Author Archives: Mike Smith

About Mike Smith

Mike Smith has been with Hometown Media Group since 2007, serving as the company’s Sports Editor. Mike has been commended for his work by the New York Press Association, winning awards in 2008 for “Best Sports Feature” and again in 2009 as part of a team that put together “The Game,” a breakdown of the Harrison-Rye football rivalry, which won for “Best Special Section.” His weekly column, “Live Mike,” offers his unique insights into a broad range of topics in the sports world. He resides in Eastchester, N.Y. and spends most of his free time serving as the player-manager for a competitive men’s baseball team in New York City. Reach Mike at 914-653-1000 x22 or sports@hometwn.com; follow him on Twitter @LiveMike_Sports.

Bryant “Pee Wee” Cruz dons the UBF All America’s Lightweight belt on Nov. 21 in Queens, N.Y. Cruz won the title with a second round stoppage of Mexico’s Engelberto Valenzuela. Photo/Mike Smith

Cruz wins UBF title

Bryant “Pee Wee” Cruz dons the UBF All America’s Lightweight belt on Nov. 21 in Queens, N.Y. Cruz won the title with a second round stoppage of Mexico’s Engelberto Valenzuela. Photo/Mike Smith

Bryant “Pee Wee” Cruz dons the UBF All America’s Lightweight belt on Nov. 21 in Queens, N.Y. Cruz won the title with a second round stoppage of Mexico’s Engelberto Valenzuela. Photo/Mike Smith

By MIKE SMITH
Bryant “Pee Wee” Cruz got a taste of gold on Nov. 21 when he nabbed his first professional title with a second round TKO over Engelberto Valenzuela at Resorts World Casino in Queens. After 13 straight wins to begin his pro career, Cruz is hoping that his latest victory will vault him into the upper-echelon of fighters in the lightweight division.

Fighting for the UBF All America’s Lightweight title on Friday night, Cruz didn’t take too long to get started, peppering Valenzuela, 9-4, with power shots in the first round. The referee called a half to the action just 44 seconds into the second round after Cruz’s speed, strength and accuracy proved too much for his opponent to handle.

“Our game plan was just to apply pressure because we didn’t think he could handle the combinations,” said Cruz. “I knew that he was slowing down [to start the second] but I didn’t really know when the ref was going to step in to stop it.”

According to Cruz’s trainer, Ryan O’Leary, it didn’t take long to see that his charge would be able to score a decisive victory against the Mexican ring veteran.

“We were telling Pee Wee to fire his jab in there early on,” O’Leary said. “The other guy was firing back, but it was clear he didn’t have anything on his punches, so [Pee Wee] just went for it.”

Valenzuela came into the fight well over the 135-pound lightweight limit, but O’Leary said that backing out of the fight was never an option for his fighter. In fact, he said, the undefeated Cruz used the weigh-in as extra motivation for the fight.

“I’d say it fired him up, that this guy didn’t even bother to try and make weight,” O’Leary said. “Pee Wee just wanted to fight, so we took it.”

With the win, Cruz becomes a belt holder for the first time in his pro career. Although the belt might not carry the prestige of a world title, Cruz said he is honored to have the strap around his waist.

“It still hasn’t really hit me yet, but I’m proud that I was able to accomplish this little goal for myself,” said Cruz. “I just need to stay in the gym, work hard, and hopefully sometime in 2015, I can get a big fight.”

Cruz’s latest win is just another stepping stone to bigger fights, according to O’Leary. As Cruz keeps winning bouts against more experienced opposition, the trainer said, he will be impossible to ignore within the lightweight ranks.

“He’s doing what he’s supposed to do, he was supposed to get a knockout and he got it,” O’Leary said. “Now I think we’re more comfortable on this level and hopefully this win will help open some doors.”

Contact: sports@hometwn.com

 
Harrison cheerleaders hoist a teammate into the air. Photos/Bobby Begun

Huskies cheer at counties

Harrison cheerleaders hoist a teammate into the air. Photos/Bobby Begun

Harrison cheerleaders hoist a teammate into the air. Photos/Bobby Begun

By MIKE SMITH
On Nov. 18, the Harrison cheerleading squad kicked off the cheer season by competing in the 66th annual Westchester County Center Cheerleading Competition at the County Center. Although the team didn’t come away with a trophy last week, head coach Rosa Acocella said that the prospects are bright for the Huskies this season.

