Yes, laugh if you must, but it happens: My top three teams all lost. What that means is that the Top 10 and class-by-class rankings will be shaken up this week. I had a chance to see both my No. 4 and No. 5 teams in person on Saturday, which was informative. Also, the Dutchess teams (Ketcham and John Jay) deserve to rise, too, based solely on what they did in Week 1 and who they beat.
Having said all that, I expect this season to be one of constant change. New Rochelle (my No. 1), Iona Prep (No. 2) and North Rockland (No. 3) are consistently this area’s three best football programs. Like the Terminator, they will be back.
1. Stepinac (1-0, Last week: 5) - I watched the first half of Stepinac’s very impressive 47-14 win over Mount last Saturday and came away very impressed. I don’t know that the Crusaders will stay in this spot all season, but their team speed on offense and defense is tough to ignore - and Mount is a pretty good team with some very good players. I’ll be interest to see how Stepinac handles the physicality of the league’s top teams, but so far, so good. QB Brandon Coleman and RB Malcolm Major are little, but they are as tough as they are fast.
2. John Jay-East Fishkill (1-0, Last week: 7)— This one really surprised me because I think North Rockland is very good. But it’s a testament to what Tom O’Hare has done at John Jay. He brought back just six starters and the Patriots didn’t miss a beat, jumping ahead of North Rockland by two touchdowns on the road and then withstanding a late rally to win in double OT. Most teams would have folded in that spot; not this one.
3. Ketcham (1-0, Last week: 9) - Many of you were critical of me picking Ketcham for the playoffs, and you had some valid points. But Ketcham finally delivered in a big game last week, beating New Ro 22-14 in a game that, by all accounts, wasn’t as close as the score would indicate. Frankly, this is a team loaded with talent. This should be a starting point - not a season highlight. We shall see.
4. Mahopac (1-0, Last week: 6)— Mahopac could’ve been No. 2, but didn’t face the same level of competition in Week 1. It’s no fault of the Indians, but consider this list very fluid. They could vault even further up the list based on their performance on Thursday night. New Rochelle will be hungry to rebound, but do you think Mahopac isn’t hungry, too? This is the game the Indians have waited for after playing New Ro toe-to-toe last regular season and then watching from home as the Huguenots rolled to a state title.
5. Harrison (1-0, Last week: 4)— I don’t quite know how to judge Harrison. The Huskies didn’t seem to play at the same level as Stepinac from a physical standpoint, although their backfield is quite dangerous, too. But it really was a tale of two halves, and you have to think Art Troilo’s absence last week played a factor in how sharp they were for Brewster. Also, I think Brewster could prove to be one of the best teams in Class A. We could view that one a little differently in late October. Still, my grade for Harrison is an incomplete. The pass defense definitely needs some work.
6. North Rockland (0-1, Last week: 3)— I didn’t see that coming. Sure, the game was close. I can’t remember many this team has played outside of 2010 that wasn’t close. But North Rockland was on its homefield and had plenty of talent back. Once the Red Raiders tied it, I thought they’d persevere and win. They didn’t, but it could be a byproduct of being very inexperienced on offense. Mark my words: North Rockland will be back.
7. New Rochelle (0-1, Last week: 1) - OK, I thought New Ro could lose last week, so it didn’t come as a surprise, but we’ve also read this story before. The Huguenots - namely Lou DiRienzo—are determined to improve and no coach has a stronger history of improving his teams than him. You cannot overstate what happened in 2008 enough. There have been other troublesome early-season moments before. This could be another, and ultimately it could also be another footnote in a championship season. To be continued…
8. Iona Prep (0-1, Last week: 2) - Reviews of last week’s loss to Newburgh were certainly unkind, but remember what Iona had on its plate: a dangerous opponent with some of the top talent in the state; an entirely new offense, both in terms of personnel and scheme; and an unfamiliar road environment. Still, you can’t quibble with this program’s history of success. That’s why the Gaels were ranked so high in the first place - and why I suspect they’ll be back in the conversation for a top spot before the season’s out. Of course, they may be gone from the Top 10 altogether first; last year’s nemesis Chaminade is up next on Saturday.
9. Rye (1-0, Last week: 9)— Of all the things I predicted that were wrong in Week 1, I got this one right: Rye certainly opened up its offense. That and Andrew Livingston is a star. The improved junior throws it better than anyone around, and he proved that and then some on Saturday night. Having said that, Somers isn’t Spring Valley; it’s the defending sectional champ. So the question now is, can Rye keep it going?
10. Somers (1-0, Last week: NR)— I liked what I saw in Somers last week, even if this year’s team isn’t on last year’s level. The Tuskers could have played with any team in the coverage area last year, Nos. 1 through 10. I’m not sure if this year’s team could beat those at the top, but Somers will be in playoff contention in Class A. I wasn’t 100 percent convinced of that before the season. Now, I am.
On the bubble: Yorktown (1-0), Brewster (0-1).
Here are my class-by-class rankings:
CLASS AA John Jay gets the nod for No. 1 based on its win, but also on the program’s recent history of success.
1. John Jay-East Fishkill
4. North Rockland
5. New Rochelle
CLASS A I really liked what I saw from Brewster, but Sleepy and Ossining are lingering.
CLASS B Pleasantville-Put Valley on Sunday is a great, important early-season game. Croton-Nanuet, too.
1. Our Lady of Lourdes
3. Putnam Valley
CLASS C/D The top four are the top four—and they are all very, very good.
2. Rye Neck
3. Dobbs Ferry
5. Albertus Magnus
2. Iona Prep
4. Rye Country Day