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Coming into Friday’s NYS Class B regional final between Section 1's Croton-Harmon and Section 9's Marlboro, the Tigers were expected to win.
Croton — which was coming off a solid 21-7 victory over Lourdes in the sectional championship — had little trouble in this very game last year, thumping Section 9's New Paltz, 27-0.
Against the Iron Dukes, however, things got off to a bit of a shaky start. Aided by two Croton fumbles, Eric Goslar booted a 27-yard field goal to give Marlboro an early 3-0 first-quarter lead.
As it turned out, Goslar's field goal was akin to poking, well, a caged Tiger with a stick.
Croton (10-0) snapped back with ferocity, outscoring the Dukes (9-2) 46-0 en route to a 46-3 victory at Mahopac High School.
“I think the big reason we played so well was that score at the beginning,” said senior captain Kyle Ricciardi, who earned the game's most outstanding lineman award. “(Marlboro) settled for the field goal but once we saw them score, we knew we had to put it past us and shut them down.”
And the Tigers did just that, limiting Marlboro to just 3 total yards of offense through the first three quarters. Overall, the Dukes racked up fewer than 50 yards, picking up most of them late in the fourth quarter.
Offensively, junior running back Nick Grous led the way, rushing for 164 yards and three touchdowns on just 10 carries. Grous ran for 52 yards on Croton’s second drive after giving up the field goal just minutes into the game, providing the Tigers with the spark they needed. He also took home the game’s most outstanding back award.
“I didn’t get to play in this game last year,” said Grous, who was forced to miss the rest of the playoffs after suffering a lacerated spleen in the 2010 sectional finals against Westlake. “So getting my chance this year and playing so well individually and as a team is just amazing. You can’t ask much more from a team. Besides the small slip-up early, we pretty much played as well as you can.”
Senior quarterback Jesse Mainiero chipped in with 116 rushing yards and two touchdowns (4, 4) on 19 carries. Brian Soares (32-yard TD run) and Trevor Wolstencroft (4-yard TD run) rounded out the offensive production for the Tigers.
“Usually, I’m getting all of the numbers, but today, today was Nick’s day,” Mainiero said. “He really carried us, played a great game and deserved the award. He’s going to be great next year.”
Croton advances to the state semifinal game and will face the winner of Schalmont (Section 2) and Peru (Section 7) on Saturday, November 19 at Dietz Stadium in Kingston at 3 p.m. Schalmont defeated Croton last year in the state semis, so the idea of a rematch has the Tigers foaming at the mouth.
“We played Schalmont last year, so we’ve got a little unfinished business there,” Ricciardi said. “We’ll prepare like we do every week, but if they win, we’ll have a little extra motivation there for sure.”
Email Jordan Griffith at JGriffit@cablevision.com. Follow him on Twitter: @MSGV_JGriffith