North Rockland topples New Ro dynasty
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Out of the corner of his eye, Nick Connell spotted a New Rochelle receiver drifting into the end zone without a red jersey in sight. The ball was in the air and Connell knew he had on a split second to react and save North Rockland’s season.
“I saw him and I just put my head down and ran,” said Connell, a Red Raiders linebacker. “I knew as I soon as I hit his legs that he was going to hang on to the ball.”
Connell’s hit jarred New Rochelle receiver Shaquille Evans just enough for him to lose a grip on the ball, knocking the ball to the grass with no time left on the clock. The incompletion on the 21-yard pass preserved a dramatic 19-14 win over New Rochelle, the five-time Section 1 champs, in a Class AA semifinal at North Rockland.
“He was open. I thought we were going to lose the game on the final play,” North Rockland coach Tom Lynch said. “But Nick closed in on him and made a great play.”
The stand capped a heart-stopping second half where North Rockland (8-1) came back from a 14-7 halftime deficit and stopped New Rochelle’s potential game-winning drive in the final two minutes.
The Huguenots (7-2) took over on their own 25 with 1:55 remaining, converted a fourth-and-10 and reached the North Rockland 21 before two passes were broken up near the end zone in the final 25 seconds.
North Rockland, winners of eight straight, will face John Jay-East Fishkill for the Section 1 title on Sunday at Mahopac High School. The game, which kicks off at 1 p.m., is a rematch of a regular season meeting between the teams, which North Rockland won 28-8 in Week 6.
Regardless of what happened this season, the Red Raiders feel they’ve come too far to not win it all.
“You don't want to get to The Show and not finish it,” Lynch said. "We'll go back and prepare these next three days the way we have been all year and we'll be ready."
North Rockland exhibited its trademark grit and determination all afternoon, even when it fell behind in the first half.
The Huguenots went ahead 7-0 when a four-play, 61-yard scoring drive ended in a Kemet McLean 12-yard touchdown run.
But the Red Raiders responded with a head-spinning four-play drive of their own, going 61 yards with Tom Ginty ran in a 3-yard score. Ginty rushed for 83 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries.
New Rochelle went ahead just before the half on a 10-yard touchdown by Holden before the game changed in the third quarter. North Rockland, typically a power-I, grind-it-out offense, went to the air.
Devin Bovino hit Jarret Hilton for a 41-yard gain before finding John Dapolito for a 12-yard touchdown. The snap on the extra point was mishandled and New Rochelle clung to a 14-13 lead.
After stopping New Rochelle on fourth-and-5 at the North Rockland 10 early in the fourth, Bovino engineered another scoring drive. He completed all five pass attempts in a 91-yard scoring, which Rashon Johnson capped with a 7-yard touchdown run.
Khalil Edney, New Rochelle’s junior quarterback, led his team down the field in the final minutes, highlighted by his 10-yard scramble on fourth down with 25 seconds left. Edney finished with 17 carries for 108 yards and completed 14 of 25 passes for 189 yards.
Bovino was 12 of 22 passing for 165 yards for North Rockland, which is searching for its first sectional title since 2005.
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