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Tusker QB Sullivan to MVP RB Palazzolo Click Eary, Often
By Ray Gallagher, Examiner Sports Editor @Directrays
It was 1996 when Section 3’s Whitesboro made its last NYSPHSAA finals appearance, and Section 1 champ Somers made damn sure to remind the Warriors (12-2) – time and time again – as the three-time state champion Tuskers (13-1), ranked No.1 in NYS, whupped the third-ranked Warriors, 35-6, Saturday at the JMA Dome in Syracuse, thus securing Somers’ third state title since 2016.
Somers is just the fourth program in Section 1 history to repeat as state champs: Rye (2008), Edgemont (three-peated in 2000) and Yorktown (1994). Somers, which narrowly lost the 2022 NYS title on a missed two-point PAT conversion in the waning seconds, outscored its opponents by a whopping 87-20 in the 2023 state tournament. Somers is now 37-2 over the last three seasons, including a fugazi 2023 Week Zero loss to perennial powerhouse Ramapo (NJ), which had some serious home-cooking on its side in early September.
The heroes were out in force for Coach Anthony DeMatteo’s Tuskers at the former Carrier Dome, starting with senior QB Mac Sullivan and sophomore RB Dean Palazzolo, who dialed up two first-half TD passes for a 21-0 lead at the break and opened the third quarter with a game-sealing 49-yard TD strike for a 28-0 lead.
It was all Tuskers from start to finish.
“Mac was lights out tonight,” Coach D said. “Dean was insane.”
The Towson-bound Big Mac finished by hitting on 11 of 15 passes for 214 yards and four touchdown passes in all while rushing seven times for 32 yards. The fleet-footed Palazzolo, the first 1,000-yard receiver in school history, went for 154 yards on just four snatches, three to the house, in one of the more incredible performances in state championship history.
“I’m feeling really good right now,” Palazzolo admitted after taking home MVP honors. “The team really stepped up and fought for this win. The connection between Mac and I was electric. I felt like we really clicked today.”
The duo would need to click time and time again as they went up against Warriors QB Kyle Meier, who led a Warrior offense that came in averaging 46 points a game. The Dartmouth-bound signal caller entered the game just shy of 4,000 yards of total offense and 58 touchdowns. Meier, who had carved up the rest of the state, completed just 13 of 23 passes for 107 yards and one touchdown against a Somers defense that was every bit as ferocious as it’s been since 2016.
Meier added 71 yards on 20 carries and fired a 40-yard TD pass to Anthony Dorozynski for a brief glimmer of hope, but the Tuskers would have none of it. The defense – led by the three Nick’s – Crecco, Conti and Newman – was sensational. Somers DB Nick Conti had eight solo tackles and one assist while OLB Nick Newman and DE Ryan Cole each made five tackles and teamed up on a sack.
Somers junior DB/WR Miguel Iglesias, the Notre Dame lax-commit, had a toe-tapping, game-changing first half INT at 5:00 of the first quarter and then scored from 12 yards out from Sully – across the body – with just :19 before the half, scoring off a simple out, for a 21-0 lead at the break.Iglesias caught three passes for 52 yards and had one interception.
Somers went up 35-6 when junior RB Mason Kelly (94 yards, TD on 26 carries) extended from two yards out behind steady OL Giuseppe Gioffre with 7:35 left. Somers senior Andrew Violante had an INT to snuff a Whitesboro drive and led like a leader throughout.
Whitesboro QB Kyle Meier, who had his way all season, escaped trouble to heave a third-quarter score, making it 28-6, but Somers recovered the ensuing on-side kick to alleviate any fear and regain control.
Cole, a certain All-NYS selection, has stated repeatedly that when the Tuskers found their collective A-game, Somers would be impossible to stop. That game popped up in Syracuse.
“It was an awesome one,” the senior captain exclaimed! “We really came together on offense and defense. Like you said (all year) we have been working up to our best game and this was it. Everything came together great, all phases of football.”
TUSKER TIDBITS: Sullivan, who played in the shadow of NYS Class A Player of the Year Matt Fitzsimons the past two years, essentially locked up the All-NYS nod we first talked up in Week 3; Palazzolo is in the same sentence as all-time Tusker greats Messiah Horne and Matt Pires, maybe even better when all is said and done; third-year Tusker Coach DeMatteo, a brilliant mentor and definitive motivator, is on the road to eclipse every record by every coach in NYS history should he make that his mission #WeSayHeDoes; Only New Rochelle’s runs from 2000-19 (3 state titles, 3 state finalists, 14 Section 1 titles), Rye’s run from 2003-08 (3 state titles, 2 finalists, 1 Final 4) and Edgemont’s three-peat as state champs (1998-2000) suprasses what Somers has done in terms of business since 2012 (3 NYS titles, 4 NYS final appearances, 6 sectional titles, 1 spring Covid crown); Somers captain DE/OL Ryan Cole was pound for pound one of the best Tuskers we’re ve seen in many years; Somers K Luke Cukaj added the PAT on every kick.
Sourcing & Methodology Statement:
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.