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.

Senior Taylor Day spikes the ball against Somers on Friday, Oct. 24. Harrison beat the Tuskers 3-1 in a first round Class A matchup.

Huskies tops Somers

Senior Taylor Day spikes the ball against Somers on Friday, Oct. 24. Harrison beat the Tuskers 3-1 in a first round Class A matchup.

Senior Taylor Day spikes the ball against Somers on Friday, Oct. 24. Harrison beat the Tuskers 3-1 in a first round Class A matchup.

By MIKE SMITH
On Friday, Oct. 24, the Harrison volleyball team began postseason play with a resounding first-round win over a tough Somers squad, beating the Tuskers 3-1 at Harrison High School. The No. 6 seeded Huskies will look to keep the season alive on Oct. 28 against third-seeded Walter Panas.

The Huskies got contributions from a number of players on Friday, including juniors Valerie Sprovieri and Maxine Lieblich who combined for 24 kills and senior Taylor Day who added nine kills and six blocks in the win. After winning the first two sets, Harrison fell 22-25 in the third, before bouncing back in the decisive fourth set to win 25-17. According to Huskies’ coach Candy Light, Harrison’s ability to limit the damage during Somers’ runs was the deciding factor in the first-round matchup.

“We’ve really been able to work through the ups and downs of a volleyball game and we did a nice job with that on Friday,” said Light. “You get into those lulls where the other team gets a few points in a row, but you saw the girls work back to not let the game get away from them.”

Light credits the team’s veterans, like Sprovieri and Day, with keeping the Huskies focused on Friday.

“For sure, the seniors played a big part,” the head coach said. “And so have the juniors who have been on the varsity team for a while now.”

Maxine Lieblich sends the ball over the net against the Tuskers. Lieblich had 11 kills on the afternoon.

Maxine Lieblich sends the ball over the net against the Tuskers. Lieblich had 11 kills on the afternoon.

Harrison’s mix of veterans and underclassmen has been a positive for the team all year long, and Light feels that the Huskies are playing their best volleyball of the season on the section’s biggest stage.

“It’s been great to see the team grow as individuals and into a cohesive team,” she said. “There was a learning curve, but I think that the confidence they have in themselves has been increasing all season.”

The Huskies will take on a perennial powerhouse from Panas on Tuesday, Oct. 28 in the Class A quarterfinals.

Although the two squads have not played each other this year, Light knows that her team will certainly be tested against a Panthers team that won its first-round game 3-0. Bridget Walsh and Shauna O’Flaherty combined for 14 kills in the win.

Valerie Sprovieri hammers the ball against Somers. The junior outside hitter led the way for Harrison with 13 kills.

Valerie Sprovieri hammers the ball against Somers. The junior outside hitter led the way for Harrison with 13 kills.

“They’re always a good team, they’re always well coached and we are going to need to work very hard to defend against their big outside hitters,” Light said. “And when we get our chances, we’re going to have to do our best to find the floor.”

Contact: sports@hometwn.com

 

 

 

 

Kayla DiMartini and Jade Pineda defend the net against Somers. DiMartini and Pineda are two freshmen who have made big contributions to this year’s Harrison squad. Photos/Bobby Begun

Kayla DiMartini and Jade Pineda defend the net against Somers. DiMartini and Pineda are two freshmen who have made big contributions to this year’s Harrison squad. Photos/Bobby Begun

 
Quarterback Andrew Livingston takes a snap against Beacon on Friday, Oct. 24. Livingston threw for two touchdowns and ran for another in Rye’s 30-21 first round win over the Bulldogs. Photo/Mike Smith

Rye beats Bulldogs

Quarterback Andrew Livingston takes a snap against Beacon on Friday, Oct. 24. Livingston threw for two touchdowns and ran for another in Rye’s 30-21 first round win over the Bulldogs. Photo/Mike Smith

Quarterback Andrew Livingston takes a snap against Beacon on Friday, Oct. 24. Livingston threw for two touchdowns and ran for another in Rye’s 30-21 first round win over the Bulldogs. Photo/Mike Smith

By MIKE SMITH
A strong first half and a solid defensive effort kept Rye’s title hopes alive on Oct. 25, as the Garnets were able to outlast a tough Beacon squad in the first round of the Class A football playoffs. Rye will be back in action on Nov. 1 when they host Somers in a rematch of the 2013 section championship game. 

Rye’s Andrew Livingston added some more highlights to his impressive four-year varsity career, throwing for two first half scores, rushing for another, and nailing a 39-yard field goal as the Garnets built up a 24-6 first half lead.

The Bulldogs’ defense played better in the second half, however, as they were able to put pressure on the Garnet signal caller and limit Rye to just six points.

“They’re a great team that a lot of people don’t know about,” said Livingston. “They were great in coverage, great in rushing the pass but that’s what you’ve got to expect in the playoffs.”

Rye’s defense, stayed focused, however, as the first team allowed just two offensive touchdowns on the day. Beacon’s final score—late in the fourth quarter—came against Rye’s second team.

“The defense stepped up big in the third and fourth quarter,” Livingston said after the game. “Our defense saved us today.”

Given Rye’s historic success, the Garnets were much more comfortable in a playoff atmosphere against a Beacon team that hasn’t seen the postseason since 2005. Although the Garnets have relied on several younger players this year, Rye’s playoff experience was apparent on Friday night.

“Whenever you have veteran players, it’s always huge,” said Livingston. “We have a lot of younger players as well, so it’s definitely a learning experience for them.”

Rye will host two-time defending Class A Somers in the semifinals this weekend and look to gain some measure of revenge for last year’s 20-7 loss in the Class A finals.

Somers demolished Walter Panas in first-round action, beating the Panthers 45-0 as they make a bid to three-peat as Section I champs. The Tuskers are led by a couple of talented running backs in Tim Fazzinga and Matt Morgante who both found the end zone against Panas.

“We know Somers is going to be well-coached, we know they’re going to be ready to play and we know they’re going to come out and hit,” said Livingston. “They did some things we struggled with last year, so we’ve just got to be ready to come in, check out the film and start grinding this week.” 

Contact: sports@hometwn.com

 
Will Culwell controls the ball in an Oct. 24 outbracket game.

Garnets bow out in first round

The Garnets celebrate after Jon DiPalma’s first half goal against Spring Valley. DiPalma is part of a midfield unit that will return for the Garnets in 2015. Photos/Mike Smith

The Garnets celebrate after Jon DiPalma’s first half goal against Spring Valley. DiPalma is part of a midfield unit that will return for the Garnets in 2015. Photos/Mike Smith

By MIKE SMITH
After a dominating performance in the Class A outbracket game last week, No. 15 seeded Rye came into an Oct. 25 first round game against No. 2 seeded Lakeland brimming with confidence about an upset. Although the Garnets would fall to the Hornets 2-0, head coach Jared Small believes that the team’s late success this year bodes well for the future of the Rye program. 

Rye’s skill was apparent early on as the Garnets fared well against Lakeland to start the game. But midway through the first half, the Hornets’ Matias Prando was able to make a long run at the net to put the higher seed on the board.

“I think we took it to them for the first twenty-five minutes of the game,” said Jared Small.  “We didn’t feel, coming in, that this was a typical fifteen versus two-seed game. But that first goal made it a lot tougher for us.”

With the one goal lead, Lakeland was content to drop back into a more defensive posture for the rest of the contest, effectively changing the complexion of the game.

“This year, we were great at being able to control the game, but we weren’t really able to score multiple times in a game,” said Small. “So once they got the first goal, they were content to kick it long and even though we controlled the ball all game we weren’t able to score.”

Will Culwell controls the ball in an Oct. 24 outbracket game.

Will Culwell controls the ball in an Oct. 24 outbracket game.

Despite the tough loss to end their season, Small believes that the team’s success this fall will help set the tone of the program for the next few years. With 13 players returning in 2015, and a JV team that won 12 games this season, Small feels that Rye will be a Class A contender for the foreseeable future.

“This was an important year in terms of regaining momentum,” he said. “The last few years we didn’t have as strong of a team as we’ve had in the past, but this year, we showed that we could play with anybody.”

The Garnets will return a solid midfield unit next year, and Small envisions the group— which includes Johnny Amaya, captain Will Colwell, and Jon DiPalma—as being a focal point.

Although the team will lose keeper Johnny Emmanuel to graduation, his replacement, Owen Moore, has already drawn rave reviews from opposing coaches.

“With Owen, in the three games he played, other teams thought he was our starting goalkeeper,” said Small. “And behind him we have Gregor Sanford, a sophomore, so our goalies will be good.”

