So here’s my opportunity to one of two things: Look smart or look stupid. Most likely I’ll fall somewhere in between those two extremes as I take a try at forecasting the 2013 football season.
I always tell people that football is the most difficult sport to predict, and that’s especially true before the season has began. I think it’s due to the physical nature of the sport, but football teams are more reliant on seniors than, say, basketball teams, baseball teams, etc. Put simply: You need good seniors to win and win big.
There’s also one rule I learned last year, and it was taught to me by Somers. Because there’s so much turnover in football year to year, the preseason does matter. If a team looks like world beaters, it often is. Now, I’ve been tricked by scrimmage results before (no, I won’t mention any names), but, at least in this case, I’m going to apply it toward my fearless forecasting.
So here goes…
CLASS AA —
Defending champ: New Rochelle
Runner-up: North Rockland
2012 playoff teams: New Rochelle, North Rockland, John Jay-East Fishkill, Mamaroneck
Preseason rankings —
1. New Rochelle
5. Clarkstown North
6. White Plains
8. Mount Vernon
1. North Rockland
2. John Jay-East Fishkill
7. Clarkstown South
8. Fox Lane
Facts you need to know: Class AA will have an eight-team playoff this season rather than four. … Four teams will qualify from each league.
Projected 2013 playoff field: New Rochelle, Ketcham, Mahopac, White Plains; North Rockland, John Jay-EF, Mamaroneck, Arlington
On the bubble: Clarkstown North and Carmel. With three strong teams in each league, Week 1 games between North and White Plains and Carmel and Mamaroneck could actually determine who makes the postseason.
Championship prediction: North Rockland over New Rochelle.
Analysis: Both teams were hit hard by graduation, but I can’t see a reason to pick anyone else to reach the finals. You know the stat: These teams have won every championship in Class AA since Carmel in 1998. The reason I give North Rockland the edge this season is because the Red Raiders have a definite strength in their defense. Eric Favors, Sam Pierre-Louis, Stanley Johnson and a host of capable run stuffers up front give North Rockland a strong identity. A player to watch is Danny Noel. He was terrific the first half of last season before being dismissed from the team. He’s an all-section caliber player that will be a major factor on both sides of the ball.
Darkhorse contenders: Mahopac and Ketcham. Mahopac appears poised to be as good or better than it was last season and let’s be clear: Mahopac had a playoff-caliber team last year. Even with a tough schedule, the Indians will get into an eight-team field and can be dangerous. Ketcham has that ability, too. Kevin Duke is one of the section’s top QBs and he has plenty of weapons at his disposal, like JJ Mulvey. Week 1 against New Rochelle is key. The Huguenots will never be more susceptible; they will get much, much better. What a better way to launch a title run then by upsetting the defending state champ, right?
CLASS A —
Defending champ: Somers
Runner-up: Sleepy Hollow
2012 playoff teams: Somers, Brewster, Hen Hud, Poughkeepsie; Harrison, Sleepy Hollow, Saunders, Panas
Preseason rankings —
5. John Jay
6. Pearl River
7. Tappan Zee
10. Horace Greeley
4. Sleepy Hollow
7. Hen Hud
8. Byram Hills
10. Spring Valley
11. Port Chester
Facts you need to know: Last season, three teams (Hen Hud, Saunders, Panas) ranked 10th or lower in their league qualified for the postseason.
Projected 2013 playoff field: Harrison, Yorktown, Panas, Lakeland; Somers, Rye, Ossining, Poughkeepsie.
On the bubble: Sleepy, Brewster, Nyack and Eastchester. And for very different reasons. Sleepy and Brewster return plenty of skill talent, but their lines were hit hard by graduation and their schedules will be tougher. Nyack and Eastchester could benefit from the opposite. Both teams have some talent, but tough schedules have hurt them in their playoff push the last two seasons. With a softened schedule, they could sneak in. Someone will; it’s just tough to predict who…
Championship prediction: Rye over Harrison.
