Marlboro stuffs Wallkill in season opener
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Rich Ward preached to his team before its game against Wallkill that it would need to play a full 48 minutes to be successful.
The Iron Dukes took their coach’s words to heart.
Marlboro, the reigning Class B champions, needed a goal-line stand with six-tenths of a second left in the game to preserve a wild 38-31 victory over Class A Wallkill on Friday night at Marlboro High School.
Wallkill drove 79 yards in 12 plays, including a fourth-down conversion before the game’s final play. After a timeout, Panthers quarterback Joe Pillitteri stepped to the line for a quarterback sneak, but was stuffed by a host of Dukes.
“We played 48 minutes of great football and used every second of it,” Ryan Cary said. “Wallkill is a great football team and fortunately we came out on top. It was a heck of a game.”
Cary was one of the catalysts on defense for Marlboro. He recovered a fumble with less than three minutes to go with the game tied 31-31 before Devin Pierre scored the go-ahead touchdown. A minute earlier, Cary blocked a punt and recovered it in the end zone to tie the game. He also intercepted a pass at the goal line during the third quarter
“Our defense was pretty solid today because they have some great players including (running back) Josh Villafane,” Cary said. “I was just in the right place at the right time a lot tonight.”
The game started even crazier than it ended.
Marlboro forced Wallkill into a three-and-out before Pierre blocked a punt which Austin Beck recovered in the end zone for a touchdown. Wallkill’s Isaiah Berrios-Smith wasted no time returning the ensuing kickoff 90 yards for the tying score.
Wallkill recovered the kickoff down at the Marlboro 19-yard line but the Iron Dukes defense held firm. Matt Iorlano booted a 33-yard field goal to give Wallkill a 10-7 lead before either team had an offensive yard.
“The beginning of the game was a blur, I don’t think we could’ve started any faster,” Beck said. “We had a jolt of energy from the blocked punt but we let down and gave them a quick score right back.”
Marlboro outgained Wallkill 125-98 in the first half despite trailing 17-10 at the break. Wallkill didn’t pick up a first down until the middle of the second quarter.
“I thought we tackled really well today,” Ward said. “When you come into Week 1, you’re never sure you will have solid tackling before you play that first game, but the defense definitely did that today.”
Marlboro’s sure tackling contained Wallkill’s star running back, Josh Villafane in the first half when he had just 24 yards on 13 carries. In the second half, Wallkill’s offense turned it up a notch. Villafane finished the night with 123 yards on the ground and 71 yards receiving.
Marlboro tied game for the first time in the third quarter after using Cary more often in the quarterback spot. Cary carried five times for 52 yards on the game-tying drive before Beck scored from eight yards out. Beck pounded the go-ahead score from a yard out to start the fourth quarter giving Marlboro a 24-17 lead.
“We have a dynamic offense, but I try to get the tough yards inside for us,” Beck said. “Our offensive line did a phenomenal job tonight especially against a big school like Wallkill.”
Wallkill’s offense opened up in the fourth quarter with back-to-back touchdown passes from Pillitteri who finished with 250 yards and three touchdowns through the air. Kole Burger, Nick Gomez, and Brendon Conners were on the receiving end of his touchdown passes.
The Dukes hope the big non-league victory early in the season will kick start the defense of their Section 9 Class B title.
“A lot of schools around here thought Wallkill would just beat us up because they’re bigger than us, but I think we proved that small schools can hang with them,” Beck said. “This is a great win for us and we’ll take it one game at a time now. Red Hook is next.”
Follow John Malone on Twitter: @MSGV_Malone