Millbrook Defeats Sullivan West To Capture First Section IX Crown Since 2010; Valiant Bulldogs Complete Memorable Season
Millbrook 24, Sullivan West 0
By RICHARD A. ROSS
Photos at: www.sportsinsights.smugmug.com
KINGSTON, NY- Valor, love and pride.
These are the hallmarks of the enduring legacy that belong to both victorious Millbrook and noble Sullivan West, residuals from the teams’ outstanding seasons that will live on for years to come.
A surfeit of love would pour forth for both squads, not to be abated or diminished by the outcome of this epic clash.
While I was not in Millbrook in the morning, I imagine the sendoff was effusive and loving.
For the Sullivan West Bulldogs, their passage through Jeffersonville afforded them a panoramic view of family members and friends who had gathered early in the morning replete with signs, balloons, banners and cheers to greet the bus carrying their beloved team as it departed for Dietz Stadium.
In the sharp antithesis always in evidence at the completion of title games, it was once again those loving parents and friends who would be there for the players, showering them with their love and adoration.
While the Millbrook parents cheered, hugged and celebrated their victorious sons on one side of the field following the Blazers’ 24-0 victory, the team’s first title since 2010, on the opposite side of the field Sullivan West parents, friends and community members showed their unbridled love and support for their solemn and tear-laden warriors after the heart-rending defeat that ended the team’s season and brought the curtain down on the high school football careers of the team’s 17 seniors.
I ventured into the Sullivan West locker room following the game and was privy, not for the first time in my years in this endeavor, to the sight of young men devastated by defeat.
But for all the heartache and dismay, they will reckon with the fact that life goes on.
It was beyond disappointing for the Westies who had reeled off eight straight victories before last week’s crushing non-league loss to powerful Chester.
That octet of triumphs had included wins over all three league rivals including Millbrook, Tri-Valley, and Liberty, a feat which crowned the Bulldogs the Division Championship.
In addition, the vanquishing of Class B O’Neill, Rondout Valley and Highland had further added to the rising hopes that a championship could be claimed, the school’s first since 2006.
But this day belonged to the Millbrook Blazers who played nearly flawlessly, dominated the line of scrimmage and evinced championship caliber football wrought of weeks of incisive strategizing, planning and rigorous practices, all pointed towards this one defining game.
For the Blazers this victory was sweet redemption, not just for the brutally punishing 20-12 loss handed to them by the Bulldogs back on October 4, but also for the shocking semifinal ouster last year to O’Neill in the Class C Semifinals.
Arguably the best team in the C scape in 2013, late season injuries and other unfortunate issues that denied them the use of their full squad in the playoff tilt with the Raiders led to Millbrook’s early exit.
O’Neill would fall to Burke in the title game.
Both of those teams moved up to Class B this season leaving Sullivan West and Liberty as Millbrook’s title contenders. Millbrook and Sullivan West disposed of Liberty leaving the Bulldogs and the Blazers as the two heavyweights still standing.
Much speculation prevailed over the past couple of weeks as to what the outcome would be.
No doubt, Sullivan West’s disquieting loss in Chester, witnessed by Blazer Coach Sean Keenan and his staff, added to Millbrook’s already burgeoning archive of film and its dissection of the Bulldogs offensive and defensive machinations.
A brilliant X’s and O’S football mind, as well as one of the Section’s greatest motivators, Keenan assiduously prepared his team to anticipate virtually anything and everything the Bulldogs would do on both sides of the ball.
Replete with a cadre of offensive weapons, Millbrook would deploy an attack strategy that had Sullivan West’s defense back on its heels.
For its part, the Westies’ offense offered no mystery to well-prepared Millbrook. Sullivan West hoped to use the force of its line to its advantage. But Millbrook’s line elevated its level of play to blunt that intention.
In addition, turnovers would figure into the outcome as Sullivan West handed Millbrook a trio of extra possessions by dint of a pair of interceptions and a fumble. For their part, Sullivan West picked off two Millbrook passes, but failed to capitalize on either.
The latter featured a sterling play by senior Brian Stauch who marshaled the ball to the Blazers’ ten just before the half. Despite the noble running of Andrew Stabbert who covered seven of the remaining ten yards to pay dirt, Millbrook’s defense swarmed QB Richard Shevak for a nine-yard loss. His final pass of the half fell short of its mark and the chance to cut Millbrook’s lead and augur a second half resurgence beginning with the Westies’ reception in the second half never came to pass.
