NEWBURGH — When Newburgh Free Academy linebacker/running back Giani Hill forced the game-ending fumble with 1:27 left in the game, he grabbed the nearest Gatorade bottle and squirted it all over the sideline.
Earlier in the half, Hill fumbled the ball on the Monroe-Woodbury nine yard-line. It was one of Newburgh’s three fumbles in Crusader territory. When Hill fumbled, Newburgh was trailing 14-10 and seeking their first lead of the game.
Hill’s forced fumble was the ultimate redemption, ending a potential Monroe-Woodbury game-winning drive, and helping the Goldbacks preserve a 21-17 win. Newburgh quarterback Derek Lane hit Kameren King for a 71-yard score with 6:38 was the game -winner.
The win gives Newburgh Free Academy (7-1, 6-0 Class AA) the number one seed in the Class AA playoffs and Monroe-Woodbury the two seed. Newburgh will play Washingtonville on at 7 p.m. on Saturday at Dietz Stadium in Kingston in the semifinals. Monroe-Woodbury will play Pine Bush at 7 p.m. at Faller Field in the other semifinal on Saturday.
Friday night served as the latest version of the classic that is Newburgh vs. Monroe-Woodbury. Since 1997, Monroe-Woodbury and Newburgh have faced off 13 times for the Class AA championship, the Goldbacks have won seven times. The Goldbacks, the four time defending Class AA champions, have defeated Monroe-Woodbury six times in a row. Monroe-Woodbury last beat the Goldbacks on October 9th, 2015.
The Crusaders (5-3, 5-1 Class AA) started off strong, leading 10-0 in the first 15:02 of the game — then Lane caught fire. Lane completed three passes of 20-or-more yards in two second quarter drives, giving the Goldbacks a 14-10 halftime lead. He finished the game 7-of-8 for 216 yards with a passing and rushing touchdown.
Newburgh coach Bill Bianco noticed during practice on Wednesday that Lane was throwing long passes with ease, and it continued into Friday’s game.
“I saw him throwing the ball well in practice and I told him to keep throwing it like you are in practice, Bianco said. “He threw the ball great the rest of the week and had some great throws tonight.” His confidence is really high right now and that’s important for him and the rest of the offense.”
At halftime, Bianco decided to take star running back / cornerback Terry Anderson out of the game for precautionary reasons. Anderson was slow to get up after a low tackle in the second quarter.
Monroe-Woodbury had a six play, 91 yard drive in the third quarter, including a 58 yard touchdown pass by Danny Abrahams, that gave them a 17-14 lead into the fourth quarter.
After two consecutive Monroe-Woodbury defensive stops, Lane threw a 71-yard touchdown pass to King, giving Newburgh Free Academy a 21-17 lead with 6:38 left in the game.
King finished with three receptions for 155 yards. He acknowledged it wouldn’t have been possible without a perfect pass from his quarterback.
“All the credit in the world goes to Derek (Lane),” King said. “He put the pass in a perfect spot and once I caught the ball, I just ran until I couldn’t run anymore.”