When the 2012 season started, New Rochelle was in an unfamiliar position. For the first time in six years, the Huguenots were no longer the defending champions, no longer the overwhelming favorites and no longer the team to beat in Class AA.
That title belonged to the North Rockland Red Raiders, who had defeated New Rochelle in the semifinals last season.
“It’s all we could think about; they ended our season,” New Rochelle senior Joe Clarke said. “We didn’t even get a chance to make it to the section championship. As a team, especially for our seniors, we knew this year had to be different. We wanted to make a statement and let everybody know that New Rochelle is still the number one team.”
On Sunday afternoon, the Huguenots did just that, recapturing the section title with an impressive 28-0 win over North Rockland. It was the eighth championship in 10 years for New Rochelle and the second time they beat the Red Raiders this season.
“You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone, so this is pretty sweet,” said New Rochelle coach Lou DiRienzo. “This group grew up a lot. Last year, I don’t know how mentally tough we were. I felt we were a little selfish but the team really grew. Now, these young kids are resilient, they are mentally tough and they are selfless. Things are good right now for New Rochelle football.”
Khalil Edney took home the game’s offensive MVP while Ray Ganley was the MVP on the defensive side of the ball. Edney completed 8 of 12 passes for 139 yards and two touchdowns and also ran for a score while Ganley had 6 1/2 tackles and two fumble recoveries.
“It’s all Coach D’s game planning,” Ganley said with a smile. “He’s an animal with the film, he works hard and he keeps us in unison. But we’ve been looking for North Rockland all year. The first time we won, it felt good but we wanted them again. We sent them home like they did to us last year.”
New Rochelle dominated the game on defense, forcing five turnovers and holding the North Rockland offense to just 27 total yards. Huguenot senior Jason Ceneus returned an interception 53 yards for a touchdown to give New Rochelle a comfortable 21-0 lead.
“That’s just what we do,” Ceneus said. “We work on defense all the time and put a lot of emphasis on it in practice. Today it showed up on the scoreboard.”
Clarke and Ahmad Encarnacion each had spectacular touchdown catches with Encarnacion going up and over a defender in the first quarter and Clarke submitting one of the plays of the year in the fourth. Clarke made a ridiculous one-handed-catch on a broken play, evaded three tackles and went 52 yards for the score.
“(Edney) was scrambling and he just sort of threw it up,” Clarke said. “I caught it with one hand and, I don’t know, I just scored. It was a great.”
North Rockland’s Mike Cappabianca had 7.5 tackles in the loss.
New Rochelle advances to the state tournament and will play Saturday night at Dietz Stadium in Kingston against Section 9’s Pine Bush (defeated Monroe-Woodbury Sunday evening). The Huguenots enjoyed their section championship win but spoke of continuing their title run.
“We’re back, that’s all I can say,” Edney said. “We practice hard and we play hard. We just have to keep moving forward and stay together.”
Section 1 Class AA Championship
New Rochelle 28, North Rockland 0
at Mahopac High School
North Rockland (6-2) 0 0 0 0 - 0
New Rochelle (8-1) 0 14 7 7 – 28
NR – Ahmad Encarnacion 25 pass from Khalil Edney (Joe Clarke kick)
NR – Edney 1 run (Clarke kick)
NR – Jason Ceneus 53 interception return (Clarke kick)
NR – Clarke 55 pass from Edney (Clarke kick)
RUSHING (att-yards): New Rochelle- Jon Forrest 13-34, Jason Ceneus 7-21, Campbell White 4-20, Whjante Holden 5-20, Terrence Holden 2-6, Khalil Edney 9-2. Totals: 40-105. North Rockland- Nick Connell 21-54, John Dapolito 2-7, Brandon Respress 2-(-6), Nick Imperato 4-(-30).Totals: 30-26.
PASSING (comp-att-yards-TD-INT): New Rochelle- Edney 8-12-139-2-0. North Rockland- Imperato 2-9-1-0-2.
RECEIVING (rec-yards): New Rochelle- Joe Clarke 3-69, Ahmad Encarnacion 1-25, W. Holden 1-17, Ceneus 1-11, T. Holden 1-10, Forrest 1-7. North Rockland- Dapolito 1-5, Connell 1-(-4).
TOTAL YARDS: New Rochelle 245; North Rockland 27.
TACKLES: North Rockland-Mike Cappabianca 7, John Dapolito 5, Deshaun Polite 5, Stanley Johnson 4.5, Matt Caputo 4.5. New Rochelle- Ray Ganley 6.5, Shayne Forbes 6.5, Cory Holder 6, Gavin Harley 4.
SACKS: North Rockland- Ricardo Tavares, Joe Sheffold .5, Eric Favors .5. New Rochelle- Joe Clarke, Holder.
INT: New Rochelle- Jason Ceneus, Wjhante Holden.
FUMBLE RECOVERIES: New Rochelle- Ganley 2.