When the Haldane High School football team played Roscoe/Livingston Manor/Downsville last month, Tuckahoe coach Tom Itri watched with a vested interest. His Tigers were earmarked to face Haldane once again in the Section 1 Class D final. They also played Roscoe in last year’s state playoffs and could draw the Section 9 foe again this year.
Haldane won that day by two touchdowns to earn its only win all season (1-6), beating a team that is Section 9’s automatic Class D state qualifier. Tuckahoe, which is also 1-6, got its lone win back on Sept. 10 against the Blue Devils.
In spite of their collective struggles, both know the season — and a potential trip to the state semifinals — is at stake in Friday’s sectional championship.
“The kids saw that game. They know that our season starts on Friday,” said Itri, whose top-seeded Tigers play No. 2 Haldane at 4 p.m. at Mahopac High School. “Whether we’re 7-0 or 1-6, none of that matters. We have an opportunity. If we can win this one and win against Roscoe, we’re right back to where we were last year. That’s kept the kids focused.”
Both Tuckahoe and Haldane needed to chase that carrot throughout what’s been a challenging 2016. They took their lumps navigating schedules pockmarked by dates against Class C and private schools. For instance, Itri noted that his team has a winning record the last two years against opponents in its class.
The Tigers beat Haldane 36-15 when they met in their season opener. They built a five-touchdown lead on the strength of a brilliant debut from receiver Alex Williams, a 6-foot-4 basketball star who joined the team this year. Williams quickly established himself as the top target for quarterback Mike Annunziata, but he will no longer catch the Blue Devils off-guard.
“He’s an explosive player, a rare talent,” Haldane coach Ryan McConville said. “He presents a major challenge and you just have to be disciplined in your technique and your scheme.”
Both coaches said their teams learned a lot during that first meeting and since. Their weaknesses were exposed — and, they hope, corrected — after playing against superior competition.
“I think we’re extremely blessed to have the opportunity to get the second season and second chance,” said McConville, a third-year coach whose team last win the Class D title in 2011. “We’re just working really hard to take the opportunity presented to us this week in the sectional championship.”
“We’re confident,” Itri said. “We won the first game and were up big in the fourth quarter, so we know we match up well going in. We’re tweaking our game plan, but it’s all about playing we confidence. We think we have the depth. We know we have explosive players we have to utilize.”