WEST NYACK – Even with a playoff game awaiting them in less than a day’s time, Clarkstown South head coach Mike Scarpelli made sure the team did not deviate Thursday from the “blueprint” that put them in this position.
The team watched game film in the library, then met the cheerleaders in the Clarkstown South High School cafeteria for their traditional pregame dinner. Napoli’s pizzeria catered the weekly event, as per usual, with everything from pizza, to penne a la vodka, to chicken francese on the menu.
Vikings alum Frank Tucek was this week’s guest speaker, following in the shoes of past principals, superintendents, and Rockland County executive Ed Day.
Clarkstown South, the 3-seed in this year’s Section 1 Class AA football tournament, was a heavy favorite to take down 14th-seeded Mahopac on Friday, but those seeds mean nothing to Scarpelli.
“This might not be a word, but the first round is always the toughest because there is an unexpectedness of toughness from the teams in this round,” Scarpelli said before the game. “It doesn’t matter what high school you’re at, what state you’re in — it’s elimination.”
From Cinderella double-digit seeds that march through the NCAA men’s basketball tournament every March, to wild-card teams that go on to win the Super Bowl, a one-game playoff format can work to the advantage of underdogs who feel they have nothing to lose.
Scarpelli does his best to make sure his team never forgets that.
“We take our opponents very seriously,” Scarpelli said. “We’ve always been a middle-of-the-road team. If you take 20 ‘AA’ schools in the last 10 years, we’ve always been that 7-, 8-(seed).”
Scarpelli was reminded during last year’s 14-2 win over North Rockland just how nerve-wracking the first round of playoffs can be.
“It didn’t matter what their record was, they’re North Rockland,” he said. “When all is said and done, it’s, ‘Did you win the game?’ We don’t care if win 2-0, 3-0, 30-0.”
To ensure his Vikings were sharp for the game, Scarpelli arranged for a practice at the nearby West Rock indoor complex with rain falling Thursday. The location change was nothing more than a change of scenery for Clarkstown South.
“We practice the same amount of time. It wasn’t any more or any less time than the New Rochelle game, or the Clarkstown North game, (or with) any less intensity,” Scarpelli said.