MARLBORO — Sometimes, it's just as important how a team starts a game as how it finishes.
Such was the case last night as Central Catholic fell behind early during a sloppy first quarter and dropped its opener at Marlboro, 9-7.
The Raiders gave up a 62-yard pass play on the third play from scrimmage and surrendered a 13-yard TD run on the next play to fall behind 6-0.
The Panthers added a field goal eight plays after intercepting a pass on Central's third offensive play of the game. The Raiders then moved the ball for a pair of first downs, but two dropped passes and two motion penalties forced them to punt.
"That's kind of how we were playing in the preseason," said Central coach Chuck Adamopoulos. "We tend to shoot ourselves in the foot. ... We showed some composure after the first quarter, but we just had too many mistakes.
"This is as young a team as I've had and we're going to have growing pains."
Central did score early in the second, four plays after recovering a fumbled punt, when Santino Brancato bulled his way into the end zone from nine yards out. Tommy Jenoski kicked the extra point, making it 9-7.
The Raiders put together one nice drive late in the half, moving from their own 47 to the Marlboro 6-yard-line, but they failed to convert on a fourth-and-2.
The second half was a defensive battle as both teams managed just 54 yards of total offense with Central unable to cross midfield once. "We just had a couple of big plays and they didn't," said Marlboro coach Sean Mahoney, whose Panthers went 7-5 last fall. "That defensive stop before the half was huge."
Among those playing well defensively for the Raiders were Brancato, Patrick Hammond, Matt Kando and Devon Lattrell, the latter of whom recovered a fumble.
"We'll get better," vowed Adamopoulos.
The No. 23 Raiders host No. 8 St. John's Prep next Saturday at 7 p.m.
Marlboro 9, Central Catholic 7
Central Catholic (0-1):0 7 0 0 — 7
Marlboro (1-0):9 0 0 0 — 9
M — Paul Goulet 13 run (kick failed), 8:56
M — Alex Tello 34 FG, 5:19
CC — Santino Brancato 9 run (Tommy Jenoski kick), 10:49
RUSHING: Central (34-81) — Matt McDermott 13-28, Santino Brancato 11-25, Mike Balsamo 8-17, Brandon Lamphier 1-5, D'Andre Drummond-Mayrie 1-6; Marlboro (31-105) — Austin Garvey 15-73, Paul Goulet 5-17, Dennis Duplessis 8-6, Tyjae Lenhardt 2-7, Mike Tirpak 1-2
PASSING: Central — McDermott 9-21-2, 71 yards; Marlboro — Duplessis 1-5-0, 62 yards
RECEIVING: Central — Lamphier 1-9, Henry Rodriguez 5-38, Balsamo 1-13, Brancato 1-2, Anthony Terranova 1-9; Marlboro — Tirpak 1-62