Player to Watch: Joe Letizia, Tappan Zee
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Joe Letizia stepped onto the basketball court as Tappan Zee's starting point guard back in the eighth grade. In the fall of his freshman year, he was inserted at halfback on the Dutchmen football squad.
Now a senior, it's hard to remember a time before Letizia donned the Tappan Zee red and white. In his time on varsity, he's earned a reputation for being one of the toughest, most defensive-minded and durable athletes in the Hudson Valley.
Letizia, a 5-foot-8, 185-pounder, began making a name for himself as a freshman in basketball.
A quality perimeter shooter, Letizia emerged as a lockdown defensive player in the postseason to help guide seventh-seeded Tappan Zee to one of the most stunning playoff runs in Section 1 history. Letizia's defense in the final four at the County Center keyed wins over five-time champ Peekskill and rival Spring Valley in the final, landing Tappan Zee its first Section 1 title.
The following fall, Letizia had his breakout campaign in football. He led the Dutchmen to an 8-1 record and an Alternative League championship, scoring all three touchdowns in the final, a 20-0 win over rival Pearl River.
Letizia's junior basketball season featured a Rockland County championship and another run to the County Center. Last year in football, Letizia led Tappan Zee with 1,159 yards rushing and 19 touchdowns, and also had 192 yards receiving and two scores.
It will be tough, however, for anything to top his junior year in basketball. Letizia was the defensive stalwart on a gritty Tappan Zee squad that ripped through Section 1, posting an incredible 22-0 record before wins over Seton Catholic and Marlboro in the state tournament to book a trip to the NYS Class A final four in Glens Falls.
There, Letizia and Co. played one of the most memorable games in Section 1 history. Tappan Zee upset four-time defending champion Jamesville-DeWitt, a program with two national recruits in 6-10 Dajuan Coleman (Syracuse) and Tyler Cavanaugh (Wake Forest).
Tappan Zee was beaten in the title game by Harborfields, despite 14 points and five assists from Letizia, ending the year at 25-1.
Email Kevin Devaney Jr. at email@example.com
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