CARMEL – The raw emotion was on display even before the coin toss.
A loss to Mamaroneck a year ago in a Class AA playoff qualifier was more than enough to motivate Carmel, which came onto the field in a dead sprint and quickly took exception to the visiting Tigers encroaching on the logo at midfield.
Fortunately, there was just enough reserve to prevent a pregame turf war.
The Rams needed some adrenaline after momentarily losing interest a week ago. A hyperactive approach resulted in a 27-7 win on Friday and ran the winning streak to five games.
A big defensive play sparked Carmel.
Mamaroneck chewed up 30 yards on three plays to open the game, but Ian Hubertus recovered a backward pass that was bobbled and dropped. The Rams gave up only 16 yards the rest of the half and had a shutout until the final minute of play.
The Tigers had no room to operate.
“With our defense, it all comes from our will to play and how we practice,” linebacker Matthew Sorbara said. “It was a little rough giving up points at the very end, but I think the scoreboard shows who we are.
“Getting a turnover early was huge. We always talk about capitalizing at the beginning of the game, making the first big play. And we didn’t let down.”
David Vega was a catalyst on the offensive side of the ball. The senior running back finished with 202 yards on 23 carries.
He landed in the end zone three times.
“That was a career day for me,” Vega said. “That was all my line and my receivers. It’s true. Without them I’m nothing. … I know it’s a playoff game and it means a lot, but I take it as just another game and chip away, chip away.”
Player of the game: The defense was impressive, but Vega had the best day of his varsity life in the biggest game to date.
“I’m sure the first thing David will say is how the offensive line did a great job, but he’s been working hard every single week to get better,” Carmel head coach Todd Cayea said. “He was a little frustrated with his performance over the first couple of weeks. He never complained. He just said, ‘I have to fix it.’ and he came to work every day. Now he’s seeing the fruits of that labor. He runs with a lot of passion.”
Turning point: After the intermission, the Rams went 55 yards on nine plays and were up 20-0 shortly after Vega went around the right side for a 13-yard touchdown.
Stat line: Vega had touchdown runs of 3 and 56 yards in the first half. … Carmel recorded three sacks in the first half. Dylan Seals had two of them. … Tommy Dillon hit Shane Smith with a 4-yard TD pass to get the Tigers on the board with 34 seconds to play.
Quotable: “It was a little rough giving up points at the very end,” Sorbara said. “But I think the scoreboard shows who we are.”