A miscue or two on Tuesday night may have been the difference-maker for Harrison at the County Center, as the Huskies placed fifth in their opening event of the 2014 season. According to Acocella, however, the cheer squad did as well as could be expected considering the last few tumultuous weeks. With two tragedies rocking the high school, the cheer squad—like much of the student body, the coach said—had much bigger issues weighing on them.

“It wasn’t a terrible performance, but obviously it’s been a very difficult time,” Acocella said. “Everybody’s heart is kind of in different places right now.”

Harrison performs at the Westchester County Center on Nov. 18. According to head coach Rosa Acocella, the team shows great promise for the upcoming season.

Harrison performs at the Westchester County Center on Nov. 18. According to head coach Rosa Acocella, the team shows great promise for the upcoming season.

That said, Acocella believes her young team showed it didn’t lack ability in the first event of the season.

“We have a young team, a small team but I think there’s a lot of promising talent,” she said. “We showed good tumbling and gymnastic skills, we just need to work on doing a cleaner routine.”

With so few returning veterans, Acocella said the team will continue to work on its routines, adding more difficult stunts as the winter wears on. Considering the caliber of athletes on the roster, it won’t take long before the Huskies hit their stride, she said.

“Our tumbling is a strength and this is such a close-knit team,” the coach added. “That’s definitely going to help as we increase our difficulty.”

The Huskies will have one more competition on Dec. 6 at New Rochelle High School before they compete at a Dec. 13 regional competition at Stony Brook University that could earn them a bid to nationals.

Huskies cheerleaders finish their routine at the county championships.

Huskies cheerleaders finish their routine at the county championships.

“In practice, we need to work on the execution of our material,” Acocella said.

In addition to a possible trip to nationals, the cheer squad will also be gearing up for sectional and state competition as this is the first year that cheerleading will be considered an official sport by the New York State Public High School Athletic Association. The state will be running two competitions as test runs for future state title events.

According to Acocella, the state athletic association’s efforts have not gone unnoticed by local cheer enthusiasts.

“It’s a real pleasure for us,” she said. “For years, we’ve been working hard and we’ve been recognized by our school district and our community. Now it’s nice to have that state title like any other program in the state.”

CONTACT: sports@hometwn.com

Harrison cheerleaders perform at the Westchester County Center Cheerleading Championships on Nov. 18. Harrison placed fifth at the event.

Harrison cheerleaders perform at the Westchester County Center Cheerleading Championships on Nov. 18. Harrison placed fifth at the event.

 
Harrison baseball, softball and volleyball athletes crowd around the pitcher’s mound on Nov. 13. Speakers offered words of comfort to Gurgitano’s friends and family.  Photos/Bobby Begun

Sports aids healing process

Harrison baseball, softball and volleyball athletes crowd around the pitcher’s mound on Nov. 13. Speakers offered words of comfort to Gurgitano’s friends and family.  Photos/Bobby Begun

Harrison baseball, softball and volleyball athletes crowd around the pitcher’s mound on Nov. 13. Speakers offered words of comfort to Gurgitano’s friends and family. Photos/Bobby Begun

By MIKE SMITH
The Harrison athletic community banded together last week to support two families devastated by recent tragedy. With a candlelight vigil on Thursday, Nov. 13 and charity soccer game the following day, Harrison High School students helped to reaffirm the healing power of sports and its ability to bring people together in times of need. 

Twice over the last two weeks, Harrison’s community has had reason to grieve.

On Nov. 3, resident Reyda LaMadrid, 47, a mother of three, was killed in the early morning hours when her vehicle was struck by a drunk driver traveling the wrong way on South Lexington Avenue in White Plains. Five days later, on Nov. 8, the community was hit hard again when 16-year-old Harrison High School junior Andrew Gurgitano died suddenly in his sleep.

Given the ties that both families had to Harrison’s Athletic Department—Gurgitano pitched on the Huskies’ varsity baseball team while LaMadrid’s son, Joseph Lopez is a member of the JV soccer team—it seemed only natural to turn to the world of sports to make sense of the losses.

