So it’s the last state semifinal…and, mercifully for yours truly, the last outdoor football game of the year. I’m up here at Dietz Stadium again as New Rochelle will attempt to send itself to Syracuse for the fifth time in program history.
The Huguenots will play an unbeaten Shaker team tonight at 7. I’ll post updates from the game on Twitter @LoHudInsider. Afterward, I’ll return here with the final score, a recap and a look at the upcoming schedule. You can expect final stats, facts and quotes shortly after the conclusion of the game.
So far, as our friend BIG JOE pointed out to me on Twitter, all three Section 9 teams that won last week’s quarterfinals against Section 1 lost this weekend. Burnt Hills dropped Cornwall last night, and Hoosick Falls and Glens Falls dispatched of O’Neill and Marlboro today.
Tuckahoe has already helped salvage Section 1’s record in states by securing a berth at the Carrier Dome. Can New Ro do the same? Follow along to find out.
And, as always, enjoy the football.
Saturday’s games -
Class AA state semifinals
At Dietz Stadium, Kingston:
New Rochelle 28, Shaker 21
Class A state semifinals
New Rochelle 28, Shaker 21: At Dietz Stadium in Kingston, with his team trailing by a point, New Rochelle quarterback Khalil Edney threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to Joe Clarke with just 30 seconds remaining. It capped a 65-yard drive that lasted just 1:05 and sent the Huguenots to their fifth state championship game in program history. They will meet defending state champ Orchard Park of Section 6 at 6 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 24 at the Carrier Dome.
“I’m proud of my kids,” New Rochelle coach Lou DiRienzo said. “I always tell them, confidence through preparation. When we got into our two-minute offense with 1:35 left, the kids were poised. Everybody had a piece. Pop had a draw. Joe was Joe. I’m really proud of the composure they kept.”
Edney finished 7 for 14 for 68 yards and a touchdown to earn offensive MVP honors. Senior Terrence Holden had a sack and earned defensive MVP honors.
Edney completed two passes to Clarke on the final drive and picked up a first down on a 19-yard quarterback draw. After two incomplete passes to open the final drive, Clarke drew a pass interference penalty that advanced the ball to midfield and allowed New Rochelle’s offense to gain momentum.
“I was relaxed, composed,” Edney said. “Coach always says that big-time players make big-time plays. That’s what I did in the fourth quarter.”
The offense seized on its late-season momentum, scoring four or more touchdowns for the fourth straight game.
“On that drive, the way we had picked it up in the playoffs helped us a lot,” Edney said.
Jason Ceneus rushed for 78 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries and Jon Forrest rushed for 52 yards and a score. The sophomore gave New Rochelle a 14-0 lead going into halftime. Ceneus added to it in the third quarter after Shaker failed to convert a fake punt at its 17.
Shaker responded to the 20-0 deficit with touchdowns on three straight possessions. Quarterback Chris Landers threw a 49-yard score to Mike Mainella late in the third quarter. The Blue Bison cut their deficit to 20-13 when Ryan Griffin punched in a touchdown to cap a 15-play, 68-yard drive. The 210-pound senior finished with 31 rushes for 132 yards, the most rushing yards allowed by New Rochelle all season.
On the ensuing possession, the Shaker defensed held New Rochelle to a three-and-out and forced a punt. The second play, Landers broke a 49-yard keeper for a touchdown and helped put the Blue Bison ahead 21-20 on a two-point pass to Mainella with 1:35 remaining.
Ironically, it was the exact score of New Rochelle’s 21-20 defeat at North Bergen in the regular-season finale that remains the team’s only loss of the season.
“Some of us were scared, but we just tried to keep our heads up,” Clarke said.
“No doubt about it,” DiRienzo said of the similar circumstances. “They stayed together. Nobody hung their heads. Nobody was sulking.”
The victory will give New Rochelle a shot at the second state title in program history. The Huguenots won in 2003 and finished as the runner-up in 2000, 2004 and 2009.
Saturday, Nov. 24
Class AA state championship
At Carrier Dome, Syracuse:
New Rochelle vs. Orchard Park (Section 6), 6 p.m.