Happy Thanksgiving to all! Here’s this week’s feature and scouting report for Tuckahoe’s Class D state final against Randolph:
EASTCHESTER — Michael Castracucco began to rattle off last names in an endless stream and included his own, Bellantoni and Arborn, along with a handful of others from Tuckahoe’s storied football past.
“Tuckahoe is all related,” said Castracucco’s younger brother, Anthony.
OK, not quite, but for four members of the Tigers’ football family it sure seems that way. The Castracuccos and teammates Joey Bellantoni and Mike Arborn are not only cousins, they often play right alongside one another on the Tuckahoe offense.
“We’re all on the same side, so we call it ‘The Family,’” said Bellantoni, the right guard. “Run it to ‘The Family.’”
The cousins have taken their natural kinship and turned it into one of the team’s strengths. Late-season position changes put Bellantoni alongside his first cousin Mike Arborn, the right tackle, as well as second cousins Michael Castracucco, the tight end, and Anthony Castracucco, the slot back.
The quartet represent a formidable wall of blockers for quarterback Shyheim Nixon and top running backs Nick Reisman and Kayvon Reid. They began to dub themselves “The Family” two weeks ago.
Their play has helped it stick.
“Over the playoff run, that’s definitely been the strength of our team,” Tuckahoe coach John D’Arco said.
“The Family” paved the way in the state quarterfinals against Chester when the Tigers rushed for 443 yards. That included a heavy dose of Reisman, who repeatedly carried on the same play that traveled right through Tucakhoe’s right side.
Although they had only been lined up together a few games earlier, their chemistry dates back to family events when they were toddlers and their first organized football games with the Eastchester Blue Devils.
“I’ve been playing with them for a long time, from Pop Warner until now,” said Arborn, a junior who is classmates with Michael Castracucco, a year ahead of Anthony Castracucco and a year behind Bellantoni, a senior. “It just helps to know who you’re playing with and I’ve known them my whole life.”
That also means not quaking under the pressure of what other players might find intimidating: A weekly presence of 30 or 40 family members. The three families and various other relatives dominate the stands at Tuckahoe and often gather for postgame celebrations.
“My entire family goes to every game,” said Michael Castracucco.
A Thanksgiving trip to Syracuse for Friday’s Class D state championship game against Randolph won’t change that.
“Everyone I know is going up there,” Bellantoni said. “I don’t know anyone who’s not going up there.”
“It’s just going to be a great memory,” Michael Castracucco said. “When we look back on this — maybe at another Thanksgiving — we could be talking about, ‘Do you remember when we beat those guys in Syracuse?’”
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Class D state championship
Tuckahoe (8-2-1) vs. Section 6’s Randolph (10-2)
When: Friday, 12 p.m.
Where: Carrier Dome, Syracuse
Key players: Tuckahoe – Shyheim Nixon (5-10, 180), Sr., QB/LB; Kayvon Reid (6-3, 185), Sr., RB/LB; Nick Reisman (6-1, 210), Sr., RB/LB; Joey Bellantoni (5-11, 190), Sr., G/LB; Mike Arborn (5-10, 190), Jr., T/DT. Randolph – Jordan Dowiasz (5-10, 170), Sr., RB/DB; Mitchell Maycock (6-0, 180), Jr., QB/DB; Chris Doubek (5-9, 155), Jr., RB/LB; Nick Hettenbaugh (5-10, 135), Jr., WR/DB; Cody Oldro (6-3, 225), Jr., RB/LB.
Outlook: Like Tuckahoe, Randolph has been a state power in the last decade. In fact, the teams have won four of the last seven Class D state titles, with Randolph winning in 2005 and 2009 and Tuckahoe in 2006 and 2010. They have 16 state playoff trips between, but have never met. Traditionally, they’ve traveled very different paths to glory; Randolph has been driven by size and smashmouth running and Tuckahoe by its superior speed and playmaking. The gap between those styles has been somewhat narrowed this year, but Randolph is still the bigger team and Tuckahoe the faster one. Randolph will primarily run between the tackles with Dowiasz, a 1,000-yard rusher, and Doubek, but Maycock usually keeps the defense honest with option runs and his ability to pass. Likewise, the Tigers will need to test Randolph on the perimeter with their trio of Nixon, Reid and Reisman. Last week, Nixon’s second half success helped open the middle Reisman, who scored both touchdowns in the win. The defenses are strong, so a low-scoring game should be expected.
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THE COACH’S TAKE
John D’Arco, Tuckahoe coach
“I was very impressed with their offensive and defensive line. I thought they had good size. Their line play was very good and I thought they were physical.
They’re like a Bronxville team when they had the big line and they came right at you but would sneak a pass in every once in a while. I was very impressed with their line play on both sides of the ball and I was impressed with their quickness getting off the ball.”
“I’m sure they’re going to try and come at us. Their keys plays are running ‘Blast’ and ‘Iso.’ They run counter. They run option. I think they’ll try to come out and wear us down. We’re going to have to have them match up with our speed, spread the field and make them cover the whole field. Up there, it seems most teams are tackle-to-tackle, three yards and a cloud of dust. They want to pound you. We still want to run the ball, but you also have to cover the perimeter with Shyhiem, Kayvon and Reisman.”
“Rensselaer had some really good people. They had skill people and they were good on the perimeter. These guys are more tackle-to-tackle, inside team. Hopefully, we can make them spread the field and wear them down that way.”
“They don’t throw the ball much, but they like to hit their tight end on playaction. They want to ground and pound, score two or three touchdowns, play defense and burn time off the clock.”