This is perhaps a couple weeks late, but here’s a look at how I ranked the area’s best football teams at season’s end:
1. Stepinac (12-1). This was clearly the area’s best team and the No. 2 team in the state. Stepinac is known for its speed and explosiveness, but this season — and the program’s first outright CHSFL title — was propelled by the area’s top defense. Beating Iona Prep twice said it all. Stepinac followed that by playing Canisius well in the Catholic state final. It was an excellent season for the Crusaders… as Mike O’Donnell said, perhaps the best in program history.
2. Iona Prep (9-3). After the second half of the first Stepinac game, I was certain the Gaels would struggle in a rematch. When that rematch came to fruition and they fell behind quickly, that seemed like a very real possibility. Instead, Iona Prep fought back and had an honest chance to win the league title by the fourth quarter of the CHSFL final. The Gaels were done in by mistakes, but they were clearly the second-best team in that league and in this area by a wide margin.
3. John Jay-East Fishkill (9-2). The first-ever Dutchess County large-school champ was a deserving one. The Patriots have built and built and built each season. They took the long, steady road to the top of Section 1, and they have to be in the conversation with the section’s best programs now. Their steady success the last four years speaks to that. They have four trips to the playoffs, two finals appearances and now a title in that time span. Pretty darn impressive.
4. Rye (9-2). Was Rye a complete team? No. But what the Garnets did well, they did better than anyone. They threw the ball, they threw it downfield for big gains, and their defense just kept improving. By November, Rye had developed into a much more complete team. I think that was proven in the state quarterfinal loss to Cornwall. Rye was within a play or two of one of the state’s best teams, which was a true testament to how much it had improved overall.
5. Arlington (8-2). Arlington’s semifinal upset at New Rochelle was the result of playing to its strengths. The Admirals had a strong defense and a solid-if-unspectacular ball-control offense. That formula put them in position to win when it counted. Dom DeMatteo did a very good job of molding his team in the right image. Arlington’s trip to the sectional final was a high point in his tenure as coach.
6. Mamaroneck (7-2). I think the Tigers were one key stop, one field goal or one two-point conversion from finishing as the section’s top team. Not bad for a program that hadn’t won a playoff game in decades. Mamaroneck showed just how good it was by overwhelming Scarsdale in the quarterfinals and outgaining eventual champ John Jay in a heartbreaking OT semifinal loss. Still, John Jay and Arlington deserve the higher rankings for winning head-to-head.
7. New Rochelle (8-1). At its peak, New Rochelle was probably Section 1’s best team. The injury to Jonathan Forrest cost the Huguenots that title (both officially and unofficially). He was the area’s top back, plus a strong part of New Ro’s defense. When Forrest was injured — or limited — the Huguenots were still good, but they just weren’t quite the same.
8. Yorktown (9-1). The ‘Huskers entered the Class A final at 9-0. They continued to move the ball well against Rye in the championship game, but their pass defense simply couldn’t stop Andrew Livingston and Tim DeGraw. Despite that one flaw, this was still the program’s best season under Mike Rescigno. Plus, Yorktown will probably enter next season as the Class A favorite — and certainly a top contender.
9. Somers (7-2). The Tuskers entered the season loaded and had a lot of preseason hype. I thought they were the favorite, and I think most agreed. Ultimately, they were very, very good, but not quite as good as Rye and Yorktown. It might not have been what the team hoped for, but Somers was right there. It has been a heckuva three-year run.
10. Mahopac (6-3). The Indians had a solid season, only losing to teams ranked ahead of them and beating everyone below. Next year could be a very, very good season for Mahopac, which returns the majority of its key players. It could be 2010 all over again.
SMALL SCHOOL. It wasn’t an overly successful season on the state-level for the area’s small-school programs, but Lourdes is a clear No. 1.
1. Our Lady of Lourdes
6. Rye Country Day
8. Rye Neck
CLASS AA. What a year for the Dutchess schools, which finish No. 1 and 2. New Rochelle’s case was hurt by late-season injuries that left the Huguenots a shell of what they once were. Mamaroneck just needed another bounce or two and would’ve finished No. 1.
1. John Jay-East Fishkill
4. New Rochelle
7. Horace Greeley
8. North Rockland
9. Clarkstown South
10. Clarkstown North
CLASS A. The Top 3 in Class A were a step above. Nos. 4-9 were very, very competitive with one another. All had there moments, but I give Sleepy the edge thanks to wins over Nyack and John Jay.
4. Sleepy Hollow
5. John Jay
9. Byram Hills
CLASS B. The toughest call was for the No. 3 spot. Although Ardsley had the better season overall, Pleasantville won the second meeting between the teams and only lost the first on a last-second FG. Pleasantville gets the nod.
1. Our Lady of Lourdes
7. Putnam Valley
8. Albertus Magnus
CLASS C/D. These rankings really changed at the end of the season, but give Woodlands credit for playing its best when it counted the most. The record might not be great, but the Falcons were Class C’s best by season’s end.
2. Rye Neck
5. Dobbs Ferry
7. Blind Brook
8. Yonkers Montessori
CATHOLIC/PRIVATE. Like it should be, No. 1 here was settled on the field.
2. Iona Prep
4. Rye Country Day