Greenwich faces a double challenge Friday night as the Witches begin their first foray into the state football playoffs in five years.
Not only are the Witches going in blind against a Tuckahoe team they’ve never faced, but the Tigers play a pass-heavy spread scheme they haven’t seen.
“They’re quite an athletic team, they run a spread offense that throws a lot, and that’s something we’re not accustomed to seeing,” Greenwich head coach Brandon Linnett said. “Their defense plays a lot of man(-to-man coverage), and we’re not used to that either.”
The newly crowned Section II champion Witches — 10-0 and ranked fourth in the state — take on Tuckahoe (8-1) and its high-octane passing attack at 7 p.m. at Mechanicville High School.
The winner advances to face either Moriah or Haldane in the state semifinals, set for next Friday at 3 p.m. at Middletown High School.
Tuckahoe, which plays a Class C schedule as one of only two Class D schools in Section I, is averaging 42.3 points per game and allowing 17 ppg.
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Greenwich is no slouch in the scoring department, either. The Witches have outscored their opponents by an average of 46-9 in nine games on the field — one win was a forfeit. They are coming off a dominant 31-7 victory over Stillwater in Saturday’s rain-soaked Section II title game, as sophomore Matt Conlin pounded his way to 174 yards and two touchdowns.
“Stats can be misleading both ways,” said Linnett, whose team has won 16 straight games since the spring Fall II season. “This team is totally different than Stillwater, but you can’t tell how physical anybody is on film. We expect a high-quality team that will put us under a lot of pressure. They’ll make us play every inch of the field.”
“We have some guys who can catch the ball and we try to spread the ball around,” Tuckahoe coach John D’Arco Jr. said. “We make you cover the entire field. We have weapons out there, we want to get the ball out to them.”
Tuckahoe is from the southern part of Section I, deep in Westchester County, tucked in between Yonkers and New Rochelle. Its only loss this season was 34-20 to perennial Class C power Dobbs Ferry on Oct. 9.
The No. 6-ranked Tigers are coming off a 48-40 win over Haldane in the sectional final last week. Haldane is also in the state quarterfinals as an at-large team, part of the state’s new rotation to fill byes in the eastern half of the playoff brackets in Classes AA, A and D.
Tuckahoe is led by running back Mike Meyers, who has rushed for 1,193 yards and 17 touchdowns. He racked up 352 yards and three TDs against Haldane. Backup quarterback Jax Colacicco filled in for banged-up starter Michael Annunziata and threw for four scores. Colacicco and Annunziata have combined to pass for 1,615 yards, with John Benke and Jake Matarazzo as top targets.
That puts the pressure on the Witches’ secondary, led by safeties Deontae Bennett, Dutch Hamilton and Parker Jamieson, who had two picks against Stillwater last week.
“We’ll have to tackle in space, and hopefully we can do a better job than we have,” Linnett said.
Greenwich’s offense is led by senior Jesse Kuzmich, a four-year starter at quarterback who has produced 1,766 yards total offense and accounted for 26 touchdowns. Conlin, a 5-foot-11, 240-pound bull of a runner, leads the team with 1,049 yards and 19 TDs, but Greenwich has a stable of offensive weapons.
“I’m very impressed with (Greenwich) on film,” D’Arco said. “They have good size on the offensive line, their running back is very tough and No. 3 (Bennett) is pretty explosive. They’ll be one of the better teams we’ve played all year.”
“Offensively we’ve got to be physical — Dobbs was physical when they played earlier,” Linnett said. “We’ll have to get our passing game going and make some big plays. We’ll see if we can rise to the challenge.”
Follow Pete Tobey on Twitter @PTobeyPSVarsity.