For most high school football programs, notching a 56-6 win over a division rival in a storybook homecoming game would be the highlight of any season. But for Marlboro their victory over Red Hook last Friday evening at Dennis Burkett Field might just be the appetizer before this weekend’s main course.
Marlboro (6-0) will now face off with New Paltz on Friday night in a much-anticipated battle of undefeated teams, as the rivals fight to see who will earn the top playoff seed in Class B, Division 1. The two local teams have seemingly been circling each other all season, with each squad racking up blowout wins week after week, with every victory building up the anticipation for their head-to-head matchup in the regular season finale. “New Paltz will be physical, they’re obviously the reigning champions, it’ll be on their home turf, it’ll be 48-plus minutes of hell,” Marlboro head coach Rich Ward said. “We’ll battle them. Both teams will come in and we’ll be psyched. It’ll be a great high school football game.”
The Huguenots outlasted Marlboro 33-17 in the Class B title game last November to end the Dukes’ streak of five straight division titles, and this Friday’s matchup in New Paltz could serve as a warmup for a playoff rematch in several weeks time. But first, Marlboro wants to best the Huguenots in the regular-season finale to re-establish its dominance in Class B. “It’ll be a good game and we’re going to come in hard,” Dukes senior quarterback Phil DeSantis said. “It’ll be a dogfight, but hopefully we come out on top.”
Depending upon the outcome of the New Paltz contest and the subsequent playoff seedings, the Oct. 6 game vs. Red Hook (1-5) could very well have been the last home game for an exceptional class of Marlboro seniors, and if it was they certainly ended their run on a high note. “It means everything,” senior wide receiver John Perugino said of the homecoming victory. “This was a very emotional game, an emotional day for me and my family. Football is my life. I’ve been doing it since I was nine years old, so it was tough. But I’m glad we got a win.”
The Dukes battered Red Hook throughout, as sophomore quarterback Christian Diorio opened up the scoring for Marlboro in the first quarter, as he put his head down and barreled through a helpless defender en route to an impressive 32-yard touchdown run at the 5:40 mark of the period. With time winding down in the first, junior quarterback Sam Mongelli juked his way into the end zone for a six-yard TD run to make it 14-0 Dukes with 5.7 seconds remaining in the frame.
The onslaught continued in the second, as junior wide receiver Muhammed Banks made the highlight play of the game, busting off a 49-yard punt return to give Marlboro a 21-0 lead with 4:26 left in the half. “We had good blockers, and I just saw the opportunity and had to take it,” he said. Banks continued his stellar day when he reeled in a 37-yard touchdown reception from Mongelli (4-7, 77 yards passing, 1 TD), as the junior lofted the ball up and Banks hauled it in over a defender’s back to make it 28-0 Marlboro with 50.9 seconds remaining in the second quarter. “We feel confident,” Banks said of the team’s outlook heading into the New Paltz game. “We’re playing well, with a lot of consistency and energy.”
The second half began with DeSantis (15 carries for 170 yards rushing) pounding the Raiders on the ground, as the senior sailed in for a two-yard score to give the Dukes an insurmountable 35-0 lead with 10:16 left in the third. If the Raiders game was the last chance for DeSantis to perform on the Burkett turf, he left a memorable last impression. “I’ve been playing on this field since I was real young in youth football and it means a lot to me,” he said. “It’s not just varsity and all this stuff, it’s all the years prior building up to this point. It’s just huge this being the last time.”
A Mongelli (seven carries for 77 yards rushing) 35-yard TD run gave Marlboro a 42-0 advantage with 4:31 left in the third, and Diorio (4-4, 94 yards passing, 1 TD) then connected with Perugino on a 55-yard touchdown bomb to give the Dukes a 49-0 lead with 2:17 remaining in the quarter. “We had discussed prior to that play that there wasn’t much help in the middle of the field, so we wanted to give it a shot,” the receiver said. “Christian threw a really good ball, and I was just able to get it and get in the end zone.” Senior back Matthew DeSantis then sliced through the Red Hook defense for a 22-yard touchdown run to make it 56-0 Marlboro with 9:08 left in the game to cap the Dukes’ scoring for the evening.
Just when it looked like the Marlboro defense was headed for its first shutout win of the season, Raiders sophomore quarterback Dylan Bayliss (9-20, 93 yards passing) found senior receiver Tanner Guidi for a 16-yard TD reception to make it 56-6 with 1:58 left in the tilt. “You have to play 48-plus minutes on defense, if you break down on defense once you let up a score,” Ward said. “I was happy with our performance. We’ll continue to practice and try to get better, and compete day to day and be smart about how we go about things.”
The easy win was a nice sendoff for a decorated cast of Marlboro seniors including Billy Williamson and the DeSantis brothers. “It’s emotional,” Ward said of the senior class playing in their last homecoming game. “They grew up here, playing youth football, and that’s what makes high school football pretty neat. I tell them ‘Don’t blink, because it goes quick.’ I’m not going to reflect on their senior year or their careers just yet, because we want to try and win the next day and see where we can go with these guys.”
Coming into homecoming week, the Dukes vowed not to overlook Red Hook as they girded themselves for the big game against New Paltz, but now Marlboro can fully turn its attention to the Huguenots and the battle for Class B supremacy. “I think we played phenomenal tonight,” Perugino said. “We played with a lot of passion and energy. We played to our potential and if we bring that next week we’ll be fine.”
By Ted Remsnyder