By Sean Lynch
Section 9 Insider Staff
Monroe-Woodbury quarterback Steven Campione and his counterpart at Pine Bush, Haakon Meland,first met at a baseball tournament in Cooperstown six years ago.
They played on the same team and combined for 14 home runs in the week-long tournament. The teams stayed in bunkers, where Campione and Meland really started to bond.
“We were just twelve-year-old kids having fun without our parents being around,” Campione said with a laugh. “That week with Haakon was probably one of the best weeks of my life.”
The two kept in touch and have competed against each other on the baseball and football fields in various youth leagues up to the high school level.
They played infield when they were younger and moved to the outfield in high school, which is when Campione also started to pitch.
“It’s awesome playing against someone you’ve known for awhile,” Meland said. “Being able to watch Steven grow both on and off the field has been really cool to watch.”
Campione and Meland go head-to-head in football for the final time in their high school careers on Saturday at Dietz Stadium in the Class AA semifinals.
Since 2004, Pine Bush is 1-15 against Monroe-Woodbury. Their last win against the Crusaders came in the 2012 Section 9 Class AA championship game.
Meland is 0-4 against his friendly foe Campione, but has confidence the result will be different this time around.
“They’re a very good football team and we know we can’t make mistakes against them (Monroe-Woodbury),” he said.
Although it will be the last high school football game for one of them, Meland says he’s not thinking about that.
“This could be the last game mindset’ is a losing one. I’m gonna focus on the things I can do to help my team win,” Meland said.
The forecast for Saturday isn’t ideal football weather. A nor’easter is expected throughout the day, making conditions tough for both teams.
“We will have to adjust to whatever weather is going on during the game,” said Meland. “I bet they (Monroe-Woodbury) will be doing the same thing, but it might be easier for us because of our style of play.”
The Bushmen are one of the top rushing teams in Section 9. They lead the section with 368 rushing attempts in the regular season and 283 rushing yards per game.
Campione knows anything can happen in bad weather games, but won’t let it affect him.
“Anything can happen when the weather gets bad,” said Campione, who announced his commitment to play baseball at Division III Salisbury University (Md.) last month. “We’re just going to have to go out and make the most out of what is given to us. We have to control the controllable and not worry about things we can’t change.”
Both Campione and Meland know it’ll be a hard-fought game, and showed each other mutual respect before the semifinal game.
“It’s always love between us, Campione said. “I always look forward to playing Pine Bush, this time is no different. “I’m hoping for a good game on Saturday,” Meland said. “I know Steven will bring it and so will I, it should be a great game.”