Pleasantville Tops Blind Brook in Playoff Opener

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Panther QB Jack Howe is chased out of the pocket in Friday night’s win over Blind Brook.

By Danny Lopriore – The defending Section 1 champion Pleasantville Panthers breezed to a 35-6 victory over visiting Blind Brook in the Class B quarterfinals at Parkway Field Friday night.

Quarterback Jack Howe tossed two touchdown passes and ran for another and running back Charlie McPhee scored twice to lift the Panthers to a 7-1 record.

The second-seeded Panthers will face No. 3 Valhalla, a 31-6 winner over Putnam Valley, Friday night at 7 p.m. at Pace University in a semifinal matchup. Westlake and Ardsley will meet in the other semifinal.

Valhalla, which has lost to both Ardsley and Westlake, handed Pleasantville its only loss of the season with a 21-20 victory on October 1.

Pleasantville head coach Tony Becerra was satisfied with the level of play in the opening round, but stressed the importance of continuing to improve and grow as the playoffs go on.

“There’s not a lot of room for error regardless who you play,” Becerra said. “It’s sudden death in this tournament. Even though it’s the postseason, we’re looking to improve, improve, improve. I think the captains and team leaders know it and the rest of the guys are buying in.”

Aided by a roughing the punter penalty, the Panthers opened the scoring when McPhee blasted in from the 1-yard line to cap a 16-play, 75-yard drive midway through the first quarter. Howe completed four of six passes for 43 yards and McPhee ran for 30 yards on six carries in the drive.

The Pleasantville defense, a constant over the season thus far, applied its brand of aggressive play by stopping Blind Brook throughout the rest of the half and the third quarter.

“Our defense has been consistent all year,” Becerra said. “We know it starts there. We have been able to stop some offenses because our guys know their responsibilities and are following through.”

Danny Melillo’s interception led to one Panther score, a blocked punt set up a touchdown and Nick Salzarulo, Cullen Dell, Nolan Egan and James Daniele led the staunch defense.

Howe scored on a 2-yard run, then tossed a 25-yard touchdown pass to McPhee and a 6-yard scoring dart to Jack Minerva to open a 28-0 halftime lead.

Howe finished his night’s work at halftime and was replaced by Melillo at quarterback. The junior completed 9 of 14 passes for 114 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 22 yards and an 18-yard score. Howe also made three point-after-touchdown kicks and ran for a two-point conversion.

“Trust is a big part of what we’re seeing with Jack,” said Becerra. “We hang our hat on our defense to give us field position. Because the defense does that so well, the offense can take chances and Jack is leading the way.”

McPhee also got a chance to rest in the second half after rushing for 48 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries over the first two quarters.

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