MONTICELLO — Julien Higgs heard New Paltz coaches preach enough in practice about kickoffs and punts hitting the turf that he didn’t hesitate when the football dropped in front of him and Jorden Cook.

Higgs rushed up, grabbed the ball from the air and sprinted down the right sideline 78 yards for a touchdown to open New Paltz’s Section 9 Class A Division II game against Monticello.

The senior running back’s first varsity touchdown gave a jolt to a banged-up New Paltz team that carried over to the defense. Cook and Aidan Hoffman sacked quarterback Aidan Dietz on Monticello’s first play for a safety.

The momentum continued as New Paltz piled up 23 points in the first minute and 41 seconds in a 42-0 victory as the Huguenots broke into the win column.

“I just wanted to bring one home for my boys,” said Higgs, who had a knack for returning kicks for scores at the lower levels. “I saw the opening and I just got into the end zone.

“We came out with a lot of energy. We needed this win for our program and we got the job done.”

Two physical games against Class AA Washingtonville and defending state Class A champion Cornwall took its toll on New Paltz (1-2, 1-0 Class A). Starting quarterback Ethan Smith was lost to a collarbone injury in a 13-7 loss to Washingtonville in the season opener. Running back Anthony DiMarco is recovering from a knee injury. Starting tackle Jordan Goodnow is out with a hip injury.

“It's been a rocky first couple of weeks,” said Cook, who added a 3-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. “I'm really proud of our team. Everyone played their hearts out. We needed to bounce back with all the adversity that we have faced with injuries.”

Cook is one of a handful of players from New Paltz’s current run of three straight Section 9 finals, which included a Class B title in 2017. The senior’s experience will be essential in New Paltz’s march to another postseason as it awaits the return of its sidelined players in the coming weeks.

“These guys have a lot of wins under their belt, so hopefully they hold it together,” New Paltz coach Tom Tegeler said.

If New Paltz’s defense plays the way it did Saturday, more victories should follow. New Paltz held Monticello without a first down. Monticello (0-3, 0-2 Class A) netted negative-24 yards overall.

“Our defense played amazing,” Tegeler said. “We weren't fundamentally sound last week against Cornwall (a 45-0 loss). They can break you down. Today, I think we were fundamentally sound and gap positive.”

New Paltz players were focused and dialed in on the one-hour bus ride to Monticello, Higgs said. They left Sullivan County with a positive result heading into next week’s division game against Wallkill.

sinterdonato@th-record.com

Twitter: @Varsity845