WAPPINGERS FALLS, N.Y.— Just one year ago, Mahopac’s football team stumbled to a 2-4 regular season record in what was a forgettable campaign.
The program has drastically changed for the better in 2017, starting with the acquisition of coach Dominick DeMatteo. The Indians concluded the regular season with a 4-2 record after a 20-7 victory over host Roy C. Ketcham on Friday, Oct. 6.
“I would say so and that’s not to minimize anything we’ve done or these kids,” DeMatteo said when asked if the team’s record has exceeded his expectations. “To be hired so late, to come into this thing not knowing where we were going to be or what we were going to have; to finish 4-2 and be in AA-North and to lose those two games by a combined five points—it’s astounding. I’m very excited for the kids and the community.”
Mahopac earned the No. 7 seed and will host No. 10 North Rockland in the Class AA qualifying round at 7 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 13.
It was an uneventful first half, but Mahopac’s offense got on the board with just 8.7 seconds left in the second quarter. Senior quarterback Ryan Dugan threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to junior Reahl Allen, who DeMatteo said has “really evolved since the [John Jay-East Fishkill] game.” He used his 6-foot-4 frame to go up and grab the ball over the smaller Ketcham defender.
“We’ve practiced that a lot,” Dugan said. “It was nice for it to pay off in a game.”
The drive was set up by a fumble recovery by senior Martin Ventura-Romero. Senior Justin Munoz forced the turnover with 1:20 left in the first half.
Ketcham chewed up the clock early in the first half, preventing Mahopac’s offense from getting in a rhythm.
“I think we had two drives the first quarter,” Dugan said. “We should have punched one in, but we came up short. It was huge momentumwise going into half to get that touchdown.”
DeMatteo was proud of the Indians’ resiliency.
“They had an opening drive that was long and deep into our territory,” DeMatteo said. “We talked to the kids about that. We said, ‘They’re big, physical and run the ball well.’ We just have to be able to stay with the plan, stay with our techniques and not get frustrated and the kids did that. To stop them, execute the back to the wall offense and get it out of there and punt was huge in the first half. Then we finally got going (offensively).”
Mahopac went three-and-out to start the second half but a booming punt from Dennis Dowd pinned Ketcham at its own 2-yard line. Ketcham was unable to muster a drive and punted as Mahopac secured strong field position after senior Joe Dalo returned the kick into Ketcham territory.
Dugan, who was 9 for 13 for 130 yards passing, hit senior Brendan D’Iorio (three catches, 74 yards) on a slant that went for a 36-yard touchdown. That score extended the lead to 14-0 with 6:27 left in the third quarter.
“I saw linebackers creeping up so I threw it right over,” Dugan said. “He made one guy miss and it was off to the races.”
Mahopac added another score late in the third quarter. Dugan connected with senior Max Bauer, who jetted down to the 1-yard line and fellow senior Matt Firrincieli plowed into the end zone on the next play.
Senior Alex DiCioccio led the Indians on the ground with 62 yards rushing. Mahopac’s defense had seven sacks with Nick Hayes leading the way with 2.5.
“I’m thrilled with the way our defense played tonight—quite frankly all year,” DeMatteo said. “We have an intelligent group so we’ve been able to do a lot of things schematically from week to week. The kids really have been able to embrace it. More importantly, we really tightened up and cleaned up the technique. We had to break a lot of bad habits to be perfectly honest. Now that we’re having success, I think they’re really buying into it. We give great effort and any time you give effort in anything you’ve always got a shot.”
Ketcham got on the board with just two minutes left but at that point the win was already locked up for a Mahopac team stifled Ketcham’s offense.
“We know they’re a power (offense) and they like to run up the middle,” D’Iorio said. “We had to keep doing our checks, saw our strong safety was in the box and just had to play our best.”
The Indians will don new black home jerseys when they host North Rockland on Friday night. They received the jerseys when they returned home from the game at Ketcham.
“It’s a huge adrenaline rush for us—we just wanted those jerseys,” D’Iorio said. “Last season we didn’t do so well. My senior year now I just wanted to do better and we get this home (playoff) game with these home uniforms—I’m just really excited.”
His teammate agreed.
“We’ve been staying focused every week and our preparation’s been great,” Dugan said. “It means so much to the seniors (to get a home playoff game). We’re getting new jerseys which we get to break out which is awesome.”