Byram Hills Starts the Playoffs by Defeating the Sailors

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By Andy Jacobs
Byram Hills senior Gino Secchiano runs with the ball after catching a first-half pass in Friday night’s opening-round playoff victory.

Neither the wind nor the Hendrick Hudson defense had much success stopping Byram Hills quarterback Jared Cohen on Friday evening.

The Bobcats’ senior signal-caller completed 15 of 21 passes for 327 yards and five touchdowns to lead Byram to a 35-21 victory over the host Sailors in the opening round of the Class B sectional playoffs. Three of the scoring passes were to Sean Siegel, who finished the night with eight catches for 193 yards.

In a matchup of teams that both finished the regular season at 4-3, the Bobcats got on the scoreboard first and never trailed the rest of the way. On their second possession of the night, they moved the ball 71 yards on 10 plays, overcoming a pair of penalties at the start of the drive and scoring when Cohen rolled to his left before finding Michael Rocco in the back of the end zone for an eight-yard touchdown.

A key fourth-and-14 completion at the Sailors’ 40-yard line to Siegel kept the drive alive and enabled the Bobcats to jump ahead with 1:44 remaining in the opening quarter. Hen Hud used the running ability of Anthony Panettieri to even the score three minutes into the second quarter. His 12-yard touchdown run on fourth-and-one capped a 57-yard drive that began after the Cohen-to-Rocco TD pass.

But the Bobcats, who had overwhelmed Hen Hud 41-7 when the teams met a month earlier, quickly grabbed the lead again, this time for good. A 41-yard touchdown pass from Cohen to Siegel on a fourth-and-seven play, followed by Luke Weiler’s point-after kick, gave Byram Hills a 14-7 lead with 7:08 left in the first half.

The Bobcats’ Michael Rocco carries the football in the first half of Friday night’s playoff win over host Hendrick Hudson.

After forcing the Sailors into a three-and-out, the Bobcats again struck rapidly, extending their lead to 21-7 when Rocco ran for 16 yards on first down and then Cohen completed a 37-yard scoring strike to Siegel on the next play. But a 32-yard touchdown pass by the Sailors that was caught by Rocco Capicotti with 2:32 to go brought Hen Hud to within 21-14 at halftime.

Hen Hud’s opening drive of the third quarter stalled at the Bobcats’ 25-yard line and it didn’t take long for Byram to open up a bit of a cushion. On first down, Cohen tossed a short pass to his right to Gavin Javorsky and the junior running back did the rest. He made a quick cut to his left and then bolted past everyone in the Sailor secondary and dashed to the end zone for an electrifying 75-yard touchdown. Just under five minutes into the second half, the Byram Hills lead was suddenly back up to 14 points.

When the Sailors answered by moving the ball all the way to the Byram 34-yard line, the Bobcats’ defense stepped up as George Gjelaj and Joey Brown combined to stop a third-and-two run for a two-yard loss and then quarterback Chris McGuire was sacked on fourth down. Just moments later, on third-and-six, Cohen lofted a perfect pass into the waiting arms of Siegel, who had gotten a step on his defender.

The 56-yard touchdown pass and the PAT from Weiler gave Byram Hills its final points of the night and opened up a commanding 35-14 advantage with 1:38 remaining in the third quarter. The Sailors did manage to respond as Capicotti returned the kickoff to the Bobcat 41 and then caught a long pass from Kyle Perez on first down for a touchdown.

Ben Dreilinger returns a kick during the Bobcats’ 35-21 Class B playoff win over host Hendrick Hudson.

But it was too little to overcome the big Byram Hills lead. Even though the Bobcats squandered two scoring chances in the fourth quarter by fumbling the ball away, they were never really threatened in the waning moments. The Sailors’ last gasps came with three consecutive incomplete passes at midfield that turned the ball over on downs with 2:35 left in the game.

The victory earned the Bobcats a semifinal showdown this coming Saturday afternoon against Nanuet, a team they lost to at home, 19-14, in the fourth week of the season. The winner of that game will play for the Class B championship at 4:00 on Saturday, November 13 at Arlington High School.

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