Rick Carpiniello’s story on Rye Neck’s first Section 1 football title:
MAHOPAC — Rye Neck had to wait a year for this, a year of bad taste. The Panthers last season were routed by Woodlands in the Section 1 Class C title game.
“Since last year,” Panthers coach Nick Ianello said, “the looks on the kids’ faces last year at halftime (of that game), I told them today, I can’t get that out of my head. We have to erase that. And they did it.”
The Panthers won the first Section 1 football championship in school history with a well-executed 21-7 victory over Woodlands in the rematch Saturday at Mahopac High.
“This is the first time in history,” quarterback Tom Pipilo said after contributing a touchdown pass and executing two successful onside kicks, recovering one himself by accident. “This means everything. We took our lumps early in our careers, and this is the pinnacle of our career. But we still want to go all the way.”
The Panthers — who had lost their three previous sectional title games, including 35-0 last season — get a bye into the state semifinal in two weeks at Dietz Stadium in Kingston.
Rye Neck (9-0) opened the game with an onside kick, which was recovered by the Panthers’ Ryan Morningstar. Pipolo would convert that into the only score of the first half. On fourth-and-12, he hit Matt Garcia for a 33-yard touchdown pass.
It stayed 7-0 because Chris Richart had two interceptions in the end zone, including one on the final play of the half. He would clinch the game with his third interception in the final minute, also in the end zone.
“We had the ball 80 percent of the time in the first half, and we’re losing 7-0,” Woodlands coach Mike Meade said. “We had the ball inside the 10 twice and didn’t put it in. That’s the difference in the game.”
The Panthers’ plan, in addition to the onside kicks, was to limit Tyrone Barber’s big plays. The Woodlands running back got his yards — 162 on 39 carries, leaving him just short of 2,000 — but mission accomplished.
“We work so hard on defense, our whole team,” Richart said. “We knew it was coming. It was great. We worked so hard to get here. Now it’s great that I can help my team win it.
“It’s so great. It’s the best feeling in the world. Amazing.”
Dom Brescia stretched the lead to 14-0 with a 24-yard touchdown run on the first drive of the second half, and after Barber’s 2-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter, Pedro Cueto bulled in from the 1 to make it 21-7.
“We just played tough defense,” Ianello said. “We knew if we could slow them down that it would be beneficial to us. And these kids played their hearts out. I love them.”
• And here are Carp’s interviews with Rye Neck:
And here’s Frank’s video of a classic celebration from Rye Neck, including Ianello taking a Gatorade bath and loving it: