Sophomore Matt Annunziata takes a snap during an early season game against Woodlands. Annunziata has looked sharp in recent weeks and could be in line for a big game against Roscoe-Downsville.
By MIKE SMITH
With regionals on the horizon, Tuckahoe’s football team has spent the better part of the last two weeks gearing up for its biggest game of the season. With Section IX Roscoe-Downsville’s one-sided victory over Eldred on Nov. 6, the Tigers officially have an opponent for their Nov. 14 contest, although according to head coach Tom Itri, the Tigers fully expected to be taking on the Eagles all along.
Last Friday, Roscoe-Downsville won the Section IX title with a 40-8 romp over the winless Yellow Jackets, setting up a showdown with Section I champ Tuckahoe this weekend. As Itri and the Tuckahoe coaching staff continue to pore through footage of their next opponent, they are beginning to gameplan against the 6-3 Eagles.
According to Itri, the one-sided nature of many of Roscoe-Downsville’s wins initially made it tough to pinpoint the strengths of the Eagles team.
Tuckahoe defenders drag down a Woodlands ball carrier.
“We’ve been starting to watch more tapes, but it’s difficult because a lot of the teams they beat were a little bit down this year,” Itri said. “But we were able to see a little more in the games they lost to teams like Liberty (10-0).”
The Tigers and the Eagles have a common opponent in Chester, which topped Tuckahoe 40-6 and bested the Eagles 62-13. But even in that regard, Itri said it wasn’t easy to draw definite conclusions. Tuckahoe sat many of its starters, including Chris Corrado and Christian Pinto, against the Hambletonians in order to preserve them for Tuckahoe’s section championship game against Haldane, which was played the following week.
“We didn’t have a lot of success [against Chester], but we rested a lot of two-way starters,” Itri said. “So those tapes weren’t too telling.”
But although he couldn’t use the Chester game as a true measuring stick, Itri said he has begun to see what the Eagles will bring to the table on Saturday. Roscoe-Downsville has size on the line, and although they aren’t quite as big as some of the teams Tuckahoe has faced this year, Itri said it’s something his team needs to be ready for. Itri feels that Tuckahoe has the advantage in the skill positions, with players like Corrado and Pinto able to create plays in space against the larger Eagles’ front.
A Tuckahoe receiver hauls in a pass against Woodlands. Photos/Mike Smith
“They have a little beef up front, but it doesn’t scare us,” he said. “We have an edge in speed and athleticism, and we run a lot of misdirection which should help us get to the outside.”
Itri also believes that the continued maturation of sophomore quarterback Matt Annunziata is a definite plus for the Tigers. Annunziata shined in Tuckahoe’s Class D championship win against Haldane and has shown great poise under pressure in the last few weeks.
“I think he’s got all the bugs out,” Itri said. “He was a bit timid earlier in the season, but he’s been playing very well lately and should be successful this week.”
Lastly, Itri points to convenient scheduling as another plus for his Tigers this week. Roscoe-Downsville and Tuckahoe will square off at 10:30 a.m. at Sleepy Hollow High School, which means the Eagles will need to be up early to make the nearly two-hour drive down south.
“Not only is it close for us, but we know how far they have to travel,” Itri said. “That’s a definite advantage.”
Chris Corrado carries the ball against Woodlands. Corrado’s speed should come in handy when the Tigers take on the Eagles on Nov. 14.