Unbeaten Dobbs Ferry Eagles Soar to Section 1 Class C Title
By Tom Pedulla—
Thunder and lightning in the second quarter forced a significant delay when undefeated Dobbs Ferry met Valhalla for the Section 1 Class C championship on Saturday at Arlington High School in Lagrangeville, N.Y.
Thunder and lightning — in the name of Brian Dann and Robert Sanzo — later helped the soaring Eagles to a 41–14 triumph and the coveted title.
Dann, a 5-10, 210-pound bruiser of a back, carried 26 times for 215 yards and four touchdowns. Sanzo, a burner at 5-10, 175 pounds, scampered outside for 184 yards and one score on 14 rushing attempts.
Their combined efforts behind an imposing offensive line led by powerful Jose Regalado, voted the game’s Outstanding Lineman, allowed Dobbs Ferry to erupt for 20 unanswered second-half points and extend its perfection to 10-0.
“This was definitely our goal, to be at Arlington High School on Nov. 13, playing for a sectional championship,” said Coach Joe Cox. “Obviously, this was the outcome we wanted. I’m just really happy and proud of the kids. They put so much into this.”
The outcome was all the sweeter because Valhalla had denied Dobbs Ferry the crown two years ago in the title game. Then the pandemic limited all players to a spring season and left them wondering whether they would again play a normal schedule before their high school careers ended.
“The last two years have been tough. It hasn’t always been easy,” Cox noted. “But they’ve handled adversity the right way every step of the way. They’ve taken advantage of every opportunity to get better as a football team along the way. I hope they understand that this can be accomplished when you come together and work hard and play for each other.”
Cox had spoken of playing for Class C supremacy before the season kicked off. With a rich tradition as a backdrop and a desire to excel that is instilled at the youth level, the Eagles always dare to dream big.
“Our goal is to be in this game each year. There is no doubt about it,” Cox said of his willingness to be outspoken about his goals. “I felt like this was a hard-working group and we had a lot of pieces coming back. I thought there was potential here for these guys to be a pretty good football team.”
Pretty good? The Eagles have outscored the opposition 411 points to 99.
They figure to be tested as never before as they advance against James I. O’Neill, winner of consecutive Section 9 Class C titles, in the next round of the state playoffs. O’Neill defeated Chester 28–14 to improve to 8-1 and will meet Dobbs Ferry next Saturday at noon at Mahopac High School.
In that game, Dobbs Ferry can ill afford the sloppy play that allowed the Vikings (6-4) to keep it close through the opening half. The Eagles began clicking after that, however.
Dann, a junior, burst through a huge hole on the left side for a 34-yard run that marked the only touchdown of the third quarter. Then Sanzo dashed around right end to stretch the advantage to 34–14 early in the fourth quarter before Dann turned out the lights with a two-yard plunge with 2:15 left.
Dann, a junior, could not have been more amped for the biggest game of his career. “I started as a freshman, and my freshman year we lost to this Valhalla team in the sectional championship,” he recalled. “To come out here and win it with this crew means the world to me.”
On many runs, Dann simply refused to be stopped. It took several Valhalla tacklers to bring him down. “You can’t tackle me high,” he said. “I’m going to keep those feet moving.”
Sanzo, with his ability to get to the edge in a hurry, serves as a perfect complement. He literally leaps when he spots a seam. “It’s a little juke move, a jump cut,” he said. “Whatever gets me in space to score.”
Dann was selected as the game’s Most Valuable Player. Cox praised each back for his selflessness. “If it means they’ve got to make a lot of big blocks instead of carries, they’re in. They don’t care,” he said. “They love playing for each other and I’m proud of them.”
The Eagles will need more Thunder and Lightning — the human kind — with their magical season on the line against O’Neill. “They’re a very good football team, very explosive, a lot of weapons,” Cox said. “Any time you get to this point, it’s going to take your best effort to move on.”