A 2017 campaign that saw Marlboro re-establish its dominance in Section 9, Class B football came to a sudden end on Friday night in a state regional championship game at Mahopac High School, as the Dukes fell to Pleasantville 33-22 in a tough game played under frigid conditions. Marlboro (9-1) jumped out to a 13-0 lead over the Panthers and led 22-19 at halftime, but the Section 1 champions turned up the heat in the final two quarters and held the Dukes scoreless in the second half. The defeat ended a memorable Marlboro season highlighted by a massive win two weeks ago over New Paltz in the Section 9, Class B final to recapture the division title.
The Nov. 10 loss was the end of an era for a decorated batch of Marlboro seniors, including quarterback Phil DeSantis, wide receiver John Perugino, linebacker Billy Williamson, wide receiver Matt DeSantis and linebacker Nicolas Ramos.
“I had a great coach and a lot of great fellow players,” Phil DeSantis said of his tenure with the program. “It was a great experience.”
Even in defeat, the hard-fought game was a testament to this class of Dukes players.
“I’m proud of our kids and proud of our seniors,” Marlboro head coach Rich Ward said. “We’re going to say goodbye to our seniors and wish them luck as they move on to greater things in their life and they’ll definitely be missed.”
Marlboro stormed out of the gates against the Panthers (10-1), as junior quarterback Sam Mongelli broke off a 49-yard run on the first play from scrimmage to reach Pleasantville at the 20-yard line seconds into the game. When Mongelli (109 yards rushing on 20 carries) plowed into the end zone for a one-yard quarterback sneak score, the Dukes were up 7-0 with 10:06 remaining in the first quarter.
When Mongelli subsequently faked out the Panthers defense on Marlboro’s next possession and dashed into the end zone for a 13-yard touchdown run to give his team a 13-0 advantage with 1:33 left in the first, it looked like the Dukes were poised to roll to victory in this state Class B quarterfinal game. But Pleasantville quickly got off the mat, and Panthers junior quarterback Jack Howe found junior Julio Barco for a 27-yard TD reception to cut the lead to 13-6 at the 9:43 mark of the second quarter. The scoring drive was kept alive early, as on a third-and-three from the Pleasantville 26-yard line, a pass interference call gave the Panthers new life, even though Howe’s pass attempt sailed far beyond his intended target’s outstretched hands.
After the game, Ward lamented the play as a possible turning point in the contest.
“I think what happened is we had a 13-0 lead and we had a three-and-out, and we had a 15-yard penalty on a pass interference and I think the kid had great coverage on the top shoulder,” Ward said. “The ball was 20 yards out of bounds. It gave them an opportunity to get another set of downs and they went down and scored to make it 13-6. That’s a big difference between being up 13 or only seven. I was disappointed there because I thought we had them on the ropes and I didn’t think we finished them off.”
A booming Mongelli 23-yard field goal gave the Dukes a 16-6 lead at the 7:31 mark of the second, but Pleasantville senior running back Charlie McPhee (169 yards rushing on 26 carries) darted into the end zone for a six-yard touchdown run to slice the lead to 16-12 with 4:55 remaining in the first half. The highlight of the night for the Dukes came next, as Mongelli (7-12, 136 yards passing, 1 TD) scrambled for an eternity in the backfield, eluding Panthers defenders before lofting a pass to a wide open Perugino for a 72-yard touchdown reception to give Marlboro a 22-12 lead with 3:54 left in the half. Unfortunately for the Dukes, it would be their last score of the game.
“We came out hard and hungry in the first half, but we just lost it,” DeSantis (56 yards rushing on nine carries) said. “The underclassman are going to learn from this. They’re going to work hard in the offseason and they’re going to come out hard. Because if you want to win a game like this against a good team like this, you’re going to have to play at a high level consistently. We didn’t do that. We did it the first half, then we let off the gas in the second.”
Howe (11-15, 170 yards passing, 4 TDs, 1 INT) connected with senior wide receiver Jack Minerva on a 22-yard TD reception to cut the Dukes’ lead to 22-19 with 1:07 to go in the second, and when Mongelli missed a 32-yd field goal attempt as time expired in the quarter, the Dukes held a three-point margin heading into intermission.
The Panthers took their first lead of the game early in the third quarter and they would never relinquish it from there, as Howe threw a 28-yard touchdown bomb to senior Declan McDermott to give Pleasantville a 26-22 lead with 9:41 left in the period. The Panthers defense swarmed the Dukes in the second half, as a DeSantis interception late in the third stymied a Marlboro drive. “They brought more pressure and we didn’t pick it up,” Ward said of the Panthers’ second-half defensive effort. “They’re a team that’s loaded with seniors and they didn’t want this to be their last game.”
When Howe found Minerva for a leaping six-yard TD catch in the front corner of the end zone to make it 33-22 Panthers with 7:28 left in the fourth quarter, the Dukes were facing an uphill battle. On the ensuing Marlboro drive, Mongelli was sacked and lost the ball, as Panthers junior Danny Minerva recovered the fumble with 5:04 remaining on their own 47-yard line to essentially seal the win for Pleasantville.
Pleasantville will now go on to face Glens Falls in a Class B semifinal clash this weekend at Faller Field in Middletown, while the Dukes will prepare during the offseason to defend their Section 9, Class B championship in 2018.
“I think we showed Section 9, and even coming down here against Pleasantville, we weren’t a pushover,” Ward said of the season. “Section 9, Class B football is pretty good and we’ll have our work cut out for us. It’s back to the drawing board. Everybody’s even again, and the true football players are made between now and August 14th. I just want to say thanks to the seniors for their effort and their time and their families as well. They’ll always be a part of our program.”
By Ted Remsnyder