By MIKE SMITH
On Oct. 26, the unbeaten Rye Neck Panthers kept their season alive with an impressive come-from-behind victory, rattling off 22 straight points to down the Bronxville Broncos and advance to the Class C finals on Nov. 2 at Mahopac High School.
Coming into the game as one of the highest scoring teams in the section, the Panthers found themselves trailing 10-6 with time running out in the third quarter before making the run that would see them escape with a 28-10 win.
Whether it was nerves or pressure, head coach Nick Ianello sensed that something was amiss with his squad in the early goings of the contest.
“As a coach, you always worry when you’re down,” Ianello said. “I think there was a lot of emotion; the kids were playing on their home field for the final time and that could have worked against us because we just didn’t seem in the game.”
But the Black Hats came alive when it counted, using their punishing running game to wear down the Bronxville defense and seal the win. Dom Brescia led the way with 118 yards on 15 carries, while fullback Pedro M. Cueto followed suit with 91 yards and three rushing touchdowns. Quarterback Tom Pipolo was also able to connect with Matt Garcia for a 25-yard touchdown pass in the comeback.
Pat Bisconti was Bronxville’s top runner, rushing for 91 yards and the Broncos’ only touchdown.
“Bronxville is a very good football team, but having so many guys in that backfield, we just kept plugging away,” Ianello said.
With the win, the Panthers move on to Mahopac, where they will take on the reigning Class C champs from Woodlands. Last year in the finals, Woodlands was able to shut the Black Hats down, beating Rye Neck 35-0. Earlier this year, though, the Panthers got some measure of revenge, clipping the Falcons 41-40 in a thrilling overtime game.
With a chance to send his seniors out as section champs, Ianello is well aware that Saturday’s game may come down to how well his squad defends against the Falcons’ top threat, running back Tyrone Barber. In Woodland’s impressive semifinal win over top-seeded Dobbs Ferry last week, Barber proved again why he’s one of the most explosive backs in all of Section I as the workhorse rushed for 301 yards and four touchdowns on 38 carries.
“He’s a great player,” Ianello said. “I don’t know if you can stop a guy like that, but we’re hoping we can slow him down.”