On Nov. 13, a candlelight vigil was held on Harrison’s baseball field in memory of Andrew Gurgitano. Gurgitano, 16, died suddenly on Nov. 8.

On Nov. 13, a candlelight vigil was held on Harrison’s baseball field in memory of Andrew Gurgitano. Gurgitano, 16, died suddenly on Nov. 8.

On Friday, Nov. 14, the Harrison soccer program held its annual Maroon and White scrimmage with the two sides comprised of players from the JV and Varsity squads. This year, all funds raised by the $5 admission tickets and the concessions being sold were given directly to the Lopez family to help defray the costs of medical bills and the funeral.

According to varsity coach Matt Pringle, the idea to turn the annual scrimmage into a fundraiser seemed like an obvious decision.

“Right when we heard, the wheels started turning,” said Pringle. “We started thinking about how we could help Joe, how we could support the family, and it just seemed like the perfect way to do that.”

The previous night, students, faculty and residents took to the high school baseball field to take part in a candlelight vigil in remembrance of Gurgitano that was hosted by the Huskies’ baseball, softball and volleyball teams. As onlookers gathered around the infield, those who knew Gurgitano best offered their memories on the pitcher’s mound where the southpaw hurler starred for the Harrison team last spring.

Dean McCarthy, Gurgitano’s classmate and teammate, said that as the community struggled to cope with the loss, they should find comfort in the way the town rallied together in a time of crisis.

The flag at McGillicuddy Stadium flies at half-mast during a moment of silence prior to a Nov. 14 soccer game. Photos/Mike Smith

The flag at McGillicuddy Stadium flies at half-mast during a moment of silence prior to a Nov. 14 soccer game. Photos/Mike Smith

“The only positive thing I can personally take away from this situation is the unity,” McCarthy said. “There has been so much love between the student body and the whole Harrison community that brings so much warmth to his family’s hearts, it just shows us how strong we are when we stay together as a family.”

Contact: sports@hometwn.com

 

 

 

The flag at McGillicuddy Stadium flies at half-mast during a moment of silence prior to a Nov. 14 soccer game. Photos/Mike Smith

The flag at McGillicuddy Stadium flies at half-mast during a moment of silence prior to a Nov. 14 soccer game. Photos/Mike Smith

 
As the final whistle sounds, Elie Seid, Karen Seid and Lizzie Clarke celebrate Mamaroneck’s state finals win over Sachem East.

Tigers win state title

Heather Gardiner looks for an open teammate on Nov. 16 in the Class A State Championships. Mamaroneck beat Sachem East 5-0 for the title.

Heather Gardiner looks for an open teammate on Nov. 16 in the Class A State Championships. Mamaroneck beat Sachem East 5-0 for the title.

By MIKE SMITH
One year ago, a highly touted Mamaroneck team squared off against Sachem East in the state quarterfinals, falling to the Flaming Arrows in a 3-2 heartbreaker. On Nov. 16, the Tigers got their revenge, routing Sachem 5-0 to win the Class A State Championship.

Since the playoffs started in early November, Mamaroneck has been dominating its opponents and their championship showdown against the No. 8 team in the nation proved no different. Lizzie Clarke got the scoring started for Mamaroneck just 12 minutes into the game and the Tigers never let up. Once the dust settled, Ellie Seid and Grace Fitzgerald each had two goals, and the Tigers had another state title.

“The girls really just followed the game plan, we executed it almost flawlessly,” Tiger coach John Savage said. “We were able to keep the ball down in their end. We transferred the ball quickly and played our best game of the year.”

Karen Seid controls the ball on Nov. 15 in Mamaroneck’s state semifinal game against Saratoga Springs. Contributed photos

Karen Seid controls the ball on Nov. 15 in Mamaroneck’s state semifinal game against Saratoga Springs. Contributed photos

Coming into the game, the highly-ranked Sachem East squad had allowed just four goals on the season. Savage, however, believed his girls were more than up to the challenge after watching the Flaming Arrows struggle in their 1-0 semifinal win over Rochester.

“When I watched them, I thought this would be very doable,” Savage said. “I expected them to come out with energy, but I felt that the 11 players we had on the field matched up very well with them.”

