At noon today I will publish my predictions for this week’s games as well as the results from last week’s picks’ contest. You can wait until then for the final scores and details that led to my decision on them. First, let’s take a larger view of the upcoming Section 1 playoffs.
Here’s my breakdown of the favorites, contenders, X-factors, MVP candidates and more in Section 1’s Class AA, A, B and C. Oh yeah, check out my championship predictions, too.
Pictured: White Plains’ Cameron Crabbe tries to elude New Rochelle’s Tajmir Anderson.
The favorite: Ketcham. The high-scoring Indians lead Class AA, averaging 34.5 points per game. Senior Kevin Duke is a four-year starter and perhaps the section’s top quarterback. The health of two of Duke’s main targets, Jacob Morgenstern and Roddy Tierney, could determine if Ketcham reaches its potential.
The contender: New Rochelle. The circumstances were dire for the defending state champs until they reeled off a four-game winning streak that included wins over White Plains and North Rockland. Although the Huguenots are peaking, they’ll have to beat North Rockland on the road for the second straight week to advance.
The dark horse: White Plains. The Tigers can score (32.5 points per game) and should be well-rested off last week’s bye. Their offense can hang with anyone. If their defense holds, a championship is not out of the question.
The underdog: Scarsdale. The Raiders are young and were never expected to be in the postseason. Instead, they upset New Rochelle Week 3 to launch a five-game winning streak. They are undersized, but run the deceptive triple-option and feature the type of explosive playmakers to pull off an upset.
Master strategist: Lou DiRienzo, New Rochelle. The two-time state champ has done it again, rallying a team from a 1-2 start into a contender.
Unheralded star: Rojay McDonald, Ramapo. Any chance the Gryphons have to win will be because of the electric McDonald, who is one of the section’s best backs few know much about.
Big-play threat: Marshon Morris, White Plains. The Tigers can strike quick thanks to Morris, who has the speed, athleticism and ball skills to make defenses pay deep downfield.
Defensive stud: Eric Favors, North Rockland, and Corey Holder, New Rochelle. These two juniors are where offensive rhythm goes to die. Favors eliminates running games, while Holder has ideal length and quickness for a pass rusher.
X-factor: North Rockland’s offense. If the Red Raiders can avoid mistakes and score just a little, they have the size up front and the defense to return to Mahopac.
Forecast: The Class AA tournament is as unpredictable as it has been in years. The favorites could be out of the playoffs by Saturday. It’s that wide open.
Semifinals: Ketcham over New Rochelle. White Plains over Scarsdale.
Championship: Ketcham over White Plains.
MVP candidates: Cameron Crabbe, White Plains; Kevin Duke, Ketcham; Eric Favors, North Rockland; Jonathan Forrest, New Rochelle.
Pictured: Panas’ Liam Hagens hands off in last year’s Class A quarterfinals against Brewster.
The favorite: Rye. Don’t get too hung up on last week’s nailbiter vs. Harrison. The Huskies had plenty of playoff potential and put everything into that game. The Garnets still have Class A’s second highest-scoring offense and second lowest-scoring defense. They are unbeaten for a reason.
The contender: Yorktown. Yes, the Huskers as a No. 4 see and must be Rye on the road. If they do, they’ll instantly be viewed as the new favorite. Their blend of size and athleticism might be superior to any team in the draw.
The dark horse: Somers. Quietly, the Tuskers have built a five-game winning streak since they lost to Rye in Week 2. They also boast Class A’s best scoring differential, outscoring opponents 244-53.
The underdog: Tappan Zee. The Dutchmen have won three games (Eastchester, Yorktown and Pearl River) by a point each, but they are 6-1 for a reason. They are tough to defend and seem to have plenty of late-game magic. They’ll be dangerous.
Master strategist: Dino Garr, Rye. Garr is a three-time state champ. If his team’s healthy, he’ll sure up mistakes the Garnets made last week and have them prepared to win.
Unheralded star: Liam Hagens, Panas. The senior QB has thrown for 977 yards and 11 touchdowns in seven games, but his value is made even more clear by what he doesn’t do. Hagens has thrown just one interception in 109 attempts this season.
Big-play threat: Tim DeGraw, Rye. At just 145 pounds, DeGraw seems like an easy target. You just have to catch him first, and that’s not an easy task.
Defensive stud: Connor Vercruysse, Yorktown. The three-year starting inside linebacker can be a punishing hitter.
X-factor: Devin Lopez, Sleepy Hollow. The senior has a torn labrum in his left shoulder, but he looked better ever last week against Ossining. If Lopez can stay intact, Sleepy is a contender. The Horsemen are 6-0 with him on the field.