The only question mark coming into 2015, said the head coach, will be the team’s ability to put the ball in the back of the net.

“We’re set in the midfield, our defense will be strong, so we’re just going to have to find ways to develop some scoring,” he said. “But I think we’ll be able to do that.”

Contact: sports@hometwn.com

Tommy Gates takes the ball up the sidelines against Spring Valley on Oct. 24. The Garnets beat the Tigers 3-0 in the outbracket game.

Tommy Gates takes the ball up the sidelines against Spring Valley on Oct. 24. The Garnets beat the Tigers 3-0 in the outbracket game.

 
Ryan O’Leary, with scissors, cuts the ribbon at the official opening of Champs Boxing Club’s new location on South Division Street in New Rochelle. O’Leary hopes his gym will be a fixture in the community for years to come. Photo/Bobby Begun

Champs opens new location

Ryan O’Leary, with scissors, cuts the ribbon at the official opening of Champs Boxing Club’s new location on South Division Street in New Rochelle. O’Leary hopes his gym will be a fixture in the community for years to come. Photo/Bobby Begun

Ryan O’Leary, with scissors, cuts the ribbon at the official opening of Champs Boxing Club’s new location on South Division Street in New Rochelle. O’Leary hopes his gym will be a fixture in the community for years to come. Photo/Bobby Begun

By MIKE SMITH
On Wednesday, Oct. 22, Champs Boxing Club held an evening gala to celebrate the opening of its new gym location in New Rochelle. The event, which was hosted by the New Rochelle Chamber of Commerce, was a big step in the right direction for the local boxing club, according to Champs founder Ryan O’Leary. 

Champs Boxing Club, which was previously running out of a smaller space in the city, officially moved into the second floor of 7 S. Division St. about a month ago, but jumped at the chance to celebrate the move with the community, O’Leary said.

“This time, I wanted to do everything by the book, I wanted everything done the right way,” said O’Leary. “Somebody told me to join the Chamber of Commerce, and it turned out to be fantastic.”

O’Leary, a longtime New Rochelle resident, said that while his search for gym space was extensive, he never truly considered leaving the New Rochelle area.

“It was very important for me for this gym to be in New Rochelle,” he said. “People were showing me spaces in the Bronx, but being here, in the heart of New Rochelle, I think that this community was sorely lacking in this kind of thing and I thought I could do it the right way.”

In addition to working with boxers, Champs Boxing Club has also been active in reaching out the community in the past. Earlier this year, O’Leary and other gym members took part in the Fight for Peace program, in which they put on a series of talks for New Rochelle youths that tackled a wide array of issues facing the community, including bullying and self-realization.

“Being here, in the heart of New Rochelle, I think that appeals to a lot of the programs we’re trying to do,” O’Leary said. “We’re really trying to get these kids into this program.”

The visibility of the new location doesn’t hurt either, he added.

“We don’t have a sign, but there’s a lot of foot traffic in the area,” he said. “We’ve been here a month and we’ve already gotten 70 new members. I’m going to have to bring in more staff.”

As the gym continues to grow, O’Leary said, he hopes that it will turn into the kind of institution that will serve New Rochelle for years.

“We’re here. We’re in the right place and I told everyone [at the opening] what my plan was,” O’Leary said, “and that’s to live for another hundred years, stay in this gym, and die right here in my chair.”

CONTACT: sports@hometwn.com

 
Javier Garcia battles for the ball with a Horace Greeley defender on Oct. 24. New Rochelle went 9-5 this season under first-year head coach Jarohan Garcia.

Huguenots bow in quarterfinals

Javier Garcia battles for the ball with a Horace Greeley defender on Oct. 24. New Rochelle went 9-5 this season under first-year head coach Jarohan Garcia.

Javier Garcia battles for the ball with a Horace Greeley defender on Oct. 24. New Rochelle went 9-5 this season under first-year head coach Jarohan Garcia.

By MIKE SMITH
The Huguenots’ soccer season came to an end on Oct. 27, when a 1-0 loss to Port Chester eliminated New Rochelle from the Class AA playoffs. Despite the quarterfinal round defeat, however, Huguenot head coach Jarohan Garcia is confident that the program is headed in the right direction. 