Savage said one key to Mamaroneck’s victory was containing Sachem midfielder Cara Trombetta. The Tigers were able to do so by employing different looks against the University of Florida-bound junior, making it difficult for her to get any good looks at the net.

“We took her out of the game by double teaming her or triple teaming her,” Savage said. “When she didn’t have the ball, we usually had a shadow on her so she couldn’t get it.”

As the final whistle sounds, Elie Seid, Karen Seid and Lizzie Clarke celebrate Mamaroneck’s state finals win over Sachem East.

As the final whistle sounds, Elie Seid, Karen Seid and Lizzie Clarke celebrate Mamaroneck’s state finals win over Sachem East.

The state title is Mamaroneck’s first since the 2008 season, when the squad went undefeated and wasn’t scored upon all year to reach the summit of Class A.

This year’s squad, Savage said, was undoubtedly most balanced he has coached.

“The skill level this year of all 11 players was the deepest we’ve ever had,” said the head coach. “What set this group apart was the willingness to work hard, the unselfishness, and the heart they showed, especially at the end of the year.”

The Tigers will lose some key pieces to graduation this year, including the Seid twins who leave as the top two goal scorers in the school’s history, but Savage is confident that there is enough talent coming back to make Mamaroneck a force in 2015.

“We will have to figure out how to replace the scoring we’re losing this year,” said the head coach. “But if we can get the juniors this year to take on the responsibility that this year’s seniors took on in the offseason, these kids now know what it takes.”

Contact: sports@hometwn.com

Mamaroneck poses with the Class A State Championship trophy.

Mamaroneck poses with the Class A State Championship trophy.

 
Bronxville’s soccer team celebrates with the state championship after blanking Port Jefferson. The Broncos have won two state crowns in the last four years. Contributed photo

Broncos capture state title

Caitlin Fryer scores a goal in a 2014 playoff game. Fryer scored one of Bronxville’s three goals in the 3-0 state championship win against Port Jefferson on Nov. 16. Photo/Mike Smith

Caitlin Fryer scores a goal in a 2014 playoff game. Fryer scored one of Bronxville’s three goals in the 3-0 state championship win against Port Jefferson on Nov. 16. Photo/Mike Smith

By MIKE SMITH
Four years ago, the Bronxville girls soccer team captured its first ever state title. On Sunday, Nov. 16, the Broncos again found themselves at the summit of Class B with a 3-0 win over Port Jefferson in the state finals. 

After holding on against Westhill in a hotly contested 1-0 semifinal matchup, Bronxville dominated Port Jefferson in the finals, controlling the action from the opening whistle. Sophomore Mason Warble got the scoring started just 12 minutes in and Caitlin Fryer and Lucy Kohlhoff tacked on insurance goals in the second half.  Port Jefferson never managed to put pressure on the Broncos, mounting just three shots on goal against keeper Charley Warble.

“I just thought that we were prepared, that we peaked at the right time,” said Bronxville coach Don Cupertino. “You never know if you’re going to have a good day or a bad day, but we just put a lot of pressure on them and they couldn’t handle it.”

Given the recent successes of the Bronxville program, Cupertino was not surprised that the Broncos were up to the task of taking on the Section XI champs.

“A lot of this has to do with history, we’ve got a couple of girls on this team who were there as eighth graders so they know what this is about,” Cupertino said. “They have a lot of experience, and I think playing on those teams, the other girls who came before them helped prepare them for this.”

The Broncos will lose seven seniors—five of whom were starters—to graduation, including standouts like Fryer, Kolhoff and Charley Warble, but Cupertino remains confident. The coach believes his team will be able to rebuild from within, as it does every year. Taylor Sears will be back, providing a steady hand on the defensive side of things, Cupertino said, while the varsity squad will also benefit from the maturation of its JV players.

“It’s always about the program, never just about one year,” Cupertino said. “We had a big JV class, and brought four of those girls up to varsity for the playoffs, but losing our keeper [Charley Warble] who has been with us for five years, that’s a big loss.”

Cupertino said that a number of the girls will be getting ready for next season by playing on club teams this offseason. He also hopes to use summer league games as a way to get ready for 2015, something he said was invaluable to this year’s squad.

