By the time they cleared the fields at New Rochelle today, teams had been working for three hours in the blazing sun. With just four teams participating, I’d say this was the most game-like scrimmage I’ve covered the last three years. It was very well run.
New Rochelle had somewhat of a skeleton group. The team was without three of its best players — Joe Clarke (concussion), Jason Ceneus (hamstring) and Justin Douglas (ankle) — and coach Lou DiRienzo, who was away watching Lou Jr. play for Southern Connecticut. All in all, it probably wasn’t the most accurate look at the Huguenots, but here’s a few thoughts on the local teams involved in today’s scrimmage — both of which I consider legitimate Section 1 championship contenders.
Also, check back later for video from today’s scrimmages and Thursday’s scrimmage between South and Nyack. I tried something new the last few days.
Initially, it did not look good for the Huguenots. St. Anthony’s blew up two run plays and sacked Khalil Edney to force a New Ro punt. The Friars then went 50 yards on just two plays, the second of which was a 35-yard touchdown. With the defense sorely missing Clarke, Ceneus and Douglas — three of its four or five top players — it was tough to stop St. Anthony’s at all. The Friars marched down the field on their second drive as well, ripping off eight or 10 yards a pop.
On the flip side, the offense really picked up its play on subsequent drives thanks to sparkling play by Edney. The senior QB showed vast improvement with his decision-making, mechanics and accuracy. He marched the Huguenots downfield on their second drive. He scrambled for a first down on a third-and-long and connected to Terrence Holden for a 23-yard gain. But his next play was perhaps the best. On yet another jailbreak in the backfield, the swarmed Edney shoveled a brilliant shovel pass underneath the big bodies on St. Anthony’s front line. It turned a big loss into a first-down gain. He then hit Holden for a 21-yard touchdown on the next play.
Down 14-6 later, New Rochelle had a decent drive going when Edney lost a fumble on a scramble. St. Anthony’s later added another TD with the second teams on the field. All in all, however, New Ro gave a good effort without three key players. Edney and Holden really kept their team competitive in a very difficult situation.
I didn’t have a chance to watch New Rochelle’s scrimmage against Erasmus Hall, but I saw the Huguenots in game situations against Somers. The teams did not play a real game, instead opting for situational work on goal line, third-and-long and two-minute drill scenarios. Again, the offense did very well thanks to the play of Edney and Holden. The defense allowed Somers a decent push up front and surrendered several big plays.
That should clear itself up quickly. Clark and Ceneus are expected to return for Week 1 against Clarkstown South. We’ll see about Douglas. But I’m pretty sure that DiRienzo guy will help, too.
All I can say is, “Wow.” Somers left me seriously impressed today. The Tuskers controlled play against Erasmus Hall and actually beat St. Anthony’s head to head. They also had their fair share of bright moments in situational work against New Rochelle, including a would-be 95-yard touchdown by the scrimmage’s star, Stefano Bicknese, and a couple of pretty long throws from junior QB Tim Cousin to WR Joe Festo.
Funny: When I walked in and said hello to Tony DeMatteo, the longtime coach bemoaned whether or not his team belonged against three of lower New York’s top programs. By the end, I’m not sure any of the four were more impressive.
Physically, it wasn’t hard to see why. Somers might just be Section 1’s biggest team up front. Just check out this quintet: Robert Pontbriand (6-5, 280); Dylan Owen (6-5, 235); Daniel Campbell (6-5, 225); Steven Jennings (6-5, 275); and Sean Jennings (6-5, 270). Throw in returning TE Peter Mueller (6-5, 220) and it’s an intimidating group. Plus, I’m pretty sure Campbell and the Jennings twins are even bigger than they are listed.
If that wasn’t enough, Somers has Bicknese and Joe Lombardo returning as two-way starters. Lombardo, one of Class A’s top fullbacks and linebackers, is out right now with a sprained ankle. But his absence didn’t seem to slow Somers down.
The Tuskers turned the ball over on a three-and-out against St. Anthony’s and were helpless as the Friars drove 70 yards in just four plays. But the responded the very first play of the ensuing possession. Bicknese went into motion, caught a pitch and raced 70 yards for a touchdown. The crazy part? After the defense forced a three-and-out, Bicknese did it AGAIN. He ran left and scored another 70-yard TD on the first play of the next possession.
Somers eventually won the scrimmage 14-10, but it was a bit misleading. It’s defense had a nice fourth-down stop by Owen to flummox another possession, but it also allowed a long St. Anthony’s drive that ended in a field goal. The Friars opted to attempt a 43-yarder on first down on a possession it could’ve certainly scored.
Outside of Bicknese (three carries, 145 yards, two TDs vs. St. Anthony’s) and the mammoth line, Somers also was pleased with the play of Cousin. The three-man committee at QB became a one-man show this week with injuries to the other two quarterbacks. (Senior John Decker is expected to return for Yorktown on Friday night.) Cousin ran for a score against Erasmus Hall and showed some toughness. After he was crushed by a swarm of St. Anthony’s defenders on one play, a coach asked Cousin if he was OK.
“Yeah,” he said. “I needed that.”
He took a couple of big hits against New Rochelle as well, but showed some great chemistry with Festo. The two connected on a deep ball during a two-minute drill situation. The scrimmage ended a couple plays later when Cousin, a lefty, rolled right and lofted a touchdown pass to Festo at the right pylon.
As I said earlier on Twitter, Somers really vaulted itself into consideration with me today. I haven’t made my preseason picks yet, but I will definitely consider the Tuskers when I select a Class A champion. They have everything necessary to compete.