The Journal News published its 2012 Rockland All-County Football team Sunday morning and the winner of the top honor will come as little surprise to many. Tappan Zee’s Joe Letizia was chosen as the player of the year after setting new rushing, scoring and touchdown county records.
Nanuet coach Phil Carbone earned the nod as coach of the year in the county after leading a team devastated by injuries to the Mahopac doorstep in Class B.
You can read more about those two and the rest of this year’s all-county team below. For those curious, the team is selected by all of the coaches in the county with some input from me.
Congrats to all of those who were chosen.
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PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Joe Letizia, Tappan Zee
ORANGEBURG — Five years ago, in perhaps one of the darkest hours for Tappan Zee’s football program, varsity numbers were so low the team needed junior varsity bodies for intrasquad scrimmages. If that mere fact wasn’t disheartening enough, consider this byproduct: An eighth-grade running back named Joe Letizia shredded the defense like old bank statements.
“He was the best player in the program in the eighth grade. I’m still convinced of that,” coach Andy DiDomenico said. “He’d tear us up.”
As a freshman, Letizia moved on to the destruction of varsity defenses and for four years left many in his wake. The now-senior star ultimately laid to rest three iconic career county records, breaking the rushing mark of Nyack’s Jermaine Harris and the touchdown and scoring records established by Clarkstown South great Jim Cann.
Jot down Letizia’s totals: 4,234 yards, 56 touchdowns, 367 points. They sit atop his resume as this year’s Journal News Rockland County player of the year and should have some staying power.
In fact, the school bought two banners to commemorate Letizia’s achievements — one for him to take home, another with the record totals that will eventually adorn the gym wall.
“I have no words for it,” said Letizia, more than a month after his record-setting finish. “It’s crazy to know I’m the leading rusher and scorer in Rockland County history. I just have to thank all the kids who have blocked for me and all of my teammates. I couldn’t have done it without them.”
The program’s feeling is mutual. Letizia’s arrival in 2009 signaled the beginning of a change for the Dutchmen. Although they left Class A and played an independent schedule in 2010 (incidentally, Letizia’s lowest rushing total of the four seasons), the team posted a 21-13 record with him as its focal point, including an 11-6 mark the last two seasons.
The turnaround began, in part, before 2009 when DiDomenico and his coaching staff turned to the ancient single-wing offense, a running-back driven attack that has become almost extinct. The timing was intentional, the results a clear success.
“I don’t think his value can be understated in turning the program around,” DiDomenico said. “Everything we’ve done over the last four years has been centered around him. So, if the program has turned, he was at the center of it.”
Letizia-as-focal-point has dominated the sports conversation at Tappan Zee since he joined the varsity basketball team as its point guard beginning in eighth grade. His defense and competitiveness quickly turned him into one of the section’s top guards and helped the Dutchmen win Section 1 championships in 2010 and 2012.
Letizia’s penchant for eliminating the opposition’s best player earned him the fitting nickname “The Dream Slayer” from coach George Gaine. Although his football teams fell short the last two seasons against giants such as Harrison, Rye, Somers and John Jay, Letizia’s fearlessness was evident.
That was perhaps never more true than when Tappan Zee came within a 2-point conversion pass of upsetting Somers, thanks to a destructive performance by its star that left many in awe, including legendary Somers coach Tony DeMatteo.
“I just love to compete. I love to win,” Letizia said. “When I lose, it’s this crazy feeling inside of me. It nags me. I hate losing. Whenever I step onto the field or the court, I just want to make sure I’ll win. With that mind-set, no one’s beating me.”
Letizia will need that drive in the coming months as he leads a retooled basketball team while searching for college suitors. So far, he’s received interest from New Hampshire and Albany, although Division I programs remain hesitant because of his size (5-foot-8, 185 pounds) and preference to play running back. “We’ll see what happens,” he said.
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Chris Gragnani, Sr., Suffern: In his only year as the starter, Gragnani threw for a county-best 1,280 yards, including 307 against Ketcham, and eight touchdowns, including three to rally from a three-TD deficit to beat Suffern. It earned Gragnani all-section honorable mention honors.
Nick Connell, Sr., North Rockland: This three-year varsity player rushed for 1,250 yards and 13 touchdowns, helping the Red Raiders reach the Class AA championship game. The two-way standout also had three interceptions on defense and was named all-section.
Midnet Cantave, Sr., Spring Valley: The speedster starred at cornerback and as a punt and kick returner, but made his biggest plays on offense. He had 350 yards receiving and six touchdowns, earning all-section honors for the Tigers.
Shaquille Muscadin, Sr., Ramapo: This rangy, all-section receiver caught a team-best 22 passes for 380 yards and eight touchdowns. He saved his best for last, catching five passes for 101 yards and four scores in an upset victory over Ketcham.
