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NYS Class AA Quarterfinals
North Rockland (9-1) vs. Shenendehowa (10-0)
When: Saturday, 7 p.m.
Where: Dietz Stadium, Kingston
State tournament history
1993: Won Class A state championship
1994: Lost in Class A state final
1999: Lost in AA state quarterfinals
2001: Lost in AA state final
2002: Lost in AA state quarterfinals
2005: Lost in AA state semifinals
1995: Lost in Class A state final
2002: Lost in Class A state final
2003: Lost in Class A state semifinals
Did you know? North Rockland and Shenendehowa met in the 2002 state quarterfinals. Shen won the game 42-0 before defeating Newburgh 42-0 in the semifinals the following week. Newburgh won this year’s Section 9 championship and has a bye into the semifinals.
Player to watch
Nick Connell, Jr., RB/DB: All Connell has done in the postseason is make big plays. He broke up a potential game-winning touchdown in the final second against New Rochelle and scored both touchdowns in the 14-7 OT win over John Jay in the title game.
Tom Ginty, Sr., RB: The veteran back is durable and is so good running inside and out. His toughness sets the tone for the entire North Rockland offense.
John Dapolito, Jr., FB/LB: The two-way standout has become a confident and steady contributor on both sides of the ball. He’s emerging as a solid receiver, as well.
Tony Fusco, Sr., RB: The electric Fusco has rushed for 1,429 yards and 29 TDs. He’s one of the most highly-touted backs in the state.
Marcellino Christie, Jr., RB: He doesn’t see many touches but makes the most of the ones he does. He’s averaging 8.9 yards per carry and has scored nine touchdowns.
Mark Thomas, Sr., T/DT: The 6-foot-4, 260-pounder is the anchor of a slightly-undersized Shen offensive line. He’s a gifted blocker with strong hands and quick feet.
Path to victory — Shenendehowa: The Plainsmen have completely dominated the competition, outscoring opponents by an average of 35.6 points per game. They have five shutouts and got better as the season went on, posting playoff victories of 35-7, 45-20 and 49-6. Shen must figure out a way to do something nobody has done consistently all season — run on the North Rockland defense. Fusco has to get into a rhythm early on and open up the rest of the Plainsmen offense.
Path to victory — North Rockland: Stay fresh. One thing that North Rockland coach Tom Lynch has mastered this postseason is keeping his backfield fresh and riding the hot back. In the finals, it was Connell, who didn’t have a carry in the first half. Points may be tough to come by in this game and retaining possession to keep the chains moving is vital. The Red Raiders will need to balance the carries between Ginty, Dapolito, Connell, and Rashon Johnson.
Devaney’s prediction: This is a good matchup for North Rockland. Shen isn’t overly big up front and there’s a level of predictability knowing Fusco will see the bulk of the workload. North Rockland has proven to be one of the best coached teams this season and there will be a game plan in place to stop Fusco. As long as the offense doesn’t turn it over or put the defense in bad situations, the Raiders have a very strong chance of moving on. Prediction: North Rockland 14, Shenendehowa 10.
Up next: The winner will face Section 9 champion Newburgh in the state semifinals on Saturday, November 19 at Dietz Stadium in Kingston at 8 p.m.
Email Kevin Devaney Jr. at firstname.lastname@example.org