NEW ROCHELLE, NY -- Ultimately, the New Rochelle High School Huguenots did not come home from Syracuse with a state championship, but their performance throughout the season and in the hard-fought final game lifted the spirits of the New Rochelle community.
They came within one game of the Class AA state football championship, losing the final to the Aquinas Institute L'il Irish at the Carrier Dome on Saturday. The score was 21-14.
The team's supporters were out in force at the Dome. Hundreds of Huguenot fans and family members journeyed to Syracuse in a purple wave, filling the visiting stands to cheer, "Let's go New Ro!" They traveled in six coach buses - five with fellow students supporting their schoolmates and one chartered by the New Rochelle High School Football Parents Association for families and others. Four other buses carried the team, band and cheerleaders.
"It felt like a home game," said Coach Lou DiRienzo. "The team was extremely well supported by the community and the school. Having the cheerleaders there, having the band there, having every walk of life from the community coming together with a common goal and the common bond - it was definitely a special site."
"It's great to have that support behind you," said Vincent Ruggiero, who wears number 75 on the team. "It gives you the energy to play."
Aquinas' first touchdown came less than two minutes into the game by Caron Robinson, who later scored again with an 89-yard run.
New Rochelle answered as Jordan Forrest scored the team's first touchdown, carrying the ball a final yard over the goal line with 1:30 left in half to make the score 14-7. Forrest scored another touchdown 53 seconds into the fourth quarter to even the score at 14-14. Aquinas pulled ahead again with 4:25 left in the game to make the final score, 21-14.
Forrest, a senior, led all rushers from both teams with 26 runs for 170 yards. Senior quarterback Mac Coughlin completed 11 passes on 23 attempts for 130 yards, spreading the ball around to Halim Dixon-King (3 catches for 34 yards), Kayshaun Thomas (2 for 41), Jessie Parson (2 for 24) and Khairi Manns (1 for 23).
"I am extremely proud of each and every player," said Gina Ruggiero, Vincent's mother and a member of the New Rochelle Football High School Parents Association, who attended the game. "To play at the level at which they played makes every parent, coach and community member proud to be part of New Rochelle."
"You look back and there are really no regrets," Coughlin said. "We gave it our all and we're just happy."