For the first time in the 20-year history of the state football tournament, Section 1 lost three quarterfinals to Section 9 opponents. In fact, only once previously has Section 1 sent just two teams to the state semifinals at Dietz Stadium. Now, here’s the worst part for LoHud fans to stomach: The other time was last year.
Those dubious facts were reached on Monday at Mahopac High School. Here’s my game story on Somers’ 34-13 loss to Cornwall in the Class A state quarterfinals:
MAHOPAC — They insisted their bodies were fresh and their minds sharp, but in Mike White and his top receiver, Alex Cruz, Somers met face mask to face mask with a monumental task.
It wasn’t that the Tuskers had just two practices to prepare since last Thursday’s Section 1 championship. It was that they had to do so with Cornwall as the opponent.
The Section 9 champ proved unstoppable. White threw for 430 yards, including 280 of them to Cruz, and the Green Dragons carved up Somers 34-13 at Mahopac High School Monday afternoon.
White, a junior, threw three touchdowns, including scores of 82 and 78 yards to Cruz, who was named the game’s most outstanding back. The quarterback’s elusiveness demoralized a Somers team defined by its ability to win at the line of scrimmage.
“It’s really frustrating. You work your butt off to get to the quarterback,” Somers senior Dylan Owen said. “When you finally do it and he does get the ball away, to see them come down with the ball is a heartbreaker. Our secondary played its heart out. They did everything they could.”
Cornwall (11-0) believed it could exploit the Tuskers’ pass defense and it did. The acrobatic Cruz caught one touchdown on a jump ball from White while surrounded by three defender and escaped the grip of Somers’ star Stefano Bicknese while making a juggling catch on another.
Even the third White touchdown exemplified his team’s edge. White feathered a 41-yard score to Chris Bauer.
“The kids called that,” coach Marcus Hughes said, adding this: “We knew right away from watching their games that their pass defense was a little suspect.”
The Green Dragons struck immediately, driving for a touchdown on the game’s opening possession, thanks, in part, to a fake punt by Luke Zsido.
Somers (10-1) responded with a long drive of its own, but Bicknese and Connor Vlasaty fumbled a double-handoff exchange at the Cornwall 20.
Costly turnovers soon became something of a recurring nightmare. Somers threw three interceptions inside the opposing 25. The Tuskers were also stopped twice on fourth down, which added to the frustration.
“It’s awful,” said senior Joe Lombardo, who rushed for a third-quarter touchdown that cut his team’s deficit to 14-6. “We thought we were going to go all the way and it just kills us on the inside.”
Bicknese, Somers’ leading rusher, managed 142 yards but had just 11 carries, which, according to coach Tony DeMatteo, was a byproduct of trying to avoid Cornwall’s top defensive lineman, Connor Staudle. But the Tuskers were done in by their turnovers and obvious struggles defending White and all his weapons.
“They hit us on too many home runs,” DeMatteo said. “We tried to adjust our coverages. If we had a whole week of practice, I’m not saying we would’ve won. All I’m saying is we didn’t have enough time to prepare for a team of that caliber.”