“The summer league we’ve played in for the last two years has helped,” he said. “We hope it will give some of the younger girls a chance to come out and get them acclimated to the system.”

CONTACT: sports@hometwn.com

 
Two Tuckahoe players bring down a Chester receiver on Nov. 15. Tuckahoe was able to stop Chester’s explosive passing attack on the day but still lost 36-21.

Tigers fall to Chester

Enoch Penney-Lareya breaks a tackle against Chester. The Tuckahoe offense was able to put up three scores against the vaunted Hambletonians’ defense, but it wasn’t enough.

Enoch Penney-Lareya breaks a tackle against Chester. The Tuckahoe offense was able to put up three scores against the vaunted Hambletonians’ defense, but it wasn’t enough.

By MIKE SMITH
On Saturday, Nov. 15, the Tuckahoe Tigers ran into their biggest test to date, in the form of a big, physical Section IX team from Chester. Despite the toughness that has been the Tigers’ calling card all year, however, it would be the Hambletonians that would advance to the state semifinals with a 36-21 win. 

Chester got off to good start, scoring the first 14 points of the ball game. But towards the end of the first half, Tuckahoe would find its footing, scoring a touchdown on an Enoch Penney-Laryea run and succeeding on a two-point conversion to enter the half down 14-8. On the first drive of the second half, Anthony Castracucco would bust a 67-yard touchdown run to give the Tigers their first—and only—lead of the game.

Eventually, the size of the Hambletonians up front and an impressive 48-carry day from Chester running back Angel Suarez proved too much for the Tigers to overcome, as Chester scored the next 22 points of the ball game. Chester’s line, comprised of four players over 260 pounds, was simply too physical.

Anthony Castracucco finds a lane. Castracucco’s 67-yard touchdown in the second half gave the Tigers a brief lead against Chester.

Anthony Castracucco finds a lane. Castracucco’s 67-yard touchdown in the second half gave the Tigers a brief lead against Chester.

“Their game plan was simple, they just wanted to run the ball and control the clock” said Tuckahoe coach John D’Arco, Sr. “When they do that, and we turn the ball over, there’s not really much that we could do.”

Despite the loss, D’Arco was pleased with his team’s defensive effort, especially in their ability to shut down the pass against a Chester team that had thrown for 35 touchdowns this year.

“When you’re playing a team with three or four touchdown passes a game, your first assumption is that you have to stop the pass,” he said. “We thought they might try to throw a little more, but really, they didn’t need to.”

That Tuckahoe was even in a position to contend in the Class A regional game is a testament to the work of assistant coaches Pat Gallo and Bill Magner, added D’Arco. With roughly 10 of Tuckahoe’s 21 players playing their first year of varsity football this season, it came down to the coaches—and the athletes—to make the most of it.

“We had a tremendous work ethic all year,” D’Arco said. “These kids worked hard, they were tremendous overachievers.”

Joe Dedvukaj makes a stop on Chester’s Angel Suarez. Suarez would finish with 307 yards on a whopping 41 carries in the 36-21 win over Tuckahoe. Photos/Mike Smith

Joe Dedvukaj makes a stop on Chester’s Angel Suarez. Suarez would finish with 307 yards on a whopping 41 carries in the 36-21 win over Tuckahoe. Photos/Mike Smith

The Tigers won’t have much time to dwell on the Chester loss, however, as D’Arco said that preparations for next season could begin as early as next week. In addition to getting the off-season weight training regimen under way, the team will also look to replenish its ranks with some new players, the head coach said. Although the Tigers will have a number of returning seniors on next year’s squad, the rising junior class has just three players on the roster.

“I told the guys that we’re going to have to be conscientious about recruiting in the offseason, it’s going to be a little more aggressive than just word-of-mouth this year,” D’Arco said. “We’re going to have a strong core group coming back, but we’re going to need to get some more players.”

 CONTACT: sports@hometwn.com

Two Tuckahoe players bring down a Chester receiver on Nov. 15. Tuckahoe was able to stop Chester’s explosive passing attack on the day but still lost 36-21.

Two Tuckahoe players bring down a Chester receiver on Nov. 15. Tuckahoe was able to stop Chester’s explosive passing attack on the day but still lost 36-21.

