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Sachem defense will go down as one of its best ever

Varsity - 2013 Season
Posted Wednesday, January 22, 2014 by Sachem Patch

Sachem defense will go down as one of its best ever

Nick Accurso, Dylan Rodriguez, Chris Fasano and Anthony DiMatteo. / Credit Ray Nelson

Nick Accurso, Dylan Rodriguez, Chris Fasano and Anthony DiMatteo. / Credit Ray Nelson

There was a point of the regular season this year where that headline above would have seemed impossible, specifically midway through Sachem’s Week 6 loss at William Floyd. Defeated, embarrassed, crushed both mentally and physically, Sachem looked down and out.

It allowed 42 points in the loss at Floyd, the most in a regular season game since 2008 (44 against Lindenhurst and Longwood) and things needed to change. Remember they also lost to Commack, 31-28, during Week 5 and that didn’t sit well with players or coaches either.

“We knew we didn’t come out to play those two games,” said Sachem senior Trent Crossan. “We were a little intimidated. We had this big talk in the film room after looking at the film against Floyd. We decided there were two roads we could go down; either step it up or pack it in. We had a two-hour talk in there and it shows that we stepped it up.”

Coaches fine tuned their defensive approach, making it more simple in certain play calls so that players could more react with more speed. Fast and physical became the motto.

The reformation began during Week 7 with a 31-6 victory over Lindenhurst, grew stronger with a 21-7 defeat of Patchogue-Meford in the regular season finale against arguably the best passing offense in Suffolk County, watched as the Flaming Arrows eventually stifled Northport in a 42-12 first round playoff win, saw Sachem hold Connetquot’s potent offense down in a 14-13 semifinal victory, and had its finest performance of the year in a 28-7 championship win over Floyd.

The 27-21 Long Island championship win over Farmingdale, however, solidified this defensive group as one of the finest in program history. That’s 53 years of Sachem football, thousands of players, hundreds of games and some pretty outstanding teams, but this one will stand out as one of the best.

Jasheem Banks, George Carrion and Kevin Bragaglia.

Jasheem Banks, George Carrion and Kevin Bragaglia.

Tip your cap to Sachem defensive coordinator David Caputo who takes his job as serious as a college or pro coordinator. He’s a football film junky who can analyze opposing offenses until he’s blue in the face. He lives it. He breathes it. He was part of a talented defensive unit as a Sachem player in 1995, the last time the Flaming Arrows played in the Long Island championship and has been waiting 18 years to hoist the hallowed wooden silhouette of Long Island.

The same can be said of coaches Joe Cannone and Tom Pandolf, who also coach sectors of the defense. Sachem alums like Caputo, they want nothing but the best for the program, its athletes and its tradition of excellence.

They all take defeat personal and turned things around seamlessly during the second half of the season. In Sachem’s first six games they allowed 171 points and just 66 in the last six. Defensively speaking, the last six weeks of the season were remarkable. Ask longtime Sachem coach Ron Chierichella and he’ll tell you that Sachem’s 1986 defensive unit may be the only one comparable to this group of players.

The team saw a number of players peak at the right time.

Chris Biryla had the game of his life against Floyd, recording more than 10 tackles in the win, not to mention three sacks in the first half alone.

Justin Rivera and George Carrion consistently led the team in tackles week after week. Carrion is more vocal, but both hit hard and hit with passion.

The defensive backs – who sometimes rotate in as linebackers depending upon the personnel situation -, including Malik Pierre, Trent Crossan, Kevin Bragaglia, Mike O’Donnell and Jasheem Banks, have been absolute shutdown defenders. Sachem recorded more interceptions in the last month then any other four week span in the last five years.

Anthony Ross was also a pivotal linebacker this season. He went down in the first half of the Long Island championship with a knee injury, forcing Pierre to play inside linebacker

Then there’s the defensive line. Led by Anthony DiMatteo, and bolstered by freshman Chris Fasano, senior Nick Accurso, and sophomore Dylan Rodriguez, these players held some of the best running backs in the area to barely any inside traction. They shutdown Chris Faison, they contained Farmingdale’s Curtis Jenkins and Lindenhurst, Patchogue and Northport didn’t generate much with their ground attack either.

After trailing 21-7 in the first half, Sachem dialed it up and held the Dalers to just 75 total yards and a scoreless effort in the second half. Farmingdale did not cross Sachem’s 25 yard line in the final 24 minutes. Losing Ross and Rodriguez, who also went down in the first half, compounded personnel problems that most teams would shutter on. Not Sachem.

“We’ve been making adjustments all year based on our personnel,” said Sachem coach Dave Falco. “I thought they’d done a great job. For us to make those adjustments at halftime were just about us being unsettled.”

After the game some of Sachem’s coaches ran into MSG’s Jimmy Cavallo in the parking lot. He said anytime you have a defensive lineman with a cast on one hand intercept a pass, referring to Accurso’s grab in the first half, you know you’re going to have a good day.

Truth is, Sachem has been making clutch plays like that for the last six weeks on defense. Defense wins championships.

-Words by Chris R. Vaccaro

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