CARMEL, N.Y.— It was not what any fan would have expected after a 42-0 thumping of Horace Greeley, but the inexperienced Mahopac Indians were stymied by rival Carmel, 21-0 at the Rams’ homecoming on Friday, Sept. 16.
“Offensively we kept making fundamental mistakes,” Mahopac coach Mark Langella said. “Fumbling the ball, not hitting the open man. That puts us in a bad situation where the defense is trying to hold us in the game. As a young team we are just trying to get better every day.”
With the win, Carmel kept the Bryan Higgins Memorial Trophy for the second straight year.
Senior quarterback Andrew Ryan, who was removed from the game late in the third quarter after suffering a concussion, was picked off at the goal line by Rams’ cornerback David Vega early in the first quarter.
“He was maliciously hit in the head,” Langella said. “He was hit in the head directly and concussed. Now we are having him evaluated to make sure he is OK. He got hit head-to-head right in front us and unfortunately that was very dangerous.”
Following rounds of punting and hard-nosed defense from both sides, Carmel finally drew blood when halfback Henry Flocco scurried into the end zone for a 5-yard touchdown run with six minutes remaining in the half.
“A lot of why (we struggled) is the emotion of the game,” Langella said. “Sometimes kids get overly emotional and they lose their cool and that’s when errors start to happen. That’s how rivalries are and that’s why they are great games.”
Mahopac went three-and-out quite often and the Rams made them pay once more before halftime. Senior quarterback Kyle Shilling floated a 27-yard pass to senior wideout Andrew Dileo down the left-side on second-and-16 from the 48-yard line.
Carmel finished the drive dramatically on a 25-yard touchdown toss from Shilling to his favorite target Dileo again on third down and 10 with 28 seconds to spare in the second quarter. The versatile receiver reached over a swarming Anthony Ocello as Mahopac found itself in a 14-0 hole at the break.
“It is always a tough game with Carmel,” Mahopac senior Greg Libertino said. “During the second half our defense knew the game was not over and everyone was at full tilt to do whatever we could to stop them.”
The Indians’ defense did look better as a whole in the second half. Junior Joseph Dalo registered a sack and dove on a Carmel fumble in the third quarter. But Mahopac never got into a groove on offense, racking up 159 yards of total offense and only 41 on the ground.
“We held tough on defense; just a couple plays that we let go,” senior lineman Charlie Burt said. “We held them very well in the run game and put pressure on the quarterback.”
’Pac actually reached as close as the opposing team’s 19-yard line before Ryan was heavily pressured and forced to intentionally ground the ball on fourth-and-six during the third.
“The offense just needs to start clicking,” Libertino said. “Blocking must be improved by the offensive line and halfbacks to start off. Our passing game needs some work, the quarterbacks just need to see the field.”
Carmel slowly worked downfield, already chewing up the clock in the third quarter. Though they eventually took advantage of an inept Mahopac offense again when their defense engulfed junior punter Dennis Dowd after chasing down a wide fourth-down snap from the team’s own 28-yard line.
The Rams chose wisely in running a left-side sweep handoff to Leonard Flocco on the very next play for a nine-yard touchdown burst that made it 21-0 with eleven-and-a-half minutes remaining in the game.
“This game taught me a lot,” Libertino said. “It was our (seniors) last time playing this amazing rivalry with Carmel and it finally started to hit me that my football career here at Mahopac is almost over. Now I am ready to pick it up and get the whole team on board to show the town and everyone else that we won’t quit to make this year special.”
Dugan actually led the Indians down to the Carmel 38-yard line on the ensuing drive after avoiding trouble and finding Dalo for a 19-yard reception.
But it was just not Mahopac’s night as they failed to convert a fourth-and-nine following a fake punt handoff to senior fullback Dino Milazzo with less than five minutes left.
“Everything is there,” junior quarterback Ryan Dugan said. “It’s just executing it is the big thing. Our game plans have been there. Coach (Langella) has been setting us up right. We just need to execute.”
Sophomore halfback Justin Munoz played efficiently, taking three carries for 19 yards. Libertino caught a pass from Ryan in the first quarter and jetted 49 yards down to the Carmel goal line.
Dalo reeled in two catches for 33 yards and Milazzo caught one for 11 yards. Senior Andrew Blecker also made a 12-yard reception.
Ryan was 6 for 12 passing with 62 yards and an interception. Dugan impressed as a substitute completing three of eight passes for 56 yards.
Libertino led Mahopac with two solo tackles and 11 for the night. Dalo notched 10 total tackles and senior Dillon McDonough had nine. Munoz and junior Anthony DiCioccio pitched in with six total tackles each. Burt also had a sack.
“I am most certainly confident that we can fix the small problems to make the best out of the rest of our season,” Burt said. “I am certain we will be coming with a vengeance from here on out, especially in the playoffs.”
The Indians (1-2) will next travel to LaGrangeville to take on the undefeated Arlington Admirals at 7 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 23.
“It will be a critical thing on Monday how they come out to practice,” Langella said. “I think they learned something tonight which is the key thing. We hope to learn and get better enough to beat Arlington.”