On Monday, the Huguenots battled the Rams—who might be the most explosive team in Section I to a scoreless stalemate until Luis Morales put the No. 2 seed Port Chester ahead with just a minute to play, which was enough to saddle New Rochelle with the 1-0 loss.

“I think they played their hearts out and that’s something the coaches have been preaching to them this year,” said Garcia. “We made [Port Chester] earn it and I think we did a good job to hold two of the best forwards in the area to just one goal.”

Moises Tera controls the ball against Horace Greeley. Tera is one of several underclassmen who will be the heart of the Huguenot team in coming years.

Moises Tera controls the ball against Horace Greeley. Tera is one of several underclassmen who will be the heart of the Huguenot team in coming years.

Despite coming into the game as a No. 7 seed, the Huguenots, who advanced to this point by virtue of a first round win over Horace Greeley, never felt like underdogs, given the intense regular season schedule the team played this year. With games against league foes like Scarsdale, White Plains and Mamaroneck, Garcia explained, the Huguenots were well prepared to take on top teams in the postseason.

“You absolutely want to play in a league like that, where every game feels like a playoff game,” he said. “We were ready for [Port Chester].”

In his first year at the helm of the Huguenot program, Garcia led the team to a 9-5 record, but said that his primary goal for the season was to begin rebuilding from within.

“I think my expectations were more about off-the-field things, like setting guidelines to follow and giving the kids accountability,” said Garcia. “We accomplished that, and I told the team that if we could take care of that, and work hard, the winning and losing would take care of itself.”

Javier Garcia jockeys for position on Oct. 24. The senior is one of four starters who the Huguenots will lose to graduation.

Javier Garcia jockeys for position on Oct. 24. The senior is one of four starters who the Huguenots will lose to graduation.

The Huguenots graduate just four starters from this year’s team, and Garcia feels that his squad made some great strides as they now look to 2015. Chief among the returnees are standouts Marcos Garcia and Rodolfo Gil who will anchor the defense, and Misael Jimenez, who shined in his first year on the varsity roster.

“We’ve got a lot of kids coming back. Seven starters,” said the head coach. “But also the kids we are losing to graduation are irreplaceable.”

One thing that Garcia feels works in the team’s favor as it heads into the offseason is that the returning players will be familiar with each other—and the system—when the team resumes workouts next August.

“The great thing about soccer is that it [has] become a year-round sport, so even though our season is done, the kids will be playing indoor soccer, playing in the spring,” said Garcia. “We’re going to have offseason programs, work on our footwork, and our fitness, and by the time we start back up, the kids will have been playing together for a year or two.”

Contact: sports@hometwn.com

Javier Garcia makes a move towards the goal in the Class AA first round matchup loss to Port Chester. Photos/Bobby Begun

Javier Garcia makes a move towards the goal in the Class AA first round matchup loss to Port Chester. Photos/Bobby Begun

 
NOT TO BAD

Column: Asking more from our athletes

Rye Neck football captains Dom Brescia and Jake Sevean march onto the field with two honorary captains from the Maria Fareri Children’s Hopsital on Saturday, Oct. 18. With high school athletics getting some negative press in the last few weeks, it’s important to realize that many local programs are doing their best to be positive forces in the community. Photo/Mike Smith

Rye Neck football captains Dom Brescia and Jake Sevean march onto the field with two honorary captains from the Maria Fareri Children’s Hopsital on Saturday, Oct. 18. With high school athletics getting some negative press in the last few weeks, it’s important to realize that many local programs are doing their best to be positive forces in the community. Photo/Mike Smith

Over the last few weeks, area football teams have been making headlines, and not just because high school playoff season is about to kick off.

On Sunday, the Monroe-Woodbury school district announced that it was suspending the remainder of the Section IX Crusader’s JV football season after allegations of verbal hazing within the program arose. This comes on the heels of news out of Sayerville, N.J., in which Sayerville War Memorial High School’s varsity season was similarly shelved after reports of rampant sexual abuse resulted in the arrests of seven Sayerville players and the suspension of the coaching staff.

Now, hazing is certainly nothing new in our culture. But, because of a shift in the way our culture now recognizes the impact that bullying can have on youths, these incidents are no longer simply swept under the rug. Increasingly, they are being highlighted—and rightly so—by media outlets and contributing to greater discussions about the way that we, as a society, are raising our children.

