TUCKAHOE, N.Y. - The Carrier Dome at Syracuse University and a chance at another state title looms in their future as the Tuckahoe Tigers face upstate Rensselaer in the Class D state semifinals at 4 p.m. Friday at Dietz Stadium in Kingston.
The Tigers (7-2-1), who won state titles in 2006 and 2010, are coming off 34-18 victory against Chester in last Saturday's regional quarterfinal while Rensselaer (10-1) easily defeated Moriah High, 50-0, in its quarterfinal contest.
Shyheim Nixon has become more comfortable each game since taking over as quarterback late in the season. The former halfback, who can run and pass on the move, partners with running backs Nick Reisman and Kayvon Reid to give the Tigers a powerful running attack. Reisman gained 228 yards and Reid added 150 in last week's win and Nixon tossed a touchdown pass to former quarterback Mike Castracucco.
Rensselaer is led by quarterback Steve Harwood, who works out of a run-pass option offense, running back Seth Butler and wide receiver Brandon Butler. Harwood has thrown for more than 1,000 yards and 18 touchdowns, 11 to his brother Brandon, so he will be the focus of the Tigers defense.
Tuckahoe rushed for more than 440 yards last week and will try to control the game on the ground. Nixon's ability to run or pass will be an important factor.
Tigers defensive lineman Joe Bellantoni, who was the Most Valuable Defensive Player in the victory versus Chester, joins Nixon, Reisman, Reid and lineman Andrew Olivo on a defense that had trouble against the pass last week. The return of cornerback Daryl Taylor, who was injured and did not play last week, will help.
"We want to use our strength of running the ball," Nixon said following the victory against Chester. "And we want to be ready to be better on defense against the pass."
This game is a meeting of two athletic teams that can score points, so the key will be which team can play the best defense and control play at the line of scrimmage. Expect a high-scoring game with Tuckahoe pulling out the win.
The winner will travel to Syracuse for the Class D championship game Nov. 23.