On Thursday, we took an in-depth look at Rye Neck-Hoosick Falls. Today, let’s move on to this weekend’s finale: White Plains vs. Monroe-Woodbury.
The game will mark the first foray into the state playoffs for the Tigers. A major key from their turnaround from 1-7 to Class AA champ has been the improvement of senior Cameron Crabbe. The quarterback has evolved into a different player in his second year as the starter; in the modern era (since 1967), he has established single-season individual records for passing yards and touchdowns in a season.
Crabbe’s success has also allowed him to embody a role that comes naturally, serving as the team’s vocal leader.
The package includes interviews with Crabbe and fellow seniors Jhone Albino and Eddie Rios, who all talk about this week’s matchup with Monroe-Woodbury. Below that is my scouting report on the game with analysis from Monroe-Woodbury coach Bernie Connolly, a former player and coach at Stepinac:
WHITE PLAINS — With a bright smile and smooth voice well-suited to be captured by a camera lens, Cameron Crabbe seemed destined to lead White Plains to something. But was his game ready?
The senior with the gift for gab spent all offseason making sure of it. He trained hard, lost 15 or 20 pounds and returned a hair faster. For a team on the heels of a one-win season and in search of a leader, Crabbe was the man.
“He’s led this team since August 19,” senior Eddie Rios said. “Without him, I don’t think we are where we are.”
Now, Crabbe and the Tigers are set for the program’s first state playoff game Saturday night. They will face Section 9 power Monroe-Woodbury at 7 in the Class AA state semifinals.
As much as the affable and articulate Crabbe has talked the talk, he’s been able to walk the walk under center. He’s completed 84 of 166 passes for 1,490 yards and 16 touchdowns while tossing just four interceptions. The passing yards and touchdowns broke Jimmy Lombardi’s program records for a single season; they were both set in 1979, the last time White Plains won the outright sectional championship.
“And I think as the games have gotten bigger, he’s gotten more involved,” coach Skip Stevens said.
Despite last year’s record, Crabbe had some success as a pocket passer, but his greatest progress came as a runner. At Stevens’ suggestion, Crabbe trained in the offseason with former Mount Vernon baseball star Chris Rowan. They focused on speed training for baseball, Crabbe’s No. 1 sport (his dad, Steven, graduated from Pearl River and played at Northwestern), but it had an immediate impact elsewhere, too.
“I’ve been able to extend plays and be more athletic,” said Crabbe, who is second on the team with 420 yards and eight touchdowns rushing. “Losing those pounds allowed me to open my game up even more and add a different dimension to our offense that we haven’t had the last few years.”
Crabbe led the Tigers to comeback wins at Mahopac and Ketcham that, according to program records, were the largest in White Plains history. He then threw for 375 yards combined in victories over John Jay-East Fishkill and North Rockland to capture the Tigers’ first Section 1 title in the state-playoff era.
Along the way, Crabbe’s leadership galvanized teammates and earned him confidence from his coach. He straightened out teammates when they slogged through double-sessions and later drew the approval of Stevens when he asked for, and succeeded on, a last-second two-point conversion to beat Ketcham. (An extra point would’ve tied it.)
Said Stevens: “He wants the ball in the big spot.”
Crabbe isn’t afraid of attention, be it from defenses, the public or his classmates. Stevens routinely jokes that his quarterback has a future in TV; Crabbe said he’s just social and likes making people laugh.
?You kind of have to be a leader as a quarterback, but it fits my personality,” he said. “I’m a talkative kid, so it comes kind of naturally to me.”
“He’s done what we wanted and more, both on the field and off,” Stevens said. “He’s a great leader.”
Class AA state semifinal
White Plains (8-1) vs. Section 9’s Monroe-Woodbury (11-0)
When: Saturday, 7 p.m.
Where: Dietz Stadium, Kingston
Key players: White Plains – Cameron Crabbe (6-1, 190), Sr., QB; Lukas Repetti (6-5, 240), Sr., TE/DE; Chris Jordan (5-11, 200), Sr., RB/SS. Monroe-Woodbury – Kevin Carr, Sr., QB; Jesse Kaffenberger (5-11, 160), Jr., WR; Cole Gennett (5-11, 205), Jr., RB/LB.
Outlook: After a bye into the state semifinals, White Plains will make its state playoff debut against one of the Eastern region’s most experienced programs. Monroe-Woodbury is a 10-time Section 9 champ that will seek its fifth trip to the Carrier Dome. The Crusaders won seven straight sectional titles from 2004-2010 and advanced to Syracuse four straight years, winning their only state title in 2005. Carr, a two-year starter, is the orchestrator of their spread offense. He leads the team with 1,472 yards and 21 touchdowns rushing and has thrown for another 1,293 yards and 14 touchdowns. His ability coupled with Monroe’s size up front will test the White Plains defense, although the Tigers and their balanced offense should have success moving the ball. The Crusaders have surrendered 72 points in their last three games. White Plains will be forced to play without one of its best players. Senior wide receiver/cornerback Matt Berube suffered two broken bones in his leg during practice Monday and had successful surgery on Tuesday. He had six catches for 99 yards and caught an interception in White Plains’ 20-11 victory over North Rockland in the Class AA final on Nov. 9.
Next up: The winner will meet the winner of Section 4’s Elmira and Section 5’s Aquinas on Sunday, Dec. 1, at 6 p.m. at the Carrier Dome for the state championship.
Monroe-Woodbury coach Bernie Connolly on White Plains: “They’re very athletic, very quick. Definitely playing Newburgh twice should help us with them having those kind of athletes. White Plains is a little different. Newburgh likes to run the ball because they are a ‘wing’ team. I think White Plains will definitely throw the ball more.”
“Their quarterback, he makes plays. He makes plays. He keeps plays alive. I’m not really sure he wants to run. Even if you get him to move his feet, I think he still wants to throw the ball. He has a great arm.”
On Lukas Repetti: “He’s a nightmare. He’s a tough matchup. I don’t think we’ve seen a tight end that big or that good.”
“I think (White Plains) is going to try to run it. Especially with it being cold in November and playing at night.”
Connolly graduated from Stepinac in 1974. He played in the second (1972) and third (1973) Turkey Bowls between Stepinac and White Plains and later coached four years at Stepinac (1984=87), including a stint as the head coach.
“I’m not a Westchester guy anymore. I’ve been up here 26 years.”
“Knowing their history, it is kind of surprising (White Plains hasn’t made the state playoffs), but it’s not like North Rockland or New Rochelle haven’t been really good.”