As I have said the last few weeks, I thought the Section 1 team with the best chance to win a state title was Rye Neck. Once the Panthers had established themselves as the top team in arguably the section’s strongest class (ahem: all four semifinalists were state-ranked), that seemed like a safe assumption.
It’s simple logic, really. Consider: Since 1996, only one Section 9 team advanced past a Section 1 team in the state quarterfinals and that was O’Neill, which beat a head coach-less Woodlands team in 2012. In that time span, 15 of Section 1’s 16 Class C reps reached the state semifinals, 13 of those reached the Dome and eight won state titles. Let’s just distill it to this: Section 1 has absolutely dominated Class C at the state level.
That’s a good sign for Rye Neck, especially for this week. Remember that when you read the gaudy numbers because Burke Catholic has plenty to boast about.
Class C state quarterfinal
Rye Neck (9-0) vs. Section 9’s Burke Catholic (9-1)
When: Saturday, 3 p.m.
Where: Dietz Stadium, Kingston
Key players: Rye Neck — Jakob Calvini (6-2, 210), Sr., RB/LB; Ryan Morningstar (5-10, 175), Sr., RB/DB; Pedro M. Cueto (5-11, 185), Sr., RB/DL. Burke Catholic — Matt Przybocki (6-2, 185), Jr., RB/S; Stephon Sander (5-10, 175), Jr., RB/LB; Mike Martinelli (6-0, 185), Jr., TE/LB.
Outlook: Section 1 has traditionally dominated Class C in this round. In fact, O’Neill’s win over Woodlands last year was Section 9’s first state quarterfinal victory in Class C since Highland in 1996. Burke Catholic is a relative newbie to both football (program is 12 years old) and in the state playoffs (this is only its second appearance in states and first since 2005). Of course, Rye Neck is in its first trip to the state tournament. The defensive-oriented Panthers have five shutouts this year, but will be charged with stopping Pryzybocki, who rushed for 453 yards and six touchdowns in last week’s Section 9 final. Rye Neck faced a similarly explosive back in the Section 1 championship and fared pretty well containing Woodlands’ explosive senior Tyrone Barber. Burke Catholic has won seven straight since its only loss, but that loss came against Class D champ Chester, 34-8.
Next up: The winner will meet the winner of Section 2’s Hoosick Falls and Section 10’s Odgendsburg on Saturday, Nov. 23, at 11 a.m. at Dietz Stadium in the state semifinals.
“They’re pistol. They can throw the ball, too. They’re very athletic. That kid’s a real good running back. We’re going to have to contain him just like we tried to do with (Tyrone) Barber.”
“He seems like he can run up they middle a little bit. I don’t think he’s as quick as Barber, but he’s just as explosive. When he sees the hole, he’s through it.”
“I think we matched up pretty well. They have a lot of underclassmen. We have a good bunch of seniors. Hopefully our experience goes a long way.”
On the bye: “We thought it was great because we had a chance to get back to some fundamentals — blocking and tackling and honing our skills. When you get into the season, you’re just scheming. Sometimes you get away from the fundamentals, but that’s what helps you win.”
“You always worry about how they’re going to react to a new place to play. The venue is different. You’re going to be on a bus going an hour and a half away. But this group is unique. They go about their business. They get their work done in practice.”
Burke Catholic coach Ed Van Curen: “They’re a very physical team and well-disciplined. I think it’s going to be a very good matchup. It’s going to be a very good game.”
“I think if you look statistically, we’re pretty similar teams. Theyrun the ball hard. They have different weapons they can use. We do, too.”
“We’re a spread type, pistol team. We go single back, double back. If we’re trying to get a look out of the defense, we can flip into an empty set. Still, I think in high school football you’re not going to find not too may that are pass-oriented first. We certainly can pass the ball.”
On Pryzybocki: “He just kind of hit a groove the other night. He just gets stronger as the game goes on.”
“I think there are definitely some nerves, especially when you get into the playoffs. We had a team last week who were two-time defending Section 9 champs. They knew what it takes. I think last week that’s why the game was a grind.”
“They are a Wing-T team. We didn’t see a lot of Wing-T. Five or six years ago, everybody it seemed was running Wing-T. This year I didn’t see anybody running Wing-T, so we used to see a lot of it. In fact, our team was a Wing-T team before I took over (in 2010).”
“They’re a good defense. They’re hard-hitting. They’re very physically tough and they have one of the best secondaries we’ve seen.”