That failure to score was immensely significant in the game’s emotional momentum.
More on the details of the game will follow shortly.
While in the first game encounter, Sullivan West controlled the line of scrimmage and handed Millbrook a punishing night of horrors, this time around it was Millbrook that owned the real estate between the tackles affording senior running back Mike DoCarmo room to run with force and vigor.
By game’s end the 6’2, 228 pound bruiser had racked up 151 yards on 31 carries, thrown for one TD and ran for another, all of which netted him the honor of being named the Offensive Player of the Game.
Speedy sophomore standout Delvin Wood might have added even more woes to the Bulldog defense. Indeed his 28-yard run off the edge netted the Blazers their second score of the first half, both of which were punctuated by DoCarmo conversion runs for the 16-0 halftime lead.
But in the end zone Wood was sandwiched between senior tacklers Brian Stauch and Justin Diehl, Wood went down hard on his shoulder and had to exit the game. He never returned to the fray.
The absence of a running back who had averaged 14 yards per carry this season should have given the Dawgs one less thing to worry about. Wood by the way, would earn one of the two Modell Game Day Awards presented after the game. The other deservedly went to Sullivan West’s Andrew Stabbert.
Stabbert netted 56 yards on 12 carries carrying him over the 1,000 yard plateau for the season.
Defensively, Sullivan West thwarted its mission with a spate of encroachment penalties, several of which afforded Millbrook first downs in situations where defensive patience might have resulted in changes of possession.
Seven penalties totally 45 yards was an ignominious blot on the game that factored into the loss. For its part Millbrook had only two penalties in the game, which totaled 15 yards.
For this year’s Millbrook team the agenda to not only get back to the Big Dance but to win it all was more than a wish, it was a mission.
For Sullivan West, which went 3-4 a year ago and missed the playoffs, this was a chance to return the glory to the school that had won three straight titles from 2004-2006.
But this defeat coupled with the 2008 title loss to Ellenville as well as other losses to Burke and O’Neil in semifinal games sadly extended the drought.
Now the Bulldogs will have to go into rebuilding mode as a wealth of talent and experience goes out the door in June.
Here are the game’s highlights:
The Bulldogs won the toss and elected to defer.
That first Millbrook series featured a 12-yard run by Wood, which ended in a fumble recovered by Stauch with 10:45 to go. During that first Millbrook series the Westies had incurred their first encroachment penalty.
That turnover gave the Dawgs the ball at Millbrook’s 31 and a big momentum shift.
But just three plays later and with a tad more than a minute gone by, a fumble on the exchange by quarterback Richard Shevak was recovered by Millbrok’s Bret Stiscia.
For the next six and a half minutes Millbrook had possession of the ball as DoCarmo and Wood took turns advancing it from their own 36 step by step towards the end zone.
With 5:58 remaining in the first quarter, a ten-yard pass by DoCarmo was deflected into the waiting arms of Leif Christensen. DoCarmo ran in the conversion and the Blazers owned the lead they would never relinquish.
Three straight carries by Andrew Stabbert initiated the drive that began at the Dawg’s 21. But the drive stalled leading to an Austin Melchick punt.
To his credit, Melchick’s punting would be one of the rare Westies’ highlights. He’d average 42.3 yards over is three punts on the day.
Millbrook needed just four plays and a minute and a half to add their second score, a 28-yard TD gallop by Wood with 1:50 go in the first quarter. Wood’s day ended with a total of 59 yards on seven carries as he went down with the shoulder injury. That brought his season tally to 1,452 yards.
Though Sullivan West held Millbrook to 254 yards on 57 carries, below their season average of 356 yards per game on the ground, it could only reply with 61 yards on the ground by dint of 32 carries. 28 passing yards netted a total of only 89 yards of offense of the day for the Bulldogs.
Millbrook would own the time of possession by a striking 37:45 to 10:15. Offensively they marshaled 12 first downs via the run to Sullivan West’s four.They converted 9/15 third downs (60 %) and 2-of-4 fourth downs (50%) to the Dawgs’ 3-of-11 third down tries (27.3%) and 1-of-3 fourth down tries (33.3%).
These statistics clearly reveal Millbrook’s control of the game. Millbrook sacked Shavak twice while their quarterbacks remained unscathed.
As noted the Dawgs failed to convert Stauch’s interception into a score at the half. They hoped to turn things north in the second half as they received the ball.
