Friday, October 31, 2014

Santavicca Runs Wild In 47-12 Semifinal Stomping

It was projected to be an Oct.31 battle, the scalding and heavily-hyped Section 1/Class A semifinal between Yorktown and Sleepy Hollow.

It wasn't.

On Halloween night, with the fictional tale of Sleepy Hollow enlivening the spirit, Yorktown looked like the big bullies stealing the helpless younger Trick Or Treaters' candy.

Bolstered by Nick Santavicca, who racked up 215 yards and scored four touchdowns--including three in the first half, when he scorched Sleepy for 177 yards on 15 carries and accounted for Yorktown's first three touchdowns--the Huskers hammered Sleepy Hollow in an end-to-end 47-12 drubbing.

Now Yorktown is back in the Section 1 championship for the first time in 16 years. They'll play the winner of tomorrow's Rye/Somers game at Mahopac's turf field at 7 p.m.

"I've been waiting for this moment for three years and it's finally right in front of me," said senior tight end/defensive end Dan Delbene, instrumental in halting Sleepy Hollow's rugged ground game.

"Now it's time for me and the rest of our family to show everyone what Yorktown football is all about."

If Yorktown can repeat its execution and stout defense of Friday night, consider those words of warning.

Built on speed, agility, and power, Santavicca has bounced back from a torn labrum as a sophomore with a historic junior season.

 A kid who studies opponents religiously and watches game film more than he does television, Santavicca has piled up 1,506 yards this season.  He shattered the single-season record, 1,382, held by program great and former Journal News Player of the Year Pete Cariello.

Cariello, the program's all-time leading rusher with 2,046 yards, graduated in 1996.

A three-year starter at fullback at UMass, Cariello emerged into an NFL prospect during his senior year before sustaining a career-altering neck injury.

What does Santavicca attribute to this performance, which saw him mash and mow the Headless Horsemen with relative ease?

"Like I always say, my linemen," he explained.

"They created holes that I can run through all night, and it was also due to the other backs and receivers blocking downfield."

Santavicca said the only award that's meaningful for him is a championship. He did admit, however, that it's nice to be mentioned alongside elite program company.

"It really is unbelievable to be in the same category as Pete Cariello, arguably the best back in Yorktown history, John Fennessey, Brandon Trager, and my cousin (Paul Santavicca)," he said.

"It's a blessing, but it doesn't matter until we win it all."

The Huskers were energized by a sterling performance from elusive quarterback Ryan Baker.

 The 5-foot-8, 148-pound senior scampered for 111 yards on eight touches.

He broke an electrifying 75-yard touchdown jaunt as Yorktown seized a commanding 35-0 lead with 11:12 remaining in the third quarter.

Sleepy Hollow, which struggled mightily to find traction in a lackluster first half, finally thwarted the onslaught when Joey Good connected with Jon Gomez on a four-yard touchdown strike.

Yorktown kept the heat on as Baker fed an astonishingly open James Fennessey in the back of the end zone for an eight-yard touchdown and an insurmountable 40-6 bulge.

Beyond Baker and Santavicca, fullback Timmy Forbes barreled in for a nine-yard touchdown to stake the Huskers to a 28-0 lead.

 It was Forbes who punched in the game-sealing score in a pulsating 28-21 Sectional quarterfinal win over Nyack.

There was no thriller Friday night, as Sleepy Hollow's prolific offense was negated.

 The Headless Horsemen were never able to find a rhythm. The connection between Good and Dan Chevere, who has had several 100+ yards receiving games this season, was sealed off.

Good, a crafty lefty who was superb during the Headless Horsemen's 27-14 quarterfinal victory over John Jay, encountered difficulty with Yorktown's defense.

There were several dropped balls and good clean looks that the Horsemen simply didn't capitalize on.

"Everything was working at full force tonight," Delbene said.

"Offense, defense, special teams. We were firing on all cylinders."

The defensive pressure was felt in the second half. Senior defensive back Shivam Gupta laid out a mean hit on Gomez.

Then, Ryan Brandt and Justin Vega knocked down Good on an up-the-middle keeper. On the ensuing play, Delbene locked arms with Good and dragged him down for the sack. Like that, the energy reverberated across the field.

The Huskers hope these boisterous eruptions spread to Mahopac next week. They'll face either the resplendent Andrew Livingston-Tim DeGraw connection at Rye or reigning champion Somers in the final.

The Huskers haven't faced an aerial attack of Rye's caliber since a 32-21 victory over Greeley in Week 4. They defeated Somers, 21-7, in a signature Week II win. The win catapulted them into the Section's upper crust. They haven't lost steam since.

No team outside of Nyack has come within a touchdown of them. The quick work of a balanced Sleepy Hollow team is proof of the Huskers' daunting depth.