MIDDLETOWN — Shenendehowa was concerned with New Rochelle's big-play ability, and near the end of Saturday night's Class AA state semifinal football game, the Huguenots sprung two that did the Plansmen in.
Tariq Benjamin fired touchdown passes to Gary Phillips and Raymond Dixon in the fourth quarter after the Plainsmen had scrambled from behind, and New Rochelle ended a superb Shenendehowa season with a 24-17 victory at Middletown High School.
"It was a great season," Shenendehowa coach Brian Clawson said after his team's nine-game win streak was halted. "It stings that we weren't able to get to the Carrier Dome. To come up short of something when it's so close, it's kind devastating to a football team."
Shenendehowa (10-2) strung 17 unanswered points to erase a 10-0 deficit, with Josh Szwarcberg's 56-yard touchdown grab and Cole Ranze's PAT capping the comeback late in the third quarter.
"We get the field goal to get even. We get the lead," Clawson said. "I knew a one-score lead wasn't safe. I knew we had to get another one in."
Instead, it was New Rochelle (Section I, 12-0) that got the key second-half scores, but only after a fierce struggle with the state's No. 9 team.
New Rochelle came in with a No. 2 state rank and had won each of its first 11 games by double figures, including a 21-7 regional triumph last week against Proctor and a 42-14 rout of Carmel the week before when the Huguenots secured their fifth consecutive Section I flag.
"They gave it everything they had for four quarters. They left it on the field," Clawson said. "The guys have great character. They overcame adversity. They showed that time and time again tonight."
Phillips scored on a 49-yard screen play and Johnny Gonzalez booted the PAT to pull New Rochelle even at 17 with 9:15 left. Following a Shenendehowa punt, New Rochelle struck again on a quick three-play drive that featured a 35-yard dash by Jessie Parson followed by a 28-yard scoring reception by Dixon with 6:57 left.
"They scored a couple of late TDs on us and we couldn't muster a comeback," Clawson said.
Shenendehowa quarterback Brody Vincenzi was sacked by Darren Kabba on a fourth-and-five from the New Rochelle 25 to halt the drive after Dixon's go-ahead touchdown. Shenendehowa's last drive was stopped when, on a third-and-eight from the Plainsmen 38, Kaden Smith intercepted Vincenzi.
"Very proud of this football team," Clawson said. "It didn't come out like we wanted it to, but we battled."
New Rochelle went up 10-0 on a 20-yard field goal by Gonzalez early in the first quarter and a 9-yard touchdown run by Parson early in the second. Vincenzi scored on a 2-yard run on the Plainsmen's ensuing drive, and Ranze nailed a 33-yard field goal as time expired in the first half.
Dyvante Terrelonge caught a 70-yard pass to set up the touchdown, and Dustin Lewis caught a 43-yard pass to set up the field goal, those large gains part of a 217-yard passing effort by Vincenzi. Vincenzi was tabbed Shenendehowa's outstanding offensive performer and Szwarcberg, with 10 tackles, earned the defensive honor.
Parson ran for a game-high 125 yards and was selected New Rochelle's top offensive performer. Kayshaun Thomas was named the Huguenots' top defensive player after making nine tackles.
Shenendehowa lost to Newburgh Free Academy 20-19 in overtime in its last state semifinal appearance in 2014.
New Rochelle 3 7 0 14 — 24
Shenendehowa 0 10 7 0 — 17
NR — Gonzalez 20 FG
NR — Parson 9 run (Gonzalez kick)
S — Vincenzi 2 run (Ranze kick)
S — Ranze 33 FG
S — Szwarcberg 56 pass from Vincenzi (Ranze kick)
NR — Phillips 49 pass from Benjamin (Gonzalez kick)
NR — Dixon 28 pass from Benjamin (Gonzalez kick)