We’re working our through the Section 1 playoffs, which begin on Friday across the Lower Hudson Valley.
Today we examine Class B, which has probably the least amount of guessing involved. This is Rye’s championship to lose. I think the only teams that can match up with the Garnets are Byram Hills or Pleasantville. And even if they give their best efforts of the season, it would still be tough for them to win.
Nothing is impossible. Hey, Rye has to lose sometime, right?… Um, right?
The favorite: Rye. You don’t need to be an expert to know this. While the defending state champs have had their lapses at times, I firmly believe this team has the potential to be as balanced, deep and, perhaps, the most talented Rye team I’ve seen these six years. Potential, though, can be a scary word.
Top contender: Pleasantville. Although I’ve tabbed Byram Hills the second-best team, let’s give the Panthers their due here. They’ve been efficient and consistent since losing to Rye, 20-7, on opening day. If they get by Ardsley, a home game will be a major advantage.
Be afraid of: Briarcliff. When a team can effectively move the ball through the air the way the Bears can with Tim Orr, they’re a nightmare to match up with. It seems almost like a fluke that he’s thrown for 570 yards the last two weeks and Briarcliff has scored only 13 points. That can’t continue.
Players in the spotlight
Luke O’Malley, Rye: If O’Malley becomes a major impact in the Rye offense, the Garnets will truly become unbeatable in the conference. He missed most of the year with a hamstring pull and is the fastest player on the roster when healthy.
Erik Britz, Byram Hills: Teams will gear up to stop R.J. Medeo and Chris Esposito, and force Britz, a senior quarterback to beat them. He’s definitely capable. The better he plays, the better Byram Hills’ chances of reaching Mahopac.
Charlie Howe, Pleasantville: The loss of Mario Arboite has left a huge void in the Panthers’ backfield, which Howe has filled by himself the last two weeks. Whether he can continue to do it through the playoffs will dictate how far they go.
Gabe Wittenberg, Edgemont: The senior guard/linebacker has had an superb season, recording 94 tackles and four sacks on defense and paving the way for 2,270 yards rushing. The Panthers won’t beat Nanuet without a steady effort from Wittenberg.
Eric Mercado, Kennedy: The Gaels are the biggest underdog of any team in the Section 1 playoffs this weekend, which I’m sure suits them well. Mercado is their best chance of beating Rye. He’ll need a huge effort, and help from Dylan Schuck and Andrew Spinola.
Best first-round game: Nanuet at Edgemont. This is a tough first-round game for the Panthers, who are going to have their depth challenged by the physical Knights. Edgemont, though, is allowing just 5.7 points per game, including three shutouts and two six-point efforts. That’s crucial against a Nanuet team that has 154 points in four games.
Upset potential: Briarcliff over Byram Hills. I’m almost certainly going to pick Nanuet over Edgemont. But this game has potential, too. Matching up with the receiving corp of Bobby Ronan and Matt Tompkins is going to be a major challenge. Like I mentioned above, I don’t believe their mysterious inability to get in the end zone will last for long. The points will come.
Semifinals: Byram Hills over Pleasantville; Rye over Nanuet
Finals: Rye over Byram Hills.