Visger helps O’Neill rebound past Red Hook


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There’s that old saying that football is a game of centimetres, and it’s true. But not only in terms of the value of incremental wins on the field, but in terms of the characteristics of its players.

Isaac Visger’s reach is certainly a factor for James I. O’Neill, the defender’s length helps him drop tackles and corral ball carriers that would be out of reach for most others.

“There are times when I know I wouldn’t have been able to make the game if my arms were just a few inches shorter,” said the 6-foot-4 senior. “It’s not ideal to do the hand and arm tackles that I did, but it got the job done today.”

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The Mr. Fantastic reach helped him secure three sacks and three extra tackles for the loss, slowing an explosive Red Hook offensive as the visiting Raiders clinched a 35-7 win on Saturday.

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“Our defense did a great job,” said receiver Marek Arbogast. “To be honest, even I didn’t expect it to be this good, but they were fantastic.”

What it means

O’Neill was recovering from a loss to Burke Catholic last weekend when it came to defending a power running offense. Red Hook went undefeated and posed a similar threat. Last season’s Section 9 Class B runner-up had a squad of talented backs behind a strong offensive line. But that defensive line, anchored by linemen Brennan Pearson and Visger and linebacker Jordan Thompson, effectively contained Red Hook’s Wing T.

That, coupled with her vertical passing and physicality in the trenches, bodes well for O’Neill on the track and in the playoffs. The Raiders are attempting to retain their Class C title and are targeting a run in the state tournament.

Burke, who reached the Class B semifinals last fall, fell to Class C this year and is a favorite.

“Long term, we look at her as our biggest hurdle in the section,” said Arbogast, who had seven catches for 113 yards and a touchdown. “If we can be consistent, take care of business and overcome them, I think we can be as good as any team in the state.”

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turning point

O’Neill scored on his opening drive. Nick Waugh’s 39-yard completion against Arbogast helped set up Ben Davis’ 2-yard touchdown run after three minutes. A Red Hook fumble was thrown back 21 yards by Thompson to score, keeping it 14-0 with 4:20 in the opening quarter.

“It was great for us to get on the board right away and then back it up with a defensive touchdown,” Visger said. “There’s no better way to start a game.”

Landon Ramsey’s tackle-breaking 10-yard touchdown pulled Red Hook within 7 to finish the first, but O’Neill responded with Jadon Spain’s 57-yard touchdown reception 12 seconds into the second quarter. Thompson’s 2-yard touchdown made it 28-7 in the third.

“I have no hesitation in saying that Jordan is our best player,” said Visger. “He’s electric on both sides of the ball.”

player of the game

Red Hook deviated slightly from their run-heavy offense given the score, but most of Ramsey’s dropbacks were thwarted by the pass rush. Twice it appeared the athletic quarterback evaded the pressure on a rollout, only for Visger to grab him by the jersey and drag him to the ground.

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“We really needed a confidence boost,” he said, referring to the 35-26 loss to Burke. “After last week we questioned ourselves. A win like this against a good team is a nice way to get back up.”

Based on the numbers

Red Hook (3-1) ― Brady Giorgio had an interception and Liam Leggett recovered from a fumble. Nick Benasutti had a 44-yard reception.

O’Neill (2-2) ― Spain had one touchdown and one interception. Pearson had a sack and Kirk Ingold had an interception.

next up

Red Hook visits Burke Catholic Saturday at 1 p.m. O’Neill will host Section 2’s Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk on Friday at 3:30 p.m.

Quotable

“It was tough, but I wanted to be with my team and get back to work,” said Arbogast, who returned from an elbow injury in the second quarter. “I think it’s a deep bruise, but nothing bad enough to put me off.”

Stephen Haynes: [email protected]; 845-437-4826; Twitter: @StephenHaynes4





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