MAHOPAC, N.Y. -- Midway through the first quarter, Marlboro found itself in the shadow of Croton’s goal line.
The Section 9 champions had first-and-goal at the Croton five-yard line, after recovering a muffed punt. Marlboro was primed to score a touchdown and assert itself. However, Croton’s defense had the final say, forcing Marlboro to lose four yards in three plays and settle for a 26-yard Eric Gosler field goal.
This would be Marlboro’s only highlight of the evening as Croton roared back, scoring on its next two possessions, en route to a 46-3 thumping in a New York State Class B Football Championship East Regional semifinal at Mahopac High School.
The undefeated Tigers (10-0) will play the winner of Peru (Section 7)-Schalmont (Section 2) in the regional final, Saturday, Nov. 19, at Dietz Stadium in Kingston. Schlamont defeated Croton in last year’s east regional final. The winner of the regional final will play in the state title game, Sunday, Nov. 27, 3 p.m., at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse.
“Whoever we play, we play,” said offensive lineman/linebacker Kyle Ricciardi. “It would be pretty cool if we played Schalmont again.”
Ricciardi was selected as the defensive player of the game and running back Nick Grous, who had 10 carries for 164 yards and three touchdowns, was chosen as the offensive player of the game.
Despite the turnover, Croton was confident that Marlboro would not reach the end zone.
“We just said in the huddle that we needed to have a hard stop and just shut them down,” Ricciardi said.
Following the field goal, Croton went to work on offense, scoring on its next four possessions.
The Tigers marched 80 yards with Grous punctuating the drive on a 10-yard touchdown run with 5:38 on the clock. Croton hiked its lead to 14-3 when P.J. Soares scampered 32 yards for a score and quarterback Jesse Mainiero added the two-point conversion.
Croton’s defense smothered Marlboro quarterback Mike Schoonmaker and running back Cornelius Williams. Neither found any running room against Ricciardi and his teammates as the Dukes finished with less than 20 yards total offense.
“Last week, after Lourdes scored on us and tonight, it motivated us to play a lot better,” Ricciardi said. “We wanted to come out and prove that we were the better team.”
Croton dominated both lines of scrimmage, which allowed the running game to consume chunks of yardage and stop Marlboro in its tracks.
Grous, who had his varsity career-high in rushing, added scoring runs of nine and five yards in the second half.
“Once Nick gets going he is so quick and shifty,” Ricciardi said. “He had a monster game.”
Alex Starr capped the night with an outstanding individual effort in the fourth quarter. He fielded a punt at his eight-yard line, near the sideline, took the ball all the way across the field, stopped and went all the way back to his left. Starr received a tremendous block where he caught the punt, took off down the left sideline and then ran diagonally across the field before he was tackled at the Marlboro five-yard line for an 87-yard punt return.
Marlboro 3 0 0 0 -- 3
Croton 14 12 13 7 -- 46
Marlboro -- Eric Goslar 26 field goal.
Croton -- Nick Grous 10-yard run (kick failed).
Croton -- P.J. Soares 32-yard run (Jesse Mainiero run).
Croton -- Mainiero 4-yard run (run failed).
Croton -- Mainiero 4-yard run (pass failed).
Croton -- Trevor Wolstencroft 4-yard run (kick failed).
Croton -- Grous 9-yard run (Soares kick).
Croton -- Grous 5-yard run (Soares kick).