I know full well that these hazing incidents are not limited to the sports world. Other institutions, be they college fraternities, marching bands and even the military have come under fire for turning a blind eye to hazing practices.

Some would argue that it is the insularity of these institutions that can give rise to this kind of behavior. The idea that participation in high school sports builds leadership skills, helping student-athletes solve problems on their own is a noble one, but one that can often lead to dangerous issues when student athletes fail to recognize that their actions—both on the ballfields and in the locker room—serve as highly-visible reflections, not only of athletic culture in general, but also of their respective towns.

Sometimes, it seems, sports teams and other institutions foster an attitude of single-mindedness; focus is on the next game, the next drive and protecting the team at all costs. This mindset is, of course, helpful on the field of play, but can prove troublesome if the kids don’t have proper perspective on their place as members of a larger community.

This year, however, I have thankfully been able to see that more than a few of our local teams are fully cognizant of their roles as young leaders in their schools.

On Saturday, Oct. 18, the Rye Neck Panthers hosted their annual toy drive for the Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital at their homecoming, inviting two youngsters out onto the field for the pre-game coin toss.

And they’re not the only ones.

Harrison’s girls soccer team has been involved in a season-long campaign with the Children’s Hope Chest. Last spring, Rye’s student-athletes raised money for other under-funded athletic programs in the area. “Pink Games” to help raise awareness for breast cancer are the rule, rather than the exception every October. Every team and every school in our coverage area, it seems, has truly grasped the concept of giving back to the community.

A lot of credit here has to go to the coaching staffs. In the highly competitive world of high school athletics, it’s important to have the people at the head of our programs challenging their student-athletes to cast their gaze beyond the next game and assert themselves as leaders in other walks of life.

As for the hazing issue, the increased involvement of student-athletes is helping to change the narrative in ways they might not be able to see just yet.

When we start valuing our athletes as much for their actions within the community as for their skills on the field of play, I imagine that will go a long way towards making these ugly issues a thing of the past.

 

Follow Mike on Twitter, 

@LiveMike_Sports

 
NOT TO BAD

Huskies set for playoffs

Harrison seniors pose with their parents before the Huskies’ senior day on Oct. 15. The Huskies finished the regular season with a 6-9-1 record. Contributed Photo

Harrison seniors pose with their parents before the Huskies’ senior day on Oct. 15. The Huskies finished the regular season with a 6-9-1 record. Contributed Photo

By MIKE SMITH
The Harrison girls soccer team is getting set for postseason play this week, and with a handful of close games to close out the season, the Huskies look primed to be a tough draw for some Class A schools. 

For the Huskies, the usual low-scoring tight games of the Section I playoffs will be nothing new this year, as the club ended the season with three straight nail-biters, including a scoreless tie against Pearl River on Oct. 15, a 1-0 loss to Tappan Zee on Oct. 18 and a 1-0 win in the season finale against Pleasantville on Monday.

The team’s final win—which put the Huskies at 6-9-1 to finish the regular season—came off a goal by Gia Mancini, who beat the Dutchmen net minder after a nice cross from teammate Maya Samad.

The last three games of the season should get the squad ready for postseason play, said head coach Jon-Erik Zappala.

“Playing against Pearl River, I thought the girls got their legs back under them,” he said. “We played hard against Tappan Zee and I think that the win [against Pleasantville] gives us some confidence as we head into the playoffs.”

Zappala has been especially pleased with the play of the Huskies’ defense over the course of the season.

“Over the last three games, Maddie Specht has dropped back [behind goalie Carolyn Burgos] to stop some balls, and Kat Ensign has played cool and confident back there,” said Zappala. “And Burgos, in net, has made some key saves.”

As the team gets ready for the playoffs, however, Zappala said that his squad would need to step up its game on the offensive end, finding a way to bury more chances and extend leads. Against Tappan Zee, Harrison had a good chance to even the score with just 10 minutes remaining, but couldn’t find a way to tie the game.

“We just have to work on playing the ball better through the midfield,” said Zappala. “Otherwise, we’ve been doing great.”

The sectional seeding meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 22, after press time. Although Zappala is unsure of where the Huskies will end up, he is fairly certain that the team will have a play-in game on Thursday, Oct. 23. Should the Huskies win, they would advance to a first-round game on Saturday, Oct. 25.

