Down 10-0 in the second half and playing without its starting halfbacks, Harry Song and Julian Higgins, it was starting to look like a repeat of 2018.
Instead of losing a game in the fourth quarter like the 1-8 Raiders of last fall did consistently, this year’s team opened the season with a late comeback, topping host Port Chester 18-10. In addition to two touchdowns and a field goal, the Raiders stuffed Port Chester three times on the 1-yard line to avoid a potential game-tying touchdown and two-point conversion with a minute left to play.
It wasn’t that the Raiders played poorly in the first half — they were in the red zone twice and were unable to convert.
“In the red zone in the first half there were mental mistakes,” junior quarterback Ben Miller said. “We were going offside and not blocking the right people. Toward the end we were really locked in and we tried to continue doing what we did in practice and really force the ball down their throat and score touchdowns.”
Despite outgaining Port Chester in yardage, the Raiders had no points to show for it.
“We drive the ball down to the 8-yard line and we don’t put it in,” coach Andy Verboys said. “Then we’re back down there again and we don’t put it in. We failed twice down there in the red zone and they figured something out on us, they were spreading us a little thin and they made an adjustment and scored.
“It was a chess match going back and forth. Defensively they did some nice things to stop our option game. We didn’t have much of a perimeter game because of what they were doing. We’ll get better.”
The Raiders did get better in the second half. Miller hit Noah Ebner Borst for a touchdown and then scored on a two-point conversion to get on the board. Then Bennett Abbe hit a field goal to give Scarsdale the lead and the momentum.
“They told me yesterday if you need a 40-yarder he’s 9 for 10 inside 40,” Verboys said. “I didn’t even know how long it was, I was like, ‘Bennett!’ I didn’t think twice about it. I looked at him and said, ‘Go get it, kid.’ He did a nice job.”
The 11-point run was key for the Raiders. “Noah is one of my best friends off the field, so being able to throw that pass to him and get everybody else going was really exciting,” Miller said. “Having Bennett on the team is great. He works tirelessly on his field goals. In practice he’s kicking 20 field goals, just doing them all the time. Having him on the team is just phenomenal.”
The Raiders added some much needed insurance with an 18-yard touchdown run by Julian Glantz before the defense had another chance to step up and get Port Chester to turn the ball over on downs to end the game.
“That last five minutes really showed everybody what we can do,” Miller said. “I messed up a couple of times and everybody had my back, kept my head up. Those last couple of stops then showed everybody what we can do.”
This was all payback from last year. “I knew we had to bounce back from that 1-8 season, especially against Port Chester because they beat us last year on a last-minute touchdown,” senior Dean Mancini said. “We knew we had to get redemption, so we knew we had to come out here all business. Unlike last year we fought through all four quarters.”
Mancini plays left tackle on defense and this year moved from right guard to center offensively. Being part of the final stops to win the game was rewarding.
“Everyone did their job at the end,” Mancini said. “Everyone was in there for the tackle. They had nowhere to go. They tried a QB sneak every single time and we stopped them. It felt amazing. I knew we could do it. We did it.”
“That’s the Raider heart,” Verboys said. “They weren’t going to let it slip away. Glantz got him on one and the last one was [Chris] Saenger. He was like, ‘Coach, let me play the A gap.’ I told him they were going to run down here and we worked on it all week. I told him, ‘You’re going to come flying through that opening,’ and what does he do? He comes flying through the opening and hits him in the backfield. It was beautiful.”
The last two years featured problems with facilities and Verboys felt the team had “the heart ripped out of us.”
“For two years things were taken away,” Verboys said. “It was different. I’ve been doing this for 30 years. I know what it takes to get the kids to become one. Last year we lost too many games in the fourth quarter. We didn’t have that Raider heart. I told the kids today, ‘You got it back.’ That was the theme all season: ‘Let’s get the heart back.’ It’s the will to do whatever you have to do to win. They could have packed it in there. That’s huge against a team that’s bigger, more athletic.”
It was the exact kind of performance the Raiders needed on opening day, the confidence-builder to take into Ramapo at home today.
“We’ve got work to do, but opening day you’re going to make mistakes,” Verboys said. “Last year was tough because we fumbled five times and lost on opening day. This year we came out on top. This year the kids will take this and run with it. This is what high school football is all about. You get the ball rolling. We’ve got Ramapo next week and they’re another big, athletic team. We have to get healthy, get back in the weight room and do what we do.”
The Raiders hope not to find themselves behind in the game.
“We’ve got to come out strong in the first quarter,” Mancini said. “We should have had a touchdown on the first drive and that would have changed the entire game. We dug ourselves a little hole, but we got out of that pretty easily.”
Miller credited the team’s family vibe for getting over the hump.
“Everybody loves each other,” he said. “Everybody is doing it for each other. When we’re down on the goal line we looked to each other and said, ‘This is it, we’re a family, we love each other,’ and we all came off the ball and made a stop. It was good.”