KINGSTON, N.Y. - Tom Soave rumbled and rolled for 129 yards and scored the winning touchdown with less than six minutes remaining Saturday to lead Dobbs Ferry to a bruising 13-12 victory over Hoosick Falls in the New York State Class C regional championship game at Dietz Stadium, earning a trip to the Syracuse University Carrier Dome for the next Sundays state final.
We came out flat on defense early, Soave said. After they scored that first touchdown and we were behind we all said we have to play tougher. Even at halftime when we were ahead, we were all focused on defense. I just tried the hit the hole hard and push forward each time I ran.
The Eagles (10-1) return to the state championship game for the first time since 2006 when they won their third state title. The Eagles will play Section 6's Southwestern on Nov. 27 at noon. Hoosick Falls, which was previously unbeaten at 11-0, defeated the Eagles by a score of 14-6 in the 2003 regional semifinals.
They played a very strong game so we knew we had to play good defense to win in the second half, Eagles linebacker Darien Bica said. We all just wanted this win. We had to make it happen.
Hoosick Falls took advantage of a botched fake punt by Soave late in the first quarter and moved 45 yards in six plays to score for a 6-0 lead. The Panthers missed the extra point.
Both teams showed their defensive strength, cutting drives short until the Eagles moved the ball into scoring position midway through the second quarter. Soave ripped off several good runs up the middle to move the ball inside the Panthers 5-yard line where Eddie Ritch rolled in from the 3-yard line to make the score 6-6. Brian Gardners point-after-kick gave the Eagles a 7-6 halftime lead.
The Eagles had a chance to open up a bigger lead on the second play of the second half when Hoosick Falls quarterback Billy Pine threw a screen pass into the right flat from his own 35-yard line where Soave was waiting. The big linebacker stepped up and intercepted the pass and ran the back to the Panthers 15, but the Eagles could not punch the ball over on a fourth down try from the 1-yard line.
I was just doing what the coaches told me to do and I saw the ball coming, said Soave, who was named the Offensive Player of the Game. We should have scored there.
The Panthers, who had trouble moving the ball on the ground all day, shocked the Eagles on their next possession when running back Tanner Williams broke free and ran 62 yards for the go-ahead score. The extra-point try was missed again and the Panthers led 12-7 going into the fourth quarter.
And it was Soave time again. Having the wind at his back after the teams changes sides for the fourth quarter, Soave legged a high punt that rode the wind and then took a forward bounce inside the Panthers 10-yard line. From there the Dobbs Ferry defense stiffened again and the Panthers punt into the wind traveled only 30 yards. Soave, John Yozzo-Scaperrotta and quarterback Spencer Avalos took turns carrying the ball until Soave punched the winning score in from the half-yard line.
The Eagles' defense took over from there with less than five minutes left to the Panthers, who made it inside the Dobbs Ferry 25-yard line before Ritch, Avalos, Bica, Dennis DeLeon made big defense plays to seal the win.
Bica, who was playing on a stiff ankle he injured two weeks ago, chased Pine across the field on a fourth down pass try, forcing a hurried throw that could not be caught and ending the Panthers chances with just inside four minutes to play.
The adrenaline kicked in today, said Bica, who was named the Defensive Player of the Game. I was supposed to be back in pass coverage, but I knew we had to get pressure on him. He threw a bad pass and one of our guys deflected it. It was huge.
Eagles defensive coach Josh Tobacco expected a defensive struggle.
Both teams played very well defensively, said Tobacco, a former Eagles player. But our guys played with a ton of heart. The have two great running backs. We try to put our athletes in the best positions to make plays and they did that. It was a great game.
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