Burke Catholic running back David Ross

Breaking it down: The Section 9 Football Insider championship preview

By Justin Rodriguez
Section 9 Football Insider

Pine Bush upset Class AA top-seed Warwick, Marlboro, the top seed in Class B, staved off an upset bid with a thrilling fourth quarter comeback and Newburgh exacted revenge on rival Monroe-Woodbury.

Don’t forget Port Jervis shutting out Goshen, New Paltz dominating a Spackenkill team which some fans thought would give the defending Class B champions a run, Cornwall continuing its Class A dominance and Burke Catholic and Chester posting dominant Class C wins.

Semifinal weekend in Section 9 lived up to the hype and now we are ready for the encore: The championship games. Here is an in-depth look at all five championship games.

Class AA

No. 3 Newburgh (7-2) vs. No. 5 Pine Bush (7-2)

  • When: 7 p.m. on Saturday
  • Where: Faller Field, Middletown
  • How they got here: Newburgh put away rival Monroe-Woodbury 42-20 in the semifinals; Pine Bush eliminated top-seeded Warwick 47-36 to reach its first Classs AA championship since 2012

Breaking down the game

Flash back to Week 3 of the season. Newburgh hosted Pine Bush in the first big game of the season.

The showdown turned out to be a dud.

Newburgh, the three-time defending Class AA champion, dismantled a flat Pine Bush team 34-7 at Academy Field. Now comes the rematch: Will it be a battle of Wing-T teams?

Newburgh coach Bill Bianco and his trusted offensive coordinator Tim Hendershot decided to ditch its spread offense for the Wing-T in the semifinals against Monroe-Woodbury. Newburgh has run the Wing-T successfully in the past, but scraped it early last year for an I-formation and then the spread offense. The Goldbacks began installing the Wing-T in practice about three weeks ago and rolled it out against Monroe-Woodbury up 7-0 in the first quarter.

Bianco, of course, wouldn’t commit to his offensive plans for Saturday, but he does expect a better game in the Pine Bush rematch. Part of the reason the Wing-T appeals to Bianco is that it puts two talented running backs on the field, in this case, Jadon Munroe and Syncere Tatum. Munroe ran for 183 yards and two touchdowns against the Crusaders and Tatum, a sophomore, had 115 yards and three scores. Munroe, who has missed part of the hamstring with a bad hamstring, has rushed for 833 yards and eight touchdowns this year. Tatum has put up 629 yards and nine touchdowns.

Pine Bush’s Wing-T put up 446 rushing yards against Warwick. Xavier Martinez rushed for 165 yards and two touchdowns, Tyrese Gumbs had 137 yards and two touchdowns and Tyler Waller added 87 yards and two touchdowns. Waller has 645 rushing yards and three touchdowns for the Bushmen and Martinez has 637 yards and six touchdowns.

“We’re ready for Newburgh,” Gumbs said. “We are going to prepare. We are going to work hard and grind it out. Newburgh is a good opponent, but I think we got it.”

Pine Bush’s five losses since the start of last season have come to Newburgh (three) and Monroe-Woodbury two. The Bushmen are seeking their first Class AA title since 2012.

Class A

No. 1 Cornwall (8-0) vs. No. 3 Port Jervis (6-3)

  • When: 7 p.m. on Friday
  • Where: Dietz Stadium, Kingston
  • How they got here: Cornwall defeated Roosevelt 49-0 in the semifinals; Port Jervis avenged an earlier season loss to Goshen, blanking the Gladiators 12-0

Breaking the game down

Port Jervis fullback/linebacker Mike Piscitelli
Port Jervis fullback/linebacker Mike Piscitelli

Buster Douglas over Mike Tyson. The Miracle on Ice. Villanova over Georgetown in the 1985 NCAA men’s basketball championship.

These are some of the greatest upsets in the history of sports. Port Jervis over Cornwall wouldn’t make that list, but it would certainly serve as one of the most improbable upsets in Section 9 history — in any sport. Cornwall is the six-time defending Class A champions and has won 49 games in a row against league opponents dating back to September of 2011 against league opponents. For good measure, Cornwall star running back T.J. Gayle, suspended for the last two games, is expected to return for the championship game.

Gayle has rushed for 1,260 yards and 19 touchdowns this year. Port Jervis realizes it’s the Raiders against the world on Friday and respects Cornwall, but they won’t roll over.

“Cornwall is good, but they are beatable,” Port Jervis fullback/linebacker Mike Piscitelli said. “Last game, we shut down their pass game, but T.J. Gayle is coming back. I think they are good, but we are going to give them our best shot.”

Added Port Jervis coach Matt Polanis: “Cornwall is awful good, they are awful good. Every accolade they get, they deserve. They are running a great program over there. It’s not like they do anything we haven’t seen, they are just good at everything they do. We have to play a great game.”

The Green Dragons’ 49-game winning streak against Section 9 Class A opponents dates back to Sept. 23, 2011 when Cornwall lost to Wallkill 10-7. Cornwall has defeated opponents by a combined score of 2,205-378 during the gaudy streak, posting 17 shutouts. Only four Cornwall wins during the streak have been decided by 14 points or less.

The Green Dragons have defeated Port Jervis 10 times during the run by a combined score of 388-81 and put away the Raiders 31-7 two weeks ago. Port Jervis is seeking its first Section 9 title since 2001.

Class B

No. 1 Marlboro (8-0) vs. No. 3 New Paltz (8-1)

  • When: 7 p.m. on Friday
  • Where: Faller Field, Middletown
  • How they got here: Marlboro overcame a fourth quarter deficit to beat Liberty 35-27 in the semifinals; New Paltz defeated Spackenkill 35-17

Breaking down the game

New Paltz running back/linebacker Kenny Verney
New Paltz running back/linebacker Kenny Verney

New Paltz vs. Marlboro, Round 1, played earlier this month, received as much hype as any game in recent years.

