Clarkstown North turns back Scarsdale
So there was the Scarsdale football team, playing with heavy hearts and clearly on the comeback trail in Saturday's season-opener against Clarkstown North.
The inspired Raiders, taking the field for the first time since teammate Tyler Madoff was swept out to sea in Hawaii in July, had already halved a two-touchdown deficit and were moving in for the tying score.
And that's when the momentum would turn for good.
Only it would change in the Rams' favor, courtesy of a touchdown-saving tackle by senior defensive back Billy Delay.
Delay dragged down junior fullback Eric Berman inside the 1-yard line on a fourth down pass in the flat from quarterback Andrew Verboys Jr. -- a play that kept the Raiders off the board after a 16-play that chewed up nearly eight minutes to start the third quarter.
Just how big of a momentum swing was it?
Well consider that Clarkstown North would go on to rip off three consecutive touchdowns en route to an impressive 33-14 victory at Scarsdale High School's Butler Field.
"That was a huge play by Billy and one that really changed the outcome of the game," Rams coach Joe Trongone said. "We did some good things today. Our offense set the tone on the first drive and defensively we were able to force some turnovers and get some pressure on a very good quarterback. This was a good way for us to start the season."
The fourth-down play was so close to paydirt that Scarsdale coach Andrew Verboys believed Berman spun off the defender and into the end zone without ever first touching the ground.
"It was huge because we had the wind at our back, ate up that much time and didn't come away with any points," Verboys said. "The referee never did give me an explanation for why the ball was spotted where it was. If we're awarded a touchdown on that play, we're attempting the game-tying extra point and then who knows what happens. As it was, it took the wind out of our sails."
Spearheaded by the rushing attack of Matt McMullin, Eddie Ruckel and Delay, the Rams offense rolled up nearly 360 total yards -- including a pair of long scoring drives on their first two possessions.
Ruckel capped a 16-play, 76-yard drive on the game's opening series with a 6-yard touchdown, and the Rams then make it 14-0 early in the second quarter on a 12-yard touchdown pass from Frank Regalbuto to fellow senior Anthony Termine.
The 11-play, 80-yard drive was interrupted by consecutive holding penalties on first-and-goal, but Regalbuto (6 of 8, 69 yards) and the Rams would not be denied.
"That's the difference between last year and this year," Trongone said, "Our ability to throw the ball."
Of course, Verboys Jr. and the Raiders can throw it too.
After a fumbled punt recovery by Jesse Schreiber, Scarsdale took over on the 28-yard line and Verboys went to work -- connecting with senior Robert Plummer on a 17-yard touchdown with 2:36 left in the first half.
That was one of two scores on the day for Plummer, who flashed his big-play ability on an 80-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter.
In between, however, most of the big plays belonged to the Rams.
Still clinging to a 14-7 lead, Clarkstown South got an interception by senior Jeremy Job on the first play of the first quarter.
Two plays later, McMullin burst through the line for a 36-yard touchdown in which he dropped the ball before scooping it back up on the run.
On the next series, a 14-yard sack by Guido Porcelli led to a three-and-out -- and once again, the Rams would take advantage of a short field.
McMullin's 9-yard run with 5:40 remaining punctuated an eight-play drive -- all on the ground.
The Rams' final score came when 230-pound junior lineman Josh Dinkins plucked a fumble out of the air and rumbled 34 yards to make it 33-7 with 3:37 remaining.
Before the game, there was a moment of silence for Madoff, whose No. 51 jersey number appeared on the uniforms and helmets of the Scarsdale players and was also displayed at Butler Field.
"It's been hard all summer," Verboys said. "This is an emotional time, but this is a great group of kids who have really stuck with it."