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For the fourth time in 17 days, North Rockland stepped on the football field for a do-or-die battle.
For the second consecutive week, the Red Raiders also went into overtime.
On Saturday in the NYS Class AA regional finals at Dietz Stadium in Kingston, it all finally took a toll on the Red Raiders. North Rockland — which downed John Jay-EF in overtime of the sectional finals — couldn't muster up the same magic twice, falling to Section 2's Shenendehowa, 13-10, in double-overtime.
“We gave it everything and left it all on the field,” defensive end Mike Caputo said. “We pushed them to overtime, but it just wasn’t enough.”
North Rockland kicker Paul Prendergast hit a 36-yard field goal in the second overtime to give North Rockland a 10-7 lead, but Shenendehowa completed a screen pass to tailback Tony Fusco which he took nine yards for the game-winning score. Fusco hurdled a defender at the 3-yard line during the play.
“It was a disappointing way to lose, but I’m so proud of the kids,” North Rockland first-year coach Tom Lynch said. “We kept fighting our way back during the game, and I thought we played great tonight.”
During the first overtime, North Rockland (9-2) forced Shenendehowa (11-0) into a long field goal situation. The Plainsmen missed the ensuing kick giving the Red Raiders a shot to win the game. North Rockland committed a costly penalty on its offensive series, which led to a 30-yard field goal attempt from the left hash mark. The kick was pushed just left of the upright, forcing the second overtime.
“We got everything we wanted in that first overtime,” Lynch said. “We just happened to miss a tough kick, but our kicker came right back and drilled an even longer one. That’s football.”
North Rockland was down 7-0 at the half and was outgained in offensive yards 167 to 70, but came out of the locker room with determination. The Red Raiders drove 65 yards in 12 plays to tie the score right out of the gate — almost doubling their offensive output in one series. Quarterback Devin Bovino scored the touchdown with 7:07 left in the third quarter, plunging into the end zone on a 1-yard keeper. He also scrambled for a key first down on the drive. Tom Ginty ended up with 120 yards rushing on 17 carries in the game for North Rockland.
“That’s what our whole season has been about,” Caputo said. “We’re a second-half team, and we never get down. That’s what we did there.”
North Rockland’s defense contained an explosive Shenendehowa offense, which hadn’t scored less than 27 points in a game all season. Fusco, who had 1,429 yards and 29 touchdowns coming into the game, finished with 132 yards on 29 carries. He had both of Shenendehowa's touchdowns, scampering 30 yards for a score to give the Plainsmen a 7-0 lead at the half.
North Rockland’s defensive front did a good job limiting the passing game, led by Joe Scheffold at tackle and Caputo on the edge. Caputo had three sacks.
Shenendehowa will face Newburgh Free Academy (Section 9) in the state semis on Saturday, November 19 at Dietz Stadium in Kingston at 7 p.m. in the Class AA state semifinals next weekend.
North Rockland heads towards the offseason reflecting on a great year.
“A lot of people wrote us off early in the season and then we rattled off nine straight wins,” Lynch said. “No matter what, we’re proud of these guys and we’ll get right back into it the Monday after Thanksgiving preparing for next year.”
Email John Malone at firstname.lastname@example.org | Follow him on Twitter: @MSGV_Malone