In the moments after they shook hands with John Jay-East Fishkill, Anthony Vitti and his players gathered in the end zone. There were no wounds licked, no bowed heads after yet another loss, their sixth in as many games. In fact, what would traditionally be a quick postgame chat between coaches and players was anything but typical.
The regular season was over, and Mamaroneck was glad to see it go.
“We sat in the end zone together and we got over it,” said Vitti, whose team reached the Class AA semifinals a year ago. “We said, ‘Let’s go. Turn the page.’ It was that quick.”
Friday night’s Class AA qualifying round matchup at Carmel gave the Tigers an opportunity to look forward. As one of the top 13 teams in Class AA’s preseason rankings, Mamaroneck earned an automatic berth into this round.
The prospect of having a chance to play their way into next week’s quarterfinal kept the Tigers motivation during an injury-plagued regular season.
“It kept our intensity up,” senior quarterback Bill Flatow said. “We knew we were going to get a second chance and we always had that in the back of our minds. When people got hurt, we didn’t try to rush them back. We knew we were going to have that second season. Hopefully, we’ll be a lot healthier for the playoffs.”
Flatow suffered a sprained shoulder in the second quarter of the season opener against Mahopac. He missed the second half and the next two games against New Rochelle and Horace Greeley before returning for the final three games of the regular season.
Fellow senior star Peter Matt suffered a high-ankle sprain against Greeley and missed the final three-plus games. The running back/defensive end was joined on the sideline at times by two-way lineman Myson Robinson and Tommy Williams.
“When you get down to it, at one point we were 11 starters in the hole,” Vitti said.
Through all the injuries, Mamaroneck played a highly competitive schedule that included losses to New Rochelle, John Jay and Clarsktown North, the top three seeds in Class AA and presumptive favorites. The Tigers were within reach in the second half of all three games, including a 14-6 loss at New Rochelle (which is now 6-0) on Sept. 11.
“I feel like we played a playoff schedule all year,” Vitti said. “There’s no ceremony here. This is not an attaboy for us. We feel like we’re in this tournament. I told our guys that you don’t get many second chances in life. You don’t get many mulligans. This is a great opportunity for us.”