My game story on North Rockland’s ferocious effort at Ketcham:
WAPPINGERS FALLS — As North Rockland’s lead swelled and the pressure to pass mounted on Ketcham, the visiting sideline on Saturday became more and more vocal. “Gold, gold, gold,” the Red Raiders shouted in unison.
That was their code to tell the defense they had spotted a pattern in Ketcham quarterback Kevin Duke, who, they said, dropped a foot on pass plays just prior to receiving the snap.
“Every time he put his foot back, we rushed him,” North Rockland senior Mike Earlington said. “No matter what, we hit the quarterback. This week, we just practiced that all day. We did our thing and got that win.”
The Red Raiders’ “thing” was to batter Duke, a four-year starter and one of the section’s top quarterbacks. The facilitator of Class AA’s highest-scoring offense was sacked eight times by North Rockland, which shut out top-seeded Ketcham in the second half to win 32-15 on the road in the Class AA semifinals.
North Rockland will play in its third straight Class AA final at noon Saturday at Mahopac High School against White Plains.
“We wanted to prove ourselves,” said Earlington, a defensive lineman who had three sacks and recovered a fumble. “We said, ‘Nobody can mess with us. We’re North Rockland.’ ”
The Red Raiders (7-2) asserted themselves early and often. Quarterback Nick Imperato (7 for 13, 129 yards) threw two touchdowns to Derrick Brooks to help build a 12-0 lead. Behind a touchdown pass from Duke, Ketcham trimmed the deficit to 18-15 at halftime, but North Rockland’s powerful defensive front continued to penetrate the backfield at will.
Despite a pair of lost fumbles, the Red Raiders played perhaps their best offensive game, practicing what coach Tom Lynch had preached all week: That they would need at least three touchdowns against an offense like Ketcham’s.
“We clicked as a team,” said senior running back Matt Caputo, who had 176 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries. “All week we were striving for it. We had to score (at least) three touchdowns. We knew we weren’t holding them to zero this week.”
The North Rockland defense did hold Duke to 17-for-41 passing for 198 yards.
Nose guard Eric Favors drew double and triple teams, allowing Earlington and Stanley Johnson (two sacks) to thrive and defensive end Danny Noel to funnel Duke and running back Jacob Morgenstern to the middle. Ketcham (7-2) ran for just 46 yards on 21 carries.
“All four of those guys did a great job,” Lynch said. “The kids really played, and we kept him in the pocket, which was the big thing.”
Video interviews with the entertaining Earlington and Caputo: