On North Rockland's very first offensive play, Nick Connell took a toss to the left side and busted a 47-yard run down to Clarkstown South's one-yard line. The play seemed to set the tone for what could be a dominant performance from the Red Raiders, but that would be their longest gain of the game.
Both teams had trouble moving the ball in a defensive struggle, but the North Rockland defense proved to be the better of the two in a 17-3 win on Saturday.
"Off that toss, running all the way down and getting to the one ... it showed that our offense could move the ball, but then it was basically a more defensive game," Connell said. "It's an ugly win, but we'll take it."
John Dapolito punched in a one-yard touchdown on the next play to give the Red Raiders (3-0) a 7-0 lead, but the Vikings' defense tightened up after that.
The two teams combined for more punts (16) than first downs (13).
"We shot ourselves in the foot too many times, and we've got to get better on offense," North Rockland coach Tom Lynch said. "The defense held us in the game again."
Coming into the game, the North Rockland defense had yet to allow a point. The defense finally gave in during the second quarter, but through little fault of their own. A Clarkstown South (1-2) punt pinned the Red Raiders inside their own five-yard line, and after two unsuccessful runs, Connell fumbled near the goal line on third down.
"It was basically a draw play," Connell said. "I felt the ball, but it just came out. It was either on the handoff or on me, but our defense came up big."
Charles Venezia recovered for the Vikings on the three, putting them in prime position to tie the game. But North Rockland stymied three consecutive runs up the gut, forcing South to settle for a 20-yard field goal.
"I figured they were going to come out with something different," Lynch said. "I told my kids to be ready for their option or them to come out in an empty set to throw us off, but he came out in the power-I and it just played into our hands."
The Red Raiders' defense once again came up with a big play late in the third quarter to help their offense put more points on the board. Samuel Pierre Louis forced a fumble and fell on it to give North Rockland excellent field position, setting up a 23-yard field goal to increase the lead to 10-3.
Connell punched in a two-yard score with 2:12 remaining to seal the win. He finished with 107 yards on 20 carries, while the Red Raiders' defense held South to just four first downs.
"Our defense played great," South coach Michael Scarpelli said. "There's only so many times you can go three-and-out on offense. They need to get a break."