And the showdown didn’t disappoint. Marlboro held off New Paltz 21-7, scoring a late touchdown. Well, guess what: The rematch could be even better.

“It’s going to be very hyped up,” Marlboro quarterback Nick Mongelli said. “There are going to be more people than there were last time, which I like. It’s going to be a great game. It just comes down to who plays harder and who hits harder.”

Marlboro’s win over New Paltz on Oct. 13 served as payback for the Huguenots sweep of the Iron Dukes last year. New Paltz defeated Marlboro 34-7 last October. For good measure, 28 days later the Huguenots put away the Iron Dukes 33-17 to win their first Class B championship since 2010, ending Marlboro’s five-year run as champs.

New Paltz went on to lose to Pleasantville 56-20 in the quarterfinals of the Class B state playoffs. By virtue of its win over New Paltz earlier this season, Marlboro enters Friday as the favorite, but another close game is expected.

Marlboro quarterback/running back Phil DeSantis has rushed for 1,075 yards and 19 touchdowns for the Iron Dukes. His two fourth-quarter scores helped the Iron Dukes stave off an upset loss against Liberty. Sam Mongelli, another quarterback/running back hybrid engineered by coach Rich Ward, has 700 rushing yards and eight scores.

To make the quarterback showcase even more intriguing there is New Paltz’s electric signal caller Jimmy Verney. Verney has rushed for 1,316 yards with 11 touchdowns and has run for and passed for 1,000 yards in each of the past two seasons.

“We expect a tougher game than last time,” Verney said. “This is the second time Marlboro is seeing us and they already know what we do. They are going to make some adjustments and we have to make some adjustments. Last game, it was the little things that killed us. They all added up. We have to clean up some things.”

Class C

No. 2 Burke Catholic (7-1) vs. No. 3 Chester (7-2)

  • When: 7 p.m. on Saturday
  • Where: Dietz Stadium
  • How they got here: Burke Catholic defeated Pine Plains 65-14; Chester blanked Ellenville 24-0

Breaking down the game

Burke Catholic running back David Ross
Burke Catholic running back David Ross (Photo credit: Rob Lee)

New Paltz-Marlboro wasn’t the only marquee match-up back on Oct. 13. Burke Catholic, the defending Class C champions, and host Chester played an instant classic.

Final score: Burke Catholic 28, Chester 24. Early on, the game appeared like it would be a flop: The Eagles scored the first 21 points, before the Hambletonians hit their stride.

Like New Paltz-Marlboro, this re-match is much anticipated.

“Chester is tough,” Burke Catholic fullback/linebacker Mark Przybocki said. “They had a lot of momentum at the end of the last game. Hopefully, we get a good start and keep it going because Chester has a lot of confidence in their head right now. It’s going to be a good game.”

Chester shut down Ellenville’s run game for the second time this year in the semifinals. The Hambletonians defeated Ellenville 6-0 during the regular-season. Burke Catholic star running back David Ross ran for 204 yards and two touchdowns against Chester and has 1,110 yards and 14 touchdowns this year.

“We are going to have to tackle lower,” Chester linebacker Aidan Wittekind said. “(Ross) is a pretty big kid. When he gets a full head of steam, he is pretty hard to tackle. If we wrapped up and tackled better last game, I think we would have had more success.”

Burke Catholic, averaging 41.3 points per game, has won seven games in a row since opening the season with a loss to New Paltz. Quarterback Heath Hoovler has thrown for 1,281 yards with 17 touchdowns and four interceptions. He has rushed for 259 yards and eight scores.

Sophomore Chester quarterback Joe Battiato has thrown for 14 touchdowns.

“We can’t wait to turn it on until the second half,” Chester running back/linebacker Anthony Battiato said. “Burke is a good team. We are all very excited for this game. We are lucky to get another chance against them.”

Class D

Millbrook (4-5) vs. Eldred (0-9)

  • When: 3 p.m. on Saturday
  • Where: Dietz Stadium
  • How they got here: Millbrook and Eldred are the only two teams in Class D and did not play a semifinal

Breaking down the game

Millbrook moved to Class D this season after reaching the Class C championship in each of the last three years. The Blazers won the Class C title in 2014. Millbrook is a young team and has started two eighth-graders, two-way linemen John Caruso and Adam Abou-Okal.

Freshmen Tyler Madison (defensive back) and Brady Arnold (offensive line) have also seen significant playing time. Two of Millbrook’s losses have come to state-ranked Class C teams, Burke Catholic (No. 4) and Dobbs Ferry (No. 17). The Blazers lost to another Class C school, Pine Plains, a playoff team, 27-26.

“We’ve played with a lot of effort an enthusiasm,” Millbrook coach Sean Keenan said. “I think if we were 5-4 or 6-3 it would look better, but I’m happy where we are.”

For all of its youth, Millbrook rolls out an experienced backfield in seniors Drew Jackson and Erik Manfredi. Manfredi has rushed for 763 yards and 12 touchdowns this year and Jackson has rushed for 755 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Eldred, which did not field a team last year, is coached by Steve Barone. Barone coached at Wallkill from 1992-99 and Middletown from 2006-11. The Yellowjackets lost to Millbrook 49-7 on Sept. 30. Eldred reached the Class D championship game two years ago.

“Eldred plays very hard,” Keenan said. “I give them credit because they have gone through an entire season with not a lot of players on varsity. They are struggling a little bit.”

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