Expectations for a defending champion had never felt so tempered. Somers ran through Section 1 last season and the 19 starters that graduated took a piece of the program’s identity with it as the Tuskers entered 2013 under clouds of uncertainty.
“You always want to think positive,” Somers senior Erik Carnazza said. “We still felt we could be good.”
Good became great for Somers once Section 1 playoffs started. And on Saturday night, great became a champion.
Somers shut down the section’s most prolific offense and used two sensational plays from quarterback Tim Cousin to ride to a 20-7 victory over Rye in the Section 1 Class A final at Mahopac High School.
Cousin snapped a scoreless tie in the third quarter with a 60-yard touchdown pass to Josh Riger, a play where Cousin eluded two defenders. He then used a 32-yard scramble to set up another score as Somers went back-to-back with two entirely different rosters.
“This win is all about the 40-something kids on this team,” Somers coach Tony DeMatteo said. “It’s not about me, it’s not about the other coaches, it’s not about the community. These kids believes in themselves and they deserve all the credit for this win.”
Somers’ defense came up with the biggest goal-line stand of the past two seasons, stopping Rye with over four minutes left after the Garnets had first-and-goal at the 5.
On fourth down, Rye ran a double-reverse to Tim DeGraw, a play that went for a big gain earlier on the drive. This time, though, DeGraw got near the goal line, jumped and was hit by three defenders. The ball came loose and Somers recovered in the end zone for a touchback.
The Tuskers went on an 80-yard scoring drive against a worn-down Rye defense to seal it.
“We always thought we could win a championship,” said Cousin, who ran for 74 yards on eight carries and threw for 63 yards. “These guys, we always believed in ourselves.”
DeMatteo was quick to point out Saturday how low the bar was set his squad back in August. Teams like Rye, Harrison, and Sleepy Hollow were regarded as title favorites while the Tuskers were respected but mostly living off reputation.
Reputation soon became reality for Somers, which went 7-1 in the regular season with its lone loss coming in Week 2 to Rye, 20-13. Even with a group of largely inexperienced starters, the Tuskers nearly pulled that upset.
On Saturday, the victory was hardly a surprise given the drastic improvements of Cousin and the offensive line, as well as the seemingly limitless depth in the backfield.
The secondary deserve much of the credit for the championship game victory. Matt Arita, Matt Morgante, Tyler DeVito and Joe Spor eliminated the deep ball for Rye and quarterback Andrew Livingston with the exception of one play.
Livingston passed for 192 yards, 80 of which came on a fourth-quarter touchdown to Chris Santangelo on a great play-fake, and 45 more came in the final minute against a prevent Somers defense.
Rye’s game plan was built around running the ball, which it did effectively with Shane O’Malley. The senior rushed for 181 yards but did it on a grueling 36 carries behind an undermanned offensive line. Rye simply couldn’t sustain drives.
Somers moves on to the state tournament where it will face Cornwall on Friday in the state quarterfinals. The teams met last season, which Cornwall won handily. The rematch is at Dietz Stadium in Kingston at 7 p.m.
Email Kevin Devaney Jr. at firstname.lastname@example.org