Mike Dougherty’s game story on how determined Pleasantville finished off its first Section 1 championship in 22 years:
MAHOPAC — The legs were already churning when Enrico Ruotolo took a critical handoff and went looking for a seam.
Pleasantville was clinging to a slim lead in the final minutes when Panthers coach Tony Becerra put the game in the capable hands of a stout running back whose best attribute is old-fashioned stubbornness.
It was on fourth-and-three near midfield when Ruotolo squared his shoulders and headed up the field. The game was all but over when he was finally stopped on the 11-yard line. Ruotolo set up one final touchdown and sealed a 21-8 win over Lourdes on Saturday night in the Section 1 Class B championship at Mahopac High School.
“I was very surprised,” he said. “I thought our defense was playing amazing, so I thought we might leave it up to our ‘D.’ But Coach made the right call. We roll up our sleeves, put our heads down and get right to work.”
The last time Pleasantville celebrated a Section 1 football title was 1991.
It was the second year in a row these teams have met in the final. The Warriors left holding the hardware last season after posting a 14-9 win.
Now the Panthers get a week off to rest and recover, and will be coming back here on Nov. 16 to face the Section 9 champion in a state quarterfinal.
Every first down in the opening half was a small victory.
Pleasantville reset the chains twice on its opening possession, and spent the rest of the opening half going nowhere. Lourdes was also having a hard time moving the ball, and really hurt itself with three costly turnovers.
Patrick Bathon covered up a fumble in the end zone with 4:31 to go before the intermission to allow the Panthers to end a string of 16-plus scoreless minutes, and Sam Mendez’s kick made it a 7-0 lead.
The defense was swarming to the ball and making sure Lourdes quarterback Dean Rotger felt pressure each time he dropped back to pass. Greg Drillock came up with a pair of interceptions for the Panthers, who gave up just 56 yards in the half.
A sack by Andrew Derose, Pleasantville’s third of the game, ended the first Lourdes possession of the second half, and Ruotolo finally got some traction. The full-size running back got some help from the line and gave the Panthers some momentum.
He limped off momentarily, but Drillock caught an 11-yard fade from Anthony Godino in the left corner of the end zone for a touchdown with 3:59 to go in the third quarter. The point-after made it a sizable 14-0 cushion.
Andrew Bulson caught a 13-yard touchdown in traffic with 2:31 left in the game to get Lourdes on the board. It was the first score against the Panthers in 10 quarters. The lengthy Warriors drive was aided by a pair of costly personal fouls against Pleasantville. Billy Wagner caught the 2-point conversion to make it 14-8.
Here’s Frank Becerra’s video of Pleasantville’s celebration: