By Tom Pedulla—
Hopes were high that Dobbs Ferry would successfully defend its Section 1 Class C football championship. And with good reason.
The Eagles had already defeated Westlake, 15-13, at home on Sept. 30. They had suffered only one loss through nine games, a 33-6 wake-up call against visiting Tuckahoe on Sept. 17. They had dispatched most opponents with all of the forcefulness of a run by star back Brian Dann, including a 61-28 offensive explosion against Irvington in the regular-season finale.
It seemed as though Dobbs Ferry could not be stopped, especially after Dann opened the scoring in the sectional championship game with a 14-yard burst. In actuality, it was surging Westlake that could not be halted.
The Wildcats responded by unleashing a punishing ground game of their own, one that churned out a whopping 405 rushing yards while rattling off 46 unanswered points in a 46-14 victory on Nov. 12 at Mahopac High School.
“We weren’t confused about how good they were. We didn’t underestimate them. We knew what we were stepping into,” said Dobbs Ferry coach Joe Cox. “We knew they were a really good team. We knew they were physical. We knew they were well coached. We knew it was going to take our best effort to beat them.”
A successful defense of any title in any sport revolves around defense. Dobbs Ferry simply could not make critical stops while Westlake (8-2) scored touchdowns on all seven of its possessions. The Eagles, after committing only four turnovers all season, lost the ball three times with so much at stake.
“We definitely tried some things to slow it down a bit and pump the brakes on them a little bit,” said Cox. “But they were the far superior team (on Nov. 12).”
Dobbs Ferry’s offensive standouts found themselves playing defense far too often. Dann carried 15 times for 70 yards to close his distinguished career. Brandon Holman, who erupted for more than 400 yards from scrimmage not long ago and has come so far in his development, was limited to 10 carries for 50 yards. They will be sorely missed when the Eagles look to rebound in 2023.
The Eagles were led defensively by senior Isaac Aragon and junior Drexel Lewis with six-and-a-half and six tackles, respectively. Lewis closed a remarkable season with a league- and section-high 12 interceptions and could easily have picked off 15 passes if not for a few drops. He had four games with multiple interceptions. Lewis’ interception total is believed to rank among the highest in state history.
Sophomore quarterback Kevin Hartnett provides hope for the future. He gained valuable experience and completed 4 of 7 passes in the title game for 54 yards and one touchdown, a strike to junior split end Michael “Goose” Farnsworth.
“Kevin’s a tough kid. He’s on his way to becoming a fantastic football player,” Cox said. “He’s got a great work ethic. He really wants to be great. We’re really excited about him. We think he has a very bright future.”
As painful as the ending was, Cox praised the examples set by the team’s senior captains — offensive lineman Owen Fischer, Dann and Holman. “They’ve given the program a lot and really embraced the leadership role after a big group had gone,” the coach noted. “They really stepped up and took the mantle.”
With an 8-2 record and one impressive victory after another, it was hardly a lost season for Dobbs Ferry. “I was really proud of them throughout the season. I thought they kept battling,” Cox said. “We dealt with our fair share of adversity with injuries and different things. I was really proud of the resiliency they showed.
“I thought they really became a good football team because they kept putting the work in and kept showing up. They will reflect on it and eventually be proud of it.”
Stephen O’Leary contributed to this reportRead or leave a comment on this story...
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