By Mike Smith
The Rye Neck Panthers started off the 2013 season on the right foot on Sept. 7, beating the Tuckahoe Tigers 24-0 in opening day football action. With their stout defense seemingly in midseason form, the Panthers appear to be contenders for a top spot in Class C this season.
With just an 8-point lead at the half, the Panthers finally broke through in the fourth quarter with 16 points to put the game away.
“I think our effort was phenomenal,” said Rye Neck coach Nick Ianello. “I think we made a couple of mental mistakes, but it was the first week, some of that stuff is expected.”
If there were mental mistakes, they didn’t show on the defensive side of things for the Panthers, who held the last year’s Class D runners-up scoreless. Captain Jakob Calvini had a nice day, returning an interception 75 yards for a touchdown, and teammate Dom Brescia also ran a pickoff down to the six-yard line, setting up an eventual score for Ryan Morningstar.
In total, the Panthers allowed just 148 yards on the day. Pedro M. Cueto led with 13 tackles on the afternoon. The Tigers relied on halfback Daryl Taylor (10 rushes, 47 yards) and fullback Enoch Penney-Laryea (12 rushes, 46 yards) to do most of the heavy lifting.
“I think we were definitely happy with our defensive performance,” Calvini said. “Everybody, the line, the secondary, was winning their individual battles and that helps the overall success of the defense.”
The Black Hats did have their share of hiccups however, somewhat stifling the team’s offensive ability to move the ball. With a few players in new positions, Ianello said, it will take a bit of time before the team is firing on all cylinders.
Despite the miscues, however, the Panthers still moved the ball effectively, thanks in part to a solid day from Morningstar, who picked up two rushing touchdowns and a combined 169 yards in the air and on the ground.
“If you don’t know where you’re going, you can’t be aggressive,” said the head coach. “I think we need to hone up on our blocking rules, because some of our mental mistakes caused some apprehension on the offensive end.”
Tuckahoe will take on Bronxville on Sept. 12. The Broncos are coming off an impressive 34-0 rout over Valhalla. The Panthers, on the other hand, will travel to Pawling, who lost 36-6 to a tough team from Dobbs Ferry.
“This was important, getting that week one win,” said Calvini. “Especially for the younger guys, you can carry that win with you through the season.”