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Let’s start this column off with a disclaimer: Ask any knowledgeable football mind and they’ll tell you 7-on-7s rarely dictate a team’s success. And since there’s no tire-rolling or rope-tugging among linemen during games, neither do competitions like the Lineman Challenge.
But the Carmel 7-on-7 and Lineman Challenge is the highlight event of the summer in Hudson Valley football. Nearly 40 schools competed in either, or both, showcases in the two-day event. MSG Varsity was there from start to finish. Check back soon to watch highlights and interviews from Carmel.
Here are my thoughts from Carmel as the summer football heats up across the Hudson Valley:
10 Observations from the Carmel showcase
1. Freshmen under center. Two prominent Section 1 squads may line up a freshman quarterbacks this fall. Carmel has an intense quarterback battle with freshman Joe Rodriguez showing off a big arm in Friday’s showcase. Coach Todd Cayea said he’s definitely good enough to play now. On Saturday, Lourdes freshman-to-be Dean Roger took a significant number of snaps and displayed good mobility and decision-making. Lourdes, with its hulking offensive line (more on them in a moment), will pound the football this season. Roger will be a facilitator and coach Brian Walsh feels the youngster has the poise to win the job.
2. Arlington repeats as Lineman Challenge champs — but Lourdes may have impressed the most. Speaking of Lourdes, the Warriors may have finished third in the Lineman Challenge behind Arlington and FDR-Hyde Park, but they certainly won the eye test. Lourdes’ line returns all five starters from last year’s Section 1 Class B finalists, and only the five of them showed up to Saturday’s event (most teams had 7 or more linemen there). The bulk on this line is staggering — Devlin Brennan (6-4, 275), Nick Stufano (6-1, 295), Chris Grevais (6-1, 270), Joe Rhoads (6-5, 305) and Nick Porter (6-2, 245). They dominated some of the events. Two other linemen with great size — Jacob Wiegard (6-0, 190), Brett Van Buren (5-11, 230) — will also in the mix on both sides of the ball this season.
3. Positive vibes around Pleasantville. The Panthers have long been one of the most consistent and strong small-school programs in the region. But they’ve been rather quiet the last two years. That will change. Pleasantville has been extremely active already this offseason, faring well and bringing big numbers to the Big Apple 7 on 7 and this weekend to Carmel. It’s only a matter of time before the Panthers contend again in Class B. This will be the year.
4. Kevin Duke is primed for a huge year. It’s hardly a secret at this point that the rising junior at Ketcham is one of the elite QBs in the section. Following up a strong showing at the Tri-State Quarterback Showdown, Duke took a skeleton crew on Friday and led them up and down the field consistently. Ketcham, which had several starting receivers and backs absent from the event, has high hopes for the season with Duke’s leadership and growth the major reasons why.
5. North Rockland, Somers and White Plains were best defensive teams. While 7 on 7 events are hardly representative of actual football, you can tell some things from watching. And I saw outstanding defensive out of these three teams. Somers, especially, was good in the secondary with Stefano Bicknese. North Rockland’s linebacker crew was exceptional for the second event in a row, and White Plains’ team speed was noticeable.
6. Kyle Dingman will be a household name by Week 3. Arlington was dealt some tough news recently when star running back Parker Howard was officially ruled ineligible for the season because he played four years of varsity football. But QB Kyle Dingman might help soften the blow. The prep school transfer has tremendous pocket presence and a strong arm. He still has to win the QB battle, which will require absorbing the offense. If he does, don’t be shocked if Arlington caters its offense to Dingman in the opening weeks.
7. John Jay-EF and Somers have healthy QB battles going on. Competition is the ultimate driving force to success. Right now, these two contending teams have heated QB battles. Kyle Contreras, a running back last fall for the Patriots, is in the mix for the QB job and looked very sharp on Saturday. Somers, which may have the most backfield depth in Class A, has three guys vying for the position, including John Decker. Neither of these will likely be decided until double sessions.
8. Stepinac is loaded. Poor Stepinac, right? The Crusaders graduated six Division I players, including stars Caleb Gilligan-Evans and Austin Taps, and lost electric QB Mark White, who ran out of eligibility. Yeah, don’t feel sorry for them. Stepinac was probably the most efficient and explosive team at Carmel all weekend. QB Dan Hoffer continues to impress and may have the best arm in the Hudson Valley. And they had a slew of backs and receivers that impressed on Friday. Speed and depth will not be an issue this fall.
9. FDR-Hyde Park may be a dark horse in Section 9. The Presidents’ program has changed dramatically in the two seasons that Brian Bellino has spent as head coach. But this year they may take a serious step into contention in Class AA in Section 9. The linemen were tied with Arlington heading into the final event of the Lineman Challenge, and there’s just a great enthusiasm and commitment in a program that spent many, many years as a doormat in the conference. Not any more.
10. Tyler Keech and Jack Lambert may split more QB time than last year. John Jay-Cross River has a good problem; they have two elite quarterbacks. Last year, Tyler Keech took the majority of the snaps and Jack Lambert was at receiver because he may have the best hands in Section 1. But they shared the snaps, alternating series’ on Friday, and they said it could be that way in the season. Jay doesn’t have much backfield experience and they’ll be creative in keeping Keech and Lambert fresh and opposing defenses on their heels.
Email Kevin Devaney Jr. at email@example.com