Rye Neck and Woodlands will meet in the Section 1 Class C championship for the third straight season. Woodlands won the title in 2012, but Rye Neck was the victory last year. So which team will grasp the mythical title of Section 1’s top Class C program? We will find out on Saturday.
Here’s my preview of the game, including thoughts from the two head coaches:
SCOUTING REPORT —
Class C championship
No. 2 Rye Neck (6-1) vs. No. 4 Woodlands (3-4)
When: Saturday, 12 p.m.
Where: Mahopac High School
Key players: Rye Neck — Dom Brescia (5-10, 190), Sr., RB/DB; Jake Sevean (5-10, 170), Sr., QB/DB; Pedro J. Cueto (6-2, 190), Sr., RB/LB. Woodlands — Jonathan Stewart (5-9, 160), Sr., WR/DB; Rashad Baker (5-9, 160), Sr., WR/RB/DB; Myles Thigpen (6-1, 185), Sr., QB.
Outlook: These teams will meet in the championship for a third straight year, but only one of them even expected to be here. Woodlands, the 2012 champ, upset this year’s favorite Bronxville 25-22 in the semifinals behind big games from Stewart and Baker and a strong effort from its offensive line. Rye Neck, last year’s champ, presents a different challenge. The Panthers are committed to running the ball with Brescia, who leads Section 1 with an average of 220.3 yards rushing per game, and Sevean, who took over at QB four weeks ago, but they are also capable of big plays. They beat Woodlands 34-0 on Sept. 13, but it was a mistake-filled game for the Falcons, who didn’t play Week 1 and were introducing five new starters on the offensive line. Progress was slow, but last week’s win was evidence that it has occurred.
Up next: The winner will have a bye, then play the Section 9 Class C champ at 3:30 p.m. on Sat., Nov. 15 at Mahopac High School in the state quarterfinals.
Check back at 8 a.m. for my prediction.
Rye Neck coach Nick Ianello —
On beating Dobbs Ferry 15-7 in the semifinals: “I didn’t think it was going to be an easy game. I knew that wasn’t the Dobbs Ferry that we played the first time. They were prepared the second time.”
On moving Jake Sevean to quarterback three games ago: “Seve is just such an uplifting athlete. Everybody follows him on the team. It’s just extraordinary.”
On Dom Brescia’s heavy workload: “He works hard in the offseason. He prepared himself. He knew he would be the featured back in the offense.”
On being so reliant on two backs: “We had to. We really couldn’t spread it around. I didn’t think our backs could take a beating like that. But this philosophy is the same. We try to play really good defense. We try to hold on to the ball.”
On his team’s 34-0 Week 2 win vs. Woodlands: “We really don’t even think about that Week 2 game. They were the best 2-4 team in the nation. Let’s face it. They had a couple bad breaks. Every time they touch the ball it can be a touchdown. They’re well-coached. We have to really work hard.”
On the keys vs. Woodlands: “As long as we can keep away for the big plays, just try to play close to the vest so to speak. Hopefully, we don’t make a big mistake. They’re just so tough to defend. They’re all over the place.”
On what his team learned from the first matchup: “I tell them, the first game, we looked at it for our mistakes. For the most part, I told them that game never existed. They made a ton of mistakes. They fumbled the ball three or four times. They snapped the ball over people’s heads. It was raining. But do I expect it to happen again? No.”
Woodlands coach Mike Meade —
On upsetting Bronxville: “I think the key to the game was on the line. The game we played (against Bronxville) before the playoffs, they dominated the line of scrimmage. We told our kids, that has to change to win the game. And we stopped them a couple times on fourth down. We didn’t do that the first time.”
On what changed for his team: “One of the things I told our kids all year long was we had a whole brand new offensive line and defensive line. As soon as they came of age, we would be good. We had the skill positions, but the line was brand new. It took a while, but we came along in time.”
On who has stepped up: Marvin Garcia, Dondi Crawford, Nico Douglas, Bonilla Brown, Deion Downey — none of them started for us last year. None of them were on the team last year. A lot of those kids have played both ways. We really don’t have a whole lot of depth, which is starting to come now. We have a few kids behind them that are starting to fill in. We didn’t even have starters, nevermind depth.”
On the first loss to Rye Neck: “When we played them the first time, there were kids who are no longer on the team who played in that game. We were searching. You definitely have to throw it out. We were in the shotgun the whole time and we had two kids playing center for us that couldn’t even snap the ball. They were inexperienced at center and that’s the hardest position for us to replace on the line was at center. We had a three-year starter who was great for us in Houston Porter, so we were really searching. Marvin Garica has ended up being our center. It took time to find out who belonged there. It was almost like an addition during the season.”
On Rye Neck: “They’re now in the spread. It’s funny. They’re almost a mirror image of us. It’s almost like they took our playbook. (Brescia) is obviously has a hell of a running back. If we don’t stop him, it’s going to be a problem.”
“Just like the Bronxville game, we have to dictate the line of scrimmage. The kid’s a great runner, but he needs blocking. They have a pretty good line, but so did Bronxville. We held our own against that. I like our chances, but if we don’t defend at the line, he’s going to run all over us.”
On what’s different in this matchup: “They’re a different team than we faced the first time. That makes it a little harder to defend. They’re pretty good. They’re pretty quick. They’re not as big as Bronxville, but they’re quick and athletic. They’re still talented. I don’t know if they had what they did last year, but nobody does.”