By Mike Dougherty
Opponents were never sure what they were up against each time they lined up across from John Dapolito at midfield for a faceoff. Sometimes the rough-and-tumble midfielder was the irresistible force. Sometimes he was the immovable object.
The end result was usually the same.
Dapolito won more than 85 percent of the draws he lined up for this season, helping North Rockland control games.
“We’re so close to the opposing team on the sidelines,” Red Raiders coach Greg Grasso said. “And there was one game this year where I could hear some of kids talking about John. He is an all-state linebacker in football. He plays a physical game. He commands respect. Some of his own teammates are a little scared of John.”
Good things happen when a team has the means to control the ball in lacrosse, and Dapolito has a knack for winning faceoffs.
North Rockland went 14-4 this season, and for the first time in program history, played for a Section 1 title. There were some highlights in the Class A final before the Red Raiders fell to defending Class A champion Mamaroneck.
“It was a lot of fun,” Dapolito said. “I’ve seen it all in the last five years.”
The biggest jolt of all came after the memorable season when he got a call from Grasso informing him that he was chosen as The Journal News Player of the Year in boys lacrosse for Rockland County.
“I have to say, that was a big surprise,” Dapolito said.
Football has long been his passion, and he is going to Southern Connecticut to continue that journey. And while he’s admittedly lacking in stick skills, lacrosse was the perfect hobby for a fiercely stubborn kid with a throwback attitude.
“It helped keep me in good shape,” said Dapolito, who stands 6-foot-2 and weighs 220 pounds. “It was another physical game for me to play. And when I started, they had me at long pole, but eventually gave me a short stick.”
There’s a good reason for that.
“He doesn’t get enough credit for his defense,” Grasso said. “Everybody asks me, ‘Why don’t you play him at long stick?’ I always tell them, ‘John is able to cover anybody with a short stick.’ It’s like we have another long stick on the field.”
After playing defensive midfielder for a season and getting by on sheer athleticism, Dapolito found a way to do more.
“I started taking faceoffs my first game as a freshman against Nyack,” he said. “From that point on, I felt I had something going for me. It was a way for me to contribute more. And the physicality was definitely a help.”
Often times, frustrated opponents could only complain to the refs.
“I had a lot of different moves,” said Dapolito, who became really good at jamming opponents’ sticks and raking the ball into the clear. “It got to a point where I was like, ‘Forget the ball, I was just pushing sticks out of the way.”
The move wasn’t meant to intimidate, but it often had that effect.
“It’s something John really has a knack for,” Grasso said. “He’s a powerful kid with quick hands. At first, John was just bigger and stronger than most kids, and then he started getting his technique down.”
There’s one intangible that inspired Dapolito to overpower the opposition — he can’t stand losing.
“If you have any kind of team, you want somebody like John on it,” Grasso said. “He’s definitely a throwback. We always have two separate huddles during timeouts, one for the offense and one for the defense. And there were times where the only thing I would say was, ‘John, get the ball back and give us another chance to score.’ ”
Other members of The Journal News all-county first team include:
Ron Crover (North Rockland): The senior middie was the player who provided all of the intangibles the Red Raiders needed to reach the Section 1 Class A title game. He was quick to scoop ground balls and get his team moving up the field in transition.
Matt Gaylon (Nanuet): The senior defender was a three-year starter who led the Golden Knights with 52 ground balls. He spent the spring chasing the opposition’s best player, and helped Nanuet make the postseason for the first time in three years.
Ryan Jelen (Clarkstown South): The senior attackman was slowed by a string of injuries this season, but managed to average 3.8 points in the games he was able to suit up. He was big in the Vikings’ first win over Suffern in a decade and will play next season at SUNY Canton.
Kyle Michella (North Rockland): The freshman attackman has two older brothers who played for the Red Raiders and is experienced beyond his years. He sees the field well and led the county in scoring with 34 goals and 61 assists.
Brennen Ramos (Nyack): The senior attackman accounted for 30 percent of the Indians’ offense, finishing with 48 goals and 33 assists. He showed a knack for creating space, which resulted in him averaging 5.5 points against county opponents.
Joe Scheffold (North Rockland): The senior defender played with a throwback attitude. He worked in the offseason on his stick skills and became multi-dimensional. Scheffold was usually shadowing the best attackman on the field and played the wing on face offs.
Tyler Senatore (North Rockland): The freshman middie was an instant success, using speed and quickness to get open for 52 goals and 17 assists. He developed great chemistry with Michella, who set up more than half of his classmate’s goals.
Billy Van Rynn (North Rockland): The sophomore goalie worked hard in the offseason and claimed the starting job. He played most of the year with a broken thumb and came up with 16 saves in the Section 1 Class A final against Mamaroneck.
Chris Woodburn (Nyack): The senior defender led the county in stubbornness, frustrating quality opponent after quality opponent. He picked up 58 ground balls and was credited with 39 takeaways and will be playing next season at Pace.
Zak Young (Tappan Zee): The senior middie didn’t have any trouble running into traffic and making something happen. He was the school’s male athlete of the spring season after coming up with 39 goals and 14 assists.
Coach of the year
Gregg Grasso (North Rockland): He took a reasonably talented group of returning players, mixed in some talented freshman, discovered a reliable goalie and took the Red Raiders to the Section 1 Class A championship game for the first time in school history. North Rockland finished with a 14-5 record and gave Mamaroneck a scare in the final before losing 7-4.
A – Steven Vacarri (Suffern), Sr.
A – Peter Moreau (Pearl River), Jr.
A – Adam Burlew (North Rockland), Jr.
MF – Joe Buzzetti (Clarkstown South), Sr.
MF – Tom Kelly (North Rockland), Jr.
MF – Anthony Termine (Clarkstown North), Sr.
FOGO – Justin Said (Clarkstown South), Jr.
D – Harley McNally (Suffern), Sr.
D – Pete Turner (Nyack), Sr.
D – Aiden Christian (Clarkstown South), Jr.
G – Will Ramos (Nyack), 8th grade
John Beckerle (Pearl River), Sr., G; Evan Borgadus (North Rockland), Jr., MF; James DeSimone (Suffern), Sr. MF; C.J. Greco (Suffern), Fr. A; Matthew Haggerty (Clarkstown South), Fr., A; Pete Hillerand (North Rockland), Jr., D; Pat Hussey (North Rockland), Sr., D; Ivan Lopuchin (Nyack), Sr., MF; Chris Loomis (Clarkstown South), Jr., G; John McBrien (Pearl River), Jr. MF; Andrew Quigley (Nyack), Sr., A; Tom Sharp (Suffern), Jr. MF; Zach Soriano (Nyack), Sr., MF; Max Spraver (Nyack), Sr., MF; James Stephen (Pearl River), Jr. MF.