But that aspiration went south in a hurry via a Shevak fumble at the Blazers’ 46 yard line with 9:32 to go in the third quarter.
Two more encroachment penalties extended Millbrook’s ensuing possession that ate up six minutes of the third quarter. To the Dawgs’ credit they stopped the Blazers on a fourth down as Stabbert threw Jessi LicCurse for a one-yard loss on fourth down at the Westie’s five yard line. Ronj Padu assisted on the big tackle.
The Dawgs’ series featured runs by Shevak and Kevin Puerschner but an incomplete pass intended for Stauch led to a hardy Melchick punt.
A five-yard carry by DoCarmo led to the end of the third quarter.
Using 8:20 of the quarter and 14 plays, Millbrook marched 77 yards ending up with a two-yard TD run by DoCarmo with 3:40 to go in the game. He ran in the conversion for the 24-0 lead.
A Shevak pass intended for Melchick was picked off by Christensen but the Millbrook drive stalled on the 14-yard line as Kevin Hart zoned in on DoCarmo leading to the star’s punt.
Shevak would complete one of three passes in his final series but the final two incompletions led to Millbrook’s final possession.
Kneeling down wore off the game’s remaining seconds and authored the Blazers’ leaping frenzy as the team celebrated its long-sought tittle acquisition. As the teams lined up to shake hands the antithetical body language spoke volumes about the emotions.
In the awards ceremony in addition to the Modell Game Awards given to Stabbert and Wood, DoCarmo and teammate Colin Wolhford received the honors of Offensive and Defensive Players of the game.
Millbrook improved to 8-2 while Sullivan West ended its campaign at 8-2.
The Blazers will play Section One’s Woodlands on November 15.
Coach Keenan summed up the keys to the game:
“We knew we were going to play them and we had a lot of time to prepare. The first time we played them I think it was obvious they were the better team. Tonight it was obvious we were the better team,” he noted.
“We’re a little healthier than we were the first time against them and a little more prepared. Going back to the last game, they wanted it more than us. We’ve had two great weeks of practice and I think we earned it today,” he added. Asked about Delvin Wood, Keenan offered, “I think he’s okay.” You take out a kid who averages 14 yards a carry that early in the game and for us to what we did, I couldn’t be prouder of our team. But we say family at the end and that’s what it is all about.”
On the opposite side of the field the Sullivan West players knelt, many of them with tears streaming down their faces as they listened to the coaches remind them that the off-season preparation, which must begin, now is the key to being competitive.
Bauer told his team, “What hurt us today were a couple of early turnovers and if we had scored right before the half we would have been right back in this game. Overall it’s been a great season. You need to hold your heads high. For the young guys coming back we have to develop a line if we’re going to have a competitive team. The key is to work out. This line worked out all summer.”
Bauer went on to announce that five players will participated in the Section IX Exceptional Senior All-Star game. They will include Sean and Kevin Hart, Anthony Rydell, Andrew Stabbert and Richard Shevak.
By the time I exited the field it was empty save for a few lingering parents. I pondered the dozen years I have been covering sports and the numerous times I have been privy to title game clashes.
Long after the memories fade about game details, scores, who won what etc, the lessons and the experiences resonate for the young warriors on through the ensuing years.
Losing is always hard to bear but setbacks are an integral part of life. “It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters,’ noted the Greek philosopher Epictetus.
Indeed adversity can be the medium to marshal greater strength and purpose. In addition, though all teams in a particular class will end up losing except the one eventually crowned state champion, winning or losing cannot be used as an accuate measure of success.. As the late John Wooden noted, “Success is a state of mind which is a direct result of knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming.
And that is lifelong venture.
Kudos to the Sullivan West Bulldogs on their eminently fine, successful season. You brought great joy and pride to your school, families and the community. Your legacy will endure for years to come in the memories of those privileged to have witnessed your accomplishments, enhanced and refreshed by the countless photos and stories that have encoded your run.
Farewell to Westie seniors Richard Shevak, Justin Diehl, Brian Stauch, Brandon Cabassa, Mark Castro, Chris Mann, Tyler Davis, Justin Dorman, Anthony Rydell, Sean Hart, James Rankin, Devin Creegan, Kevin Hart, Ronj Padu and Jack Rajlevski.
Thanks for the memories.
Good luck to the Millbrook Blazers in your ongoing quest. You proved yourselves to be true champions and reminded us what it takes to be champions and moreover, champions with class.
For an album of photos, visit www.sportsinsights.