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WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. — The Monroe-Woodbury players and coaches had been following the scores all weekend. They knew Newburgh had knocked off Xaverian and that Washingtonville defeated St. Francis Prep.
It was unprecedented success for underappreciated Section 9 against the mighty CHSFL. And not only did Monroe-Woodbury do its share on Saturday night, they punctuated one of the most important weekends in the history of Section 9 football.
Monroe-Woodbury went on the road and romped to a 35-7 victory at Stepinac, last year’s AAA Division finalists, in the Joe Riverso Memorial Game. It was the third victory in five games for Section 9 against CHSFL competition, a record that will resonate around the Tri-State area.
“The Catholic is a whole ‘nother level of football,” Monroe senior Mark Tooma said. “I think we stepped up our level tonight because we knew the type of competition we were up against.
“Stepinac has always been a great team, a Catholic league team. We felt this would be a great test for us. Offensively, we just moved the ball up and down the field and the defense was unbelievable. This was just a great team game.”
Tooma continued to establish himself as an electrifying presence, both as a running back and on special teams. After starting in the secondary last season, he’s moved to offense exclusively this fall and is flourishing in his new role.
Monroe-Woodbury, which opened the season with a win at home over Binghamton last week, forced a turnover on the game’s opening series when Ricky Giraldo intercepted a pass at the Stepinac 38. Tooma broke a 28-yard run on the next play before junior quarterback Kevin Carr ran in a 15-yard score.
Stepinac (0-1) punted on the ensuing drive to Tooma, who ran right through the middle, broke a few tackles and ran 70 yards for a score. It was his second return touchdown in as many weeks.
Carr, Tooma and receiver Justin Kaffenberger was too much for Stepinac’s rebuilt defense to contend with. Carr ran for 79 yards and passed for 133 yards and a score. Tooma rushed for 98 yards and two scores, and Kaffenberger caught six passes for 78 yards and a touchdown.
Monroe-Woodbury’s offensive line, led by junior center Nick Dillon, controlled play up front as Monroe outgained Stepinac 313-179. Stepinac’s touchdown, a 1-yard run by Malcolm Major, came in the final minutes against Monroe’s second-string defense.
The win was bittersweet for Monroe-Woodbury coach Bernie Connolly, a 1974 Stepinac graduate and head coach at the school from 1984-87.
“I wish we could have won this 7-0,” Connolly said.
The margin of victory definitely stunned Connolly.
“We were a little shocked,” Connolly said. “I think the big advantage for us was that we did have a game under our belt. We came out quick.”
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