“We don’t know who we’re going to end up playing against,” he said. “I don’t think our record reflects how we’ve been playing, and I know that the girls are excited no matter who we have to play.”

Contact: sports@hometwn.com

 
Christine Cardascia fights for the ball against Clarkstown South defenders during an Oct. 9 victory. Cardascia led the Huskies again on Oct. 17, scoring two goals in a win over Clarkstown North. Photo/Mike Smith

Harrison Round up

Christine Cardascia fights for the ball against Clarkstown South defenders during an Oct. 9 victory. Cardascia led the Huskies again on Oct. 17, scoring two goals in a win over Clarkstown North. Photo/Mike Smith

Christine Cardascia fights for the ball against Clarkstown South defenders during an Oct. 9 victory. Cardascia led the Huskies again on Oct. 17, scoring two goals in a win over Clarkstown North. Photo/Mike Smith

Field Hockey

10/17 Harrison d.

Clarkstown North 5-0

Harrison earned its second win over a Clarkstown team on Friday, drubbing the Rams 5-0 in a one-sided victory. The Huskies were able to spread the scoring around with four different players scoring on the afternoon. Christine Cardascia led with two goals, while Zoe Fabiana, Zoe Mittman and Elisa Arcara all found the net as well. The Huskies close out the season on Oct. 21, after press time, against Nyack.

 

Football

10/18 Nyack d. Harrison 34-3

Harrison’s regular season finale against the playoff-bound Indians was a tough one, as Nyack was able to control the tempo from the outset and come away with a 34-3 win. Nyack quarterback L.J. Norfleet took to the air, completing six passes for three touchdowns and 327 yards in the win.

With the victory, Nyack earned the right to take on top-seeded Yorktown in the first round of the Class A playoffs on Oct. 24. Harrison will play Pearl River this weekend in a non-playoff matchup.

 

Girls Swimming

10/15 Harrison d. Yorktown 49-45

On Wednesday, Harrison staved off a challenge from the Tuskers, beating Yorktown by four points at home.

Once again, Harrison was led by standouts Sarah Hodes and Stephanie Pon. Pon and Hodes were both integral parts of Harrison’s 400-meter freestyle and 200-meter  individual medley squads, and managed to take home top finishes in a few individual races as well.

For the Huskies, who were coming off back-to-back losses, the Wednesday meet was an important mark in the win column.

 

Volleyball

10/20 Harrison d.
Blind Brook 3-0

The surging Huskies improved to 13-5 on the season this past Monday, when they bested the Trojans 3-0 at home. Harrison took the first set 25-21, but that’s as close as Blind Brook would get, as the Huskies finished off the match with 25-10 and 25-11 wins.

Valerie Sprovieri led all players with 17 kills on the
afternoon.

 

Boys Soccer

10/20 Eastchester d. Harrison 1-0

Against league opponent Eastchester, Harrison fell in a 1-0 nail-biter at home on Monday. Anthony Potale scored the lone goal for the Eagles, who improved to 10-5-1 with the win.

At 4-11-1, the Huskies are a likely outbracket team. The Section I postseason seedings will be released on Oct. 22,
after press time.

Tigers clip Falcons

Senior Anthony Castracucco breaks a run during an early season game against Valhalla. On Oct. 18, Castracucco helped lead the Tigers to a comeback 50-28 win with three touchdowns against Woodlands. Photo/Mike Smith

Senior Anthony Castracucco breaks a run during an early season game against Valhalla. On Oct. 18, Castracucco helped lead the Tigers to a comeback 50-28 win with three touchdowns against Woodlands. Photo/Mike Smith

By MIKE SMITH
On Oct. 18, Tuckahoe notched an upset win over Class C’s Woodlands, rallying from an eight-point deficit to beat the favored Falcons 50-28. As the Tigers prepare for their Class D championship showdown in three weeks—and a matchup with Briarcliff on Saturday, Oct. 25, the squad appears to be peaking at the right time. 

Trailing 14-6 early in the third quarter, Tuckahoe got a boost from Anthony Castracucco. The senior returned a kickoff for a touchdown, giving the Tigers some much-needed momentum as they went on to score 48 points in the half to seal a comeback win.

“To be honest, when Woodlands scored their second touchdown in the third quarter, it didn’t look good because a lot of times, that’s going to dictate the momentum,” said head coach John D’Arco, Sr. “But that return for a score was huge for us and just kind of set the tone for the rest of the game.”

