By Doug Johnston
Special to Section 9 Football Insider
Kingston — It was only a chip shot, but this wasn’t just any seemingly easy field goal.
Minisink Valley kicker Payton Briecke lined up for a 20-yarder on Friday with a chance to put the fifth-seeded Warriors in the semifinals of the Section 9 Class A playoffs.
And Briecke nailed it.
Briecke’s boot gave Minisink Valley a 23-20 win over fourth-seeded Saugerties at Dietz Stadium in Kingston. The Warriors (6-2) move on to play seven-time defending champion Cornwall (7-0) in the semis at 7 p.m. on Friday at Dietz Stadium or Faller Field in Middletown.
Cornwall, which received a bye in the quarterfinals, defeated Minisink Valley 24-14 two weeks ago. Sixth-seeded New Paltz beat Warwick, the third-seed, 21-6 in the other Class A quarterfinal on Friday night. With the win, New Paltz coach Tom Tegeler now has 100 career wins. New Paltz plays second-seeded Goshen in the other semifinal next week.
“It was just a sigh of relief when that field goal went in. I was holding my breath the entire game,” Minisink Valley running back Kevin O’Brien said. “I think we’ve got to fix a few things but you know it’s the outcome that matters in playoff games.”
Briecke, a former soccer player, now has three field goals on three attempts this year. Until this year, he hadn’t played organized football for approximately seven years.
“I’m not going to lie, I was a little nervous about the kick,” Briecke said. “I knew it was a big spot, but I knew that I had practiced all year. I just didn’t let it get to my head. I didn’t even watch the ball after I kicked it. I just ran to the sideline (to celebrate).”
In the loss, Saugerties (5-3) wide receiver Sean Costello set the Section 9 record for receiving yards in a season. He put up 142 yards and two touchdowns against Minisink Valley and finishes the season with 1,258 yards. Warwick’s John Babin previously held the record (1,211 yards in 2009).
O’Brien, a bruising runner, led Minisink Valley with 166 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Minisink Valley will now try to become the first Section 9 Class A team to defeat the Green Dragons since Wallkill handed the super power a 10-7 loss on September 23rd, 2011. Cornwall has won 54 games in a row against local Class A opponents since.
Many of those wins have been by way of blowout. Asked about the recipe for beating Cornwall, O’Brien had a simple reply:
“Just have to work hard,” he said.