Forecast: The Rye-Yorktown game could determine the championship, but don’t discount Somers’ chances. The Tusker defense would give it the edge against whoever wins the John Jay-Ossining shootout. Even Panas and Tappan Zee are feisty underdogs capable of making a statement.
Championship: Rye over Somers.
MVP candidates: Justin Davidov, Ossining; Ryan Lee, John Jay; Andrew Livingston, Rye; Devin Lopez, Sleepy Hollow; Eric Meyreles, Yorktown; Matt Morgante, Somers.
Pictured: Ardsley’s George DiFiore runs against Irvington.
The favorite: Pleasantville. The Panthers lost one game to Nanuet by three points and otherwise ran the table. Their defense and special teams are exceptional, led by kicker/punter James Leyden, who has 18 ½ sacks at linebacker.
The contender: Our Lady of Lourdes. The Warriors are the defending champ and some of last year’s key players remain in place. They are now a pass-first team, but have gone just 1-2 against their three playoff opponents the last three weeks.
The dark horse: Nanuet. The Golden Knights are powerful and, like Pleasantville, very strong defensively. They’ll need to keep the score down to have a chance, but their team is built to do it.
The underdog: Ardsley. In topsy-turvy Class B, the Panthers could also be listed as a favorite. They beat Lourdes and are unbeaten since senior captain Dan Bach returned from injury midseason.
Master strategist: Brian Walsh, Lourdes. Walsh’s team has been hurt by injuries and inconsistencies, but the former Brewster and John Jay-East Fishkill coach has a big edge in playoff experience over his counterparts.
Unheralded star: Dan Bach, Ardsley. The senior captain has been the key to Ardsley’s turnaround. The Panthers are 4-0 since Bach returned from a foot injury in Week 4.
Big-play threat: Chris Keenan, Lourdes. Keenan is a major threat in space in just about any phase of the game. He might actually be most dangerous on kick returns.
Defensive stud: James Leyden, Pleasantville. With a nod to Lourdes’ Bryce Gioia, who else could it be? Leyden has been devastating defensively, recording 18 1/2 sacks as a senior. He can also turn an interception or fumble into six.
X-factor: Mistakes. Turnovers and penalties are costly in any game, but that will be magnified because very little separates these four teams.
Forecast: There are just three games remaining, but they will be as unpredictable as an Irish summer. All four teams have a serious chance to win it all.
Championship: Pleasantville over Ardsley.
MVP candidates: George DiFiore, Ardsley; James Leyden and Enrico Ruotolo, Pleasantville; Nick O’Connor, Nanuet; Dean Rotger, Our Lady of Lourdes.
Pictured: Rye Neck’s Thomas Pipolo scores in last year’s Class C semifinals vs. Dobbs Ferry.
The favorite: Rye Neck. The Panthers squeaked out a 41-40 OT win over defending champ Woodlands, but they are the consensus favorite among Class C/D coaches.
The contender: Woodlands. Last year’s champ has lost to Bronxville and Rye Neck, but Tyrone Barber will be the best player on the field in any game. He can be a major difference-maker.
The dark horse: Bronxville. The Broncos not only beat Woodlands, they have a winning formula. They can play defense, block and run effectively. Their power game could control the clock against score-happy Rye Neck and Woodlands.
The underdog: Dobbs Ferry. The Eagles are the top seed, but they have struggled the last two years against Woodlands, their semifinal opponent. Could the third time possibly be the charm?
Master strategist: Mike Meade, Woodlands. Meade and his staff know how to get their playmakers in space better than just about anyone.
Unheralded star: Kourtney Blanding, Woodlands. This senior tackle machine does not get the respect afforded to the dynamic Barber, but he’s almost as important to the Falcons.
Big-play threat: Tyrone Barber, Woodlands. This is a slam dunk. Be it running, returning kicks, receiving or—heck—even passing, Barber is the section’s biggest threat to score on any touch. Class C or not.
Defensive stud: Jakob Calvini, Rye Neck. The Panthers have plenty of reasons for all those shutouts (five in seven games), but Calvini’s 52 tackles, six sacks, two forced fumbles and one interception are a good place to start. He’s athletic enough to play running back, but plenty big enough to play defensive end. That blend of size and speed make him a force.
X-factor: Playing from in front. Rye Neck, Bronxville and Dobbs Ferry are all built to play with the lead. Starting fast could be key, especially in these pressure-filled games.
Forecast: Woodlands seems to have a hold over Dobbs. Rye Neck-Bronxville could be the better semifinal, but Rye Neck has the most complete team in the class.
Championship: Rye Neck over Woodlands.
MVP candidates: Tyrone Barber, Woodlands; Pat Bisconti, Bronxville; Jakob Calvini, Rye Neck; Tim Soave, Dobbs Ferry.