 
Jake Westerink chases down a Cornwall receiver at Mahopac High School. Cornwall moves on to play the Section II champion, Queensbury, on Nov. 21.

Rye falls to Cornwall

Cornwall’s Brendan O’Flaherty makes a one-handed interception. Cornwall had five takeaways in their 21-17 victory over the Garnets. Photos/Bobby Begun

Cornwall’s Brendan O’Flaherty makes a one-handed interception. Cornwall had five takeaways in their 21-17 victory over the Garnets. Photos/Bobby Begun

By MIKE SMITH
On Saturday, Nov. 15, Rye’s record-setting season came to a close in the state quarterfinals, when the Garnets fell to a highly-touted Cornwall team 21-17 at Mahopac High School. Although the loss closed the book on Rye’s 2014 campaign, head coach Dino Garr is confident that the Garnet program will continue to contend for glory in Class A. 

Rye started strong against the Green Dragons, riding a touchdown run by Andrew Livingston and a 31-yard field goal by the senior star quarterback to a 10-6 halftime lead. But Cornwall’s active defense posed problems for the Garnets, racking up five takeaways on the afternoon, including three interceptions of Livingston—the all-time Section I passing leader, who hadn’t thrown a pick all season.

Trailing 21-17 with 38 seconds left in the fourth quarter, Rye attempted a double-pass from the Green Dragons’ 20-yard line, but wide receiver Tim DeGraw’s pass was nabbed by the Cornwall defense to secure a win for the Section IX champs.

“Cornwall was able to execute at critical times and that was the difference,” Rye coach Dino Garr said. “We had the opportunity. We had the chance. But we just couldn’t convert.”

Jake Westerink chases down a Cornwall receiver at Mahopac High School. Cornwall moves on to play the Section II champion, Queensbury, on Nov. 21.

Jake Westerink chases down a Cornwall receiver at Mahopac High School. Cornwall moves on to play the Section II champion, Queensbury, on Nov. 21.

Despite the sour ending to the season, Garr said his squad has nothing to hang their heads about. The Garnets finished 9-2 on the season, winning the Section I Class A title, making  them the first program in the Section’s history to grab titles in three different classes.

“After the game, I just told them it was a wonderful journey,” Garr said. “We were just one play away from continuing our season.”

Although Rye will lose several key seniors from this year’s squad, including Livingston and his favorite target DeGraw—who caught 10 passes on Saturday – Garr feels that the success of the team’s modified and JV squads will be a big boost to the future of the program.

“Our coaches have done a great job at the modified and JV level, so we’re looking forward to that,” he said. “But the toughest thing, as a coach, is to lose players that have been with you for three or four years.”

Junior Chase Pratt, who was one of the Garnets’ captains this year, will be among a talented group of returners who look to get Rye back to the mountain top in 2015.

Tim DeGraw is hit on a first half pass play. DeGraw finished with  10 catches for 82 yards.

Tim DeGraw is hit on a first half pass play. DeGraw finished with
10 catches for 82 yards.

“The fact that [Pratt] was elected [captain] as a junior, he knows that he has to take it to the next level next year,” Garr said. “And we’ve got seven sophomores, we call them the ‘Magnificent Seven,’ coming back and they will have to play like seniors next year, even though they will be juniors.

“All of the young guys who got some time this year will have to step up,” he added. “They know what has to be done, and they want to always leave a legacy for the younger players.”

Contact: sports@hometwn.com

 

 

 

 

Andrew Livingston finds some running room against Cornwall on Nov. 15. Livingston ran for one score, threw for another and booted a 31-yard field goal in Rye’s 21-17 loss to the Green Dragons.

Andrew Livingston finds some running room against Cornwall on Nov. 15. Livingston ran for one score, threw for another and booted a 31-yard field goal in Rye’s 21-17 loss to the Green Dragons.

 
A New Rochelle cheerleader urges on the crowd at the County Center.

Huguenots cheer at counties

A New Rochelle cheerleader urges on the crowd at the County Center.

A New Rochelle cheerleader urges on the crowd at the County Center.

