DOBBS FERRY – For the first time in his five seasons at Dobbs Ferry, Jim Moran took a different approach, treating mid-October like mid-July. Both last week and this week, the Dobbs Ferry coach arranged midweek practices against other teams.
With more than three weeks off before his Eagles play in the Class C championship game on Halloween, Moran has eschewed the status quo.
“It’s just to avoid the boredom,” Moran said. “How many times can you hit your best friend?”
Dobbs Ferry has been forced to ask itself that question after a bye week to end the regular season bled into this week, a bye week the 6-0 Eagles earned as the No. 1 seed in Section 1’s three-team Class C field.
Dobbs Ferry last played on Oct. 9, a 41-6 win at Tuckahoe. The Eagles won’t play again until meeting the winner of No. 2 Woodlands and No. 3 Rye Neck the night of Oct. 31 at Pace University. The 22-day layoff isn’t just unique; it’s a challenge unto itself.
“It’s like going back to summer with double sessions without practicing twice,” Moran said. “You know you have three weeks until the first game. In three weeks, we could come out and be a complete different offense and defense. It’s definitely a strange feeling.”
The layoff was partly Dobbs’ own doing. With no great options and an inkling that a week of rest before the playoffs could help heal some inevitable wounds, Moran and his coaches decided against scheduling a seventh game. He said they never gave much thought to the notion that a strong season would result in an extra week off.
The extra week off certainly hasn’t been a total loss. The Eagles were without three keys players late in the regular season, starting with quarterback/safety Chris Cipriano, who suffered a broken collarbone on Sept. 19 against Woodlands while coming down with an interception. Cipriano has been out since, and was later joined by junior halfback Tion Holness, who suffered the same injury.
In Cipriano’s absence, Dobbs Ferry moved another senior captain, Ted Annunziato, to quarterback. He suffered a concussion against Tuckahoe. Annunziato has been cleared but still needs to pass specific concussion protocols. And Cipriano won’t find out until Thursday whether he can return, so neither quarterback would’ve been available last week or this week.
“From our perspective, it’s both good and bad,” Cipriano said of the layoff. “It’s good because all the people who are hurt can get healthy, like me, Ted and Tion. It’s also bad in a way because we haven’t seen any physical activity yet. We can’t really smack each other. We don’t have many bodies left.”
The Eagles have tried to simulate game action while breaking up their usual routine by scheduling practices with Blind Brook (last week) and Byram Hills (this week). Moran also gave his players a three-day weekend following their regular-season finale against Tuckahoe and has also abbreviated the normal practice schedule.
The players insist keeping focus hasn’t been an issue for them.
“I think we’re honored to be in the section championship, so I don’t think it’s hard to be focused,” senior Jibril Kapadia said. “We’re all excited about that. It’s something we strive for every year, that and trying to win a state championship. So focus isn’t a problem. We’re all excited. We’re just waiting it out.”
As part of the process, Dobbs Ferry will have the added advantage of attending Saturday’s semifinal at Woodlands High School en masse. Once they officially have an opponent to prepare for, the Eagles’ only issue might be whether or not they are sharp for the sectional final.
All things considered, it’s a minor concern. Oh, and there’s also this: If Dobbs Ferry wins on Halloween, it will be treated to, yes, another bye. The Section 1 Class C champ won’t return to action until Nov. 14 in the state quarterfinals.