Dashawn Rodriguez, Sr., Nyack: The two-way standout provided a focal point for the Indians’ running game as a strong, athletic blocker. He was also a reliable receiving target and a force at defensive end at a solid 6-foot-2, 225 pounds. Rodriguez earned all-section honorable-mention honors.
Mark Annunziato, Sr., Clarkstown South: Annunziato, a three-year starter, anchored the offensive line at left tackle, even filling in at center admirably due to injury. He was an all-section pick for the Vikings and also played defensive line.
Jason Dorsainville, Sr., Ramapo: In his four years as a starter, Dorsainville played every position on the offensive line, moving from center to tackle as a senior. He was also a valuable defensive tackle and was named all-section.
Stanley Dragon, Sr., Nyack: The strength of the Indians’ line was Dragon, a 6-foot-1, 310-pound right tackle. He was a two-year starter who played both ways, also anchoring the middle of defense at nose guard. It earned Dragon all-section honorable mention honors.
Joey Scheffold, Sr., North Rockland: Undersized but tough at just 5-foot-9 and 200 pounds, Scheffold was one of few returning starters up front. As a captain, he led the rebuilt lines and earned all-section honors for the Class AA runner-up.
Pat Walpole, Sr., Tappan Zee: The 6-foot-3, 245-pound tackle was a four-year starter and two-year captain. He was also a standout at defensive end and was an all-section selection.
Dan Breit, Sr., Nanuet: This rugged all-section honorable mention selection rushed for a team-best 570 yards and 10 touchdowns and finished second on the team with three sacks. The running back/defensive end also totaled 47 tackles and recovered two fumbles.
Nico Denise, Sr., Albertus Magnus: The senior earned all-section honorable mention pick and averaged a whopping 12 yards per carry in the Falcons’ best season in a decade. He led the county with 1,334 yards rushing and scored 16 touchdowns and five 2-point conversions.
Shane Cronin, Sr., Clarkstown South: This returning all-state kicker had another strong season, particularly on kickoffs. He kicked 19 touchbacks in eight games. The all-section honorable mention pick also averaged 35.7 yards per punt, went 19 for 21 on extra points and kicked two field goals.
Josh Cruz, Sr., Nanuet: The 6-foot-4, 315-pounder was a force in the middle for a stout defense. He led all Nanuet defensive linemen with 54 tackles and four sacks and earned all-section honorable mention honors.
Eric Favors, So., North Rockland: In what is already his second year as the starting nose guard, Favors recorded a remarkable 88 tackles and earned all-section honors. Coach Tom Lynch said the 5-foot-11, 215-pound force is already the best lineman he’s ever coached.
Ray Manfredi, Sr., Clarkstown South: The 6-foot-1, 210-pound Manfredi recorded a team-best seven sacks at defensive tackle. He was named one of three linemen of the year in Class AA and all-section.
Anthony Termine, Sr., Clarkstown North: Despite missing the last two games due to injury, Termine recorded 47 tackles and six sacks. He was also a top receiving option for the Rams after shifting from offensive line to tight end.
Derwohn Bartley, Sr., Nyack: This middle linebacker and three-year starter led the Indians in tackles. He was at the heart of a defense that pitched three shutouts. On offense, the all-section pick led the team with 800 yards and 10 touchdowns rushing.
John Dapolito, Sr., North Rockland: The 6-foot-1, 210-pound tackle machine was one of Class AA’s three linemen of the year. He recorded 87 tackles and 200 in two seasons on the varsity. As a senior, he also had three sacks, two interceptions and rushed for five touchdowns at fullback. He was named all-section.
Eddie Ruckel, Sr., Clarkstown North: The all-section selection led the Rams with 77 tackles and recorded two sacks, forced two fumbles and recovered two fumbles. He also shuttled between fullback and tight end when needed on offense.
Pete Smith, Sr., Nanuet: The all-section honorable mention two-way starter led the team with 91 tackles. He also had an interception, a sack and recovered a fumble. On offense, Smith rushed for 345 yards and five scores.
Giorgio Cineus, Sr., Suffern: The strong safety did plenty of everything in all three phases, using his speed to earn all-section honorable mention honors. He had nine tackles against Carmel and Ketcham. At running back, he rushed for 578 yards and a team-best seven touchdowns.
Billy DeLay, Sr., Clarkstown North: This two-year captain showed his versatility by shuttling between both safety positions and cornerback. He made 46 tackles, intercepted two passes and recovered a fumble, earning all-section honors for his all-around play.
Zach Johnson, Sr., Clarkstown South: This gamebreaker averaged six tackles per game and had two interceptions. He also thrived at running back and on kick returns. He scored six touchdowns alone in a win over Scarsdale, including one on an interception return.