By MIKE SMITH
On Nov. 17 and 18, the New Rochelle cheerleading squad got their season off to a good start, winning the Small Team Division I trophy and earning a right to compete in the Grand Championships at the 66th Annual Westchester County Center Cheerleading Invitational. Although the Huguenots did not walk away as the overall winners, however, the season promises to be an exciting one for this New Rochelle team.

“It was our first time out there, our first competition,” said New Rochelle coach Chrissy Stanionis. “So I didn’t expect a perfect routine, but I was pleased with the way we performed.

Expectations are always high for New Rochelle, which won a national title in the 2012-2013 season. This year, the team has a host of returning athletes, which should be a good sign for the Huguenots.

“We had just one senior last year, so where we finished last year is our starting point this year,” Stanionis said. “We’re starting out with our difficulty level high, and our tumbling skills are very good.”

New Rochelle’s bid for the Grand Champion title was dashed for the second year in a row by North Rockland, who advanced out of the large school division. According to Stanionis, competing with larger or smaller teams always comes with its own sets of advantages or disadvantages.

Huguenot tumblers go head-over-heels at the Grand Champion finals on Nov. 18. According to coach Chrissy Stanionis, tumbling is a strength for the team this year

Huguenot tumblers go head-over-heels at the Grand Champion finals on Nov. 18. According to coach Chrissy Stanionis, tumbling is a strength for the team this year

“As far as the smaller teams go, your skillset has to be the same, and any mistake you make, you can’t hide it,” she said. “But with the larger teams, you have more athletes and more can go wrong.”

The Huguenots hope to use this week’s competition as a springboard into the winter season. On Dec. 6, New Rochelle will host its own cheering competition at the high school. Although the Huguenots will not be competing at their own invitational, they will be performing an exhibition routine, giving them one last run-through in front of an audience before they take their show on the road the following week to perform at the Universal Cheerleaders Association, UCA, regionals. A good showing there could qualify the Huguenots for a trip to the national championships, held in February in Florida.

If the Huguenots hope to contend for a title, said Stanionis, they will need to learn from this first outing and continue to improve their routine.

New Rochelle cheerleaders go through their floor routine on Nov. 18 at the Westchester County Center. The Huguenots won the Small Team Division I trophy.

New Rochelle cheerleaders go through their floor routine on Nov. 18 at the Westchester County Center. The Huguenots won the Small Team Division I trophy.

“For a better performance, we’re going to need better presence on the floor,” she said. “We need to sell our routine out there as much as we can.”

Contact: sports@hometwn.com

 

 

 

 

 

New Rochelle cheerleaders strike a final pose in competition. Photos/Bobby Begun

New Rochelle cheerleaders strike a final pose in competition. Photos/Bobby Begun

 

Column: A section sweep

Chester’s Angel Suarez finds a hole in the state quarterfinal game against Tuckahoe on Nov. 15. Suarez carried the ball 41 times on the day as Chester beat Tuckahoe—one of five victories by onetime Section I doormats on the weekend. Photo/Mike Smith

Chester’s Angel Suarez finds a hole in the state quarterfinal game against Tuckahoe on Nov. 15. Suarez carried the ball 41 times on the day as Chester beat Tuckahoe—one of five victories by onetime Section I doormats on the weekend. Photo/Mike Smith

For the first time in about as long as I can remember, I won’t be making my way up to the Carrier Dome this year.

It has become something of an autumn tradition for me over the years; hitting the road early the day after Thanksgiving, making the four-hour drive up NY-17 to Syracuse and stalking the sidelines of the iconic venue as Section I’s top teams took to the gridiron to battle for a state title.

This year, however, Section I won’t be sending any teams up north after a quarterfinal sweep at the hands of burgeoning Section IX powers.

Five classes, five teams, and five losses this weekend ended our area’s hopes of claiming a state titlist, as our neighbors to the north continued to close the gap between the two sections. But unlike some local fans, I’m not ready to proclaim that the sky is falling.

Not yet, anyhow.

Over the last few years, Section I’s dominance over Section IX—our geographic opponent in all quarterfinal games—has certainly been eroding. In the first 15 years of the state tournament—from 1993 to 2008—Section I squads posted an impressive record over their Section IX counterparts, going a combined 51-11 and outscoring their opponents by a whopping margin. In the last few years, save a 2010 Section I sweep, that simply hasn’t been the case. Since 2011, Section IX has gone 14-5 against our local squads, culminating with last weekend’s whitewashing.

