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Playoff Bound Woodlands Breezes Past Palisades

YONKERS, N.Y. – Woodlands football coach Mike Meade guided his team to the memorial stone dedicated to his old friend and fellow coach Don DeMatteo Saturday where each Falcons player touched the monument before going out onto the Gorton High School football field and posting an overwhelming 66-0 victory over Palisades Prep (Yonkers).

“You don’t know how special this day is to me,” said Meade, a long time Yonkers teacher and coach who began his coaching career at Gorton 30 years ago. “Donny was a special coach and special person in my life. To be able to play here at Gorton in this game is something I won’t forget.”

DeMatteo, who died after a battle with cancer in 2000 after more than two decades as Gorton coach, left his team to his son Dan, the current coach. “Mike asked about his team touching the rock,” DeMatteo said with a smile. “I said, ‘of course’. It was a special moment.

Meade, who has led his Falcons to their best record in more than a decade, a 6-1 regular-season mark and a Class C playoff berth, coached at Saunders and Roosevelt high schools in Yonkers before coming over to Woodlands this fall. His team will know their first-round playoff opponent sometime Sunday morning.

“We started this together back in March,” Meade told his players after the game. “I don’t want to lose our first playoff game in years and be playing in a consolation game. I’m going to get to work right now preparing and we’re going to work hard to be ready, right?” “Yes, Coach,” Meade’s Falcons replied as one. “Yes, coach.”

Falcons’ running back Malcolm Downey scored three touchdowns and the defense pounded away at an overmatched Palisades Prep team that had no answer. The Falcons led 35-0 at halftime and got worse in the second half.

“This isn’t going to be the way we play in the next game,” Downey said. “We know we can move the ball, but we’re going to have to play our best from now on. I think we’re a better team than we were in the beginning of the year. The coaching staff has made us better.”

Woodlands quarterback Justin Riccio threw a 50-yard touchdown pass to Dylan Eddie to make the score 20-0 but warned that it was the defense that would have to lead beginning with Thursday’s playoff game.

“The defense sets the tone,” Downey said. “If we can stop people and get good field position the offense will gain confidence.” Defensive end Houston Porter, who doubled as the team’s center on offense, put it simply.

“The defense as really improved because guys are doing what the coaches teach us to do,” Porter said. “The playoffs are something we worked hard for and we want to be ready.” Defensive lineman Danny Zapata returned a fumble 14 yards for a touchdown and Ton Richards had a key touchdown early in the game. “It’s my first touchdown ever,” Zapata said. “I picked it up and there was the end zone. “

For Meade, who is wearing Woodlands green and white after beginning his coaching career wearing Gorton green and white, couldn’t help cherishing the moment before leaving Don DeMatteo Field. “What a day,” Meade said. “I never expected to have my kids here touching that rock. But what a day.”

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