Castracucco and Enoch Penney-Laryea did the bulk of the heavy lifting in the Tigers’ comeback, as the duo combined to rush for 291 yards and four scores from scrimmage. Castracucco and fellow senior Brett Oliverio also added two interception returns for touchdowns as well.

D’Arco said that the tone for the gritty comeback was set during the week of practice leading up to the game. On Saturday, Oct. 11, the Tigers traveled to Liberty, N.Y., for a non-section matchup with the Indians, losing 14-13 on the final play of the game. When the Tigers showed up to practice on Monday, said the head coach, their desire to erase the memory of that loss was apparent.

“That game we had a two-and-a-half hour bus ride, after the kids took the SATs, to go up and lose on the last play,” he said. “The kids worked real hard this week, and what they showed, coming from behind to beat a Woodlands team that was favored by two touchdowns really says a lot about the character and toughness of these guys.”

The Tigers will play Class C Briarcliff at home on Oct. 25 in a cross-over game before enjoying an off-week before the Class D finals against Haldane at Mahopac on Nov. 8. The Tigers will look to build on their success with a win over Briarcliff and are hopeful to get a few players—including two-way starter Tim Clarke, who has been sidelined for the last few weeks—healthy before the section championship game in November.

“We could be a little more consistent, but we’ve been improving each week,” said D’Arco. “We haven’t played a bad game all year, and we know that Haldane plays us tough every time we see them.”

Contact: sports@hometwn.com

 
Nick Georgiou controls the ball against Gorton. The Eagles finished the regular season with a record of 10-5-1.

Eagles finish strong

Nick Georgiou keeps the ball in play against Gorton on Firiday, Oct. 17. Eastchester blanked the visiting Wolves 7-0.

Nick Georgiou keeps the ball in play against Gorton on Firiday, Oct. 17. Eastchester blanked the visiting Wolves 7-0.

By Mike Smith
The Eastchester Eagles may have finished the 2014 season with a pair of convincing wins, but the climb has just begun for the perennial playoff contenders. With the postseason seeding meeting scheduled for Oct. 22, Eastchester is hoping for a decent seed as they look to establish themselves as a top Class A team. 

Eastchester overpowered Gorton on Friday, Oct. 17, thanks in part to a three-assist effort from Austin Capasso and two goals apiece from Phil Capriglione and James Silva. Two days later, the Eagles earned a season-finale win against Harrison on the strength of an Anthony Portale goal, to finish the regular season campaign with a respectable 10-5-1 record.

That record is more impressive, said head coach Alfio Carrabotta, considering the strength of Eastchester’s schedule. Playing in a new league this year, the Eagles had to take on a number of tough squads, including last year’s state runner-up Pelham, Class AA power Port Chester and perennial contenders like Rye and Byram Hills.

“Playing against big time schools, we knew it wasn’t going to be a cake walk,” said Carrabotta. “But we had a legit squad and we thought we would compete, and you can see that with the number of games decided by one goal.”

The Eagles strong finish will likely make Eastchester a No. 8 seed heading into the playoffs, which begin on Friday, Oct. 24. If the standings hold, the Eagles would host a tough Horace Greeley team in the first round. Greeley finished the regular season with a 9-5-2 record.

Carrabotta said that while Eastchester’s tough regular season schedule might be a help in terms of getting the team ready for the atmosphere of the postseason, the Eagles will need to remain focused if they hope to advance.

Nick Georgiou controls the ball against Gorton. The Eagles finished the regular season with a record of 10-5-1.

Nick Georgiou controls the ball against Gorton. The Eagles finished the regular season with a record of 10-5-1.

“It’s definitely a bit more preparation, but I don’t think we have the luxury to underestimate anybody,” said the head coach. “What I’ve been noticing, even in the other leagues, is that every game is a battle and that we’re going to have to play up and produce.”

Moving forward, he said, the most important thing for his team will be the ability to maintain pressure and take advantage of the offensive possessions.

“Collectively, we’re going to have to be more of a unit, and we’re going to have to put the ball in the net,” he said. “We have to finish. We have to be able to convert and score some goals.”

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Austin Capasso sends the ball upfield to a teammate. Photos/Mike Smith

Austin Capasso sends the ball upfield to a teammate. Photos/Mike Smith