My story on Tuckahoe’s 26-21 loss to Chester in the Class D state quarterfinals:
MAHOPAC — After a six-play, 59-yard drive for a touchdown, Tuckahoe appeared to make the stop it needed. Chester faced fourth-and-5 at its 45, meaning the Tigers would likely have about four minutes to drive 70 or 80 yards for the win.
Instead, with the Section 9 champ in its own territory, a punt that seemed obvious was never even attempted.
Chester senior Matt Perry pulled down the fake and took off running right. He didn’t stop for 17 long yards.
“I couldn’t give them the ball back,” said Chester coach Ron Stover, who once held the same job at Sleepy Hollow. “They scored the last touchdown too easily. It didn’t take much time off the clock. So my attitude was, let’s go for it. We’ve never beaten them before, so what the heck?”
Stover’s gamble helped the Hambletonians burn the remaining clock, thus ending Tuckahoe’s season at least a week before the Tigers expected. They lost to Chester 26-21 at Mahopac High School, dropping a Class D quarterfinal for just the second time in 11 trips to the state playoffs.
Chester (10-1) moved into a state semifinal against Section 7’s Moriah on Friday at 4 p.m. at Dietz Stadium. It had never defeated Tuckahoe in six previous tries.
“To beat a team like Tuckahoe, you have to do something special,” Stover said.
The fake punt finished the game, but a blocked punt by 6-foot-4, 270-pound sophomore Daniel Wittekind actually set up the winning touchdown by senior Mike Wolkmer, whose second score gave his team a 26-14 lead.
Volkmer, who finished with 27 carries for 137 yards, did the bulk of his damage on power runs in the second half.
Despite strong play at linebacker by junior Anthony Castracucco, the game’s most outstanding lineman, Tuckahoe’s defense softened considerably after its leader, Mike Arborn, left with an ankle injury.
“He’s the heart and soul of our defense,” fellow senior Michael Castracucco said. “Losing him — our best player — it was hard to make up for that.”
The all-state middle linebacker had his left ankle rolled on late in the second quarter. He was taped tight and tried to jog but was in considerable pain. He never returned.
“It was very frustrating,” Arborn said. “I had a long career here. I can’t think of a worse possible way for it to end.”
Catracucco led the scoring drive, hitting Rami Higgins on an 18-yard touchdown to pull the Tigers (5-5) within five. Thanks to the fake punt, the offense never had an opportunity to build on that momentum.
“They came here on a mission,” Tuckahoe coach John D’Arco said. “They didn’t come here to play the game. They came here to win it. In critical situations, it was apparent.”