When Pleasantville learned it would be idle for the Class B quarterfinals, Tony Becerra and his coaches quickly began talking like politicians.
“We definitely needed to spin it positive for the kids,” said Becerra, whose top-seeded Panthers received a forfeit win when No. 8 Edgemont couldn’t field a team due to injuries. “You can definitely spin it both ways.”
Pleasantville returned to the field Friday night and appeared very much its regular self. The Panthers beat No. 4 Ardsley 24-0 at Pace University to improve to 9-0 and earn a berth alongside Westlake in Saturday’s Class B championship game at Mahopac.
“I thought offensively we missed having the competitive reps, but I was very happy to see the defense get back in step and pitch another shutout,” Becerra said.
That was shutout No. 5, to be exact. Pleasantville has now allowed just 48 points all season. However, the semifinal shutout was well-timed after the defense surrendered five touchdowns in its previous outing, a 38-35 victory over Westlake to end the regular season.
“We told the kids, ‘Look, I know it’s a cliché, but if you’re going to win a championship it has to be done with defense first,'” Becerra said. “I can’t say that I’m totally surprised that we had the defensive performance we had against Westlake given the high-potency of that offense, but we had to start to pay better attention to detail and to our assignments.”
With last week’s win, Pleasantville has another chance to prove it can.
Hackley delivers the big play — twice: With its league title at stake and less than three minutes remaining, Hackley needed a decisive moment to stay unbeaten. Instead, the Hornets got two of them.
First, senior Winston Britton intercepted a third-and-long pass and zig-zagged through the Montclair Kimberley (N.J.) defense for a 65-yard go-ahead touchdown. Hackley led 41-34 following Will Cotter’s two-point run, but the defense still had the final 2:37 to burn. Instead, Montclair Kimberley drove downfield and scored to pull within one. The Hornets were surprised when the Cougars faked the extra point, but sophomore defensive tackle Conor Thompson tracked down the ball carrier to secure a 41-40 win.
The win avenged last year’s 36-33 loss to Montclair Kimberley, although it wasn’t easy.
“We were mentally preparing ourselves for overtime,” Hackley coach Simon Berk said. “But we noticed they hadn’t brought out the kick block and started yelling from the sideline.”
In Berk’s first year, the Hornets finished 7-0. The former Rye defensive coordinator made his head coaching debut with wins over Bronxville and Woodlands and later guided Hackley to a 4-0 record in the Metropolitan Independent Football League.
“The kids made it a seamless transition,” Berk said. “We had almost an entirely new coaching staff. They bought into what we were teaching and bought into the program right away.”
Week 9 Player of the Week: Barry Klein, Scarsdale. For the second straight week, Klein and Raiders won a playoff game on the road in Dutchess County, only this one was historic. The senior QB and his team earned the program its first Section 1 championship game berth in the state-playoff era (1993-present). Klein made his presence felt throughout the 41-7 Class AA semifinal victory at Arlington, going 6 for 10 for 119 yards and two touchdowns through the air and rushing six times for 124 yards and a score. He helped hand the top-seeded Admirals their first loss.
Week 9 Coach of the Week: Mike Rescigno, Yorktown. It’s hard to be more prepared than the Huskers were for their 66-42 triumph over Rye in the Class A semifinals. They scored on their second play from scrimmage and seemed to either find or create gaping holes in the defense all night. Rescigno’s offense averaged 8.7 yards per play and racked up 17 plays of 10 yards or more and eight of 20 yards or more. None of the nine scoring drives lasted more than eight plays and eight of them ended in touchdowns. The result was plain to see: In a game many expected to be close, the Huskers were thoroughly dominant.