By Ray Gallagher, Examiner Sports Editor @Directrays
SYRACUSE — Somers High grid Coach Anthony DeMatteo’s decision to go for two points and the victory in the waning moments of the NYSPHSAA Class A title game last Friday at the Carrier Dome will be second-guessed by opposing coaches, media, fans and just about everybody outside of Coach D’s Tuskers. Not because it wasn’t the right thing to do, but because only half of the play callers and arm-chair coaches in the country have the stones to pull the trigger DeMatteo and his staff did. Somers played to win, and there’s no shame in that.
To a Tusker, there was little if any doubt after RB Matt Kapica’s one yard TD run with 1:19 left that Somers (12-1) would run a play it had designed in August for this particular moment. But Section 3 champion CBA-Syracuse had it defended perfectly, taking Tusker QB Matt Fitzsimons off his line and out of the pocket where a bevy of defenders forced an errant throw, which was picked off by CBA’s Jason Brunson in the end zone, thus preserving the Brother’s 32-31 state championship win over the distraught Tuskers. It was CBA’s first state title since 2004 and Section 3’s first title since 2017.
“After Kapica scored the touchdown we called a timeout, and all the players and coaches wanted to go for two and the win,” said Somers senior LB/TE Ethan Krauss, who the play was designed to go to. “We practiced this play every week since August. CBA covered it perfectly and it just didn’t go our way. We knew coming in they had some guys and we tried our best. We did what a lot of people believed we couldn’t do and I’m proud of my brothers. They’re private and we’re public so in my eyes we are the best public school in Class A.”
As tough a loss as it was, Somers’ big-play capability kept the Tuskers in the game, including senior RB Ravi Dass’ 85-yard kick return right before the half, which cut the Christian Brother’s lead to 16-15 after Luke Savino’s easy two-point conversion. State-ranked (No.5) CBA (9-3) began the game with a 19-play, nine-minute drive, then connected on a 50-yard TD strike with 20 seconds left in the first half. In between, Dass (11 rushes, 50 yards) scored off a nine-yard run to make it 8-7. The state-ranked (No.2) Tuskers answered each time CBA scored and eventually took a 22-16 third-quarter lead off Trey Mancuso’s 26-yard jet to paydirt.
“Tough loss and this will sting for a while,” said senior DB/WR Mancuso, who had six grabs for 74 yards. “Hats off to CBA. That’s a great team over there. That being said, I am extremely proud of my brothers and how they battled. We never quit down to the last man. We had a chance, but it just didn’t work out for us in the end. We were confident in our decision and we as a TEAM will live with the choice that we collectively made.”
CBA’s vaunted passing attack featured several D-I receiving prospects and junior QB Jordan Rae, who found 10 different receivers and finished 25 of 35 for 346 yards and threw three touchdowns to three different receivers. That phase of the CBA game plan brought about a 10-point lead deep into the fourth when things looked very bleak for Somers. But the never-say-die Tuskers (12-1) responded with consecutive scores and a shot for the win. Savino’s 37-yard field goal cut the deficit to seven points, 32-25, before Kapica’s touchdown run with 1:19 left brought them within one. CBA kneeled out the waning seconds, denying the Tuskers their second NYS title since 2016.
“I tip my hat to those wide outs and their QB,” Somers junior OL/DL Jake Polito said. “Those are by far the best athletes I’ve seen in my high school career and in a few years from now you’re gonna see those kids on TV playing on Saturdays. I’m extremely proud to call myself a Somers Tusker. That play call was a reflection of this town, these coaches, and the players. I love these coaches and they mean the world to me. I’m sure the rest of the team feels the same way. So when coach Ant asked what we wanted to do it was a no-brainer. We wanted it. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out, but I just want it to be known that these coaches are second to none, not only as football coaches, but as my family members. I love this town. I love this team, and most importantly I love these coaches win, lose or draw.”
Krauss (9 tackles), Francesco Gioffre (8 tackles), TJ Olifers (6 tackles), Luke Kennedy (4 tackles, sack), Mancuso (4 tackles) and Johnny Crecco (4 tackles, sack) led the Somers defense, which faced its toughest test of the season.
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.