PORT JERVIS - Wallkill did to Port Jervis what the Raiders used to do to others. The Panthers ran a near-perfect veer offense that sliced and diced the Red Raider defense en route to a 28-7 Class A victory that wasn't as close as the score.
In addition to its surprisingly spirited and polished offense, the Panthers also put the defensive clamps to the home team's potent passing game, thanks to a relentless pass rush. Overall, Wallkill ran 60 offensive plays to Port's 33, outgained its host 286 yards to 125 and limited the Red and Black to just five first downs while picking up 15.
Coming into the contest, Wallkill had scored only 46 points in its last 10 games. Coach Dave Der Cola moved Seth Ewald to quarterback earlier in the week, and the move paid off. The sophomore signal-caller made good decisions and complemented a backfield that finally broke loose.
The Panthers wasted no time and scored on all three of their first half possessions.
The game's opening drive covered 65 yards in 17 plays, most of them on the ground. But a key and well-placed 16-yard pass from Ewald to tight end Tom Truscello gave the Panthers a first down at the Port 27 and signaled that this was not your same old Wallkill. It was a subtle hint of the Wallkill team of 2004 that made it to the state final. Tough to stop on the ground but also dangerous with the well-time aerial.
Actually, the Panthers didn't need too many passes. Senior running back A.J. Calvo scored the game's first TD on a two-yard run. Wallkill picked up 54 yards rushing in the series. Chris Keller's PAT kick sailed wide right, however. 6-0 at the 3:16 mark.
Port then gambled on fourth and a yard at its 41, but the Panther 'D' stuffed Connor Schall for no gain on a run. From there it took Wallkill nine plays to score again. Ewald's third and 10 pass completion to Zach Henke was good for 13 yards and a big first down at the PJ 28. Six plays later Calvo scampered 13 yards on a draw play for his second TD of the night. An elusive waterbug named Marc Mazza, a junior, then ran in for two points after, and it was 14-0 with 9:21 left in the second quarter.
The third score came on the third possession and was set up by Mazza's 21-yard punt return to the Wallkill 38. The subsequent 62-yard drive was consumated in nine plays. Calvo's 25-yard carry to the Port 16 was the longest gainer. Ewald punched in the TD from the one with 1:27 left in the half. Keller converted and it was 21-0 at the half.
In that first half Wallkill outgained Port Jervis 173 yards to 29. Port Jervis ran only 13 offensive plays and picked up but one first down, that coming on a 12-yard Justin Polanis-to-Matt Pepper pass.
Wallkill put it away early in the third quarter. After Port took the second half kickoff and gained 16 yards on a Schall run, it sputtered and punted. The shifty Mazza returned Pepper's 30-yard boot 39 yards to the PJ 30. Nine plays later, at the 4:31 mark, Ewald again wriggled his way into the endzone from a yard out for the TD. Keller's kick made it 28-0.
On a drive that started late in the third quarter and ended with 11:01 left in the fourth, Port marched 79 yards on 10 plays to score its lone TD. Most of the yardage came against the Panthers' second defensive unit; but when PJ got a first and goal at the Wallkill eight via a 21 yard Ropke-to-Lucas Behnke pass, the first defensive unit came back out. On third down, however, Ropke lofted a perfect pass to Pepper in the deep left corner of the endzone for six. Steven Butler added the extra point with his kick. 28-7.
Calvo was the leading rusher with 15 carries for 105 yards. Mazza had also rushed 15 times and picked up 97 yards. Paulo Alvear was 13-for-39. Mazza, meanwhile, had four returns for 94 yards.
There weren't many highlights for Port. Ropke completed 10-of-17 passes for 76 yards. Pepper made three receptions for 29 yards. On the ground Port rushed 16 times for 49 yards. Ropke (eight-for-28) was the leading PJ rusher.
Next Friday night both teams continue in league play. Wallkill (1-1) plays at home against Rondout Valley while Port Jervis (1-1) travels to Cornwall.
--- Phil Dusenbury