This rivalry used to happen twice per season, but with the addition of Our Lady of Lourdes into Section 9 and the Mid Hudson Athletic League, the Marlboro Iron Dukes and the Highland Huskies were separated into two divisions.
The Iron Dukes remained in Division 2 with Lourdes becoming a division rival, and the Huskies were moved to Division 3. Additionally, those divisions don’t play each other during the regular season, but Marlboro coach Jim Ventriglia wanted to keep the neighboring rivalry alive.
So, they opened the season against each other on Friday night at Highland High School. After the Huskies tied the game early in the second half, the Iron Dukes scored three unanswered goals to post a 4-1 victory.
“It’s a big rivalry with Highland, and it’s on their home field,” said Marlboro’s Jake Brown, whose first-half goal gave the Iron Dukes the early lead. “It’s always nice to come out with a win, but at halftime, coach was telling us we’ve got to play our game and it was a little obvious, we thought we should be up more at halftime.”
The Iron Dukes led the Huskies by 1 at the half, courtesy of Brown, but the Huskies tied the game early in the second on a direct kick by Alexander Clinton.
“We definitely put our head down and we didn’t play our game after that,” Brown said. “We got our head down and not really focused.”
However, it was a mistake by Highland goalkeeper Dylan Dutra that helped the Iron Dukes right the ship. Dutra was called for a penalty within the 18-yard box, and Connor Macur banged the ensuing penalty kick off the crossbar and over Dutra’s head for a 2-1 lead.
“That was an important turning point in the game, especially for Carson Macur,” Ventriglia said. “Up until that point, he wasn’t playing his best, and I think that gave him confidence. And from that point, he really started to dominate the midfield, be that transition and give excellent balls to our attacking players.”
That turned out to the be the decisive goal, spoiling the debut of new Huskies’ coach Cody Stecher, but Dutra was under pressure from the Iron Dukes all game, and kept it a one-goal game until 14 minutes remained.
“He’s a very strong, instinctual keeper,” Stecher said. “His intuition is very good. He doesn’t have a ton of experience playing there, so we definitely have some work to do on positioning and different things, but the kid’s got a massive heart.”
But for 60 minutes, the Huskies hung in with a team that won its first Section 9 Class B championship last year and advanced to the New York State Public High School Athletic Association regional semifinals.
“They belong on this field,” Stecher said. “There was not a minute of this game where I thought they didn’t and that they couldn’t play with Marlboro, and I think they saw that. I think at the end of the night looking at them, and they look back at me, I think they realized, ‘hey, we can do this.’”.
Since having their success last year, the Iron Dukes have been stressing that 2021 is over and this is a new season, especially after losing key players in Mark Pesano, Dylan Gunsett, Sam Lofaro and Alexis Camacho.
But the new season is off to a good start, as they head into their league opener.
“Every season is a new group of guys,” Ventriglia said. “It’s a new set of challenges, and this group of guys in particular have to learn how to win, and the guys that came back from last year, they bring that experience of winning in a big spot. They have to carry that over and bring on the younger guys. We’re very young this year.”