By MIKE SMITH
On Oct. 24, New Rochelle escaped what may have been its toughest test to date, earning a 28-20 win over No. 12 seed Mamaroneck in the Class AA quarterfinals.
At 8-0 on the season, the Huguenots remain the favorites to take a section title, but 1-7 Mamaroneck has been able to give New Rochelle a scare in both meetings between the two teams.
When the Huguenots and Tigers squared off back on Sept. 11, New Rochelle triumphed 14-6 despite several Mamaroneck defensive stands on the goal line. This past Saturday, New Rochelle fared much better in short yardage situations. Sophomore Jared Baron, who paced New Rochelle with two rushing touchdowns, said that Huguenot coach Lou DiRienzo stressed the importance of grinding for extra yards in the days leading up to the game.
“Coach D really just told us to knock them off the ball,” Baron said. “We work all season in the weight room to get stronger and we just needed to get stronger as a team and push them back.”
New Rochelle also got rushing scores from Keelan Thomas and Jayson Prince, but the Huguenot defense had some difficulty containing Mamaroneck quarterback Bill Flatow, who threw for 260 yards and a touchdown and also found the end zone on a trick-play pass from halfback Julian Haughton. Flatow missed the first meeting between the two teams due to an injured shoulder, but his presence certainly gave the Tigers more offensive options in the quarterfinal game.
“We knew coming in that [Flatow] knows that offense so well,” Huguenot defensive back Romeo Holden said. “That made us work that much harder.”
Despite Flatow’s prodigious passing day, the Huguenots clamped down when it mattered most.
In the final minute of the game, with his team trailing by eight points, Flatow drove the Tigers into Huguenot territory, when he lofted a pass for Emerson Genovese down the left sideline. Holden was there, however, and out-jumped the senior wideout to come away with a touchdown-saving interception.
“I saw the ball coming and I knew I needed to make a play,” Holden said. “So I went and got it.”
The loss ended Mamaroneck’s bid for a long playoff push, but was certainly a showcase for what may have been the most underrated team in Section I.
“The kids came out and battled like they have all year, that’s just the type of team this is,” Mamaroneck coach Anthony Vitti said. “Unfortunately, we’re not here for moral victories.”
With the win, the Huguenots advance to the Class AA semifinals, where they will take on a Scarsdale team that needed a touchdown on the final drive to top Mahopac last week. According to Baron, the Huguenots are up for the challenge.
“Every day we come to practice ready to work,” Baron said. “Every day we say, ‘This has to be a great day;’ we can only move forward, we can’t take steps back.”