CARMEL — It was giant school vs. not-so-giant school Friday night, and for a time the “little guy” had the upper hand.
Then the predictable happened.
North Rockland, which took a six-point lead just before the half, played near-flawless defense in the second, shutting down the Rams en route to a 23-7 Class AA win.
With the Red Raiders up 16-7 after a 14-yard field goal from lefty kicker Brandon Curtis, who also converted two PATs, senior Derrick Brooks picked off a pass from the Rams’ Joe Rodriguez at the Carmel 40 and ran it all the way back to the 4-yard line.
A couple of plays later, with the fourth quarter just begun, Matt Caputo broke a tackle and scored to effectively put the game away.
“I took drop steps and did what my coaches tell me and I just read the play and just got it,” Brooks said of his pick.
Of his squad’s second-half domination, Brooks, who also had a TD reception, added, “We knew the game wasn’t over and looked at the second half as a new game. We got it together and our head on straight.”
Red Raiders coach Tom Lynch said he was proud of his line. He said he knew Carmel could run but his squad played so that the Rams wouldn’t “beat us with the home run.”
Carmel actually led early on, scoring on its first drive, in part due to a disputed running-into-the-punter call.
Its subsequent drive included a 10-yard run by Rodriguez and 19-yard seam pass from Rodriguez to Quinn Willman.
Rodriguez then hit Raymond Dorritie with a 7-yard scoring strike.
Nick Azadian booted the PAT.
North Rockland shrugged off two offensive penalties during its next possession to drive 71 yards for a TD.
Red Raiders quarterback Nick Imperato hooked up with Logan Vazquez on a 22-yarder before Brooks pulled in a tipped pass for a 14-yard score with 6:29 left in the first half.
The PAT failed.
After a Carmel drive, which included runs of 8 and 11 yards by Thomas Pulley, stalled at the Red Raiders 34, Vazquez started North Rockland’s second scoring drive with s 14-yard run.
Caputo then ran for 8 and 11 yards before Imperato snuck in for the score on a second try from the 1.