So what does this mean?  Are we beginning to fall behind the rest of the state in the football arms race?

I don’t think so.

Neither does heralded Rye coach Dino Garr, whose Garnets lost a 21-17 heartbreaker against powerhouse Cornwall on Nov. 15.

“I can only speak for what happened in our game,” Garr told the Review. “But I don’t think this means that Section I is in dire straights.”

I’m inclined to agree.

Like many other things, athletic dominance is a cyclical thing. We see it happen on the micro level right here in the section. Oftentimes, even historically dominant programs go through dry spells. Why can’t the same be true for our section as a whole?

It’s not that we haven’t been sending some fantastic teams to the state playoffs. This year’s Rye squad—with its record setting offense and stingy defense—might be one of the most talented teams I’ve seen in my time here. Teams like Woodlands and Tuckahoe, two smaller programs whose seasons were marked with a certain tenacity and resilience, simply ran into two tough customers in Millbrook and Chester, two Section IX squads that seem destined to make an appearance in Syracuse this year.

So chalk it up to bad breaks, tough luck or a good run of talent up north. Just don’t count Section I out.

You never know when things are going to turn around.

 

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@LiveMike_Sports

 
HarrisonHighSchool4

Harrison mourns death of high school student

Harrison junior Andrew Gurgitano, 16, died on Saturday after suffering a sudden stroke. Harrison High School opened its doors to the community over the weekend to help students and teachers work through the grieving process. Photo courtesy gofundme.com

Harrison junior Andrew Gurgitano, 16, died on Saturday after suffering a sudden stroke. Harrison High School opened its doors to the community over the weekend to help students and teachers work through the grieving process. Photo courtesy gofundme.com

By MIKE SMITH
Harrison is reeling this week after another tragic death hit the community hard.

Harrison High School junior Andrew Gurgitano, 16, died in his home on Saturday, Nov. 8, after suffering what the Westchester County Medical Examiner’s Office has determined to be a rare spontaneous stroke.

On Saturday and Sunday, Harrison High School again opened its doors to a community that has twice been hit by tragic deaths in the last two weeks. Social workers, grief counselors, administrators, teachers and coaches were all on hand to offer support to the student body.

“We were there on Saturday and Sunday if the kids wanted to come in,” said Varsity Baseball coach Marco DiRuocco, who coached Gurgitano last year. “It was a place they could come together and talk with their peers and friends alike, it provided some comfort, a safe place, someone to talk to.”

According to DiRuocco, the well-liked Gurgitano had a true passion for baseball. As a sophomore, Gurgitano shined on the mound, and earned the right to start Harrison’s sectional playoff game against Tappan Zee. In addition to his on-field achievements, DiRuocco said Gurgitano served as an inspiration to teammates through the force of his enthusiasm for the game.

“We had a number of sophomores come out for the varsity team, but he really impressed us overall,” the coach said. “He had such a positive attitude. He was always working on his game. He really came into his own and I was looking forward to getting the chance to work with him for the next two years.”

The Harrison community’s quick response to the tragedy is a testament to the impact that Andrew had on the lives of his classmates, said DiRuocco. On Monday, a Gofundme page hoping to raise $15,000 to help the Gurgitano family with funeral costs was set up. By Tuesday morning, the page had raised $57,760.

According to a Monday update on the website, all excess funds will be used towards creating a scholarship fund in Andrew’s name.

On Thursday, Nov. 13, the baseball team will take part in a candlelight vigil at Harrison High School to support the Gurgitano family. The following day, on Nov. 14, Harrison’s soccer team will hold a charity game to raise money for the family of junior varsity player Joseph Lopez, whose mother, Reyda LaMadrid, 47 was killed by a drunk driver
on Nov. 3.

DiRuocco added that the baseball team will also look for a way to honor Gurgitano’s legacy when the spring season starts up.

“We definitely want to do something, there’s just so much going on right now,” said the head coach. “We met with the team on Monday [Nov. 10], and I think we needed it, we needed each other. There’s really no way to prepare for something like this.”

Contact: sports@hometwn.com