NEW ROCHELLE – His team had just outgained its opponent 441-71, allowed minus-17 yards rushing and pitched a second straight shutout.
Yet Lou DiRienzo couldn’t help but think about Monday morning. In his perfectionist view of football reality, New Rochelle will still have great strides to make, starting then, or its season will end abruptly.
Such is the standard for DiRienzo and his second-seeded Huguenots, who shutout No. 3 Clarkstown South 27-0 in Saturday’s Class AA semifinals. They earned a return trip to the Section 1 championship game at noon Saturday at Mahopac High School.
“We have a lot of work to,” said DiRienzo, whose team improved to 8-0. “We have to get more disciplined. We have to get more focused. We have to get more passionate. We have to get more enthusiasm or we’re going to get knocked out of this tournament.”
New Rochelle, the No. 2-ranked Class AA team in the state, will enter the Class AA final as a prohibitive favorite to repeat. The Huguenots will likely meet No. 5 Scarsdale, a team it beat 34-0 on Sept. 16.
DiRienzo decried his team’s mistakes and inconsistent offensive rhythm. They plagued New Rochelle during last week’s 6-0 win over Carmel in the quarterfinals and again on Saturday.
The Huguenots showed some positive gains this week, including 283 yards rushing, which was led by junior Jared Baron, who had 13 carries for 72 yards and two scores.
“Defensively, I have to be happy,” DiRienzo said. “We pitched two shutouts in two playoff games. But, right now, we’re just not very crisp offensively. It’s a great concern of mine.”
Quarterback Jonathan Saddler thought the team was motivated by last week’s narrow win — even if it still had room for improvement.
“I think we have a new passion for the game and that sparked us,” Saddler said. “We’ve been somewhat coasting all year and we needed to step our game up.”
Player of the game: Jonathan Saddler, New Rochelle. It was a fairly balanced effort all around, but Saddler contributed in three areas. He went 6 for 11 for 103 yards passing, rushed six times for 35 yards and a touchdown and recorded a sack on defense. The junior linebacker was one of several defenders responsible for the team’s fourth shutout of 2016.
Stat line: New Rochelle (8-0) — Lloyd King, Myles Taylor and Jaylin McGhee all had interceptions and Taylor caught two passes for 60 yards. Clarkstown South (6-2) — Matt Jung went 13 for 30 for 88 yards passing for the Vikings, who had just six first downs.. … Bodhi Gallo had an interception.
Quotable: “We have to go back to the drawing board, we have to get focused, we have to get enthusiastic,” DiRienzo said. “We have to understand just because it says New Rochelle on your uniform, it doesn’t mean that it’s your birthright to play in the section championship. Everyone else wants what you have, so you have to go out and get it.”