Analysis: First of all, imagine that? It would be something. Talk about hyped. But the fact is, both teams should be very good this season. Harrison is better up front, but Rye ability to throw will be tested. If the Garnets stay healthy, I really like their chances. They were better last year than their record indicated, but were decimated by injuries to key players. They were the team I left the preseason most impressed with, and it wasn’t just the offense. Their defense was fast to the ball and aggressive. To me, they remind me of Somers last year, so I’m either going to learn from my mistake or be defeated by it. We’ll see…
Darkhorse contenders: Ossining and Poughkeepsie. First of all, don’t ever count out John Castellano. Not only does he have a history of winning, he is probably thoroughly enjoying the eulogy already written on his team’s season. Castellano’s a great motivator and will use any naysaying to his advantage. As for Ossining, QB Justin Davidov is one of the section’s best. His season was cut short last year. He’ll be back in full force.
CLASS B —
Defending champ: Our Lady of Lourdes
2012 playoff teams: Our Lady of Lourdes, Pleasantville, Nanuet, Croton-Harmon
Preseason rankings —
7. Putnam Valley
11. Early College (Roosevelt)
Facts you need to know: Briarcliff combined its football program with Hamilton, but it did not affect the team’s classification and/or preseason ranking.
Projected 2013 playoff field: Lourdes, Croton, Nanuet, Putnam Valley.
On the bubble: Pleasantville. Three of the top four should make the playoffs, but Section 1’s current system probably won’t make it possible for all four to qualify. Expect some team ranked in the top four to miss out. I’ll take Pleasantville, but it could be one of the others, too. If so, the Panthers will be playing playoff football in late October.
Championship prediction: Lourdes over Nanuet.
Analysis: Yes, Lourdes lost its big men from a year ago, but the Warriors still have strength and size up front. They also have three developing skill players who rank among the best in Class B in the bullish Bryce Gioia, explosive Chris Keenan and sophomore quarterback Dean Rotiger. I think Lourdes will be a different team, but still a very, very good one.
Darkhorse contenders: Nanuet. Lourdes probably returns as the favorite, but Nanuet has earned rave reviews from opposing coaches at camps and scrimmages. The Golden Knights have size up front, a healthy Ryan Hanney back at QB running the option, and plenty of help, including Nick O’Connor. The Golden Knights were actually unlucky last season — especially with Hanney’s devastating leg injury — or else they may have challenged Lourdes last season, too.
CLASS C/D —
Defending champ: Woodlands (Class C); Tuckahoe (Class D)
Runner-up: Rye Neck (Class C); Haldane (Class D)
2012 playoff teams: Woodlands, Rye Neck, Dobbs Ferry, Bronxville (Class C); Tuckahoe, Haldane, Palisade Prep, YMA (Class D)
Preseason rankings —
4. Dobbs Ferry
5. Rye Neck
8. Albertus Magnus
10. Blind Brook
12. Palisade Prep
13. Yonkers Montessori
Facts you need to know: Because of increased enrollments, both Palisade Prep (in its third season) and Yonkers Montessori (second) have moved from Class D to C for the playoffs. … Tuckahoe and Haldane are (again) the only Class D teams in the section.
Projected 2013 playoff field: Bronxville, Woodlands, Dobbs Ferry, Rye Neck (Class C); Tuckahoe, Haldane (Class D).
On the bubble: Pawling and Albertus Magnus. These two were both competitive against Class C’s upper echelon at times last year, but the Bronxville-Woodlands-Rye Neck-Dobbs quartet will be tough to break into this season.
Championship prediction: Woodlands over Dobbs Ferry (Class C); Tuckahoe over Haldane (Class D).
Analysis: Tough. In fact, probably the toughest class to call. I honestly believe Class C has four teams with a legitimate chance to win it all. They each have different strengths and weaknesses. I considered Rye Neck, which is so good defensively, yet don’t even have the Panthers in the final. Why not? Well, Woodlands and Dobbs should be pretty darn good, too. Dobbs clearly outplayed Sleepy Hollow last week at Lakeland, and that has to mean something, right? Still, I just look at Woodlands’ speed and tempo and wonder if its opponents can keep up. Last year, they couldn’t. So is there a blueprint for Dobbs, Rye Neck and Bronxville to beat Woodlands? Yeah, sure. But they better not fall too far behind.
Darkhorse contenders: Rye Neck. So Rye Neck really isn’t a darkhorse. In fact, many might consider the Panthers Class C favorites. But they had been out of contention for several years before resurfacing last season. They thrived against a manageable schedule en route to Mahopac, so the jury remains out. Can this team survive the week in, week out rigors? We’ll find out. If so, it has the experience and talent to leave Mahopac as winners.