By Sean Lynch
Section 9 Insider Staff
MIDDLETOWN — The pressure didn’t get to Aidan Semo in his first career playoff game.
The freshman quarterback made it look easy, making plays all game in leading top-seeded Cornwall to a 41-0 win over Minisink Valley, the fifth seed, in a Section 9 Class A semifinal playoff game at Faller Field. Semo completed 4-of-4 passes with 59 yards and a touchdown on Cornwall’s first drive and finished the game 9-of-17 for 171 yards and two touchdowns.
“They have great size up front,” said Semo. “We played with a lot of heart.” We played ’Cornwall football’ tonight — hard-nosed, energetic football on all three sides of the ball.”
With the win, Cornwall (8-0) moves on to play sixth-seeded New Paltz for the Class A championship at 7 p.m. New Paltz defeated second seed Goshen 17-13 in the other Class A semifinal on Friday. The Green Dragons will be seeking their eighth straight Class A championship.
Cornwall, which beat Minisink Valley 24-14 two weeks ago, took control of the game early. Alex Suarez had two 25 yard punt returns in the first 17 minutes of the game. It set up for two touchdown passes from Semo to Louie Francese, which gave the Dragons a 14-0 lead early in the second quarter.
After two consecutive Minisink Valley turnovers, Cornwall’s last two drives of the first half came in Minisink Valley territory. Both times, Steve Gazzillo punched in two short touchdown runs. One of Gazzillo’s rushes looked short, but Semo came to Gazzillo’s aid, putting his shoulder in his back, driving him forward to put Cornwall up 28-0 late in the first half.
“He (Semo) always asks me if he can push a guy in the end zone,” Cornwall coach Eric Holzapple said. “I always tell him no because I don’t want him to hurt himself, he did it tonight and it worked, but I don’t want him doing it again.”
Cornwall junior running back Amin Woods broke off a 65-yard touchdown run to increase the Dragons’ lead to 35-0 and two Chris DiMedio field goals accounted for the last scores of the game. Woods finished with 180 rushing yards on 18 attempts.
“These guys come into practice every day and work their tails off,” said Minisink Valley coach Kevin Gallagher, after the Warriors’ most lopsided loss of the season. “I told them after the game not to let this one game define you, you’re one of the best teams I’ve ever coached.”
Cornwall, which has won 55 games in a row against Section 9 Class A opponents, will enter the New Paltz game as a heavy favorite. New Paltz (5-4) beat third-seeded Warwick 21-6 in the Class A quarters last week.
“It’s the perfect time of the year to get hot, and that’s how they’ve gotten into the final,” Holzapple said. “They’ve looked really impressive these past two weeks, and it’s going to be another tough game, but we’re looking forward to it.”