Nanuet set the tone early in Saturday's 15-13 victory at home against Pearl River in the battle for the Little Brown Jug.
The Golden Knights (2-1) needed only two rushing plays to score after Shawn Celestin blocked a punt to set Nanuet up at the Pearl River 19-yard-line early in the first quarter. Senior running back Dan Breit powered through tackles for the 11-yard scoring run, something he would continue to do all day against the Pirates (1-2)
"I knew I had to score," Breit said. "It's the Jug. I had to give it everything I had."
"It was huge. Very deflating," Pearl River Head Coach Jeff Michael said. "They did a twist and the guy got in to block the punt and put them in position to score right away. Dan Breit made a great run, lowered his shoulder and just rolled over some of our guys and into the end zone. It was deflating from the get-go."
Breit powered his way for 154 yards and one touchdown on 15 carries, with 108 of those yards coming in the second half.
"Hats off to that kid for being the athlete that he is," Michael said.
"He's a big kid. He certainly runs the ball very hard," Nanuet Head Coach Phil Carbone said. "But it's not just him running the ball. We had a tremendous push up front. It wasn't just one guy. It was a unit."
Nanuet's offensive line controlled the line of scrimmage, helping the Golden Knights rush for 276 yards on 50 carries. Senior fullback Pete Smith piled up 63 yards and senior halfback Nick O'Connor had 60.
"The story of the game was our offensive and defensive lines, they beat us in the trenches, which is unfortunate," Michael said. "They outhit us. They outhustled us. They just pounded the ball and pounded the ball and we had trouble stopping it."
The punt block was something Nanuet hoped to take advantage of coming in. Celestin also came close to blocking another early punt.
"It was huge," Corbone said. "It was a momentum builder. We were able to feed off it very quickly and put one in two plays later. We expected Shawn to possibly give us that kind of boost rushing from the middle."
Pearl River also had some success on special teams, including a punt by Ronan Curry that rolled to the Nanuet two for a total of 60 yards. Nanuet was able to run its way out of the deep hole and reach Pearl River territory before the Pirates finally forced a punt.
Pearl River's best threat of the first half came after a 34-yard pass from Chris Van Houten to Patrick Gannon, who led the Pirates with seven catches for 70 yards Saturday. That drive reached the Nanuet 22 before stalling when a fourth-down pass fell incomplete.
Nanuet started the second half as quickly as it did the first, this time driving 68 yards for a touchdown. Breit did most of the damage with runs of 30 and 35 yards before Cody Fitzgerald plunged in from a yard out. Mike Young missed the extra point, but was roughed on the attempt. The Golden Knights went for two after the penalty and Breit scored to push the Nanuet advantage to 15-0.
Nanuet had an opportunity to put the game away after Van Houten threw his second interception of the day on the next possession, but the Pirates managed to stop Breit a yard short on a third-and-three.
The Pirates kept the momentum with a 56-yard scoring drive. Van Houten found Cle Davis for a 21-yard pass for a key first down. Gannon capped the drive by catching a one-yard touchdown pass from Van Houten, but the extra point failed and the Nanuet lead was 15-0.
"In the second half, we started executing, but it was too little, too late," Michael said.
Pearl River never did get its running game going, finishing with 31 yards on 23 carries, but Van Houten completed 18 of 32 passes for 132 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.
"We picked up our tempo," Michael said. "Once they got ahead, we were checking to see if stuff was opening up. They had a couple of mental mistakes in coverage and we started jumping on them."
Pearl River benefitted greatly from three Nanuet penalties on its second scoring drive, which began with 7:30 remaining in the game. The possession seemed to be over before it started as Nanuet's defense forced a punt, but a Nanuet player hit Curry late for a roughing the punter penalty that gave the Pirates new life.
Pearl River got another first down on a facemask penalty called on a sack of Van Houten. The Pearl River quarterback then hit passes of seven yards to Rob Gullo, 14 to Kevin Considine and 13 to Davis to get to the Nanuet 17.
Nanuet again seemed to stop Pearl River and lock up the victory when Matt Gaylon intercepted a Van Houten pass, but the Golden Knights were called for roughing the passer. Van Houten found Shane Ocasal for a nine-yard touchdown on the next play, cutting the deficit to 15-13.
"There are certain things beyond our control," Carbone said. "Sometimes officials calls. Sometimes mistakes we make. We can't just focus on the mistake. We have to learn from it and move on. I think we did a good job handling that.
"They had some extra shots at the end of the game that they shouldn't have had, for whatever reason, and they capitalized on them, to their credit. To our credit, we didn't let it hurt us."
"We knew we had this win," Breit said of his thoughts at the time. "Nothing was stopping us."
Pearl River tried an on-side kick, but Brendan McKeever recovered for Nanuet. Smith ripped off a 22-yard run on the next play, but it was Breit who delivered the final blow, rushing for eight yards to convert a fourth-and-seven and clinch the victory.
"It feels great," Carbone said of winning back the Little Brown Jug after Pearl River had won the last two games in the series.
Nanuet 15, Pearl River 13
Score by quarters
Pearl River 0-0-6-7--13
Nanuet: Dan Breit 11 run, Mike Young kick
Nanuet: Cody Fitzgerald 1 run, Breit run
Pearl River: Pat Gannon 1 pass from Chris Van Houten, kick failed
Pearl River: Shane Ocasal 9 pass from Van Houten, Ronan Curry kick