State-Ranked (No.9) Tuskers Topple Rye, 14-7, Seek 2nd NYS Title vs. CBA
By Ray Gallagher, Examiner Sports Editor @Directrays
MIDDLETOWN — When a Somers High football player conjures up a likeness akin to former All-NYS star WR Matt Pires (circa 2016), that particular Tusker is on to something special. It was the game-breaking Pires, along with fellow dynamo RB Messiah Horne, whose breath-breaking plays led Somers to its only NYSPHSAA Class A title back in 2016.
But it was the in-stride grab and subsequent run-after-catch last Friday by Somers senior WR Trey Mancuso that drew comparisons to Pires after his 57-yard TD grab from QB Matt Fitzsimons sealed the deal in the state-ranked (No.7) Tuskers’ 14-7 NYSPHSAA Class A semifinal win over Rye at Middletown High School’s Faller Field.
Somers knocked off state-ranked (No.9) Rye, 26-23, two weeks ago in the Section 1 championship and knew a rematch would occur if both teams won their NYS regional games last week, with Rye (10-2) still competing on account of Section 1’s turn in the NYSPHSAA’s at-large bid rotation. With both team’s defenses dictating the rematch, the eastern state semis weren’t quite as riveting as the original (there were a slew three-and-outs), but Somers advanced to its second NYS Class A final after winning it all in 2016 after Mancuso snared the TD pass at the Rye 30 and zig-zagged his way to paydirt like a runaway wagon with 4:08 remaining.
“I knew this could be a touchdown right off the bat,” said Mancuso, who had three catches for 79 yards. “Me and Fitz, he was like, ‘Dude, I’m telling you, I just missed you on a couple but this next one I got you’. Fitz throws perfect passes. He threw a perfect ball and he hit me in stride. At that point, I couldn’t quit. I had to score for my teammates, my family, my coaches. Our defense was locked up all night, so we just had to get another stop to win the game. This is the greatest feeling in my life.”
That feeling permeated throughout the squad, a seemingly invincible unit that improved to 12-0.
“Trey is just a dude, a total dude,” said OL/DL Jake Polito, who opened holes on offense and shut them on defense with five tackles and a sack. “That kid is just such a special athlete. He comes up big in every big spot, no matter what sport we’re playing. They couldn’t stop him. This is the best feeling in the world but we’re not done yet.”
In knocking off Rye for the second time in three weeks, the Tuskers will travel to Syracuse to take on state-ranked (No.12) Syracuse-based Christian Brothers Academy (9-3) Friday (3 p.m.) in the Carrier Dome. CBA upset No.2-ranked Section 6 champion Jamestown in the west semifinal.
It was Somers RB Ravi Dass Jr. (7 rushes, 104 yards) who conjured up images of Horne when he took a first-quarter counter 85 yards to the house for a 7-0 lead.
“Once they called my number on that play I was ready,” Dass Jr. said. “I just wanted to do as much as I can with the call to get the excitement of the game going. Once I got the corner I was just aiming for a touchdown. Everything is coming together right now, and we’re going to the dome now. Our defense played their hearts out. It’s a big part of who we are, and that last stop they came up clutch.”
Tied at 7-all going into the half, the Tuskers got several pep talks at the break and came out inspired for the second half. The defense — led by senior LB Ethan Krauss (10 tackles), senior DE Francesco Gioffre (7 tackles), DL Johnny Crecco (6 tackles, 3 for loss, 1 sack), Polito and Luke Kennedy (5 tackles) — was especially stingy.
“There’s a lot coming into this game (history-wise),” said Krauss, who seemed to be in Rye’s huddle. “They knocked us out of sections my sophomore year, and I’ve been waiting to play Rye again ever since, pretty much my whole high school career. To finally be able to beat them, not once but twice, feels amazing. I’m very grateful for this opportunity. Our coaches put in a defensive game plan that was on the money. They put me in the right place to make plays. I’ve been waiting for this moment since the third grade. This has been our goal since the start of the season, and to finally accomplish it feels amazing… a dream come true.”
The O-line — featuring Nicky Crecco, Ryan Cole, Johnny Crecco, George Forbes, Anthony Carino, Timmy Azimi, Gioffre and Polito, plus tight ends Dylan Faller and Krauss — carved out just enough holes to move the chains and provide the Tuskers with strong field possession for much of the second half. Somers senior RB Derek Marcus plowed for 64 hard-earned yards on nine totes while RB Luke Savino had four carries for 35 yards, and managed to get off a pivotal punt after a bad snap to keep the field flipped on Rye. Tusker RB Matt Kapica added six carries for 34 yards while Fitzsimmons hit on 4 of 8 passes for 81 yards.