Sunday, October 26, 2014

Sleepy Prepares For Halloween Brawl

Growing up in Sleepy Hollow, the Headless Horsemen's varsity football team has heard countless tales of Ichabod Crane and other fictional ghosts and demons.

There is no fiction or hype surrounding this year's squad, which features a beast of its own in freakish sophomore running back Jon Gomez.

While never fazed by anything that appears more rumor than reality, the Headless Horsemen (6-2) understand top-seeded and undefeated Yorktown (8-0) is for real. The Huskers' stranglehold on Class A is no mythical Halloween story.

The Headless Horsemen's prolific offense, which vows to keep defenses on the move with an unyielding blend of aerials and stout ground game, will prepare for its biggest challenge.

It's only fitting the game is slated for Halloween Night.

What's scarier, Gomez running at full throttle or Yorktown's monstrous offensive line? Is the threat of Yorktown's explosive running back Nicky Santavicca as ghastly as Sleepy's hot-handed receiver Dan Chevere?

Will Yorktown quarterback Ryan Baker's speed, 6-foot-3 man-child tight end Dan Delbene's hands or Joey Good's pocket poise steal the freight night show?

Better get your candy ready for this one. You'll likely need the quick-fix of sugar energy.

"Yorktown is a physical team so we know it's going to be a fight out there," said Good, who has emerged into one of the area's highest-efficiency red zone passers.

"We won't change how we prepare."

The Headless Horsemen appear well-prepared, having ripped off four of its last five.

 They bounced back from a 25-21 loss to Walter Panas by posting a 27-14 over John Jay-Cross River last week. The 27-14 count is identical to what the Huskers put up in a win over the Indians in its season finale.

Sleepy readied itself for the rigors of the schedule with five speed camps and several Lineman Challenges this summer.

Holding their own speed camps on Tuesdays and Thursdays, while filling the Mondays and Wednesdays in with practices, there was never a dull moment.

"With the work our line put in before the season started and throughout the whole summer, we are able to be a well-balanced offense through the run and pass game," Good said.

"It's been crucial for success."

Gomez, shaping into the program's most electrifying runner since the multi-faceted LJ Garrant in 2011, shredded the Indians for 114 yards and two touchdowns. The sophomore sparked the Horsemen with a 26-yard TD scamper just four minutes into the game.

"He's been playing like a man against boys lately," said Sleepy Hollow cornerback Wendell Brand, who has shouldered a utility role this season and worn multiple jerseys.

"Having him in the backfield, as well as Ariel Dejesus, gives defenses two different styles of running which really throws them off."

Good, who has eclipsed the 1,000-yards milestone in the air, has paralleled Sleepy's success.

Good featured tight end Michael Morales throughout the John Jay game, routinely hitting the junior in stride.

He scored touchdowns both in the air and on the run. The multi-sport senior announced his presence from the jump, firing in four touchdown passes en route to a wild 55-27 throttling of next door blood rival Ossining in Week 1.

Helping push Good's evolution has been Nick Vallo, the former Sleepy QB now at Ithaca College. Vallo, who threw for over 2,000 yards after transferring from wide receiver to signal caller his junior season, worked extensively with Good throughout the summer.

The two went over routes and orchestrated 7-on-7s on Sleepy Hollow's home field, sometimes working late into the night.

"He was like a sponge, everything I said he listened," Vallo said.

"Since I could explain it from a QB standpoint and a wide receiver standpoint, he would understand it. I would tell him, 'As a QB throw here so the receiver could make the play' or advise him to throw it before he breaks. Little things like that we'd school him on."

Chevere, Good's no.1 target, has had several 100+yards receiving games this season. Both he and Vallo ran routes, keeping Good consistent with the playbook.

"Whoever was there would run the route and Joey would just fire in a money ball," Vallo said.
"His season is proof that hard work pays off."

Vallo, who was on the sideline for Sleepy's regular season win over Nyack, helped Good read defenses and instilled confidence in him.

Buoyed by Santavicca, the Huskers have opened up an aerial attack to supplement one of the best backfields in Section 1. With hellfire-fast 5-foot-8 back Santavicca handling a bulk of the labor and Timmy Forbes serving as a between-the-tackles hammer, several teams have loaded up the box on the Huskers.

In the Huskers' 28-21 victory over Nyack, it was Delbene who reeled in a wild, game-saving reception which kept the final possession intact.

Delbene's catch occurred on fourth-and-nine on the final drive. At first he snatched it with the tips of his fingers. Then he bobbled it. Then Delbene secured it and held on for the most dazzling moment of a pulsating win.

"Plays like that you've just got to zone everything out," Delbene said. "All the screaming, all the fans. You've just got to look at the ball. Look right at it. Put your hands on it, and hope for the best."

Santavicca, who gashed Greeley for 333 yards in Week 4, has ascended the ranks among program legends such as John Fennessey and Brandon Trager.

 As a junior, he's become the program's sturdiest rusher in 20 years. He's lethal for his ability to bounce around would-be tacklers and keep his feet moving amid contact.

Last season, Yorktown gutted out a wild 37-35 Bowl Game. The Huskers fended off a wild comeback bid, nearly frittering away a double-digit first half lead. The hard-hitting of then-senior Connor Vercruysse helped tame a late passing spree from then-QB Devin Lopez.

This season, both teams are chasing history. Yorktown is looking to sustain its unblemished record, thirsting for its first Section 1 title since 1998. Sleepy is looking to quell a drought stemming all the way back to 1972.

This is Baker v.s. Good. This is Gomez v.s. Yorktown's monstrous defensive line.

This is a reason to get your candy ready.