MAHOPAC, N.Y. - For the first time in a long time it feels like Mahopac football has turned the corner. Diligently battling to the final whistle, the Indians trumped league-rival Arlington, 19-14, on Friday’s senior night at the high school.
“It means so much to me and the seniors,” senior quarterback Ryan Dugan said. “There was a long time where we didn’t have a coach, but we’d still rally together in the weight room or do sprints on the field, whatever we could to be ready. We thought we could do something this year.”
Mahopac (2-0) bullied the Admirals’ defensive line for the majority of the contest, carrying its 19-0 edge into the fourth quarter before Arlington finally showed life on a touchdown pass with 10 minutes to play.
Another touchdown toss came just four minutes later following a blocked Indian punt, as Arlington’s offense stampeded down the field and suddenly trailed by only five points.
This was right when running back Tim Cegielski denied the home team a loss on senior night, as the junior escaped tacklers in the backfield on third-down-and-6 to plunge for the first down in Admiral territory.
“I talked to my linemen,” Cegielski said. “I told them if they give me 100 percent blocking, that I’ll give them 100 percent. We came together and it’s like a brotherhood. Nothing like it. Last year we were a great team, but we didn’t come together as much as this year.”
Cegielski was eventually stuffed on a potentially game-clinching fourth-and-1 inside the opponent’s 10-yard line, but not before the clock read 22 seconds with the Indians ahead, 19-14.
Arlington managed to reach its own 36-yard line, but the Indians could taste the win with only five seconds left for one play. They stopped a long Admiral run about 40 yards shy of the end zone before invading the field in joy.
Dominick DeMatteo, who is in his first season as Mahopac head coach, previously coached Arlington from 2007-2015.
“We have some great kids in this program,” DeMatteo said. “I mean good kids who are giving everything that they have. More than anything, I’m happy for our team and immensely happy for our senior class which has really been through a lot. This is a program win from 9U all the way up to our senior class.”
DeMatteo even received the first Gatorade shower of his new tenure at Mahopac, as it blissfully knocked off the same defending league champion Admirals that dominated it up in LaGrangeville last season.
“I really believe that this is something that our community can rally around and be proud of,” DeMatteo said. “The win is nice, but more so to the way we’re playing. The kids are embracing the game plan, are organized and our effort is just off the charts.”
Shocking the crowd in the second quarter, the locked-in Indians scored 13 points and led 13-0 at halftime. Senior fullback Sal Marchionni bowled up the middle for a 1-yard touchdown on a wildcat snap with eight minutes left in the second quarter.
Senior John Dignam nailed the extra point on a drive that was sparked from a fumble recovery by defensive lineman Matt Posniak at Arlington’s 32-yard line. On the ensuing play, Dugan slung a pass across the middle to wide receiver Reahl Allen, who jetted down to the goal line.
Mahopac cashed in again on its next possession starting at midfield from an Admiral punt. It gradually advanced toward the goal before Cegielski took a direct snap from the 9-yard line and scurried down the side-line for his second touchdown run.
But the main back wasn’t quite done, since he pounded into the end zone on a third down near the conclusion of the third quarter. The 21-yard drive was caused by an Admiral fumble once more.
Cegielski wore the opponent down on 29 carries for 139 yards, with 52 yards coming on Mahopac’s last drive. On special teams, none of Dignam’s kicks allowed Arlington to start past its own 20-yard line. The Indians’ defense even dug up three fumble recoveries in the resounding triumph.
“Timmy (Cegielski) did a great job,” DeMatteo said. “He’s strong, athletic and has a gear that I really didn’t think he had after preseason. He is hitting the entry points where you’re supposed to and we’re thrilled with his development.”
He and Marchionni picked up the load after senior running back Alex DiCioccio fractured his hand in the opening win over Ossining just after recovering from two hip surgeries.
Dugan completed six of 14 pass attempts for 39 yards while Mahopac mainly relied on its 148 rushing yards along with superior field position.
Needing to keep its focus, Mahopac prepares for its annual showdown with arch-nemesis Carmel. This year’s match will be special because it’s also homecoming as the Indians try to snatch back the Higgins Trophy for the first time since 2014.
“We’re not going to get too high after this,” Dugan said. “We’ve still got business to take care of and we’re just going to keep a level head. Carmel always plays tough—always. So it’s going to be a dogfight.”