NEW ROCHELLE – Playing under hot and humid conditions, New Rochelle struggled to get anything going offensively in the first quarter of its game against Mount Vernon on Saturday.
The Huguenots needed a jolt, and Jared Baron would provide them with one.
Starting the opening drive of the second quarter from its own 20-yard line, New Rochelle went to its bread-and-butter, the running game. The drive was capped by a 35-yard touchdown run by Baron at the 9:20 mark to open the game’s scoring.
The rest of the Huguenots followed Baron’s lead in what would turn out to be a relatively easy 40-6 win.
“Whenever we have a big play, it really sparks the team, and once the big play happens, we can just keep it rolling,” said Baron, a junior running back/linebacker. “It was a bit of a struggle in the beginning, but we adjusted to it and we got the job done.”
The result showed that not much has changed between the rival programs since the last time they played each other, in 2011.
New Rochelle won that game 27-0, and haven’t lost to the Knights since at least 2004.
After 2011, the New Rochelle-Mount Vernon rivalry was put on hold thanks to new alignments set by Section 1 that grouped leagues by perceived ability rather than geography. This year, a switch back to geographic-based leagues set up the Huguenots-Knights matchup.
“It wasn’t really on my mind. It was just another game to play, we had to win,” junior running back/outside linebacker Romeo Holden said. “I feel good about our team; I feel we can go all the way to the dome.”
While New Rochelle has been one of Section 1’s dominant programs in recent years, Mount Vernon is still recovering from the effects of budget cuts in the mid-2000s that eliminated the program’s junior varsity and modified teams.
The Knights haven’t had a winning season since 2009.
“It’s a great rivalry, the crowd knows each other; we win in basketball, and they win in football,” said Mount Vernon head coach Severin Cornelius, whose daughter Ade is a member of New Rochelle’s cheerleading team. “Our players tried their best and played hard, but we got a lot of things to improve on the overall program if we’re going to compete with (New Rochelle). We don’t have a modified team or a freshman team, so we can’t develop talent from a young age, and that’s the biggest problem.”
Mount Vernon, which got a touchdown from Carlton Naughton late in the fourth quarter, fell to 0-2 on the season, while New Rochelle improved to 2-0. The Knights will host White Plains on Friday, while the Huguenots will travel to Scarsdale Saturday.
“We look OK, but we know we have the talent to be much, much better,” Baron said. “We’re going to get there.”
Player of the game: Romeo Holden, New Rochelle. The junior running back had another big day following his Week 1 performance against North Rockland, scoring two touchdowns against the Knights: A 15-yard reception as the second quarter expired, as well as a 51-yard rushing touchdown with 10:56 left in the third quarter.
Turning point: After Baron’s touchdown that opened the scoring, New Rochelle kept running the ball up the middle, and was rewarded with a 12-yard touchdown run by sophomore running back Jordan Forrest with 2:37 left in the second quarter to make the score 14-0. After forcing a Mount Vernon punt from deep inside its own territory, New Rochelle quickly worked the ball back into the red zone, with quarterback Jonathan Saddler finding a wide-open Holden in the right corner of the end zone to break the game open at 21-0.
“There was nobody in the corner, so I just ran the wheel,” Holden said. “He just threw it, and I backed up into it.”
Quotable: “I was born in New Rochelle and moved to Mount Vernon, and you always want to understand the rivalry and how it brings the towns together, and to not see it happen for a couple years, it put a void between the two towns,” said Mount Vernon volunteer coach Lowell Robinson, a former star wide receiver for the Knights who also briefly played in the NFL for the Indianapolis Colts. “It’s dope that everything is happening again. Back in 2003, we were both 6-0, they had Ray Rice and Courtney Green, we were both fighting for the Section 1 championship. It was surreal.”