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Dobbs Ferry Steam Rolls into Football Semifinals

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November 21, 2021

By Tom Pedulla—

On to the Final Four!

Undefeated Dobbs Ferry knew it needed to limit its mistakes to defeat explosive James I. O’Neill in the regional round of the state football playoffs on Saturday at Mahopac High School. So, it played flawlessly.

With Brian Dann and Robert Sanzo spearheading a turnover-free offense, the 11-0 Eagles were literally unstoppable in an impressive 56-28 victory that allowed them to advance to the semifinal round against 11-0 Schuylerville next Saturday at noon at Middletown High School.

“It’s the best feeling in the world right now,” exulted Dann. The seemingly tireless junior carried both his team and opposing tacklers on his back in taking a whopping 43 handoffs for 290 yards. He tied his career high with five touchdowns in addition to a fumble recovery and an interception.

Sanzo, meanwhile, showed how much he is at home at Dobbs Ferry after transferring from Iona Prep for his senior season. He relieved pressure on Dann by consistently breaking free outside. He closed with 15 rushing attempts for 167 yards and netted 212 all-purpose yards with four scores. He also produced a critical interception.

“It means a lot to me to come back and win this for my team and I’m not done yet,” said Sanzo. “I’m ready to keep going.”

One of the most touching moments of the regional triumph occurred afterward, when players hurried to the stands to celebrate with family and friends. That had to be especially sweet for Sanzo.

“He’s a Dobbs Ferry kid. He lives right across the street from the high school,” noted Coach Joe Cox after Sanzo lifted his season rushing total to 1,146 yards. “I really feel he’s finishing where he belongs.”

Jabari Marsland and Brandon Holman combined for another 92 yards as part of a punishing ground game that amassed 549 yards. Marsland paced the defense with 7.5 tackles.

Sanzo capped the Eagles’ opening drive by taking a pitch and dashing 42 yards down the right side. Jhonatan Almaras tacked on the extra point.

After the Raiders (8-2) and strong-armed, elusive quarterback Kyle West needed only two plays to respond but missed the extra point when the kick struck the crossbar, Sanzo was at it again with a 14-yard scamper. O’Neill again responded to even matters, 14-14, early in the second quarter.

Given how difficult it had been to stop Dobbs Ferry, the Raiders’ coaching staff resorted to an onside kick. That was thwarted by sure-handed Patrick McGoey, who gave his team possession at its own 46 yards line. Nine plays later, Dann slammed in from seven yards out.

Now, it was the Eagles’ turn to attempt an onside kick. Theirs worked to perfection when Jack Straub smothered the loose ball to immediately put the offense back in business at its 49. Dann’s eventual 2-yard burst extended the margin to 27-14 at halftime.

There was little time to take a breath against the Raiders. They opened the second half with a no-huddle attack and quickly drew to within 27-21. But Dobbs Ferry’s offense again responded. The pivotal moment during that drive came when quarterback Javonni Williams, who is rarely asked to pass, dropped back and coolly converted fourth-and-six with a dart to Sanzo.

“I think he knows we’re not going to call his number on every play, but he’s always ready and he plays with tremendous poise,” Cox said of Williams. “He’s not afraid of the moment ever.”

Four plays later, Dann was the man again, this time charging in from 11 yards out. Not content with that, he accounted for the two-point conversion, making it 35-21.

Then Sanzo and Dann strutted their stuff on defense, ended the Raiders’ next two possessions with an interception and a fumble recovery, respectively.

This was an afternoon when Dobbs Ferry seemingly had the answer for everything the opposition tried. With the score 49-28 with just 8:43 remaining, Cox prepared for the likely onside kick by having hefty lineman Jose Regalado shift from the right to the left side of the first line. Almost magically, the ball bounded Regalado’s way. He recovered it cleanly.

‘’Of course,” Regalado said of his display of surprising athleticism for a young man of his girth. “I’m on that special team for a reason.”

Can everything keep going the way of Dobbs Ferry? It is safe to say they have not yet faced a powerhouse that approaches Schuylerville, which kept its perfect season intact with a 52-0 blanking of Ogdensburg Free Academy. Schuylerville owns a 415-84 scoring margin.

Amid the jubilation, Dobbs Ferry players emphasized that they are not content with a regional title. “We’ve got to keep going,” Dann said. “The train keeps moving.”

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