Strong Defense and Godino’s TD Carry the Panthers

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For the second straight week, the Pleasantville defense had to be invincible—or at least close to it.

Pleasantville’s Charlie Montgomery runs with the ball after making a catch in Saturday’s home victory vs. Nanuet. Photo by Andy Jacobs

The Panther offense scored just enough Saturday afternoon against Nanuet, and the Pleasantville defense did the rest in a 7-6 victory over the visiting Golden Knights. The latest impressive defensive effort improved the Panthers to a 3-1 record and put them into the conversation as one of the top teams among Class B football.

“They keep bailing us out time and again,” said Panther coach Tony Becerra about his stingy defensive unit. “They’re tremendous. You can’t fault them for giving up the points they did because they were on the field a lot.”

There was only one crack in another dominating performance. With the Panthers clinging to a 7-0 lead late in the fourth quarter at Parkway Field, they finally surrendered a score when Golden Knights quarterback Matt Carney connected with Cody Fitzgerald for a touchdown pass. It was the first time an opposing offense scored against Pleasantville after 11 quarters of shutout football.

All Nanuet needed was the extra point to knot the game. All the Golden Knights received though was disappointment. Kicker Mike Young missed the point-after attempt, enabling Pleasantville to preserve its one-point advantage.

“We didn’t execute the extra point,” Nanuet head coach Phil Carbone said. “That’s what it came down to.”

Ironically, that was exactly how the Panthers lost to Nanuet by the same score last year when the two teams last met. Despite Young’s failed kick, Pleasantville couldn’t fully exhale just yet.

Nanuet got the ball back one more time and Becerra could tell his overtaxed defense was exhausted and on the ropes. But his players came through one more time, turning back the Golden Knights near midfield thanks to consecutive sacks from Charlie Montgomery and Cameron Burns that sealed another low-scoring victory.

While Becerra admitted he was very concerned on Nanuet’s last possession because “anything’s possible,” Montgomery, for one, still remembered how his team lost last year and was determined to make sure there would be a different outcome this time around.

“That wasn’t happening two years in a row,” Montgomery said.

The two teams both struggled to move the ball effectively in the first half, with the lone touchdown coming from the legs of Pleasantville quarterback Anthony Godino. On a broken play, Godino was able to elude a couple of Golden Knight pass rushers in the backfield and then slipped into the secondary for a 26-yard touchdown run that enabled the Panthers to walk off the field at halftime with a 7-0 lead. After Godino’s big run, highlights were few and far between for the Panthers, who managed less than 100 total yards of offense for the day.

Meanwhile, Nanuet was doing its part to make things easier for the Panthers. The Golden Knights fumbled the ball away on three occasions in the first half alone, each time giving up excellent field position.

Late in the second quarter, a Golden Knights’ drive showed promise as they moved the ball all the way to the Panther 16-yard line. But that’s when Pleasantville rose to the occasion and forced a turnover on downs after a couple of Panthers defenders on a fourth and one bottled up Nanuet’s Dan Breit for no gain.

What alleviated some of the pressure on the Panther defense was the right leg of punter James Leyden, who turned out to be a game changer with his booming kicks that provided solid, and at times spectacular, field position, including one punt that was downed at Nanuet’s one-yard line.

“Talk about field position,” said Becerra, who knew neither team was going to take unnecessary risks on fourth-down plays near midfield. “In a one-point game, it really did come down to field position. You’ve got to bury them every time.”

So with a strong defensive effort and an unheralded special teams unit, Pleasantville escaped for the second straight week despite a lack of offensive punch. For a defense like Pleasantville’s, though, 14 points ended up being just enough to collect two big victories and a winning record at the halfway point of the season

Asked what he would have thought if someone told him two weeks ago that his team would only manage to score a total of 14 points against Putnam Valley and Nanuet, Becerra replied, “I wouldn’t have thought much. Not against the two teams we played.”







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