NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. – New Rochelle High School football coach Lou DiRienzo won his last state championship in 2003 with Ray Rice in the backfield.
Another state championship has eluded DiRienzo since then, but he and the Huguenots have a chance to change all that when they play for the Class AA state title on Saturday at 6 p.m. at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse.
New Rochelle stout defense has carried them through the playoffs in recent years. But the offense rose to the occasion in the semifinals against Shaker of Albany on Saturday.
The offense built a 20-0 lead but the defense uncharacteristically surrendered that advantage as Shaker climbed all the way back to take a 21-20 lead with 1:35 left. But quarterback Khalil Edney hit Joseph Clarke on an 11-yard touchdown pass with 0:30 remaining to propel New Rochelle to the state title game.
The semifinals could have been a repeat of New Rochelle’s lone loss of the season, but Edney and Clarke made sure that did not happen.
"Winning a regional final is the toughest thing to do," DiRienzo said. "There's a lot of pressure. This year's team has matured a lot. We lost (to Bergen) after leading 20-0. The kids showed amazing poise."
DiRienzo has enjoyed a tremendous period of success since that last state championship. New Rochelle is 96-14 in that time, and DiRienzo has won six of the 11 regional finals he has coached in his career.
On Saturday, the Huguenots will have a chance to add another state title to DiRienzo’s already impressive career.