Kevin Considine, Jr., Pearl River: The versatile second-year varsity player shuttled between receiver and slot back and really thrived on defense at linebacker for the Pirates. He had five sacks, recovered two fumbles and forced another.
Thomas Lent, Sr., Clarkstown South: The versatile 6-foot-1, 180-pound senior led the team in rushing and finished second with six touchdowns. He was a two-way starter for the second straight season, serving as a staple at running back and linebacker.
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COACH OF THE YEAR
Phil Carbone, Nanuet: Despite a slew of injuries, including two that caused star quarterback Ryan Hanney to miss the majority of the season, Carbone’s team finished 5-3 and reached the Class B semifinals. The Golden Knights trailed 16-0 late but nearly rallied to upset Pleasantville. They also beat two-time defending champ Croton-Harmon 41-7 in a must-win regular season finale to clinch a playoff berth.
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QB: Ryan McManus, Sr., Clarkstown South
RB: Rob Gullo, Jr., Pearl River
RB: Matt McMullin, Jr., Clarkstown North
WR: Richie Horowitz, Sr., Suffern
WR: Tommy McConnell, Sr., Albertus Magnus
TE: Harley Valencia-McNally, Sr., Suffern
OL: Kevin Brundage, Sr., Nanuet
OL: Coles Dorsainville, Sr., Spring Valley
OL: Michael Johnson, Sr., Nyack
OL: Mike Lembo, Sr., Clarkstown North
OL: George Maniteras, Sr., Nanuet
ATH: Nick O’Connor, Jr., Nanuet
ATH: Frankie Regalbuto, Sr., Clarkstown North
K: Paul Prendergast, Sr., North Rockland
DL: Muti Alim, Jr., Ramapo
DL: Sam Pierre-Louis, Jr., North Rockland
DL: Dom Rodriguez, Sr., Albertus Magnus
LB: Michael Cappabianca, Sr., North Rockland
LB: Stephen Ryan, Sr., Spring Valley
LB: Jason Senat, Sr., Ramapo
LB: Ryan Tobin, Sr., Albertus Magnus
LB: Charles Venezia, Sr., Clarkstown South
DB: Cody Fitzgerald, Sr., Nanuet
DB: Luke Kern, Jr., Albertus Magnus
DB: Giuseppe Maddalena, Jr., Tappan Zee
ATH: Nick O’Connor, Jr., Nanuet
ATH: Frankie Regalbuto, Sr., Clarkstown North
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QB: Rodney Etienne, Sr., Ramapo; Danny Lopez, Sr., Albertus Magnus; Myles Tash, Jr., Spring Valley; Chris Van Houten, Jr., Pearl River.
RB: Carlos Aponte, Sr., Tappan Zee; Lefran Belizaire, Sr., Ramapo; Corey Jean-Charles, Jr., Albertus Magnus; Malik Lature, Sr., Spring Valley.
WR: Matt Benedetto, Sr., Clarkstown South; Desmond Vaughan, Sr., North Rockland; Josh Williams, Sr., Ramapo.
TE: Shawn Celestin, Sr., Nanuet.
K: Liam Condon, Jr., Albertus Magnus; Mike Young, Sr., Nanuet.
OL: Mike Barkachy, Sr., Clarkstown North; Oliver Bein-Anime, Sr., Spring Valley; Robbie Gelok, Sr., Albertus Magnus; George Morfogan, Jr., North Rockland; Joe Scanlon, Sr., Pearl River; Bob Syracuse, Jr., Nanuet.
DL: Charles Francois, Sr., Nyack; Christian Katt, Jr., Clarkstown South; Jivon Laguerre, Sr., Spring Valley; Louis Noia, Sr., Clarkstown South; Devonte O’Neil, Sr., Spring Valley; Guido Porcelli, Sr., Clarkstown North.
LB: Giscard Beauville, Jr., Albertus Magnus; Gabe Cohen, So., Suffern; Thomas Crowley, So., Albertus Magnus; Des Djekovic, Sr., Tappan Zee; Tommy Kiernan, Jr., Clarkstown South; Christian Lugo, Jr., Clarkstown North; Sampson Nyarko, Sr., Albertus Magnus; Liam Reilly, Sr., Nanuet.
DB: Ryan Allen, Sr., Clarkstown South; Hassan Auwarter, Jr., Clarkstown South; Rashaad Celestin, Sr., Suffern; Patrick Gannon, Sr., Pearl River; Stephen Gormeley, Jr., Albertus Magnus; Ivan Lopuchin, Sr., Nyack; Fondlee Marcelin, Sr., Ramapo; Eric Margolis, Sr., Clarkstown South; Brandon Respress, Sr., North Rockland.