Jason Ceneus had to do the same thing Ray Rice, Paris Walker, Jordan Lucas and so many great New Rochelle running backs had to do before him. On this team and in this scheme, Ceneus has had to be patient.
The dynamic senior running back hadn’t gotten double-digit carries in any game this season, a stat that’s typical of any New Rochelle running back over the years, but one that doesn’t sit too well with Ceneus.
On the first play on Saturday afternoon, Ceneus made sure the Huguenots kept feeding him the ball. He opened the game with a 48-yard run, setting the stage for a season-best 132 yards rushing and two touchdowns and a 27-0 New Rochelle win over John Jay-East Fishkill in a Section 1 Class AA semifinal.
“I wanted to show that, if you give me the opportunities, I can do things for my teammates,” said Ceneus, who carried the ball only 11 times. “I’m going to keep working and make sure I keep doing this.”
New Rochelle (7-1) will need a similar effort against North Rockland (7-1) in Saturday’s Section 1 Class AA championships. North Rockland is the defending champ but lost in the regular season to the Huguenots, 12-6.
The lone New Rochelle loss this year was last week at New Jersey power North Bergen, a game the Huguenots led 20-0 after three quarters. North Bergen rallied for a 21-20 victory.
The defeat, as crushing as it was, might have been the best thing for New Rochelle. On Saturday, it built a 21-0 lead at the half and played even better defensively in the second.
“We felt bad,” Ceneus said. “Against (North Bergen) we went into halftime and then got too lethargic and too relaxed, and it showed up in the fourth quarter. We went into halftime today with almost the same score and the message was to not let it happen again today.”
Ceneus played a big role on both sides of the ball and from the opening snap. He got New Rochelle on the board on its opening drive, using his 48-yard run on the first play to set up a 3-yard touchdown run.
Khalil Edney led the Huguenots’ next scoring drive. He connected with Joe Clarke for a 28-yard touchdown pass, the first of two scores for the duo.
New Rochelle broke the game open just before the half. Corey Holder’s sack and fumble recovery near midfield led to the next score. After Edney hit Cameron White for a 21-yard gain, Ceneus broke a 23-yard touchdown run to make it 21-0.
“We picked up where we left off offensively versus North Bergen,” Edney said. “Our line did a great job. We’ve progressed excellent as a team. This is the best game we’ve played.”
Edney was on top his game again. The senior was 7 of 12 passing for 188 yards and two touchdowns, including a dazzling 95-yard touchdown to Clarke. For the season, Edney has thrown for 1,014 yards and 11 touchdowns. Clarke has 16 receptions on the year with six going for scores.
The New Rochelle defense forced four turnovers — including interceptions by Ceneus and Wijante Holden — and recovered a fumble at the goal-line in the fourth quarter to preserve their fifth shutout of the season. Holder, Justin Douglas and Ray Ganley controlled the game up front.
Dale White led John Jay with 68 yards rushing, 53 yards passing and a 12-yard catch. The Patriots had opportunities but just couldn't finish drives.
“I couldn’t be more proud of these boys, not just for the season but for today,” John Jay coach Tom O’Hare said. “We took it on the chin in the first half. We told them in the second half they had to respond. We played a great second half. We don’t have the points to show for it but I couldn’t be more proud of what they showed me.”
Email Kevin Devaney Jr. at kdevaney@cablevision. Follow him on Twitter: @MSGVarsityKDJ