By Justin Rodriguez
Section 9 Football Insider
Offensive lineman Matt Jackson was introduced to the intense rivalry that is Burke Catholic vs. Marlboro as an up-and-coming Iron Duke four years ago and he craved to be a part of it.
However, Burke Catholic moved from Class B to Class C after the 2015 season and the grudge match was no more. At least, until this season. The Eagles returned to Class B this season and fans have been buzzing about a possible Burke Catholic-Marlboro championship.
What could be Round 1 of two showdowns comes when Burke Catholic (3-1) hosts the Iron Dukes (3-1) in a non-league game. The rivals play in different Class B divisions.
“The match-up was away for a couple of years, but we are all excited that it’s back,” Jackson, a senior, said. “I expect a great atmosphere and I think both teams will be amped and ready to go. It’s two elite teams and I compare it to like New Paltz the last two years. It’s a big rivalry and the Burke Catholic game kind of replaces the New Paltz game.”
One of the things that make the Burke Catholic-Marlboro rivalry so intriguing is that the series doesn’t go back decades. The rivalry seemingly heated up in one year: 2014. With then Marlboro coach Rich Ward doing everything he could to needle Burke Catholic, the Iron Dukes defeated the Eagles 23-16, surviving on a late controversial call.
With less than three minutes to play, Burke Catholic wide receiver Nick Grasso was running down the sideline for an apparent 75-yard touchdown reception to cut the lead to 23-22. However, Burke Catholic was called for 12 men on the field because they were running on the sideline to follow the play. Then Burke Catholic coach Kevin Ross called it the worst call he had ever seen.
Ward reveled in Burke Catholic’s misery.
The Iron Dukes went on to defeat Burke Catholic 25-13 for the Class B championship that year. Marlboro put away the Eagles 55-7 during the regular season in 2015 and 41-28 in the title game. Burke Catholic moved up to Class C after the ’15 season, winning consecutive Section 9 Class C championships.
“We definitely circled it on the calendar when the schedule came out,” said first-year Marlboro coach Brian Beck, a former assistant with the team. “It’s been a big game and everyone is talking about it given that everyone is predicting that it will be us and them for the championship. It will be a good measuring stick for us and we are looking forward to it.”
Marlboro’s one loss this season came to seven-time defending Section 9 Class A champion Cornwall, 16-6, in Week 2. Burke Catholic’s only setback came in the form of a 41-6 defeat to Class A Minisink Valley two weeks ago. The Eagles rebounded with a 42-0 win over Ellenville last week.
Marlboro, which has won seven of the last eight B championships, outscored Liberty and Port Jervis 100-6 over the last two weeks. Once again, quarterback Sam Mongelli leads the Iron Dukes. He has 622 all-purpose yards and seven touchdowns this season.
Junior Christian Diorio has also rotated in under center and made plays, throwing for 284 yards with four scores. Running back Ameer Williams has 308 yards and four touchdowns for Marlboro. Running back Solomon Hemingway has 357 yards and five touchdowns for Burke Catholic.
Sophomore quarterback Jackson Hoovler has thrown for 555 yards with six touchdowns, hitting six different receivers for completions.
“This is definitely a big showdown,” Hoovler said. “But it’s hopefully just a warm-up for the Section 9 championship. It is our expectation to win, but we will see what it’s like. We will get a feel for them and maybe see Marlboro again down the road.”
Follow Justin Rodriguez on Twitter @jrods9insider; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org