Somers Delivers Final Blow, Shakes off Rye for Class A Title

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State-ranked (No.10) Tuskers, Class D Haldane to Rep in State Tourney

By Ray Gallagher, Examiner Sports Editor @Directrays
Somers QB Matt Fitzsimons fires pass in front of RB Derek Marcus in Tuskers’ Section 1 Class A title win over Rye Friday.

History will recall Rye vs. Somers for the 2021 Section 1 Class A title as one of the all-time greats between two of the all-time greats. This was Ali/Frazier if the ‘Thrilla in Manila’ had had a thick, dense fog, six lead changes and an 82-yard knockout blow by Somers senior kick returner Matt Kapika, who emerged from the fog with 11 Garnets in chase before providing the state-ranked (No.10) Tuskers (10-0) with the 26-23 title triumph over No.6 Rye (10-1).

No.1 North seeded Somers and No.1 South Rye, after an epic Class A championship game between two programs that hadn’t lost in two years, each advanced to this weekend’s NYSPHSAA regional semifinals as Section 1 is granted two entries into the tournament this year #MightWeMeetAgain.

Somers will host Section 2 champion Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake (9-1), ranked No.8 in NYS, in Friday’s opening round at Mahopac High (6 p.m.) while Rye visits Section 9 champion Minisink Valley, an upset victor over two-time reigning state champion Cornwall.

The Garnets scored two TDs in the third quarter to take a 16-6 lead, marking the first time Somers had trailed in the second half all season. If there was a panic button on the Tusker sideline, nobody touched it, but the mood swings were evident.

“I wouldn’t say panic, but we brought all this up in the film room in regards to not having faced much adversity this season, not since Mahopac in the first week of the season,” first-year head Coach Anthony DeMatteo Jr. said. “We played a lot of good football this season, but did not get punched in the mouth. We expected to get punched tonight, but just because you expect to doesn’t make you able to handle it and prepare you how to react to it. Rye is a great football program with a rich tradition and tough kids. They punched us in the mouth and it was a heavyweight fight. They hit us, we hit back and it just kept going back and forth. We’re very fortunate to have come out on top.

Somers captains Derek Marcus, Ethan Krauss, Jake Polito, TJ Olifers and Trey Mancuso display Section 1 Class A championship hardware after edging Rye 26-23 in come-from-behind fashion.

“It was a tremendous football game, an absolute war,” said DeMatteo, who assumed the Tusker reins from his dad, legendary grid Coach Tony DeMatteo, after the Tusker were crowned Section 1 North.West./Putnam regional champs last spring due to COVID. “For the fans it was great to watch. As a coach it was nerve-racking and exciting. I’m thrilled for my guys and happy for this community that we brought the title back to Somers. Football is the greatest teacher in life. It teaches young men how to be able to deal with things that don’t go their way sometimes. We preach that since day one so to see them fight back when things weren’t going their way and things we at the toughest they been all season makes me more proud than anything.”

Kapica (5 rushes, 46 yards), who also wheeled his way home for a scintillating 37-yard second-quarter score and a 6-2 lead, delivered the game-breaking gut punch. Somers senior WR Trey Mancuso, the game’s MVP, delivered several crucial blows as well, including a 55-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter from QB Matt Fitzsimons, who also found Mancuso for a critical 30-yard snatch to set up a Luke Savino (16 rushes, 87 yards) seven-yard touchdown rush in the fourth for a short-lived 19-16 lead. Mancuso added a sack, five tackles and handful passes defended at safety.

Matt Kapika scored two TDs, including the game-sealing 82-yard kick return.

“We put in so much work over the course of the season for this great feeling right now,” Kapika said. “We’re the only team in Section 1 still doing triples and it really showed off today because we’ve been preparing for this since the summer. We showed we can be a fourth quarter team with all the eyes on us. We expect the big plays to come. We’re such a tight family and we know someone will come through.We love each other so much and we’ll do anything for each other so, yeah, I scored and Trey scored and Savino scored but it takes all 11 guys on the field to make that happen and all 11 guys came through on those big plays.”

As he had all season, Somers senior DL Dylan Faller led the defense with six tackles, two for a loss. That said, Rye’s crossing routes gave Somers fits all night, and when versatile Garnet Jack McRedmond (153 receiving yards, 2 TDs) took one 86 yards to the house for a 23-19 lead. But the Tuskers took that particular groin shot with a grin when Kapika answered on the ensuing kick.

“This was crazy, like nothing I’ve ever seen,” said Faller, the game’s Most Outstanding Lineman. “This game meant so much to us. We came out here, we didn’t know what to expect and hats off to Rye. They were definitely a great opponent. We never quit, even when things weren’t going our way and we found a way to win in the end. Shout out to my fellow seniors and everyone on the team for coming through. We’ll fix our mistakes up and be ready for whoever is next.”

With both teams in the NYSPHSAA state tournament, they could meet again in two weeks should they survive and advance the first round.

“We’re not looking ahead to that. We’re looking at whoever comes out of Section 2,” said DeMatteo, who won his first Section 1 title as a head coach and fifth overall, including one as a Somers player. “I think this current playoff system is great. Instead of having a bye, we’re getting two teams that are clearly deserving of playing in the state playoffs.”


Haldane WR Thomas Tucker grabs a monster catch in Blue Devils’ 48-40 Section 1 Class D title loss to Tuckahoe Friday at Arlington.

HALDANE (6-3) got off the carpet on multiple occasions but rival Tuckahoe saw RB Michael Meyers fillet and carve the Blue Devils’ defense for 342 yards of earth and three TDs on 40 carries.

The Blue Devils had answers in the form of Ryan Irwin’s 23- and 24-yard TD grabs from QB Ryan Van Tassel; three TDs by Giancarlo Carone in three phases, including a 75-yard kickoff return, a one-yard rush and a 74-yard pick-six; and a 71-yard INT return by Evan Giachinta.

“The kids really rallied around each other,” Haldane Coach Ryan McConville said. “We were down three scores in the middle of the third and Carone, Irwin, Giachinta, made big play after big play to tighten the game and claw our way back. Ultimately, we came up on the short end, but those guys kept competing, they kept believing in each other and attacked until the end.”

The two rivals could square off again in the second round of the state tournament if both win their respective openers. Haldane will visit state-ranked (No.9) Section 7 champion Moriah Friday (7 p.m.) at AuSable Valley High School in way upstate Keeseville, NY.

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