opposing defenses have no choice but to respect his bruising capabilities. Against Haldane and Pawling, Kilmer was able to rumble for big yardage, which set up triple options all night. One particular beauty was against Haldane. QB Mike Walsh had a perfect pitch to HB Dean D’Alessio, who bounced outside and got assistance on a crushing block from HB Alex Bronzo. ”If you’re not the pitch man you have to be ready to block,” Bronzo said. “And you can’t just block anybody, you have to have a feel for who needs to be blocked.”
• The whole offensive identity was concocted and worked on two winters ago. Walsh, who replaces last year’s QB Connor Gembecki, played split end last year but got experience picking up the correct reads during practice as Gembecki’s backup. Still it can’t be perfected unless it’s a game situation, and tonight provided that test. The Tigers seemed to pass.
• Walsh summed up Kilmer’s important role perfectly, saying, “When he’s plowing linebackers, what are the tackles going to do? They’re going to be forced to stay honest.”
• Though Putnam Valley ran a lot tonight, WR Stephen Carroll says the Tigers aren’t afraid to move the ball through the air either. From what I saw, Walsh overthrew a few receivers but they were open so it’s just a matter of getting in tune with his playmakers.
• Defensively the Tigers were pretty stingy against the run. The team runs a 4-4 and its strength should be it’s front four. DT Rahhim Shillingford leads the way, and he’s a big presence on the line, as is TE/DE John Meagle. Kilmer and TE/ILB James Fitzgerald are the men in the middle to swallow up anything that comes their way.
• Overall the Tigers were probably the most impressive team at tonight’s scrimmage. They moved the ball on the ground extremely well, and stopped it well. With 16 seniors returning, and the momentum of a bowl win against Westlake from last season, the Tigers will be tough and physical for anybody.
• The defending Class D champs came into tonight’s contest pretty banged up. OT/ILB Matt Dandreano was on the sideline with his right arm in a sling from an elbow contusion. He should only be out a few more days but his absence forced players into spots they’re not usually in. OG/DL Matt Koval was in at tackle and ILB/RB George Fibble was forced to play guard. The inexperience showed at times and the Blue Devils had trouble moving the ball throughout the night.
• A bright spot for Haldane was HB/DB WIll Moss. Hyped earlier in the year as a kid with great speed and elusiveness, Moss ripped off a 30-yard run on the Blue Devils second play of the night, against Pawling. Moss also made a great hit defensively on a Putnam Valley player on the other side of the field.
• Defensively the Blue Devils had trouble stopping Pawling and Putnam Valley’s rushing attack. What should stand out is the success Kilmer had against Haldane, considering they face some fullback named Tim Soave in week. Coach Jeff Sniffen said it was a good way to practice gang tackling against a bigger body, something he said Haldane is normally used to: “Being from Haldane, you’re used to going against players that are bigger, meaner and stronger than you.”
• HB Matt Balducci saw some action for the first time in the backfield rotation. The sophomore was getting used to live contact and Sniffen said he had some of the jitters that normally accompany that transition.
• The Blue Devils will be without OL/DL Jon Maldonaldo until possibly the third game of the season. Looked at as an important cog to their scheme, Maldonaldo is away on vacation and won’t have the amount of practices necessary for game action.
• The thing that stood out with the Tigers was their size — they were all pretty tall — which caused problems for Putnam Valley and Haldane in the passing game. Whatever either team threw up, Pawling almost always had an opportunity to swat it down or pick it off. Offensively, the Tigers wideouts had the size advantage against opposing teams’ DBs. There was one play specifically where Haldane’s Moss made a effort at a jump ball but came up with nothing.
• The Tigers run defense did a decent job stuffing the middle, which was made doable by OT/DT Rob Marino. At 6-foot, 230 pounds, he was definitely a force that Haldane and Putnam Valley needed to work to move.
• Against Putnam Valley, the Tigers didn’t do much in terms of moving the sticks, but against Haldane, running backs Matt Bellucci and Cameron Thomas had a good amount of success. That will need to continue if the Tigers are going to be successful, considering last year they had a workhorse in Oliver Mold who rushed for over 1,000 yards.