RAMAPO – Last season’s closing days were a jumble for the Ramapo High School football team.
Coach Duff Pannell was arrested, charged with assault for allegedly hitting a helmetless player on the head with a helmet at a practice last October.
Defensive coordinator Kevin Bullock became interim head coach. But police and media descended on the campus, and a week of practice leading up to Ramapo’s playoff game vs. White Plains was virtually lost. Then the game was lost, too, 27-0.
But the Gryphons rebounded with a 21-20 consolation-game victory over Scarsdale on Ahkim Santana’s touchdown pass with 45 seconds left.
Senior Jeremy Rameau, 17, stretches during the first day of football practice at Ramapo High School in Spring Valley Aug. 18, 2014.
Santana is back at quarterback, expecting to improve on last season’s 5-4 mark, as Ramapo moves from a pistol offense to a spread and further away from the Pannell controversy.
“We were out of character (against White Plains),” said the senior, who remarked of the incident, “Tempers flared. Mistakes happened. Against Scarsdale we said, ‘We can’t bring this into the game with us.’ That next week, we played with a lot of heart.”
“It’s like life; you move on,” said Bullock, now officially head coach, citing the Scarsdale win as a game-changer.
Senior guard/linebacker Chris Venant said everything surrounding Pannell’s arrest “took us all off track. … It was mind-blowing to some of us.”
But it has also been positive. Now Venant thinks Ramapo can win sectionals.
“It humbled all of us,” Venant said, characterizing players as more serious and committed. “It basically was a turning point. It actually helped us.
“Ramapo is back.”