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Congratulations Section 4 soccer

John Moriello's NYSSWA blog
Friday, Nov. 27, 2009: Previewing the NYSPHSAA finals
   Leading off today: The 17th annual New York State Public High School Athletic Association football finals are being played Saturday and Sunday at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse. Here is the New York State Sportswriters Association's annual preview:

Class AA

   The matchup: New Rochelle (Sec. 1, 11-0 record) vs. North Tonawanda (Sec. 6, 12-0).

   Date and time: Sunday, 1 p.m.

   State rankings: New Rochelle is No. 1 and North Tonawanda No. 2.

   Digging inside the schedules: New Rochelle outscored its opponents by a 343-90 margin. The 21-14 victory over Monroe-Woodbury in the quarterfinals was a key hurdle in the aftemath of losses to the Crusaders by 14-7 in 2006, 22-16 in '07 and 10-8 last season.

    North Tonawanda has rolled through the opposition by a 467-107 margin. The Lumberjacks scored a 21-7 victory over defending state champion Orchard Park in the Section 6 semifinals.

   More about New Rochelle: The Huguenots left a lot on the field with the win over M-W, which Saratoga exploited to jump to a 14-0 lead in the semifinals. You have to wonder if New Rochelle would have pulled out the win had Jake DiPippo not tipped Lewis Edney's 42-yard throw to Julian Griffin moments before halftime. Griffin broke off a 62-yard run in the fourth quarter to tie, Edney made an interception to set up his own QB sneak for the lead and Jonny McGhee (last year's New Rochelle QB) picked off two late passes for a total of three in the game to set up the clincher.

   New Rochelle has won four straight Section 1 championships and seven this decade. . . . Linebacker Lou DiRienzo and a secondary consisting of Edney, McGhee, Xavier Walker and Jordan Lucas give New Ro a big lift. For most of the season, the Huguenots defense was outscoring its opposition. . . . When Julian Griffin ran for 124 yards last week he became the first New Ro back to crack 100 in a game this season.

   More about North Tonawanda: The Lumberjacks landed nine players on their all-league first team, with seniors Mike Tuzzo (QB) and Steve Kijowski (LB) earning shares of the player of year awards. First-team running back/kicker Aaron Davis sat out the 28-7 victory against Baldwinsville last weeked with an abdominal tear, but junior Joe Montesanti -- himself an 870-yard rusher, picked up 107 yards and a TD on just 10 carries. The rotation of Montesanti and Tom Sell in a sophisticated ground attack kept Tuzzo out of tough down-and-distance situations in the quarters and semis in Rochester.

   Kijowski appeared back at full strength vs. B'ville after missing the second half against Webster Schroeder with a shoulder injury . . . NT traces its football history to 1893 . . . Tuzzo is 10-for-18 for 233 yards, 3 TDs and an interception in the last two weeks. . . . NT fell behind Webster Schroeder in the early going of the semifinal, the only tme all season the Lumberjacks have trailed in a game.

   Past championships: New Rochelle won Class AA in 2003 with a 32-6 victory over Webster Schroeder as Ray Rice carried 17 times for 167 yards and TDs of 33 and 38 yards. That came after nail-biters by scores of 24-12 vs. Newburgh and 14-7 vs. Shenendehowa that both required late goal-line stands.

   New Ro's bid to repeat in '04 ended with a 41-35 loss to Syracuse CBA in a memorable head-to-head battle between Rice and CBA quarterback Greg Paulus.

   North Tonawanda has yet to a NYSPHSAA championship. The Lumberjacks lost in the 2002 quarterfinals in their only other state tournament appearance.

   The coaches: Lou DiRienzo (New Rochelle), Eric Jantzi (North Tonawanda).

   Making a pick: New Rochelle surrenders rushing yardage grudgingly. Without assurances that Davis can play at all, let alone at 100 percent, this feels like the '04 New Ro-CBA game, when Rice was every bit the warrior we've seen him as at Rutgers and in the NFL. There was a huge talent gap to make up on offense,defense and

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  • special teams when he was forced to the sidelines. Davis isn't the next Ray Rice (hey, who is?), but I think the analogy holds up. . . . New Rochelle 28, North Tonawanda 27.

    Class A

       The matchup: Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake (Sec. 2, 12-0) vs. Sweet Home (Sec. 6, 12-0).

       Date and time: Saturday, 6 p.m.

       State rankings: Sweet Home is No. 1, Burnt Hills No. 2.

       Digging inside the schedules: Burnt Hills has steamrolled its opponents by 550-134, including a robust 226-67 in five postseason games. The 33-18 win in the Section 2 final vs. a Troy team that had been crushing everyone was confirmation that the Spartans were for real again this fall.

       Sweet Home has outscored its foes by 441-143, including 171-53 in the playoffs. Players and coaches point to a 44-23 win vs. Iroquois on Oct. 2 as the game in which the pieces started coming together.

       More about Burnt Hills: The Spartans were positively frightening in their 54-13 victory against Malone Franklin Academy in the quarterfinals, scoring seven times in their first 15 plays. Junior Brandon Beatty is at 1,110 yards on 130 carries with 18 TDs. Classmate Evan Nusbaum broke loose for 320 yards in last week's 4-16 win vs. Cornwall to reach 914 for the season (with 19 TDs) on just 68 carries. He's also kicked 60 extra points and plays defense.

       Senior jack of all trades Tyler Paluba has rushed 19 times for 307 yards and caught 16 passes for 266 yards and five scores from QB Phil Neumann (88-for-139, 1,400 yards), with Keaton Flint making 35 catches for 598 yards and eight TDs.

       Jacob Shell, the 8-year-old son of coach Matt Shell, has been hospitalized in Boston while being treated for neuroblastoma, a rare form of cancer. Matt Shell has been commuting to Massachusetts between games.

       More about Sweet Home: Senior Pat McMahon will beat you with his arm (25-for-38, 305 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT in the last two weeks) or legs (17 carries, 136 yards, 2 TDs). His season passing totals are 81-for-153 for 1,230 yards. . . . Ralph Neasman ran 23 times for 112 yards in the semifinals and is at 149/899 for the year . . . Receiver/DB Jahann Williams is a jumper with the focus and grit to come down with any ball that's close. Williams, D.J. Nettles and Kyle Luchey anchor the secondary.

       Sweet Home is on a 25-game winning streak. As sloppy as they were last week vs. Whitesboro, committing five turnovers, they still dominated for a 36-13 win against a team that had been averaged 40.5 points a game in the postseason.

       The Panthers have been without all-state player Deshanaro Morris, an impact linebacker and running back, since a car crash left him confined to a wheelchair shortly after last season. He made 10 tackles, intercepted a pass and rushed for what proved to be the winning TD in the 2008 state final.

       Past championships: Sweet Home is the defending state champion, having defeated Burnt Hills 35-28.

       The coaches: Matt Shell (Burnt Hills) and John Faller (Sweet Home).

       Making a pick: This figures to be the best game of the weekend. Burnt Hills has somehow managed to improve itself minus QB Paul Layton and its top two RBs from a year ago, and Sweet Home is not quite as good as the outfit that two-year starting QB Casey Kacz directed to the 2008 crown. Struggling to beat Grand Island in the Section 6 final raised eyebrows, but beating Aquinas and Whitesboro to reach the Dome carries slightly more weight. Nettles (26 catches, 381 yards) could be the difference. . . . Sweet Home 28, Burnt Hills 20.

    [ Read the Class B-C-D capsules here ]

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