Today is going to be preview day here on the blog. I’ll have a look at all three of this weekend’s championship games. That will be followed with my predictions and the latest on our picks’ contest first thing Friday morning. I’ll also have a preview on Iona-Stepinac Friday.
Let’s begin with the first game of the weekend: Saturday’s Class D championship. It will mark the ninth straight season that Tuckahoe and Haldane will meet for the title. Not all of those years have seen one or both advance unencumbered, but that is the case in 2013.
Even last year, semifinals against fledgling Palisade Prep and Yonkers Montessori were little more than warm-ups.
“It’s a build up for this moment,” Haldane coach Jeff Sniffen said. “It’s weird because we kind of have a one-game season.”
His Blue Devils have won more often than people might think, taking home titles in 2007 and 2011. Their record is just a half-game behind Tuckahoe’s, but are the Tigers a sleeping giant? Coach John D’Arco said this is the toughest schedule his team has faced during his tenure.
Anyway, let’s try not to spoil it. Here’s a more in-depth look at the game:
Class D championship
No. 1 Tuckahoe (4-4) vs. No. 2 Haldane (3-4)
When: Saturday, 12 p.m.
Where: Mahopac High School
2013 meetings: None
Last meeting: Tuckahoe won 35-6 on Nov. 3, 2012 in the Class D championship
Key players: Tuckahoe — Mike Arborn (5-11, 210), Sr., OL/DL; Michael Castracucco (6-1, 175), Sr., QB/LB; Enoch Penney-Layrea (6-0, 200), Jr., RB/DE. Haldane — Will Moss (5-5, 145), Sr., RB/DB; Ryan Moran (5-8, 225), Sr., G/NG; Matt Balducci (5-10, 195), Jr., RB/LB.
Outlook: For the ninth straight year, Tuckahoe and Haldane will meet for the Class D championship. Section 1’s only two Class D teams received automatic berths into the final and enjoyed bye weeks last week to rest their bumps and bruises. Tuckahoe finished last year as the state runner-up, but Haldane, a perennial underdog, has won two of the last six championships (2007, 2011). The Blue Devils would seem to have a chance after Tuckahoe was hit hard by graduation, but the Tigers are tested. They played all four Class C playoff teams and still have a few returning pieces from last year, including Castracucco, his younger brother Anthony, and Arborn. Haldane relies on balance, including at quarterback, where Tyler Giachinta and Nick Allen split time. Tuckahoe has returned to a traditional Wing-T offense with Penney-Laryea and Daryl Taylor as the main ball carriers.
Next up: The winner will meet the Section 9 Class D champion (Chester or Roscoe) at 3:30 p.m. on Nov. 16 at Mahopac High School in the state quarterfinals.
Tuckahoe coach John D’Arco: “This has been my toughest schedule since I’ve been at Tuckahoe. Usually you get one or two Class C teams who are pretty good and we can handle it. This year you had four.
“We’ve had the two-week layoff. What we’ve done is gotten back to fundamentals and gotten guys healthy. We’re looking forward to Saturday.”
“They try to throw a bunch of different formations at you and get you into a mismatch. I don’t think they’re going into the game saying we’re going to run off-tackle or we’re going to throw 80 percent of the time. They try to show you different formations, outman you at the point of attack and go with whatever is working that day.”
“They always play us tough. They always go into the game as the underdog or the step child, so to speak, but they always plays us tough.”
Haldane coach Jeff Sniffen: “Tuckahoe is a very good team. I’m very impressed with their athleticism and speed. They always tend to have that, but I’ve been impressed that they seem to retool every year. They never seem to have to rebuild and it was a testament to their coaching staff.”
“We definitely think we have a legit change against them. Hopefully, if we can execute the game plan how we want to, we can win. Their defense is pretty good. What they’ve been able to do against some of the better offensive schemes in our league has been pretty impressive. Offensively, they have a nice balance between some power up the middle and some speed on the outside. We’ve been watching a lot of film on them and trying to replicate it, but it’s hard to do on the practice.”
“Tyler (Giachinta) is a first-year starter. He runs the spread option. Nick (Allen) plays some snaps at quarterback, too. We’ve found ways in which they compliment one another. Tyler runs better, Nick’s the better thrower, but they both have multiple things that they do to help us out.”
“Most of our guys are underclassmen. We only have three seniors starting on both sides of the ball. Moran is a presence; he’s averaging almost double-digit tackles.”
“We’re keeping our fingers crossed. We’re dealing with injuries here and there. It’s tough when you have 22 guys on your roster, but so far we’ve been pretty fortunate.”