Mahopac has to be the finest 3-3 team in Section 1 Class AA, certainly its most resilient, but it’s hard to envision a scenario where the Indians, currently seeded seventh in the Class AA Piner rankings, can crack the top four and sneak into the playoffs. Key losses to reigning Section 1 champion North Rockland, runner-up John Jay EF and former five-time champion New Rochelle; have pretty much determined Mahopac’s fate, despite its valiant 19-14 come-from-behind win over host Clarkstown South last Friday. In other words, Mahopac is still alive but does not control its own destiny entering fateful Week 7.
Down 14-6 and pinned inside its own five-yard line, Mahopac RB Nick Russo busted out an 89-yard run to the South 8-yard line, which set up a QB sneak from junior Ethan Ryan with 4:38 remaining. That Russo run and Ryan sneak fueled hope an improbable comeback, which QB/RB Chris Rhue put in motion with a game-winning, 63-yard touchdown run with 2:14 remaining, as the Indians pulled off an improbable comeback. Rhue, who finished with 135 yards on 15 carries, was his usual electric self.
South had owned Mahopac for three quarters, scoring 14 unanswered points before the Indians awoke in the fourth. After being held scoreless, and turning the ball over five times in the first 40 minutes of the game, Mahopac’s defense had big stand after big stand (forcing a three-and-out or a turnover on four of Clarkstown South’s five second–half possessions). With their stingy defense doing its thing, the Indian offense finally figured out a way to solve the Vikings defense through its big-play capability.
“We all work very hard on the practice field just to get a step better than our opponent,” Russo said. “The coaches put together a great game plan for us and the defense really came up big. We all know our role in the game and on the field and everyone stepped up and did their job and we executed the plays very successfully. I’ve got to give a huge shout-out to the offensive line for giving me a big hole to run through: Without them I’m nothing.”
Here it is: SHOUT-OUT to Brandon Adimac, Andrew Marchionni, James Kelleher, Mike Carnazza and Danny Good.
To say the CARMEL Rams (3-3) were banged up heading into their game on Friday night at home vs. Scarsdale would be an understatement. With players on the field who had never been in a varsity football game before, the Raiders ran wild, beating Carmel 42-25; all but eliminating the Rams’ playoffs chances.
Head Coach Todd Cayea attributed the loss to the injuries and some shoddy defense.
“We’ve been struggling on defense for the last couple weeks and we got some kids hurt,” he said. “Not trying to make excuses, but our strong safety and our quarterback had never played a varsity football game before tonight. Bottom line, we didn’t tackle in the second half, and that was the difference.”
Trailing 14-12 at the half, Carmel began the third quarter with a bang. On the opening kickoff, Joe Gervasi returned the ball 85 yards for a touchdown, giving the Rams a 19-14 lead and putting some wind back in their sails.
The lead was short-lived, however, as Scarsdale answered with a touchdown on its ensuing drive. The Raiders would score on their next possession, taking a 35-19 lead at the end of the third.
Carmel showed some fight to start the fourth, moving the ball from its own 30 yard line to Scarsdale’s goal line. Quarterback John Guercio, filling in for an injured Joey Rodriguez, completed a five-yard touchdown pass to Gervasi, chopping the lead to 35-25. Despite the defensive woes, Cayea felt the offense hung tight.
“I thought we moved the ball and there were some great performances,” he said. “I thought what happened was, offensively, we stopped ourselves with penalties, mental mistakes, and blown assignments, things like that. But you just can’t play defense like that and win football games. Our kids played hard but they wore us down and beat us up in the fourth quarter.”
The Raiders added their final touchdown with just 3:11 left, keeping Carmel off the board to wrap it up.
The Rams had a hard time containing the Raiders from the get-go, as Scarsdale took a quick 7-0 lead in the first. Guercio responded with a 32-yard TD pass, but the Raiders blocked the extra point, and held a 7-6 lead over the Rams at the end of the first.
Carmel began the second quarter with the ball, but a pick-6 dashed the Rams’ hopes of taking a lead. Down 14-6, Carmel put together a drive ending with Anthony Bria rushing in two yards for a score. However, Scarsdale broke up the two-point conversion attempt to hold a two-point lead entering the half.
It won’t get any easier for the Rams now, with Mahopac on the schedule next. Cayea expects an even tougher game vs. the Indians.
“We just have to hold this thing together,” he said. “Mahopac is going to be a hell of a challenge. We just have to watch the film and try to keep going forward and keep plugging away, that’s it.”
Mahopac is hell-bent on improving to 4-3 and working its way toward a Class AA Bowl berth, and the banged-up Rams will be standing in the Indians’ way this Saturday (1:30 p.m.). The Indians are giving off a vibe that they are clearly the superior team but this is one of those “throw out the records” games. Still, the Indians are the clear favorites to take back the coveted Higgins trophy based on Carmel’s recent three-game skid and Mahopac’s vastly superior schedule. Throw in the redemption factor (Carmel won 29-13 last year), and it all adds up to a Mahopac win, but that is what we play the games; to have them settled on the field.
“It’s a victory, a 100% guarantee,” Mahopac senior captain Mike Simone said. “It’s going be sweet holding that Higgins trophy and walking off their field smiling.”
A.J. Martelli contributed to this article.
Ray has 33 years experience covering and photographing local sports in Westchester and Putnam counties, including everything from Little League/Travel Baseball to varsity high school prep sports and collegiate coverage. He has been a sports editor at Examiner Media since its inception in 2007.