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Title dream ends for Orchard Park

SYRACUSE – In the first quarter of Saturday evening’s Class AA state championship football game, New Rochelle senior Jason Ceneus caught a strong-armed spiral from his quarterback, Kahlil Edney.

There were two Orchard Park defenders near Ceneus on the right side, and it looked like it would be a decent gain. Then the 5-foot-8, 170-pound halfback delivered the stiffest of stiff-arms, fending off one defender so forcefully he fell to the turf. Then Ceneus jumped away from another tackler and ran down the right sideline for a 40-yard touchdown.

That is what New Rochelle did to Orchard Park all game. The hard-hitting Huguenots outplayed the Quakers on offense and defense as they used a dominating, 28-0 first half to roll to a 34-6 victory over OP and a second state title to add to the one it won in 2003.

“They flew to the ball like no other team that we faced through the season,” said Orchard Park senior quarterback Ben Holmes. “They just swarmed and they were super-fast. They hit really hard. It was kind of like when they hit you, you didn’t want to go back and run again. They’re a great team.”

An estimated 2,500 at the Carrier Dome watched Orchard Park (11-2) come up one game short of repeating as Class AA state champions.

“They were fast, they were strong, they were great on defense – that’s the best team in the state in AA,” said Orchard Park coach Gene Tundo. “They defended everything we did really well. … They outplayed us the whole game.”

OP moved the ball on its first drive, gaining the New Rochelle 34 but turned the ball over on downs. New Rochelle (12-1) then went on a 15-play drive that ended with Jon Forrest’s 1-yard touchdown run with 2:49 left in the first quarter.

The Huguenots of Westchester County (Section I) would score 1:44 later. A fumble on a run by Orchard Park senior Austin Goltz (six catches, 108 yards) resulted in a short field for New Rochelle as it took over at the OP 36. After being pushed back by a penalty, Ceneus scored on his stiff-arm play.

“He hit me in the flat – I had a couple of blocks there, and I just had to get in the end zone,” said Ceneus, who displayed his strength several times as he was near-impossible to take down to the turf during his 12-carry, 75-yard rushing day. “We kept it simple, did what we did best, and we played fast.”

New Rochelle kept rolling behind the poised Edney, who completed 6 of 10 passes for 93 yards and two touchdowns and also ran for 91 yards on seven carries.

One of those carries helped make it a 21-0 game when the 6-foot-3, 171-pound senior couldn’t find a receiver, then ran to the left side, gained the edge and went 47 yards for the score.

The Huguenots added a fourth first-half touchdown when the multi-talented Joe Clarke grabbed a deflected pass for a 9-yard touchdown catch with 1:47 left in the first half. The 6-foot-1, 202-pounder caught two passes and repeatedly delivered deep kickoffs. He also punted four times for an average of 37.8 yards, sending footballs closer to the Carrier Dome roof than any other punter here this weekend.

“Their quarterback made some great plays, No. 3 [Ceneus] made awesome plays,” said Tundo. “They were great in every aspect of the game – their punter was punting better than anyone I’ve ever seen.”

OP’s offense, particularly the running game that had led it to the Dome could not get going against a fast, ferocious defense led by 5-6, 170 pound senior Shayne Forbes (12 tackles, three sacks) and 6-0 185 senior Terrence Holden (five tackles, sack).

The Quakers were limited to 43 rushing yards in the first half as it was outgained, 249-109; it also managed just four first downs in the first half to New Rochelle’s 13. The Quakers were 1 of 6 on third downs in the first half; New Rochelle was 6 of 7. Senior Mitch Wilson was limited to 21 yards on eight carries. Holmes had 26 yards on five attempts; he would finish with 109 on 12 carries.

Holmes was often under pressure or trying to hit receivers who were very well-covered. He was 10 of 26 for 170 yards for one touchdown, which was a 22-yarder to senior Ralph Pagliei with just 2:22 to play.

“It’s real tough,” said Holmes. “I never thought this would happen, but it did.”