By Justin Rodriguez
Section 9 Football Insider
Former Cornwall standout Karl Van Wygerden couldn’t help but measure up his edition of the Green Dragons, the 2006 team, when he watched his alma mater defeat Burnt Hills in the semifinals of the Class A state playoffs last Friday at Middletown’s Faller Field.
Twelve years ago, Van Wygerden was an integral part of the Cornwall team which reach the Class A state championship, losing to Corning East 27-14.
“You always want to think that your team is better,” said Van Wygerden, a wide receiver/defensive back on Cornwall’s 2006 team. “I’m competitive and I would like to say that we could beat them, but I think that this team might be better than us. They are disciplined, their execution is flawless and they have some good athletes. The fact that a quarterback is at the helm as a freshman and taking command is pretty amazing.”
Van Wygerden, now a research scientist living in New Windsor, said the Burnt Hills showdown was the first Cornwall game he has attended in more than six years. However, he and his former teammates are watching the Green Dragons closely, and hope they can one up them and win a Class A state title.
Cornwall (11-0), the eight-time defending Section 9champions, plays West Seneca East (11-1) for the Class A state championship at 3 p.m. on Friday at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse.
“This team is very talented,” said Brian McNally, a star defensive lineman on the 2006 Cornwall team. McNally went on to star at the University of New Hampshire, earned a tryout with the Washington Redskins and is now a New York State Trooper, who lives locally. “They have a freshman quarterback taking them to state championship game which pretty remarkable. They have a good offense, a strong defense and they’ve just seem to have taken off. The points they can put up is pretty impressive.”
Cornwall has seemingly played some of its best football in the postseason. In four postseason games, the Green Dragons have outscored opponents 120-34. The dramatic 21-20 win over Burnt Hill last week gave Cornwall its first berth in the state championship since 2006. Since ’06, the Green Dragons had gone 0-5 in the Class A state semifinals, losing to Burnt Hills three times in the final four.
No Class A team from Section 9 has ever won a state title. Monroe-Woodbury (Class AA, 2005) and Rondout Valley (Class B, 2000) are the only Section 9 football teams to ever win state championships. Section 9 is 2-11 all-time in state football championship games.
“What I see is that this team is undersized, but fast and physical,” said former Marlboro coach Rich Ward, who was Cornwall’s defensive coordinator in 2006. “They play good concept football, everyone knows their assignments. If they keep playing like their playing, they are going to be tough to beat. With everything that they have endured, I’m proud as heck of them, and rooting for them.”
These days, Cornwall is a Section 9 super power, but the Green Dragons were doormats for most of the 1980s and 1990s. Cornwall won its first Section 9 title in 2003, defeating Wallkill 37-31 for the championship. The Green Dragons also won the Class A title two years ago.
The 2006 edition of Cornwall beat Rondout Valley 32-6 for the Class A championship and followed that up with a 13-10 win over Westchester County’s Harrison in the quarterfinals of the state playoffs. Harrison put away the Green Dragons 40-7 in the state quarterfinals the year before.
Cornwall beat Indian River 34-6 in the 2006 Class A semifinals, before losing to Corning East in the state championship at the Carrier Dome.
“You never forget those games,” McNally said. “The Harrison game will live in my mind forever. To play at the Carrier Dome in that atmosphere is something that I will never forget. I’m sure that this team will say the same thing in five or six years. They are going to cherish this and I wish them the best in the state championship game.”
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